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5th Sunday of Lent

Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, What exactly is a friend?  Today we are celebrating friendship Sunday.  So it is natural for us to think about what is it that makes someone your friend?  I still remember when I was in 2nd grade I asked a fellow classmate if he’d be my best friend.  Friends do things together, friends share things, friends talk with one another, friends support one another, friends are there for one another, friends help one another, friends care for one another, friends have similar interests, friends look out for one another.  Yet, at the same time friendships also don’t always last either.  Friends can hurt each other, friends can turn their back on each other, friends can disappoint or let each other down, friendships can be lost.  I can think of many friends I’ve had that I’ve lost contact with or haven’t talked to for years.  Well, no matter how many friends you have in your life, you have one greatest friend and that’s Jesus and today we’re going to take a look at why it is that Jesus is your greatest friend.

The time when our text this morning took place is during Holy Week.  Likely this is a day or two after Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem with a great procession and people singing praises to Him.  It is a matter of days before the great Passover celebration in Jerusalem so the whole city is bustling with hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million people who have come from all over to celebrate the Passover celebration.  Some of those people who have come are some people of the Greek nationality.  They had come up to worship God at this festival.  So, it wasn’t just people of the Jewish nationality that believed in the true God, there were also some people who had seen the emptiness of the false religions of this world and had been converted to believe in the true God.  Now being Gentiles there were still parts of the temple in Jerusalem that they were not allowed to go into, perhaps Jesus was worshipping or teaching in one of those parts.  But we also have to remember that Jesus’ popularity at this time was 2nd to none from His teaching and the miracles He’d been doing.  You can understand these Greeks having a little apprehension to walk right up to Jesus to talk to Him.  Now sometimes I’ve wondered how cool that would be to be alive during Jesus’ time and to see Him with my own eyes, but, personally, I’d probably be quite nervous.  How much greater a position you and I have who have Jesus actually living in us through faith and being able to talk with Him at any moment with our prayers!

Well Philip doesn’t seem so sure what to do with this request so he takes it to his friend Andrew and the two of them go to Jesus.  Then Jesus uses the occasion to teach us about what He is about to do.  But we don’t hear anything more about these Greek people.  Did Jesus talk with them?  Did He do nothing?  We don’t know.  But that teaches us something about God and His Word.  God hasn’t told us everything we’d like to know.  He has told us everything we need to know.  We might like to know what happened to these Greeks, but God knew we didn’t need to know, what we do need to know and treasure all the more is what Jesus said after hearing this request.

This request from some Greek people led Jesus to say that the time has come for Him to be glorified.  Glorified, huh?  So we might think a great miracle, a triumphant procession with Jesus at the forefront, thousands of people shouting His name like what might happen at a hockey game, right?  That’d be glory, right?  Not for Jesus.  His glory is found not in thousands of people shouting His name, but after thousands of people shouted, “Crucify!  Crucify Him!”  For Jesus His glory is in His death, like a seed He must be placed in the ground dead.  But just like one seed dies in order to produce a hundred times more seeds, so does Jesus.  Jesus’ death on the cross paid for sins once and for all that all who believe in Him, all who find Jesus more important than anything in their lives, all who follow Him and serve Him, all those will have eternal life.  Everyone wants to have an abundant and full life.  Well, as Jesus says it’s not found in the chasing after the hopes and dreams and pleasures and treasures of this world, but rather the only way anyone can have an abundant life here is in knowing their best Friend, the Savior, and having the full assurance of eternal life.

