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Worship Series: Because He Knew
Worship Theme: He Drew All People to Himself
- Remember Your Love
- Kindergarten: Jesus Strong and Kind
- CW 110 My Song Is Love Unknown
- Senior Choir: Lamb of God
- CW 399 To God Be the Glory
Message: Because He Knew... He Drew All People to Himself
Pastor Jake Schram
Curiosity can be a frustrating thing. See, I have this problem where I want to know so many things, especially the details which aren’t important. And I don’t think I am the only one like that. I’m guessing some of you, if not most of you, feel a little let down when you don’t have the full story. You may be a bit disappointed when you don’t hear the ending of a particularly juicy account. I’m sorry to say that our text for today does not fill in all the little details we’d like to know. But rest assured, today God gives us all the details we need to know. He nourishes us fully and completely without distracting us with some of the little details we might want to know. With the big picture he draws us and all people to himself.
So let’s set the scene. It is the Tuesday of Holy Week. This is the week Jesus will die at the hands of his enemies. The Passover celebration is about to happen and Jews and even non-Jews are flocking from all over the place to join in the Jerusalem festivities. Two weeks ago, in the sermon we described how every Jewish male over 12 years old was required to travel to this celebration every year. Others, of course, came just because they wanted to. Jesus spends much of this particular Tuesday in the temple courts, among the people. It’s the last day he will spend teaching there before his crucifixion. At this point, people have heard of Jesus and for various reasons people desperately wanted to see and hear from this man. He stands out as different among the masses of people. Our account begins with several people who have traveled a great distance to see and hear Jesus with their own eyes.
Our text tells us, “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Festival.” These people desperately wanted to see Jesus and hear from Jesus. In all likelihood, these Greeks were Gentiles who converted to the Jewish religion. It makes sense since our text tells us the whole reason they came to Jerusalem was not to sightsee or try the food, but instead “to worship.” Jesus’ reputation had spread to them and they were intrigued. Now that they were in Jerusalem, here was their chance to see the man! Jesus was going to be at the Passover (He was a Jewish male of 12 years old and so he was required to be there)! It was kind of like when you know a celebrity is in the same place as you and you are really excited about it. Who knows? You could run into that person. Imagine if Aaron Rodgers came to Stillwater, Minnesota and you knew he was coming. I bet some of you would go out and about in hopes of running into him. Some of you would be excited to meet your hero. Others of you who are Vikings fans might be lining up to throw rotten tomatoes at the guy who’s made life hard for you over the past decade. Jesus was this type of polarizing figure. And the Greeks wanted to see him. There was a problem though. I don’t think the Greeks know what he looked like. There were no TVs. No social media. Maybe you are wondering, “How could they not recognize him? Could you? I couldn’t. Jesus probably doesn’t look like the classic white Jesus in the pictures we often use in our churches. These Greeks are giving a request to get a glimpse of the one they had heard so much about. Maybe someone had told them Philip could help them find Jesus. We don’t know the details. In any case, they do ask Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, if they could see Jesus.
Then something weird happens. Philip doesn’t tell Jesus right away. He tells Andrew and then it seems like they deliberate before they go and tell Jesus. Why is this? Once again, we are not told the details. Could it be that Philip is so timid and scared that he was afraid to go before Jesus? I guess we don’t know for sure, but I’m going to share what I think is going on here. It was a common Jewish misconception that God was only their God. That Jesus was only here for the Jews. In a way, Jesus’ ministry only occurred among the Jews and where they lived. So I think Philip is thinking, “Do I even bother bringing the request of these Gentiles/non-Jews before the LORD? Can salvation really come to Gentiles as well? Wasn’t he sent to only the lost sheep of Israel?” I don’t know that’s what Philip is thinking for sure. Remember we don’t have the details. But if this is the case, everything else in the text makes sense.
Two weeks ago we saw how merchants had set up their businesses right in the Gentile worship section of the temple, showing total disdain for their opportunity to grow in faith with God (John 2:13-22). This was three years earlier than our text for today, but I’d be surprised if that was the only day something like that happened. Once, when Jesus had taught in his own hometown, he mentioned some Gentiles had been more open to God’s grace, they immediately tried to kill him (Luke 4:24-27). At many other points, Jesus said he was a light to the nations, bringing his saving message to all people (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 60:3; John 8:12; Acts 13:47; Acts 26:23). But many of the Jews scoffed, thinking God was only for themselves.
