John 12:20-26 | Jesus Addresses the Intrigued | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 12:20–12:26
Please open your Bibles to John 12. John 12:20-26 will be our text for the morning. If you don’t have a Bible, there are a number of them on the back table in the lobby. Greg’s going out there to grab a couple, I think, if people need some. You can grab one and keep that if you’d like.
Our series in John 12, and really it started at the end of John 11, is called “Jesus, Israel, and the World.” We see just days before Jesus will die how he’s uniting the world to himself and how Israel is in the process, much of Israel, of rejecting him. So it’s interesting to see this unfold throughout chapter 12. And there are a number of things that maybe don’t jump out quickly as you read them, but as you understand the Scriptures and all of the Scriptures, how they fit together, you see really Jesus is communicating that the world is what will go after him, not just Israel. He’s not just the savior of Israel, the King of Israel. He’s the King of all nations. And so we see that throughout this section.
This morning we come to verses 20 to 26 in chapter 12. So follow along as I read those.
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
If you were shopping this week, and you were at, let’s say, Target, Walmart, Fry’s—wherever you might be—and you were in the parking lot, and you run into someone you hadn’t seen in years, and you’re catching up and you’re listening about their life, their kids, maybe their grandkids, what they’re doing; and they ask you what you’re doing, how work is or retirement, or whatever it may be; and they ask you about the high points of your life, things that are involved in your life, pretty soon you’d probably get to the point that you’re at Canyon Bible Church. Talk about the grandkids—if this conversation went on—grandkids, kids and work and retirement and church, and—hold on a second.
Church. Canyon Bible Church. Tell me about that. And you’d tell them about church or whatever it may be. And maybe, as I’ve heard recently from a couple of you, you come across people who are interested in Jesus. Maybe it’s because of this latest election cycle and religion and Christianity and Jesus and laws and government and how that fits into all this, how that all works. Maybe they’re intrigued because they want to know who exactly was Jesus—is Jesus.
What did he actually claim? We know there’s false teachings about Jesus, but what are the true teachings. So maybe as you’re talking to this person and they start asking, like some of you have been asked recently, what about Jesus? I mean, you hear things about him on the radio, TV. I’ve heard things in books, maybe in my philosophy class growing up, or whatever it may be. What about Jesus?
Now, how would you answer that question? Can you tell me about Jesus? Where would you go? What would you say? Would you tell them things that they had heard all their life? Would you tell them things that are accurate? What would you say?
Well, in this account, you’ve got some people who are intrigued by Jesus, so they go to some of Jesus’ followers—Philip and then Andrew—and say, sirs, we wish to see Jesus. As simple as that. We don’t want you to tell us about you, Philip, or you, Andrew. We want to see Jesus. They get to Jesus, and Jesus has a message for them. In fact, in this brief account, Jesus has three messages for them.
What would Jesus say to people who are intrigued by him? What would he say? Come to me. I’ll help you score more touchdowns, hit more homeruns. Come to me. I’ll make sure you’re rich in this world, you never have any sickness. What does Jesus say to people who are intrigued by him? Would you say the same thing to someone who’s intrigued by Jesus? Would you follow the path that Christ took them on, or would you follow a different path?
In this little paragraph, we’ll see three messages that Jesus communicates to those intrigued by him. Three messages Jesus communicates to those intrigued by him. Here’s the first message. The first message is about what his death accomplished. He immediately talks to these Greeks about his death. Kind of interesting. Before we get there, let’s look at verse 20 and 21 and 22. Let’s just kind of set the stage.
Verse 20: “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.” I told you that they were at the feast of Passover, this weeklong feast. Many of the Jews would have come in from all over the place, over a million people would have been in Jerusalem and just outside the city to celebrate the Passover feast. All of them would have tried to get into the temple at different times during the week.
Well, Jews weren’t the only people to come to the feast. You see, there were people from other nations, other nationalities, that were intrigued by Judaism, won over to Judaism before the Christian gospel went forth in Acts 2. There were people intrigued by Judaism and became proselytes to Judaism. And so these were people from different places. Greeks. And Greeks, by the way, in the Scriptures doesn’t always mean just people from Greece. It can mean anybody who’s not Jewish. Kind of like we use the term Gentile.
