The Second Sunday in Lent February 16, 2016
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
140, 407, 361, 277
Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
Many Americans think that Donald Trump is the answer to our nation’s problems. Last month a video was posted on the internet showing a twelve-year-old girl bursting into tears when she found out that she was going to see “The Donald!” People want to see him. “The Donald” is different, even charismatic, and the people are curious.
There were once “certain Greeks” who wanted to see Jesus, “the Christ.” They had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast during Holy Week. Jesus was certainly a different character in His day, but the desire of these Greeks to see Jesus was more than idle curiosity. They had come to believe that Jesus was a great teacher of the Jewish faith, possibly even “The Christ.” The word they used means that they wanted to get to know Jesus. They wanted to become His disciples and share His glory.
But our Lord was not a prominent figure in the business world, or a hollow, Hollywood celebrity. So he explains, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (vv. 23-24).
The “glory” of the grain-seed comes after its burial in the ground! Only then does it produce fruit. So also, the glory of Jesus Christ, “The Son of Man,” would come through His humiliating death and burial. In His resurrection from the dead Jesus would show Himself to be the living Savior of mankind. When all the believing saints are finally gathered into Heaven on the Last Day it will become clear to all the world that the fruit of Christ’s death and burial is the whole glorified Church of Christ!
The glorification of the Son of Man would come at great cost to Him. That is what Isaiah prophesied of Christ when he said that after the Messiah had offered His soul in payment for sin, He would see those born of Him—the fruits of His labor and be satisfied and enjoy long life (cf. Isaiah 53:10-11).
Those who wish to see “The Donald” can take him or leave him,” but IF YOU REALLY WANT TO SEE THE CHRIST you must “get to know” Him like the Greeks in our text.
First, you must know of His route to glory. The route of “The Donald” to the presidential crown has been one of pride, riches, and pleasures in this world. The route of “The Christ” to His crown was through poverty and a humble, self-denial that went as far as His death on the cross. How can we really see and get to know Him without a willingness to follow His route to glory?
Jesus says in v. 25 that if we love our life so much that we are unwilling to give up any part of it for His sake, whether our pet sins, pleasures, wealth, health or whatever, then we will “lose it.” We will lose the true life, life everlasting!
Our world preaches the opposite message with great and subtle appeal to our flesh: “You are letting life slip by if you don’t enjoy all the
“fun” things available to you. You “owe” it to yourself for all your hard work, especially if you are retired, to experience all the fancy food and drink, travel, and pleasure you can. Do it before life in this world is gone!"
But when it comes to preserving life in this world the way we want it, “the law of self-preservation is also the law of self-destruction.” What happens when over-protective, misguided parents try to preserve their children from taking painful responsibility for their mistakes or refuse to correct them because they don’t want to hurt their feelings? Many children lose their lives in the streets, jails, and drug-abuse centers! What happens when a person intentionally takes his own life because he no longer has the “quality” of life which he once enjoyed? He loses eternal life!
What about the person who loves himself so much that he refuses to put away and crucify his fleshly lusts, or humble himself before God as a wretched sinner, or refuses to make sacrifices in order to share and confess Christ’s saving Word? Such a person may preserve his fleshly life, but each day he is weakening or destroying his hope of eternal life!
The never-ending temptation is to love and pamper our life above all else! But Jesus walked in the opposite direction. He surrendered His life for us! That was His route to eternal glory.
If we really want to see Jesus and get to know Him, we must follow His route! Jesus says in v. 26: “If anyone serves me, let Him follow Me.” In other words, Jesus says, “If you follow my example by “hating” your life in this world, as I did, then you will keep it for eternal life.
Perhaps, like me, you have many old photographs of scowling ancestors! There’s was a harder life than ours today for sure. Did Jesus want them to hate their lives? We know that the religious monks and hermits of the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago, as well as the Puritans who came to America, denied every pleasure, as if everything were sinful.
Is this what our Lord is saying when He tells us to “hate” our life? Not at all! Solomon said, “Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage” (Ecclesiastes 5:18). But if we are truly Jesus’ disciples and servants who really want to get to know Him, then we will follow Him at all times.
It is an easy thing to walk through the doors of our church. But when you do, you should take note that you are following the path of the cross. It is no accident that red crosses are in the glass panes of those doors. It is no accident that our craftsmen made our church doors with a cross in the middle of the panels. This custom has continued since the early Christian builders’ guilds chose the words of Christ, “I AM the door” (John 10:9), as their motto.
Our Lord knows how easy it is for His disciples to settle for a little Christianity in their lives—a little testimony here and there, a little worship, a little offering and service as long as the living of our lives is not hindered too much. That’s why Jesus uses such strong language when He says: “If you wish to serve and follow Me, you must hate your life in this world. Take up your cross and follow Me.” We must be willing to despise and give up whatever threatens to compete with our eternal life in Christ and our service to Him—whether money, pleasures, the honor and praise of others, or even friends and family!
This is a really “hard saying”! Who really wants to see Jesus and get to know His glory, if they have to follow His route? Sadly, not many! That’s why we hear so many preaching a “prosperity gospel” in our day. The true Gospel of the cross costs too much for most!
However, we should not despair, for Jesus also says: “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me…for My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29). Haven’t we all learned that the heaviest burdens are made lighter when we are able see the reward of our labor?
As a young man I worked on a three-man crew, digging and building silo foundations one hot summer. Hand-digging the footing, hand-mixing the cement and hauling it by wheel barrow for 12 hours every day was hard and heavy work on the road. But the burden was made much lighter whenever I thought of the shower and steak supper at the end of the day, as well as the money earned by the end of the summer.
So also, if we would finally and forever see Jesus, we must know the blessing of taking up our cross and following Him.
Jesus says, “Where I am, there My servant will be also” (v. 26). He had already spoken of His glorification (v. 23). Now, He promises that His servants will share that glory! Later, in John chapter 14, Jesus promises to “go and prepare a place” for us in the “many rooms” of His “Father’s House.” Then Jesus adds, “I will come again and receive You to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Jesus further promises in the last verse of our text, “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (v. 26). God the Father regards those who serve His Son in this life as very precious to Him. What greater reward can we look forward to each day in this short life?
Is it worth the cost to hate one’s life in this world in order to follow and serve Jesus, “The Christ,” on our way to eternal glory? May we all answer, “YES! I still want to see Jesus more and more!” Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.