Death is a creepy, fascinating subject. Some see it as a source of poetry like this from Langston Hughes:
“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”
―Langston Hughes,The Collected Poems
Some see it as a source of dark humor…
Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order. David Gerrold
But for most of us I think death is a subject we’d rather not deal with. It’s horrible, it’s raw, it’s so final and so lonely…
And yet…as hard as it is to face we have no choice today as we continue in our Legacy series. Not only are we coming up on the horrific crucifixion story but you are going to see, at this point in the story, Jesus himself seems to become almost preoccupied with the topic.
And despite our reticence with the subject Jesus is not going to give us a pass on dealing with it and you’re going to see why…
· the BIG day: Jesus triumphantly enters into Jerusalem
· let’s take a quick peek at the day before and see Jesus first hint at the subject of death:
o a banquet for him and Lazarus
o Mary in a controversial act wipes Jesus feet with her hair and expensive perfume which becomes the catalyst for Judas’s betrayal.
· Note Jesus response to the criticism:
"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." John 12:7-8
Provocative comment on several levels…
· one his prioritization of honor for himself over caring for the poor in this instance.
· and secondly this seemingly morbid statement about his impending death (which no doubt would have either been not understood or would have been alarming)
· If they were troubled by this death talk they forgot about it the next day-the highpoint of their 3 year journey with Jesus
· some, I’m sure were fist bumping and dreaming of power and glory.
But watch what happens later that day when Jesus once again brings up the big "D" ...death
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, 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. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27 "Now my heart 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. 28 Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:20-33
We don’t know if Jesus ever met with these Greek guys but for some reason their request stimulates a mini-sermon … and if you pay attention to what he says you’ll see how unusual this discourse really is…
· It’s epic: 23 – the hour has come…27 – I have come to this hour…31 – now is the time
Seems like to him something is about to go down. Kind of ominous.
· It’s emotional: 24 – I tell you the truth…27 – My heart is troubled
o truly, truly is more like…”hey, listen to me”…”now look”
o troubled = agitated, roiling …. I’m all worked up
· It’s odd: 27 – what shall I say, save me?... he seems to be talking to himself and then 28 – then a voice from heaven (debate breaks out…thunder or angel voice)
o at one point it’s as if Jesus is mumbling to himself and the next comes this blast from heaven
I’m telling you that this is an unusual moment…and then, of course, is the central subject…death.
· Vs. 24 - unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies
· The reference in Vs. 27 to being saved from this hour
· Vs. 32 – the foreshadowing of his crucifixion
Here death takes center stage in the story of Jesus…He makes death the topic at hand…and if we pay attention to his take on death we’ll see just how beautiful and essential a thing it is…
The beautiful essential death of Jesus
23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, 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.
Jesus uses the act of germination to highlight the necessity of death (and of course, in hindsight we know he was talking about his impending death)
When you place a seed in the ground and it receives water and oxygen in the right temperature in time the cells within it enlarge…the seed coat breaks open and out grows a root or radical followed by the shoot or plumule. In time as the plant continues to grow the original seed disappears or dies but in so doing produces much fruit and eventually many more seeds just like it.
Death leads to multiplication… And that is one of the realities of the death of Jesus
1. The beautiful essential death of Jesus provided the opportunity for the Kingdom of God to multiply.
· If he doesn’t die the kingdom does not expand as exponentially as it did.
· He implied this a few chapters later in John:
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8
· Jesus had to die to launch the movement – and boy did it ever just over a month from this moment their little band of 120 multiplied to thousands
Another reason Jesus’ death was so beautiful and essential is how it shone a great light on God and himself.
2. The beautiful essential death of Jesus glorified both God the Father and Jesus himself
23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
27 "Now my heart 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. 28 Father, glorify your name!"
Glorified = to lift up to high prominence…to raise the status…
When something or someone is glorified they are given great weight…they are given rank…they are raised to mind blowing level…the emotional response to someone or something being glorified is Wow!
IL – the Grand Canyon was glorified in my life – mind numbing status
That’s just one of the results of the death of Jesus…through his death we disabused of puny perspectives on God and are forced to consider him for who he is…
God is a divine and terrible radiance - Victor Hugo
Jesus death messes with people: Jesus Christ will always be a scandal to the murky, immodest theory-making of the intelligentsia because he cannot be comprehended by the rational mind. Brennan Manning
And there’s another reason his death was such a big thing…
3. The beautiful essential death of Jesus won the eternal war between good and evil
31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
· Now, this is irony - Jesus death – which for all the world looks like a defeat was indeed a victory
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15
How does Satan lose by the death of Jesus:
1. Sin and guilt are paid for – guilt and sin are the devil’s playground
a. Satan keeps human beings in bondage to patterns and keeps us in bondage to guilt…and the endless cycle of both of them…
b. Jesus death offers us an out from the cycle: forgiveness and power of the HS to change
c. Satan loses his greatest tool
2. And that’s not all through his death an army was unleashed – the church
3. And the Holy Spirit was unleashed
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Revelation 12:10-11
Yet another reason Jesus death was vital to humanity:
4. The beautiful essential death of Jesus draws lost people back to God.
32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
The cross is like a magnet – when people understand its significance they cannot stay away
The cross is enticing…it is beguiling…it is captivating…why? Because the cross says…come and be free. The cross says come and be forgiven…come and find life…find joy…find rest…find God
This is a beautiful thing – Come to the cross!
So you see why this subject of death is so important? Transcends morbid and morose…it actually is alive with energy and possibilities!
And one more thing about the death of Jesus…
5. The beautiful essential death of Jesus shows me how to live every day.
25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.
Jesus is clearly implying to Andrew, Philip, these Greek guys…and whomever else was listening … become a seed…become a dying seed.
Jesus death was not just an act done for us…it was model given to us.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
Why? Clearly in order that what is happening in us might be multiplied.
· you cannot keep Jesus to yourself – your fear must die
· you cannot your gifts to yourself – your fixation with time must die
· you cannot sit on your hands – your self-focus must die
· you cannot just lick your wounds – you must go heal others
You and I must die every bit as much as Jesus did.
Today – you must practice this beautiful essential death.
What must die in you today so that you might live in Christ?
What is the cross you must take up daily?