And so the idea here, these are not Jewish people. “[A]mong those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.” They probably came from the north, maybe from the region of Galilee, which was north of Judea, and even the region between Judea and Galilee known as Decapolis. These people probably came from that place. They had heard these things about Jesus. Maybe they had been around Jesus and his ministry in Galilee. They knew he did signs. They knew he taught. They knew amazing things were happening. So they go to some of his followers and they want to find him. They want an audience with him.
Verse 21: “So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.” Why Philip? Well, he was from Galilee. Maybe he was from the region where a number of these people were. Maybe they knew him. Maybe they had business interests with him. Maybe they grew up with him. We don’t know exactly why Philip, but it is interesting to know that Philip and Andrew are both Greek names, not Hebrew names.
So they go to these followers of Christ, and they make this simple request. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Don’t you love the simplicity of that? They don’t say, sir, give us a systematic theology to read. They don’t say, sir, tell us the difference between this group in Christianity and that group. They don’t say, sir, tell us what’s wrong with other churches and what’s right with yours. They simply say, sir, we wish to see Jesus. As simple as that.
And that should be what we seek to show people when we seek to bring them the good news of Jesus Christ. There are so many things that they will get to later on, and that’s fine. But let’s never forget the fact that we are there to point people to Jesus Christ, first and foremost. We want to introduce people to Christ. We don’t want people to come and find fascination with us, find fascination with our favorite teacher other than Christ. We want people to find fascination with Jesus Christ himself.
There was a well-known story about a preacher who went to a new church and this man had oratorical ability. He could captivate an audience. He used wonderful illustrations, knew his theology. I mean, he knew his stuff. People were enamored with him, and he knew it. He knew it.
Well, he went away on vacation for a few weeks; and when he got back, he put his Bible on his pulpit to begin the sermon, the next sermon, and there was a carving—a phrase carved into the pulpit. Evidently some people from the church had gotten a hold of the pulpit while he was gone and said we’re going to carve a message into that pulpit. And it said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
He had preached in such a way that people saw him, how wonderful he was, but he wasn’t pointing people to Christ. How quickly can that type of thing happen? How quickly in our own lives can we lose sight of Christ. We’ve got Bible study coming Tuesday and Thursday, and we’ve got a workbook that has a lot of questions in it. We gotta get that done. We gotta get our hair right and our clothes on, and then I gotta get to work afterwards, and we gotta do this, and then I’m serving in children’s ministry. I’m serving in that ministry. I’m meeting with this person later. We’re doing all the Christian things and we’ve forgotten about our Lord.
Why do we do those things? Who do we love as we’re doing those things? In whose strength do we do those things? Jesus Christ. Wake up every morning: Lord, I want to see you. I want to see you. The simplicity of that is beautiful. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
I think, just by way of application, it’s helpful for us when we’re talking to people who maybe don’t know Christ, our task is simply to show people Christ. Just show them who he says he is, what he claims to be.
If you’re in here and you’re not a Christian, welcome. We’re glad you’re here. I’ll say that a lot of people think they know what Christianity is and have never really actually read the Book. So if you’re somewhat intrigued and have some questions, I’d invite you: read the Book. Read what Jesus says for himself. Don’t let me get in the way. Don’t let your friends get in the way. If you have questions, we want to point you back to the Book and explain things from the Book. That’s what it’s all about.
So I would invite you: read the gospel accounts. Read the accounts of Jesus’ life: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We happen to be studying through John. We’re a little over half-way, so join us. And we’re explaining things that Jesus said and Jesus taught. But the simplicity of this idea is beautiful. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Not all the fluff. Nothing else. Show me Jesus.
Now, these men get to Jesus. And, by the way, evidently there was some barrier. There was some barrier to where they could not get to Jesus on their own. It was probably because they were in the court of the Gentiles. In the temple complex, the Gentiles, the Greeks, were allowed into a certain outer area, but not into the inside where the Jews worshiped. So these men are probably in the outer court. Philip and Andrew are there, and they say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” and Philip and Andrew make that union possible. And then Jesus speaks to these people.
