Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Glory of Christ (Jn. 12:20-28)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 27 November 2011 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 12:20-28

Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Jn. 12:26) Only those who serve Jesus would be honoured by God. If you do not honour Jesus Christ, God would not honour you. Here is where true value lies. If you honour Christ, you honour the value system God has set.

This is the mystery of Christ. The glorification of Jesus Christ came through suffering. He suffered under the will of God and this is His glorious pathway. This is the greatest truth in humanity. Many people want to be honoured and be glorious but very few are willing to suffer. Glory without pain and sufferings are superficial. Isa. 53 portrays Jesus as the suffering son of man. He suffered the most and will be the most glorified. God created man with glory and honour but they are not superficial things men see with physical eyes.

Jesus Christ is the seed that fell to the ground and died. At this point, Jesus said, “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. Father, glorify your name!” (Jn. 12:27-28)

This prayer is related to existential consciousness. It is a reaction towards one’s existence. We often pray to God to deliver us from sickness, from sufferings and agony. We live in space and time and go through difficulties in life in time-space constraint.

Time and space are human life’s two great possesions. Our life is as long as our time. Jesus said by worrying we cannot increase our time by one moment. People tend to look at their possession in material terms and seldom look at it from the perspective of time and space. The Bible teaches that our consciousness of time and wisdom are linked. How we understand the limitation of our time relates to gaining wisdom. “Lord teach us to number our days aright that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12). Much lost opportunity is lost time yet people tend to focus on their material possessions without realising this loss.

Jesus has a great consciousness of his own existence. Religiousity includes the understanding of eternity. We want to break free, we want to surpass. Jesus said, “Father save Me from this hour.” The existentialists use the term ‘anxiety’. It is not worry. Anxiety is more difficult to measure and more unfathomable. In German it is called angst.

Existentialists has angst because they are conscious they exist. They are conscious of their existence but do not understand the meaning of their existence because they see that inexistence will swallow them up. They cannot understand this chasm between existing and not existing.

One can only be swallowed by something greater. If existence is swallowed by non-existence, non-existence is greater than existence. How can that be? Existentialists therefore discuss nothingness as though it is something greater than existence. They discuss nothingness as though it is something concrete. Existentialism discusses how existence is swallowed into inexistence and studies inexistence as the greater existence. How great is that anxiety.

When Jesus prayed “Father save Me from this hour” He is acutely aware of His existence. Then Jesus said, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” Christians should learn to understand that our time and existence are ordained by God. Jesus is conscious that He came to suffer.

Our existence is not merely related to other material things. We receive wisdom when we realise our relationship with God who created us. Jesus is the Word that came into time. The relationship between Jesus and His sufferings cannot be segregated. He came for that very hour. He said, Father glorify Your name.

“Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.” (Jn. 12:28-29)

Why are some prayers not answered? Why did Jesus receive immediate response from heaven? His prayer is true prayer, a prayer that is pleasing to God. How many people really pray for the glory of God? We often just pray for our own needs. Jesus pray for God’s glory. His prayer was answered because it went right into the heart of God.

What does it mean by God’s reply, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” This is the concept of “already and not yet”. God has glorified His name and that refers to Christ’s incarnation. God said He will glorify it again and that refers to Christ’s death. That is the other glory. This is very different from our concept of glory. How can a lowly birth and humiliating death be God’s glory?

When Jesus was born in the manger, the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest, peace of God to those on whom His favour rest.” What sort of glory is that? This is the paradox of the Bible. The mystery of God is hidden in this thing. The highest King has come to the lowest place. This is the most glorious thing.

And God’s name will be glorified again through Christ’s death on the Cross. In Luke 24 Jesus said the Son of God enter into glory through His sufferings. And He is our glory. Through His death we enter into glory. There is no price greater than the blood of Christ which redeems us from sin and gives us eternal life. The church which grows through suffering for Christ is a true church. May we become people who will glorify God.