I preached today for the noon service at St. John Lutheran Church in Chester, Illinois. Every year, the women of their congregation sponsor daily services for the community during Holy Week, and the pastors of St. John invite area LCMS clergy to participate. Other than last year, when the services were cancelled, it has been my pleasure to preach at one of these serves ever year since 2016. It's nice to get out; it reminds me of my days as a pulpit rider in Louisiana, except that I don't have to go back to my job as the manager of a secular community center. Anyway, here's what I delivered today.
“We Wish to See Jesus”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” These Greek men could have had desired nothing greater. But for some unspoken reason, Phillip didn’t take these men directly to Jesus. He speaks to Andrew, and then they went together to speak to Jesus. But our Lord’s reply might shed some light on the subject. He answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” No doubt there were some who heard these words who said, “Well, it’s about time. Now we’ll see something really spectacular.” No doubt there were a few among the disciples who were enticed by the palms and the hosannas of the crowds. Now Jesus will reveal His true royal nature. Now Jesus will drive out the Romans and establish His kingdom on earth.
As we know, our Lord Jesus Christ would be glorified—but not in a way anyone other than the Trinity would expect. He would be exalted, lifted up on the cross, bearing the sins of the world. Jesus repeatedly said, “My Hour has not yet come.” But now, after this glorious parade, Jesus finally states, “The hour has come,” and the hour refers to His death. How can death be glorious?
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” But the crucified Jesus isn’t the Jesus we really want to see, is it? Like Peter at the Transfiguration, we want to see the shiny Jesus, the powerful Jesus, the miraculous Jesus. Like the crowds who came because He raised Lazarus from the dead, we want to see the Jesus who makes our lives better; the Jesus who heals our diseases; the Jesus who leads us against those who oppose the Word of God—against abortion factories like Planned Parenthood; against the government and its seeming hatred of the Christian faith; against those who call themselves Christians but who oppose what Jesus teaches. We want the Jesus who takes us to the mountaintop with mighty choruses of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” ringing out as we march to victory.
But that is not the real Jesus. Jesus consistently and clearly preached His suffering, death, and resurrection as His glory. He clearly proclaimed this as our salvation. Even so, His disciples, the crowds who sang His praise, the Greeks, the Pharisees—everyone was confused. They were unable to understand that the greatest expression of the glory of God lies in Christ on the cross, where He suffered all in order to forgive the sins of the world.
Jesus wants you to share in this glory. But in order to share in this glory, you must die. Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus used the word life in two ways: life as we know it here, and eternal life with Him. Those who love the life of this world will lose their eternal life. Those who die to the life of this world already have eternal life. That is what Holy Baptism is about. Remember these words from St. Paul to the Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Few understood the reason Jesus came to Jerusalem that day. We have no excuse for such confusion. The Bible plainly states that Jesus came to Jerusalem because He had an appointment with a cross.
This coming Thursday and Friday, the Church will gather to “see Jesus”—to focus on the gifts Jesus gave us with His Passion. We will focus on the Sacrament in which Jesus gives His body and blood to us for the forgiveness of sins. We will focus on His death on the cross in which Jesus earned forgiveness for all our sins—a death we die with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. This is the life of the baptized believer: continually dying to sin and rising again to new life in Christ. This is the way it is for the believer until our Lord takes him out of this valley of sorrows to Himself. Then we shall wait for the final Day: the Day when our bodies will rise to immortality and we shall live forever. There will be no need for death because there will be no sin. While we live on this earth, we look forward to that day when there is no death, but only eternal life—when we shall truly “see Jesus” forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.