Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for March 17, 2024 – Fifth Sunday of Easter Preparation

Welcome to this week’s episode, a special rerun from our Speaking of Life archive. We hope you find its timeless message as meaningful today as it was when it was first shared.

Program Transcript

Speaking Of Life 3017 | See the Manager
Jeff Broadnax

Have you ever had a sour experience in a restaurant or retail store that prompted you to say, “I want to see the manager”? Maybe you felt the server was out of line or perhaps you had a disagreement at the return desk. When we say, “I want to see the manager,” we are appealing to a higher authority to settle our problem. We have had enough, and we want to be satisfied.

Been there? Reflect with me for a moment on that experience. When we say, “I want to see the manager,” we don’t really mean that we want to see the manager. What we are really saying is “I want to see things go my way” or “I want to see my complaint settled in my favor.” We mean to be satisfied. We most likely have never met the manager or know anything about her.

Now, consider this. Do we treat Jesus like the manager of a store when our experience turns sour? Is our desire to “see Jesus” really a desire in our heart to get our own way? When we are honest with ourselves, I think we would have to admit there are many times our desire to “see Jesus” is really our desire to get our way, on our terms.

It’s OK to confess that. The Lord already knows, and he knows how to change our hearts. In fact, that’s one of the reasons Jesus was sent to us. He came so we could indeed “see” him by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in seeing him come to know him and his Father who sent him.

That’s why we can pray with boldness this prayer recorded by David who went from seeking his own way to desiring to see and be transformed by God: desired to see and be transformed by God:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” 
Psalm 51:10-12 (NRSV)

When we really “see Jesus” and see his Father which he reveals by the Spirit, we find that the desires of our heart are satisfied or at least settled in him. We come to want to “see Jesus” because he, and the revelation of his Father, is beautiful to behold. This is when our desire grows to want to know him personally for who he is and not as a means to get our own way.

May our Father give you eyes to see how he is working even in your sour experiences and fill you with joy as you walk with Jesus.

I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 51:1-12 • Jeremiah 31:31-34 • Hebrews 5:5-10 • John 12:20-33

This week’s theme is being made right with God. In our call to worship Psalm, David asks for a right heart and spirit within him. In Jeremiah, the prophet gives a prophetic word regarding the time when God will write his laws on our hearts and forgive us for all wickedness. In Hebrews, Jesus is presented to us as the great high priest and the source of our salvation. And in John’s gospel, Jesus declares that he will draw all people to himself.

How Do You See Jesus?

John 12:20-33 (NRSVUE)

In the movie, Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell’s character, Ricky Bobby, has a scene where he is with his family at the dinner table and decides to say grace. He starts his prayer by addressing “Tiny Baby Jesus.” He is stopped by his father-in-law, who tries to remind him that Jesus is a grown man with a beard. Ricky Bobby answers by saying, “I don’t care. This is the Jesus that I like!”

Don’t we have a preference for how we want to see Jesus? The truth is, Jesus is committed to revealing himself in ways that may be foreign to us. When we look at Jesus, we see someone who is way beyond our preferences and prejudices. In this story in John, we have some Greeks who come to see Jesus. And like us, they had a preference for how they wanted to see him, just like the Jews had misguided preferences as well.

So, what was it that the Greeks were hoping to see? What were their motivations? Were they wanting to see a spectacle or a demonstration of power? Or perhaps see something they were hoping to criticize or discredit? Or maybe they were hopeful that Jesus had something that would be meaningful to their lives? We don’t know the answer for sure, but we can look at some strong possibilities. Through this text, we might even reexamine how we see Jesus as well.

This is the fifth Sunday of Easter preparation. Near the end of our text today, we will see where Jesus is also preparing the hearts of his hearers for the time when he will be lifted up and exalted. So let us read John 12:20-33.

Read John 12:20-33

It’s interesting that Jesus answers the request to “see” him with a story about being “unseen.” As if to say, “You are thinking about this all wrong. What you are wanting to see is the opposite of who I am.” Why do I say that? Because The Greeks were known for seeking knowledge or wisdom. They were brilliant philosophers. I think they were hoping to see some eloquent and persuasive orator teach some high-minded ideas.

The Apostle Paul would later say of the Greeks, “Jews seek a sign, but Greeks seek wisdom.” If we go back in the gospel account, we see Jesus cleansing the temple. The Jews then asked Jesus for a sign to prove he had the authority to disrupt their profit-making scheme. And again, Paul equates the message of Jesus as weakness (for the Jews) and foolishness (for the Greeks). Because a savior who dies is considered anything but strong, and certainly not wise.