Hesitantly, Philip and Andrew bring the Greek’s request before Jesus... and we never hear of those Greeks again. Did he grant their request? Did he not? What happened? Do you remember what I told you about details at the beginning of the sermon? We just don’t know. And we don’t need to know. Because the whole reason they are brought up in the Bible is because of their request. Is it legit? Can salvation really come to the Gentiles? The time has come for Jesus to complete his work and throw his light over the world. The Greeks, representative of all Gentile nations, are knocking at the door. They introduce a question that we all need to hear for our eternal wellbeing. Will Jesus draw them in or keep them out? Will Jesus let us in or lock us out?
Jesus answers them...with a public service announcement about seeds. “Jesus answered them, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, Amen, I tell you: Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it continues to be one kernel. But if it dies, it produces much grain.” Jesus, why are you talking about seeds at a time like this? We need to know if Gentiles are let into heaven or not! Jesus’ analogy is actually apt as always. If a kernel of wheat stays where it is, nothing happens to it, but if it dies it brings life to much grain. Jesus is the kernel. He was going to die to bring life to many people. Jesus begins to answer the Greek’s question by showing people can be saved based on him, not on where a person comes from. Jesus continues by saying ANYONE who follows him will be honored by the Father. ANYONE who does not, will not be honored. They will lose their life because they were too busy trying to get to heaven based on their own merits rather than Jesus’.
Jesus makes it very clear in the following verses. He must go through with his death. He will not turn back because he is the only way to save the people he loves. In this way he will earn glory for himself. A voice rumbling from the heavens gives emphatic authority to what Jesus just said. The voice says “I have glorified my name, and I will glorify it again.” This was for the people to know Jesus was speaking the truth. That he had been glorified through his perfect life. Jesus would be glorified through death because of his coming alive again. His death wasn’t the end, but instead affected the judgement of the world. The devil would lose, now not being able to condemn people who belong to Christ. When final judgment comes on people, they can point to Christ’s perfection as the verdict to go to heaven instead of hell. Through Christ being lifted up on the cross, he would bring ALL people to him. He would bring all people near him through him.
The Greeks asked for help in finding Jesus, which was a smart thing to do. One look at our own lives should confirm that. Trying to find heaven without Jesus is like trying to find your way in a foreign country with no map, phone, GPS, or anyone speaking the same language. We are so often lost and confused, labeling the wrong things as heaven. We look at things such as friends and ask Jesus, “heaven?” And Jesus says, “uh-uh.” We look at our appearance or personal success and say, “heaven”? And Jesus goes, “nope.” We point at thing after thing after thing in our life and think, “heaven.” And Jesus answers, ”None of those things work, I’m the only way to heaven.”
Now I know you know most of those things aren’t really heaven, but we still so often treat them as if they are the end goal of our existence instead of heaven. If I’ve looked good and people liked me, then I’ve lived the best life I can. That’s what we strive for. But that shouldn’t be our main goal in life. Without Jesus, it’s impossible for us to see the right thing.
Looking at life without Jesus in it is like trying to see something that is far away. Without Jesus something else might look like heaven, but isn’t. (Have people try and see a sign held up from far away). What do you think this says (Some people won’t be able to see the words at all. Some will see only the word “heaven” in big letters)? That’s what it looks like, but let me show you what it really says (reveal that to the left of heaven in small letters it says “not” and below heaven, the sign really says “hell”). Without Jesus we may think we are headed to the right things, but really aren’t. Jesus makes sure we see clearly.
But that is not all he does. Jesus does more than that. He gets us there. Now I have this target labeled heaven with me. I also have a crumpled up piece of paper. Is anyone willing to take a shot and try and hit the target with this piece of paper (find a volunteer). Now, it’s difficult, but this person may hit the target of heaven with a really good throw. But I forgot to mention something. It’s harder than it seems. (place the barrier of sin in front of the target with heaven on it). Actually, it’s impossible without Jesus. Jesus removes the barrier of sin and hits the bullseye for us. He not only helps us see the target clearly, but he brings us to heaven through him.
Going back to the beginning of the sermon, we don’t know if Jesus met with the Greeks or not. I think he did, but I don’t know for sure. We don’t have the details. But God gave us the big picture. Whether he did or didn’t meet with them, the fact is he died for them. He drew them closer by working in them with the Word. By him they would see heaven and he was the only way they could enter it. And it wasn’t just for them. Jesus did this for everyone. For the Greeks. For the Jews. For me and for you. Jesus draws people near to him. He helps us see clearly and brings us to God through him. Amen.