St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Total Commitment

Sermon on John 12:20-33

Text: Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 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 Very truly I tell you, 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 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their 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 soul 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 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

You will often hear about people making resolutions when the new year starts. According to a Forbes magazine article written on December 18 of 2023, the number one resolution among those who were polled said thar their resolution for 2024 was to improve their fitness, with improving finances and diet following closely behind. Did you make any resolutions for this year? If so, how are you doing with it? If you have abandoned your resolution, you’re not alone. That same article noted that January17 has been designated as “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day” and that the second Friday in January is called “Quitters Day.” It takes a great deal of commitment to follow through on your resolution, and there are many things that lead us to quit. Today we are going to look at commitment to carrying out a plan. We see TOTAL COMMITMENT, looking at 1. Jesus’ Total Commitment and 2. Our Total Commitment.

Our text takes place on Tuesday of Holy Week. Jesus has been teaching in the temple. While he was teaching, we read that “There were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.” (Verse 20) In all likelihood, they had been converted to Judaism. They had a request. They cam to Philip and said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” (Verse 21) Jesus’ reputation had spread far and wide and they wanted to see Jesus for themselves. Philip went to Andrew to discuss the request and then they approached Jesus with this request.

There is no mention in the text of Jesus actually meeting with them. Instead of the details of arranging the meeting, the request of the Greeks evokes a somber response from Jesus. He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (Verse 22) Jesus began to speak about his suffering and death. Remember that this took place on Tuesday. In a few short days. Jesus would suffer and die on the cross. This request from the Greeks reminded Jesus of the work that he would soon carry out. He had not been sent to save only the Jewish people, but to come in fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah 60:2&3, “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” As these Greeks approached Jesus, he was reminded of his mission to be the Savior of all people.

As Jesus was reminded of this, he also was reminded of what it would entail to accomplish this. Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” (Verse 27) As true God, he knew all about what he would suffer at the hands of his enemies. He knew all about the false accusations and the insults. He knew about the beatings and the whipping that he would endure. He knew that a cross was looming in his future, with all the physical torment that it would involve. As horrendous as all of that would be, Jesus also knew that, while on the cross, he would be forsaken by his Father. This wasn’t something that might happen. It was going to happen, and it was going to happen soon.

It would have been understandable, humanly speaking, if, when Jesus thought about all of this, he would have said, “No. It’s too much. I can’t go through all of that.” However, in response to the question, “What shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour?’”, Jesus continued by saying, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (Verse 27) Jesus had always been totally committed to his task of saving the world. We see this through his entire ministry. For example, in Luke 9, Jesus had been teaching his disciples about what would happen when he arrived in Jerusalem. Then we read, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) The words “resolutely set out for” in the Greek have the idea behind them to “fix your attention on.” There is nothing that is going to distract you from this object of your attention. This is the commitment that Jesus had in saving the world. In spite of the many temptations that Jesus faced, in spite of the hardships that it would entail, absolutely nothing was going to get in the way of Jesus’ mission to save the world.

What an amazing display of love for you and for me! By nature, not a one of us deserved the slightest bit of God’s love. God loves perfection. Not one of us is. We were born into this world sinful. We continue to sin every day in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Because of this, we deserve to face the entirety of God’s wrath against sin for all eternity in hell. Yet, God loved us. He loved us so much that he was willing to send his Son into the world to rescue us. Jesus loved you and me so much that he was not going to let anything interfere with saving us. The only way that this could happen was for Jesus to sacrifice his perfect life on the cross to pay for our sins. Jesus used this picture from nature: “Very truly I tell you, 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.” (Verse 24) Jesus was that kernel of wheat that died and was buried in the ground. When we are brought to faith, we become a part of that harvest of many seeds. We are made perfect and have eternal life to look forward to. This is all true because of Jesus’ total commitment to his Father’s plan. This is all true because of Jesus’ total commitment to you. We thank and praise him for his total commitment.

What shall be our response to Jesus’ total commitment to us? Jesus tells us in verse 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.” We want to serve him to thank him for all that he has done for us. We serve him by the way that we act, the things that we say, even the thoughts that run through our minds.

Jesus talks about this commitment to serve him in verse 25, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus uses the picture of loving and hating. If we love the world, if we are so caught up in the things of the world and of the pleasures it offers, we have put our focus on the wrong things and end up losing our relationship with God. Rather, we are to hate our life in this world. By this Jesus is speaking about self-denial. Yes, the world may say that we need this and, yes, our sinful nature may whisper, “Look how much fun you’ll have.” But, because we want to follow Jesus, we say “No,” and do what is pleasing to God.

The apostle Paul talks about this self-denial in this way: “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:2-4) The day that we were baptized, the day that we were brought to faith, part of us died. That part was our sinful nature. If something is dead, can it do anything? Obviously, not! This is part of our total commitment to serving God. Paul would also write in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I give myself in total commitment in service to God.

We must admit that there are times when we fail in our commitment to a life of service to God. That doesn’t mean that we stop trying. Think of those new year’s resolutions. What if your resolution was to eat better and one day, you decide to eat a doughnut? Should you just throw it all away and eat as much junk food as you can, since you failed once? Of course not. You make a new commitment to eating better. This is also true with our commitment to serving God. Just because we slip and fall, do we throw our hands into the air and say, “It’s no use. I sinned again. I can’t serve God the way that I want to”? No. We confess our sins to him and then pray that he would strengthen our commitment to serving him. We go back to our baptisms and remember that, on that day, our sinful nature died, and we were committed to God and serving him. God strengthens us through his Word and through the reception of the Lord’s Supper. God also gives you and me the privilege to encourage each other in our commitment to serving him. This is one of the benefits of coming together to worship him. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24&25) What joy we find in life as we are committed to God.

Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Verse 32) .As we continue this Lenten season, we are again amazed at Jesus’ total commitment to his Father in carrying out the plan for the world’s salvation. This was the only way that the world could be saved, so Jesus did it. We rejoice in his total commitment to us. He loved us so much that he was going to everything necessary for us to be in heaven with him one day. We also pray that he would help us so that we are ever and always totally committed to him. Just as it was not easy for him, indeed it was very painful, the same is true for us. The world around us will disagree with what we are doing, and our sinful nature will continue to find reasons to go our own way. Yet, as we are reminded of Jesus’ total commitment to us, we pray that we would ever be ever more committed to him. As the hymnwriter penned, “Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to thee. Take my moments and my days; Let them flow in ceaseless praise.” (CW #469)