And this was accomplished through Jesus’ death.  And as Jesus considers His impending excruciating death on the cross He’s troubled.  I mean no one enjoys dying, it’s an unnatural thing, a consequence of sin.  But Jesus is wholly different; He never sinned; He has no reason to die; He could walk right into God’s glory completely passing over death.  So, should the Father save Him from this?  NO!  His death on the cross is the very reason He has come.  He has come to glorify the Father, come to do exactly what God the Father wants, come to save wretched sinners with His death…and He wants to!  Then God’s voice came, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

And typically many people come up with any other explanation- some say it thundered, some say an angel talked- but in reality it was God’s voice.  God uses many things today to get people’s attention through His Word or problems or calamities or natural disasters or economic depressions and yet instead of seeing in them God’s hand in allowing them to happen, people so often explain them away with natural explanations.  But God does those things to wake us up and get our attention.  And Jesus concludes in our text that “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”  The devil is the prince of this world; as Jesus focuses on the cross and His upcoming death it may look like the devil is winning the victory as God’s Son is placed on a cross to die, it may look like the greatest evil thing that could ever happen, but it was this very act that God used to overthrow the devil and bring about the greatest good in this world.  Every soul that’s brought to faith through Christ’s cross is another loss for Satan and he loses more and more as the Gospel is spread further and further.

And this is Jesus’ focus, this is His glory: That when he is lifted up on the cross He will draw all people to Himself.  That’s His focus, that’s His glory to die on the cross for His friends, to give up His life as payment of sins for you, His friend.

What happens when we lose our focus?  So often we occupy ourselves with our petty little problems, our arguments, our squabbles, we consume ourselves with the dinky little frustrations with life, finding fault with the silliest things, bending ourselves out of shape because something didn’t happen the way WE wanted it to happen.  Friendships get severed over the silliest disagreements.  Our thoughts are focused on the betterment of our own lives, we often view friends in relation to how they can benefit us and instead of how we can benefit them, then when they don’t come through for us we’re hurt and angry.  All this happens when we lose our focus and focus on ourselves, our lives, our glory, and the things of this world.

Notice where Jesus’ focus was His whole life.  It wasn’t on Himself.  It wasn’t what was best for Him.  Should He say, “Father, save me from this hour?  Let me not have to do this for these pathetic, helpless sinners?”  No, it was in fact His death that was His glory.  What does it mean when someone “is in their glory”?  The little girl on the baseball field might be just terribly awful; doesn’t know how to hold a bat, can’t hit the ball for anything, but that same young girl in ice skates out on the ice?  Figure skating flawlessly and beautifully doing spins and twirls with absolute precision…then she’s in her glory, doing exactly what she loves to do and is good at doing.

What is Jesus’ glory?  Is it to be rid of us once and for all?  To not have to deal with our petty little problems and annoying sinful habits and ridiculous arguments?  To finally be done with us?  To be rid of us for good?  Is that Jesus’ glory?  NO.  Rather, Jesus finds His ultimate glory in the excruciating and utterly agonizing death on the cross.  Why? Because it was there where He took upon Himself every one of your sins from the least to the greatest- every sinful thought, every sinful word, every sinful thing you’ve done, He took it upon Himself.  And He did that so we wretched sinners might not get what we deserve, but exactly the opposite.  That He might draw us to Himself as His own friends in order to live with Him forever in the eternal paradise of heaven!

What could be better for us to occupy our thoughts this week?  What could be more splendid than to focus our minds on this week?  What could be more beneficial to our friendships than seeing in them someone for whom our Savior found it glorious to go to the cross and save?

You see, God doesn’t force or order or demand or command us into His kingdom, but as our dearest Friend, He wants and seeks nothing less than to win our hearts through the drawing power of His love and grace so clearly set forth for us in the cross of Christ!  And what a drawing power that is!  It is in the cross of Christ where we see our God’s heart laid open so clearly.  It is in the cross of Christ where we see exactly who our God is and what He is like.  It’s your God who knows no bounds, no limits, no boundary lines that He won’t cross in order to save you.  It’s your God who sent His very own Son to go to the greatest lengths, even death on a cross, in order save you from your sins and make you His own forever.  It is your God who takes upon Himself the wretched, horrid punishment, which you and I deserved so we would never know what that punishment is like.  And it is precisely in this, to endure the shame, the disgrace, the agony, the death, it is in this that God finds His glory because it is through that death on that cross that God made you His very own and drew you into His family as His very own, it is precisely in that where God finds His greatest glory!  What could be better to occupy our thoughts this week?  Wow!  Who is like our God, your greatest friend, who saves!