1. Jesus’ tells them what his death accomplished.
And again, people are intrigued by him. They finally get an audience with him. What does he tell them? First, he tells them what his death accomplished. He wants them to know what his death would accomplish, because he hasn’t died yet in this account. He immediately talks to them about death. They might have come saying, hey, the whole water-to-wine thing—how’d you do that? Tell us what you taught here and there, and he starts talking to them about his death.
Verse 23: “And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’” The hour has come. It’s time right now for me to be seen by everyone as glorified, beautiful, worthy of worship. Now’s the time. The hour has come. The time has come. Before, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, the previous few years, he would always talk to them about the hour that was coming. Now he’s saying the hour is here. Jesus knew that he was a few days away from death. Why? Because he’s God. He knows all things.
At this time, he was still a free man. No one had captured him. He’d never been on trial. But he knew now’s the time. This is the season. This is the hour. His glorification is why he came to earth in the first place. Jesus came to earth to be lowly, to suffer, to identify with sinners, to live the life of a human, of a man. He came to earth to be lowly, so that he would then die for sinners and be raised up and praised by sinners to the glory of God the Father.
So the glory of Christ is the whole reason he came. He went low first before he went high. He was humble before he was exalted. He endured the cross before he got the crown. And Jesus is saying now’s the time for me to go to the cross and then get the crown.
By the way, when we talk about the hour for his glorification, Jesus sums up his death, resurrection, and ascension and his reigning at the right hand of the Father all in one event. They all go together. Because he died, he rose again. Because he rose again, he would then ascend to the Father. Because he ascended to the Father, he would be placed at the right hand of the Father and praised by people from all nations. And now’s the time for this to happen, Jesus says.
Now he uses a term for himself that he doesn’t always use. He uses the term “Son of Man.” Remember the whole point of the book of John? That you would believe that Jesus is the Son of God, not the Son of Man. The Son of God. And that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31). Well, he uses the term Son of Man here. Why? Did it not matter? Maybe he just thought, oh, I’ll just use Son of Man here. Next time I’ll use Alpha and Omega—just to mix it up a little bit. There’s purpose here. There’s a purpose here for why he uses the term Son of Man.
Now, you need to know what the term Son of Man and Son of God are trying to communicate. A lot of times we think when Jesus is called the Son of Man it’s because he’s human. Not exactly. I mean, yes, he is human. That’s not exactly all that it’s trying to communicate. And Son of God—oh, he’s God. That’s a limited understanding of what these words mean.
When he uses the term Son of Man—actually, let me start with Son of God. When he uses Son of God, that’s a Messianic term. That term is important to the Jews. They know when someone is called the Son of God, he is Messiah, the chosen one, the anointed one. He is in the line of King David. He is the eternal King. So when they hear Son of God, they’re thinking King of Israel.
Jesus tells non-Jews that he’s not the Son of God, but the Son of Man. What did the Son of Man communicate? Son of Man communicates that he is the creator God. He is bigger than just the King of Israel. He has rule and reign over all the world. And so he tells these Greeks the hour has come for the Son of Man, the God of all creation, to be glorified. That’s what he’s saying.
Remember when Jesus is being tried—this will happen later on—but in Luke 22 he is before the council. He’s on trial, and they say this: If you are the Christ—king, anointed one, think King of Israel—if you are the Christ, King of Israel, tell us. But he said to them: If I tell you, you won’t believe; and if I ask you, you won’t answer. But from now on, the Son of Man—not Son of God—Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.
Remember I told you Jesus came to his own and his own did not receive him. Are you saying you’re our king? That’s what they’re asking him. I’m telling you that from now on you’re going to see the King of all nations—Son of Man—seated at the right hand of God. So because you’re rejecting, I’m going to be seen as the King over all people, not just you.
But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God. So they all said, are you the Son of God—King of Israel? And he said to them, you say that I am. Then they said, what further testimony do we need? We’ve heard from ourselves, from our own lips, and they seek to kill him.
Jesus is communicating, I’m not just the Son of God. I am the Son of God, but I’m not just the Son of God. I’m the Son of Man. And he communicates that to these men who simply come to meet him. Imagine that starting point. Hi, Jesus, I’m Joe from Galilee. I’m Greek, obviously. Nice to meet you. And Jesus starts talking about, listen, here’s why I’m going to die. It’s important to Jesus that people know why he died.
Verse 24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” He states something from their agricultural world that they would understand. If you have a seed and it just sits there, it doesn’t do anything. But if it goes into the earth and dies, it produces life.
Some of you plant things. Maybe you have a desire to plant an apple tree, an orange tree. And you’ve got this beautiful vision. In a number of years, we’re going to go out, and we’re going to pluck these beautiful oranges, and we’re going to open them up, eat them, and enjoy them. So you go down to the nursery and you get seeds to plant an orange tree, and maybe a friend comes over a week later. Hey, did you get those seeds? Yeah, I got the seeds. Oh, great, where’d you put them, and they’re looking around the back yard. Look, they’re right here on the counter. Why are they on the counter? Well, look, they’re orange seeds. You gotta put them in the ground to get the fruit.
Obvious, right? Obvious. That’s what Jesus is saying. A seed has to die to bear fruit. So what’s he telling the group? I’m going to die. And they go, no, no, no, you can’t die. There’s no way. Hold on. I have to die to draw all people to myself. Again, why did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t he come and just live as a good man? Because then we would still be in our sins. We need a substitute spiritually.
The only hope we have to get to heaven is to have perfect righteousness. Guess what? We’ve all failed. All of us. So Jesus comes, lives a perfect life, dies because the wages of sin is death. He dies for people who’ve sinned. He takes their punishment, gives them his righteousness, and they’re right before God the Father. They are perfect in the eyes of God the Father, not because Christians actually are. Christians don’t believe we’re actually perfect because we’ve never sinned. We don’t believe that. We believe we’re perfect because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us, and we simply have faith in that message.
Jesus says, I need to die so that you all will live. Jesus didn’t build his kingdom by his goodness. He didn’t build his kingdom by his wisdom. He didn’t build his kingdom by his preaching ability. Jesus built his kingdom by his death. His death. If he did not die, we would not have a substitute.
Now Jesus died not just to forgive you individually of your sins. He died to bring a people, a specific number of people from all over the world, from all over human history, to himself, to his glory and to the glory of God the Father. Jesus died for a group of people. He died for a choir who will forevermore sing his praises, who’ll serve him, who’ll love him, who’ll enjoy him. That’s why Jesus died. Jesus died to be with other people, praising God the Father.
You can see this in Hebrews 2. Hebrews 2 says, “For it was fitting [Hebrews 2:10] that he, for whom and by whom all things exist”—so it’s fitting that he, Jesus, by whom all things exist—remember he’s the creator. It’s “fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” So God the Father has a plan to bring many people to glory. Many people to himself through the suffering of the one he sent—Jesus Christ.
I’d encourage you to meditate for a little while this week on Hebrews 2:9-14. Phenomenal passage. Jesus, in that passage, refers back to—the writer, Paul, I’ll say; I believe Paul wrote Hebrews. You can talk to me about that later. The writer of Hebrews (Paul) says that Jesus died and that he brought people with him in the congregation to sing praises to the Lord. Jesus died so that he along with others would sing praises to the Lord. We would sing in the midst of the congregation. Jesus died to unite us to him and we would sing to the Lord. We would be forever his.
That’s why in Revelation 5 you see a mass of humanity from all over the world singing praises to the Lord, living for the Lord in eternity. That’s what Jesus died to do. He died for a church, not just a bunch of individuals. He died for a group.