So, Jesus doesn’t give his Greek inquisitors the satisfaction they were looking for. Instead, he prophecies regarding his own death, and subsequently, the way to life for all of us. N.T. Wright, Anglican Bishop and New Testament scholar, said:

Jesus’ death will be like sowing a seed in the ground. It will look like a tragedy.…In fact, it will be a triumph; the triumph of God’s self-giving love, the love that looks death itself in the face and defeats it by meeting it voluntarily, on behalf of not just of Israel, but of the whole world, the world represented by those Greeks.1

Losing your life, then, equals saving it. If you seek to preserve your old life and hold on to your positions, pride, prejudices, and privilege, then anything you have gained will avail you nothing. Jesus turns the whole idea of life on its head. He bypasses the external trappings that we equate with a successful life and goes to the very core of our hearts. A life that is dead to the old self is one where we truly have something to give others.

Our problem is that dying doesn’t come easy to us. That’s why I think Jesus uses this as a metaphor. We do everything in our power to stay alive physically at all costs. But we are just as equally invested in breathing life into our need for security and significance.

Consider the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. The lost coin was a dead asset. The lost sheep was a dead sheep, and the prodigal son was as good as dead. These are not parables meant to communicate to us to dedicate our best efforts or to try to achieve moral acceptability. This is all about the grace of a loving God. The grace of the seeker, the One who finds us as dead. We were never meant to find ourselves.

How often have we heard about those that have reached the pinnacle of success ending their lives through drugs or suicide? Rock stars, actors, comedians, models, politicians and even billionaires. These are examples of people who the world thinks have made it. They should be happy, right? They are rich, they are famous, they are beautiful, etc… But according to Jesus, if that’s all you have, you’ve missed everything.

And yet, the world doesn’t like to consider all this talk about dying and losing. It may sound something like this: “Don’t tell us about dying and losing. We want to be winners! You’ve got to look out for #1, Baby! If you ain’t first, you’re last. I’m the captain of my own ship, the master of my own destiny, and in the end, I will sing right along with Ole Blue Eyes, that I did it my way!” Ego, pride, arrogance, we all deal with it to some extent. But this is not how we see Jesus. We see him laying down his life, giving up his rights so that we could have everything.

The world is skeptical, and it is hoping to see something that is authentic, something resembling spiritual depth. They yearn to be a part of something that has real value and bravely answers the questions to their greatest needs. A question to ask ourselves is what are they seeing of Jesus in our congregations? Are we offering something beyond the latest trends in how to do church or things that we think might impress a world that already has all the gadgets?

So, Jesus is not interested in merely improving our lives or enhancing our well-run existing programs for living. He’s looking to give us new life – life of his own making. A life that is fulfilling and everlasting. Jesus doesn’t need our old lives; he needs our death. He doesn’t need our talents and abilities and our smarts and dashing good looks. He desires our dependence on the Holy Spirit, to dwell in confidence and assurance that his life is being lived to the fullest in us.

Robert Capon, American Episcopal priest and author, wrote:

“Jesus saves losers, and only, losers. He raises the dead, and only, the dead. And he rejoices more over those who know themselves as the lost, the least, the last, the little and the lame, than over all the self-proclaimed winners in the world. That is what our losing race of ours needs to hear, even though it can’t stand the thought of it.”2

We don’t have to hold so tightly to the things that we think we can’t live without or that we think define us or give us meaning.

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.” (John 12:26-30 NRSVUE)

In verse 26, Jesus mentions servanthood; to serve is to follow Jesus. And what did we see Jesus doing throughout the gospels? Serving. This again, is the antithesis of a life lived for self. Servanthood naturally comes to those who have embraced the death of their old lives and the acknowledgment of the new life they live in Christ. We see as he sees, we live as he lives, and we serve as he serves.

God is glorified by Jesus, who in his humanity chose to live a selfless life which revealed the Father, not in asserting dominating displays of power or in the brilliance of philosophical ideas, but in humble service and with the invitation to commune with him. This is how we are to see Jesus.

Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. (John 12:31-33 NRSVUE)

Jesus finishes by talking about what will happen in his death, that when he is lifted up from the earth, he will draw all people to himself. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ, all will be made alive.” This is one of the bedrock scriptures for believers.

John has Jesus quoting this earlier in his conversation with Nicodemus:

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so, the Son of Man must be lifted up.”

This refers to the story found in Numbers 21 where the Israelites were instructed to look at the serpent on the pole (representing death), to the very thing that would kill them, in order to live. Jesus, in his death, is the real cure that we must acknowledge and see to truly find life.

Let us see Christ for who he is and let us see ourselves as passing from death into his wonderful life. Let us live by the unselfish life of the Spirit as we seek to open the eyes of the world to see Jesus as he truly is, not through our displays of power or our brilliance, but in the spirit of service.

T. Wright: “John for Everyone, Part 2” (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004)
Robert Capon: “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus” (Eerdmans 1985)

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • In what ways you used to see Jesus do you now see him differently?
  • Why do you think so many believe that having success, money and fame will make them feel happy and whole?
  • In John 12:26, Jesus brings up being a servant. In what ways do you think we are asked to serve?
  • How do we practice selfless living? How might that look for you, personally?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2024 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy