Mar 22, 2021
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
The scripture under consideration this week gives us some interesting points to explore as we approach Good Friday and Easter. It comes from the gospel of John, chapter 12.
Now there were a number of foreigners from among the nations who were worshipers at the feast. They went to Philip (who came from the village of Bethsaida in Galilee) and they asked him, "Would you take us to see Jesus? We want to see him." So Philip went to find Andrew, and then they both went to inform Jesus. He replied to them, "Now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified. Let me make this clear: A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain died. "The person who loves his life and pampers himself will miss true life! But the one who detaches his life from this world and abandons himself to me, will find true life and enjoy it forever! If you want to be my disciple, follow me and you will go where I am going. And if you truly follow me as my disciple, the Father will shower his favor upon your life.
"Even though I am torn within, and my soul is in turmoil, I will not ask the Father to rescue me from this hour of trial. For I have come to fulfill my purpose—to offer myself to God. So, Father, bring glory to your name!" Then suddenly a booming voice was heard from the sky,
"I have glorified my name! And I will glorify it through you again!" The audible voice of God startled the crowd standing nearby. Some thought it was only thunder, yet others said, "An angel just spoke to him!" Then Jesus told them, "The voice you heard was not for my benefit, but for yours—to help you believe. From this moment on, everything in this world is about to change, for the ruler of this dark world will be overthrown. And I will do this when I am lifted up off the ground and when I draw the hearts of people to gather them to me." He said this to indicate that he would die by being lifted up on the cross. (John 12:20-33 TPT)
Some translations say Greeks came to Phillip, but to the Jews, all foreigners were Greeks or Gentiles; the terms were synonymous to them. It's like our phrase when hearing a foreign language or explanations that are intellectually challenging and exclaiming, "It's all Greek to me." These men may have been proselytes to the Jewish faith, or they may just have heard about Jesus' miracles and wanted healing, food, or answers. Maybe they believed he could forgive and longed for freedom from sin or perhaps just curious about this man who raised so many questions among the people.
Phillip went to Andrew, and the two took the request to Jesus. We might have thought Jesus would say yes or no to the request or would have gone to the foreigners to give them an answer to the quest. Instead, we get what seems a rather peculiar response.
"The time has come. I'm about to be glorified. Unless a grain of wheat is buried and dies, it is alone. But if it dies, it will produce a harvest. If you love your life, you will lose it. If you hate your life in this world, you will keep it for life in the age to come. If anyone serves me, they must follow me. Where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor them.
Now I'm troubled, but I came for this hour. Father, glorify your name. Now, this world's ruler will be thrown out when I am lifted up from the earth. And when I've been lifted up, I will draw all people to myself."
What a strange answer to give Phillip and Andrew when the Greeks came to see Jesus! Throughout the gospels to this point, Jesus had continually told those around him, "My time has not yet come." At the wedding in Cana, in conflict with demons, when Jesus told some he healed not to tell who healed them, and so many other instances. After his first confrontation with the Pharisees in Jerusalem, Jesus kept his ministry outside Jerusalem to avoid both the religious and political leaders there because 'his time had not yet come.'
Jesus knew his death would coincide with Passover. It seemed he looked to a particular Passover. We might think he would aim to go to the cross on the day of atonement to look at the somber ceremony the Jews held for the forgiveness of sins each year, but he did not. He marched toward the Passover for a reason. In the Protestant church, we miss the meaning because we don't understand the long, rich history of the Jews and why Passover held such a powerful meaning.
We know it marked the Exodus from Egypt, but the celebration meant so much more to the Jews, and we forget the early Christians, including Jesus, were Jews steeped in that history. Passover marked freedom from slavery. Freedom from the power of an evil King, Pharaoh. It marked the passage from death to life with the crossing of the Red Sea. It also brought the remembrance of their sin and death in the wilderness. Their sin wasn't because of bad behavior but because of idolatry.
The word sin means missing the mark. Their failure to worship God. Their failure to be the image-bearers of God he gave them as their vocation in his covenant relationship with them. They missed the mark in their vocation. Their sin of idolatry kept them from the promised land until they cleaned up their act in the wilderness and learned to worship God in the tabernacle as he directed in the tablets of the law. Then they crossed the Jordan and began the conquest of the promised land.
But again, they missed the mark of the covenant, and God finally sent them into exile into Syria and Babylon, not because of bad behavior, but because of their idolatry. They failed in their worship. They gave power to idols rather than keeping the authority God gave to humans in having dominion over the world. Gods of wood and stone, crafted by men's hands, were given power they did not earn but were given to them as men worshiped them. Idolatry polluted humanity, including the Jews, finally driving God's people into exile.
The tabernacle, the ark, the mercy seat was the place God would come to meet with man. The lifeblood of the animal sacrifice cleansed and purified the altar and the mercy seat. It wasn't the killing of the animal God wanted. It was the access to the purifying blood to place on the mercy seat. We know from medicine today that it is our blood that purifies our bodies. It carries the toxins and impurities to our liver and kidneys, which act as filters to flush them out of our system. Without blood filtering the cells throughout the body, the toxins we produce would kill us in minutes. Blood from the sacrificial animal cleansed the mercy seat where God met unclean humans, a picture of a future time when God would meet man at the cross with his life's blood cleansing that sacred spot to bring us out of exile.
The blood was never for the forgiveness of sins. In the atonement sacrifice, the priest symbolically placed the people's sins on the scapegoat's head, and another priest led the animal out of the camp into the wilderness. The sin offering individuals might make throughout the year atoned for wrongs committed unwittingly or unwillingly, wrongs they didn't know they committed. Committing a behavioral wrong knowingly meant harsh punishment, often death by stoning with the accuser casting the first stone.
Jesus and those around him knew all this. They lived it every day as part of the burden carried by the corrupted Jewish covenant. But when Jesus answered, he saw the cross. He knew the evil powers would soon break. The cross would overcome sin. He was the light of the world; he had almost completed his vocation as God intended for humanity. Jesus was about to take back the power of those idols through his death on the cross. His innocent death would usher in a new Passover; the power of forgiveness would find victory over the power of evil and the curse of death.
Jesus' hour has come. The world is invited. The cross will bring victory, freedom, forgiveness, and power through God's spirit. His vocation will find completion in the cross. Jesus knew more suffering would come, both to him and his followers, but that is the way of the cross. That is the way of love and forgiveness. The powers of evil, of idolatry, will not give up easily. They will fight. But Jesus moves steadily toward the cross because he also knows what lies on the other side.
The cross is in front of him. But so is Easter.
You can find me at richardagee.com. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked TPT are taken from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018, 2020 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.