Jesus tells this group of intrigued people what his death would accomplish. And so if you were those people, if you were those Greeks and you came to the festival and you’ve been hearing these things about Jesus; you’ve heard secondhand accounts. Hey, there are some of his followers. Hey, guys, we want to see Jesus. And then Jesus comes and start talking about how he’s going to die and he’s the King over all nations; and when he dies, all people will be able to live and worship him, you would think, if you were those Greeks, he’s important. And he’s not just a local god. He’s the God over everything. You would start to get a sense of who he claims to be.
2. Jesus tells them what their life would entail.
There was a second message that Jesus taught. He taught what his death accomplished but he also taught what your life entails. He basically told these men, if you want to follow me, here’s what it’s going to look like. He talked to them about what his death accomplished and then what their life would entail or what, today, our life entails.
Verse 25: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus is saying, whoever loves his life eternally loses it currently. Whoever hates his life in this world is willing to endure suffering, shame. Whoever’s willing to endure that, hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. So Jesus is basically saying, think little about your life now in order that you save it for eternity. Be willing to be wronged, shamed by others, endure suffering, just like he did himself, because the reward is great.
Those people that want to get all they can in this life have a dismal future coming. But if you entrust what’s going on now and entrust them to a faithful Savior, faithful creator, you’ll have eternal life where there’s great reward. That’s what he’s teaching. When he uses the words “love” and “hate,” that’s a typical idiom during this time. He didn’t mean hate your life and end it. He’s not talking about suicide here. He’s not talking about anything like that. He’s talking about in comparison, you love your life in eternity. You go through what you’re going through because you love your life in eternity. So in that sense, it makes it seem like you hate your life.
So when someone criticizes you because you want to follow Christ, and the culture doesn’t really like that you follow Christ in this way, then you—that’s fine—you can criticize me. And others might say, how can you just let them say that to you? Do you hate yourself? No, but I trust my Lord. They abused him; they’re going to abuse me. It’s okay. He’s going to reward me one day.
That’s what Jesus is communicating to these Greeks. Whoever loves his life loses it. Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Now, when we have this view as followers of Christ where—bring on the pain, bring on the suffering; we’re going to go through it; we know that; we’re going to go through it for the glory of God—when we have that view, you know what that shows? Our love for Christ is greater than our love for comfort. When we go through suffering with an eye on the future and an eye on Christ, who has overcome death and sin in the grave, who’s overcome all of that, when we go through suffering with a view on the future—kind of like Hebrews 12: For the joy set before him he endured the cross—when we go through pain and suffering for the joy of what’s going to happen later, it shows us we’re going through this because he is great. We love him more than comfort.
Jesus often did this in his ministry. People were quick to come to him. Wow, your miracles are great! I’ll do whatever you say. I’m with you! And he slowed them down. Hold on a second. You need to know what you’re signing up for here.
You think about a bride and a groom. Think about a bride who just wants to be married for all the stuff that she gets. And really the husband doesn’t really matter much. And so she wants to be engaged for the ring, so she can Instagram the ring and get a bunch of likes and comments and how beautiful it is. The ring. The guy’s just a means to an end. You’re just here to give her the ring, buddy, and she’s going to show it off. And then comes the wedding and all the presents. And, oh, let’s open all the presents. I mean, I’ve registered for all these things I’ve always wanted. Thank you for existing so now I can have the presents. Let’s open them in the bedroom. We’ll open them in the bedroom, then we don’t have any room to sleep, and I’ll have to sleep on the couch. That’s fine, let’s just open them in the bedroom. No big deal.
Maybe someone getting married because they want financial stability. Now that type of thing doesn’t really happen too often nowadays, but that’s what it’s like when we try to get people to come to Christ for just what he can offer rather than for who he is. Your coming to Jesus. That’s the best part of it all. You can go through any pain, any trouble knowing that you have him.
So do we want Christ because of what he gives us, which might show that we value what he gives us more than we value him, which is called idolatry? Or do we come to Christ because we get him and a bunch of things just get added in? We get him.
When a bride loves her groom and vice-versa, she’ll go through sickness and poverty and trials and hold onto him because she’s got him and he’s got her. The best thing we get in the Christian life is Jesus Christ himself. He’s the best thing.
