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Worship Theme: The Savior in Conflict with Death
Sermon Theme: Look to and Live in Jesus
You never see them, but you are glad they are there. Law enforcement snipers and their spotters stand at the top of tall buildings to ensure that the motorcade can safely pass. They scan the assembled crowds and the nearby buildings to make sure that nothing suspicious or sinister is happening. Peace and security are in their hands and depend on their eyes. In order for them to have success, they have to fix their eyes on the people and places that they are in charge of securing. They have to be focused and attentive. If they are distracted or inattentive, bad things could happen!
In today’s gospel, we meet a group of Greek people – converts to Judaism who were dedicated and focused on a goal. They had come to faith in the true God and had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Understanding what the Festival was about and recognizing the promise of the Lord’s Messiah, they asked a question of one of Jesus’ disciples. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”
Does that request surprise you? It probably shouldn’t. The one that they believed in and the one that they were coming to worship was there in Jerusalem too! That lines up that they would be interested in seeing him. The only thing that should surprise us is that there wasn’t a line – waiting to see Jesus. These Greeks ask the question that every Jewish person should have been asking too. Every Jewish born person should have been hounding Jesus and pleading with him for face time. His preaching venues should have been standing room only. His teaching seminars should have sold out in seconds. But…you know the truth. While Jesus did garner some crowds at times, most often he was left alone. More often, the people of his own country, his own people didn’t care to see him at all.
How about you? Do you care to see Jesus? And before you instinctively answer “yes” let’s take a look at things a little deeper. Are you passionate about your time with Jesus, or is it just another box to check on the weekly list? Are you actively involved in making sure that your children see and know Jesus, or are you hoping that they casually pick up some of the God stuff on the side? Is your time with Jesus something that you vigorously defend, or do you come to worship when it’s convenient for you to do so? Do you daily say “I want to see Jesus” and find him in his Word? Do you speak to him as often in prayer? Or do you feel pretty content with your 3-4 visits with Jesus a month?
Like a law enforcement sniper, we need to stay on high alert, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus at all times, because if we don’t bad things happen. God’s law requires that we give him 100 percent of our eyes and our life! Yet we grow so easily distracted! Our eyes are so easily drawn to the allure of worldly living. Greed and selfishness become our way of life. Our eyes look only to the ways that we can help ourselves. We see the challenges of life as “no big deal” and our eyes inflate our own abilities to overcome. Our eyes see so many things as important, yet somehow manage to remain blind to what really matters. We see so many things to do with our time, things that are at their root self-serving, yet we still manage to make the excuse that there’s no time…no time to live for God…no time to serve others…no time to see Jesus.
Jesus speaks quite clearly to those who don’t have time to live for him. He speaks bluntly to those who are in love with themselves. Anyone who loves their life will lose it. You can’t love yourself and Jesus. You can’t live for yourself and for him.
And for not having enough time for him, Jesus should not have time for us. He should not give us the time of day. He should close his eyes to our needs and his ears to our pleas. He should move on without us and never look back.
But Jesus did have time for us. That’s why he said: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. That might sound like a self-serving declaration, but it’s anything but. Look and listen to the way that Jesus is glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Jesus showed that he had time for us, when he was willing to come to our world and live in our place. Jesus showed you he was willing to give you his time and so much more as he lived his life as your substitute and Savior. He showed what he was willing to give to you as he endured the pain or rejection and abuse. Jesus spoke of his own suffering and his upcoming passion when he said: “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Jesus’ singular focus on this earth was to do all that was necessary to be your Savior and mine. He set his eyes on the prize that you and I are, and he never blinked. He never took his eyes off of us. He never took a day off for himself or chased after self-serving goals. He pressed on, and endured it all for us! Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus marched on towards the place where he would lay down his life. Even through incredible sufferings and extreme temptations, Jesus marched on. Even when they forced him to carry his own cross, he kept his eyes on the finish line. And it’s there outside Jerusalem that his words came true and his love was shown the greatest. He never took his eyes off you, even as he closed them in death, he closed them for you!
And it’s then, as a dead seed that is put in the ground springs forth in life, Jesus was put in the ground so that he could burst forth in life. In glorious resurrection, Jesus opened his eyes again – in victory. In his death and resurrection, his words came true: now the prince of this world will be driven out. It’s there that God’s very first promise was fulfilled as Jesus crushed the devil’s head!
Christ Jesus saw you and loved you enough to live for you and die for you. But it doesn’t stop there. He sees and loves you today and always will. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. Christ Jesus draws us to himself. He doesn’t wait for us to come to him. He doesn’t wait for us figure out how to fix our eyes in his direction. He doesn’t wait for us to be good enough to earn his favor. He draws us, sinners though we are, he draws us to himself. He draws us to himself through his life-giving Word. There he announces to us his forgiveness and grace. He sends his Spirit into our hearts that we might worship him and that we can see him for who he is – our Savior and Lord.
On our own we could never see him as he truly is. On our own we could never pay him the attention that he deserves or give him the worship that is rightly his. But with him in our hearts and in our lives, we can do just that. Drawn to Jesus and made to be his new creation, we can live new lives. We can see ways to bring him glory – like living lives of obedience and seeking to serve others with our lives. We can see new opportunities, to look to Jesus and do everything to in thanks for his love. We can use our eyes and our ears and everything that we are to be the followers that he wants us to be. With the eyes of faith that he has given us, we can see past the trying times and difficult days and see that even then we have a God who loves us. We can see and believe his promises to strengthen us to endure and to deliver us from them in his way.
And then our Savior who gave us his time and so much more, who in the fullness of time came to live in this world, who when the hour had come fixed his eyes on the cross, that same Jesus has another day in his perfect mind – a day when he will return to take us to be with him in heaven. That day will be the glorious beginning of endless days of joy and peace at our Savior’s side. There what he has enabled for us here on earth will be our perfect and wonderful reality forever. There with perfect vision we will look to and live in Jesus! Amen.
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