As I said, Jesus regularly tests people when they’re quick to come to him, when he thinks they’re coming to him for the wrong reasons. Remember the rich young ruler? Good teacher, what must I do to be saved? Everyone’s looking at this guy, the guy that got all the right answers in Sunday school, thinking, oh, man, Jesus is lucky to have this guy. This guy’s religious. The rich young ruler comes to Jesus: Good teacher, what must I do to be saved? I don’t think he really meant that. I think he expected a, hey, you’re fine. Why are you asking me that? Jesus says, sell all you have; give to the poor. And the text says that he went away sad. Why? Jesus knew he loved money more than he loved following Christ, so he wasn’t willing.
A man came to Jesus one day and said, Lord, I’ll follow you wherever you go. Jesus didn’t say, okay, pray this quick prayer, sign this card, you’re in. Good. No questions asked. Jesus said, foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests; I’ve got nowhere to lay my head. Jesus was testing whether this man loved him, Christ, more than his own comfort. Christ or comfort. Christ or money.
Another man came to him and said, Lord, I’ll follow you wherever you go. First, let me go and bury my father, which indicated that his father was probably close to death and was going to leave him an inheritance. So Jesus, once I have all this money, I’m yours. This man wanted security before he followed Christ. Christ would have none of it. Let the dead bury their own dead; you follow me.
Do you trust Christ for security, for the comfort that he gives, for the financial provision he gives, or do you try to have those things apart from him in order to just kind of hedge your bets? Jesus is telling this group of intrigued people about his death and then about what their life would look like if they’re really going to follow him. And he didn’t always paint a great picture at the beginning, did he? Oh, you want to come to me? It’s going to cost you. That’s not the way we typically talk today. Jesus always talked that way.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. Come and die. Come and die to yourself, your hopes, your dreams, your desires, and find your all in me. Find your all in me. It’s as if Jesus is saying, test me on this one. I did it. I endured the cross for a crown. He’s calling you to be willing to do the same thing.
He continues on, verse 26: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.” I mean, Jesus is really—you don’t sell things this way. You buy this car, it will change your life. Well, I heard it breaks down at around the 40,000-mile mark. No, no, no, no, you buy this car, you’ll be the envy of the town. It’ll change your life. Jesus is doing the opposite. You come to me, it’s gonna hurt. You come to me and say you want to serve me, you’ve gotta keep following. And where I go, you gotta go. I mean, that’s what Jesus is doing here.
I think today people would probably criticize Jesus for being a poor evangelist. Oh, man, just get them in the door. Just get them in the door and maybe they’ll pick this stuff up later. Just tell them they’re saved and maybe they’ll be a disciple later. No, no, no, Jesus does not teach that. You want to serve me? Follow me.
That false teaching, by the way, has given so many people false assurance. If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am there will be my servant also. To be a Christian is to embrace a life of service and following Christ. You’ve got a new Lord, a new master, new loves, new joys, new hopes, new dreams, new affections. You’ve got new everything, and you just want to follow him. You don’t become a Christ-follower to be adored by people in this life. You become a Christ-follower to serve people in this life.
Jesus says, if anyone serves me, he must follow me. That’s not hard to understand. He says this a number of other places. John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” That’s pretty plain, right? I mean, am I missing something here? It’s not that hard. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Yeah, obviously, sure, of course.
Luke 6:46: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?” Do you hear Jesus there? You say, Lord, I’m with you. I’m a Christian. Why do you call me that and not do what I tell you? Jesus seems to have a problem with that. He doesn’t say, oh, call me Lord, and later on, you’ll get it and you’ll start doing what I tell you. He doesn’t do that. Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you.
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he’s like. He’s like a man building a house who dug deep and laid foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house (trials, tribulation)—when the flood came, a stream broke against the house and could not shake it because it had been well built. What a great analogy. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell and the ruin of the house was great.
I think a lot of times—maybe you grew up singing songs about the house built on the rock and the sandy shore, and a lot of times we think the house built on the rock is clearly Christians and the house built on the shore is clearly people who hate Christ. No, the house built on the sandy shore are the people who say, Lord, Lord, and don’t do what he says. That’s the group he’s talking about.
He says, if you’re going to serve me, you must follow me. Where I am there will be my servant also. So when Jesus gives a command, it might be hard for his servant, but there’s a servant.
You know, one of the sad things is when you talk to people who claim to be in Christ and there’s this whole area of their life that they are unwilling to submit to him. And now Christians sin, okay? Little caveat: Christian’s sin. But when we sin and we’re confronted by it, we acknowledge it, we confess it, we repent. I don’t want to do that; I want to follow you, Lord. I don’t want to do that.
Remember Paul? Wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death? Before that he said the reason he’s so wretched is because he doesn’t do what he wants to do and he does what he doesn’t want to do. And he hates that. But when a person says that they’re a Christian and there’s a whole area of their life that they will not submit to his lordship, Jesus himself would say, how do you call me Lord, Lord, and don’t do what I say?
Sometimes those conversations are difficult. You say, well, this whole area—the command is clear. You do this or you don’t do this. But you say you’re a follower of Christ, but you will not follow him. How does that work? And a lot of times you hear, well, God wants me happy. And the answer is, no, God wants you to obey his simple commands and find your joy in him. Yes, he does want you happy, but it’s greater than you can imagine. Die to self and find a greater joy in him.
Remember Jesus? If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments. It’s not to understand. It’s hard to swallow. Not hard to understand. Jesus teaches that he is Lord. If you come to him, he is Lord. So these men come to him, and he teaches them what their lives will entail if they want to commit to him. Jesus communicates this up front to the intrigued.
3. Jesus tells them what their future holds if they follow him.
He’s told them what his death accomplishes; He’s told them what their lives will entail; and then he tells them what their future will hold. If they will agree to this life of service and following Christ, he then tells them of the reward. He doesn’t tell them of the reward before and trick them into it and then tell them, oh, it’s going to be hard. He tells them it’s going to be hard; are you willing to do it? It’s kind of like the apostle saying, we left everything to follow you.
And then he tells them, yes, and you will have a great reward. He tells them of the reward afterwards. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Think of this: God the Father, the eternal being, creator of the world, who’s planned this whole plan of salvation, is accomplished in the Son, actuated by the Holy Spirit—God the Father, sovereign over all creation, will honor you. God the Father will honor you, if you are his sons.
The word “honor”—to set a price upon. And, by the way, that’s a big price. To say, this one is expensive because this one is precious. God the Father does that to Christians who serve his Son. This one—expensive. That’s how he views believers. Honors—sets a price upon. There’s even the term—a synonym is “revere.” God the Father revering … even me? C’mon. We’ve sinned against him every day, even knowing of the great sacrifice of his own Son, and yet one day God the Father will heap honor on us.
I mean, anyone else think that’s completely backward? But that’s the character of God. Why would God the Father honor us? Because if we’re willing to do what Jesus says—take up a cross, die daily, receive insults, rebukes, pain, suffering—if we’re willing to go through that and we hold onto the Son, that’s why the Father will honor us. Why? Because the Father loves the Son.
Any of you ever had teenagers? And they’ve got a new friend they start hanging out with, and you’re immediately suspicious. And you see the friend they’re hanging out with and the friend always wants to borrow their clothes, come over to your house to eat the food. The friend seems to be in this friendship for all they can get apart from your son or daughter. The friend is evidently funny, and you’re son or daughter laughs at everything they do, and it props this friend up to think that they’re wonderful and great. And you immediately have your eye on this friend.
But then your son or daughter brings a friend home who cares about your son or daughter. And maybe he has even stuck up for your son or daughter to their own detriment. That friend—you like that friend. So when you go out to dinner, no, no, no John, we got it; we’ll pay for it. You like the friend that honors your son or daughter. You like the friend that’s committed to your son or daughter as a friend. You will honor that one.
Now you know how God feels. The one who says I’ll go through suffering, cancer. I’ll go through rebuke. I’ll go through mockery as I try to share the gospel with my friends and they just laugh at me and kick me out of the group. I’ll go through anything because I’m holding onto Christ. I love Christ. The Father looks at that and says, I honor that, because I love my Son.
Your commitment to Christ when it’s most difficult directly relates to your receiving love from the Father for all eternity. Your commitment to Christ in the most difficult of circumstances, your holding onto him even sometimes with weak and trembling hands, your commitment to Christ, to loving him, has a direct correlation to the love and amount of reward you receive from the Father in eternity.
Listen to John 14:21-23:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me [Jesus says]. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest [make myself known] to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
You hear what Jesus is saying? You love me and you’re willing to obey my commandments and go through the pain and the struggle of this life, but you love me and hold onto me, the Father will love you and we will show ourselves to you. I mean, being a Christian is being swept up in the Trinitarian love between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. God the Father, perfect loving God the Father, loving the perfect Son. I mean, I want to know what their conversations are like. I want to know the smiles and the affection, the joy, in that relationship; and I don’t just get to be a witness to it; I get to be swallowed up into that, if I’m willing to go through anything for the cause of Christ.
What a great promise. Jesus doesn’t say, you’re going to come to me; it’s going to be hard. See you later. Think about it. You want to come to me? It’s going to be difficult; but if you find your all in me, my Father will honor you. What a message for people who are intrigued about who is Jesus exactly. What a message! There’s no one like Christ. In all of human history, no one talks like this. No one offers the grace like this. No one offers himself and says are you willing to forsake everything to come to me? And if you do, great will be your reward. No one talks like that, except for the Son of God who is the Son of Man.
So love Christ when it costs you something. When obeying is hard, push through and obey because you love Christ and will wait for the Father’s reward. Trust that you’ll receive love from the Father and the Son.
Isn’t it interesting, Jesus has taught someone who’s simply intrigued by him about how their life can go from just intrigue—hmmm … Jesus; what’s he like? Intrigue to a life of discipleship to a life of being honored by the eternal creator, God the Father. What a far distance. And that’s the Christian life.
At some point, you were interested in Christ for the first time. Maybe it was at five years of age. Maybe it was fifteen years old. Maybe it was last week. I want to know Christ. He’s appealing to me. I want to learn more from him. I want to see who he is. I’m enjoying this. I’d submit my life to him. And then you live a life of following him. What he says, I want to do. Where he goes, I want to go. I want to do what he says. I want to know his word. I want to follow him.
And that’s where we are now. And one day in the future, we’ll be in the place to receive honor from the Father. Going from simply being intrigued to being honored by the Father. What a distance. Jesus, in this paragraph, teaches how you go from intrigue to being honored by the Father.
There’s a poem in your worship guide. We put it over two days—Monday and Tuesday. I’d love for you to reflect on this poem about what it means to die to yourself in the service of Christ and to be willing to give up anything for the service of Christ. Just as you read through this, it’s good to just take your heart through it and go, is this me? Am I following Christ like he intends? Am I hoping in the future when I go through current pain? I’ll read it here.
When you are forgotten, neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting or hurt with the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ;
That is dying to self.
By the way, as we go through this, think of how different this is from the world.
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinion ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence;
That is dying to self.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any annoyance; when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus did;
That is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God;
That is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown;
That is dying to self.
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met, and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and you are in desperate circumstances;
That is dying to self.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit, inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart;
That is dying to self.
I want to leave you with these words: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold [listen], your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23). Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, the call to follow you is a high and lofty one. It’s one that we cannot do in our own strength and our own power. We will be tempted to throw in the towel, to give in, to give up, to go our own way. Lord, strengthen us today. If there are those of us who have clear commands from the Lord and we’re avoiding them, making excuses, Holy Spirit, change our hearts to trust in you, to trust in your guidance of us, to trust in your Father’s great reward for us, because you’re our treasure, not the other thing we’re trying to obtain. Lord, be this church’s treasure in sickness and in health, in joy and in pain, in strength and weakness. Be our treasure. Father, we commit our lives, our weeks, our everything to you. Allow us to follow you because of the joy that is before us. We pray all this in your Son’s name. Amen.
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