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Apr 14, 2019

Loving Life To The Point of Losing It

Passage: John 12:12-36

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: No Greater Love

Keywords: death, die, love life, seed, hate life

Summary:

Palm Sunday isn’t just some nice prequel to Good Friday and a warm up for Easter. Jesus reveals his loving choice to be the sacrificial Lamb, and with that, what an accepting faith looks like: John 12:25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Hearing Jesus speak like this is hard for you to comprehend, because it seems most think there is nothing wrong with living this way. In fact, the cultural pressure is on us today to make the most of our lives. The term is expressive individualism, and it is almost a given today. It means that I am the master of the meaning of my life. It is my duty to flourish here on earth materially, emotionally, relationally. To miss out on anything is a deadly sin. It’s wasting my life. Whether it comes to money, or education, or sexuality, or lifestyle choices, the only true measure is to be true to myself. How much of that is part of your day to day decisions and actions? Jesus says, if you love your life you’ll lose it. If you live to get and not give, if your energies and direction in life are about enhancement, and flourishing, in the end you’ll lose it all. For each one of us is made for more than can be measured, stored up, or treasured materially or naturally. If you struggle with faith or have left his church because you don’t think it’s relevant or you think you don’t believe anymore, maybe what you don’t believe is an invitation to grow out of childish ways to a childlike faith that relates to Jesus as servant and friend – who loves so much he will forsake this life in order to secure you for eternity. You’ve lost sight of him in wishes for more from him, but you’ll experience him again, anew, in each loss and sacrifice, these are his invitations to find life by losing it at the cross.

Detail:

A science documentary stated, ‘Earth is deadly.

99% of all species that ever lived on earth

are now extinct.

But we need death to have the life we have today. The dead feed the living.’

Some species of conifer trees

including lodgepole pine, spruce, cypress and sequoia  have serotinous seeds,

which require heat for the cones to open

 and the seeds to spread for growth,

the trees must be consumed in forest fires,

and out of that death new life begins.

When salmon run in order to spawn,

they run to their deaths.

After spawning the riverbanks

are covered with the decaying fish.

The decomposing salmon give off nitrogen

from which forests come to life.

The forest owes its existence to the salmon.

Our skin cells

are constantly dying off and being replaced.

Look at your hands,

that wasn’t your hand a few months ago.

Since then new skin has replaced the old.

Our blood cells die off

and are renewed every 4 months also.

And when you give blood you don’t run out of blood, but the giving spurs on renewal of those blood cells. Even tho our hair is regularly

and being cut or falling out,

yet we keep our hair . . .

well, most of us anyway.

 

And in our Bible reading

Jesus points to nature

and the clues it gives us of God’s love in Christ:

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.

 

Jesus is speaking about what will happen to him

later this week.

Really, he is summarizing his person and work,

the whole reason for God becoming one of us

and what God-with-us will do:

he will sacrifice his life.

His death results in the fruit of new life,

eternal life.

 

Jesus looks with the scientific wisdom of his day

on how the Lord works new life out of death

and says that is fulfilled in me.

All nature witnesses to the handiwork of God.

And then he applies his dying to our living

and how we are to live,

trusting in his resurrecting love.

 

But this is difficult to accept.

These verses reveal the struggle

and invite us to reflect on Jesus’ perfect life

living to die;

loving life so much he will lay it down

in order to establish new life.

Listen, John 12 –

33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

[That is, Jesus is declaring that by loving sacrifice

our of death new life will result.]

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

[The crowd that is celebrating Jesus

as king and Messiah is reasoning,

Jesus can’t be talking about himself, can he?]

Why would he?

He’s the grand master of this parade!

He’s the king riding in on a colt!

The waving palm branches mean victory!

All to say the people don’t get it.

Neither the crowd

nor the Pharisees

nor even the disciples until much later,

until the Holy Spirit has had some time

to counsel their hearts and souls and wills.

 

That day, that first Palm Sunday,

the people miss the revelation

just like they miss the voice of God.

Look at the next scene.

Jesus shares his own faith resolve,

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.

Have people ever missed the Lord so badly?

They can’t put together

the glory of God and sacrifice,

righteousness and forgiveness,

justice and mercy.

 

Palm Sunday is a day of misplaced hopes and unrighteous expectations.

Today especially people assume

we live buffered lives.

If there is a God the divine doesn’t intrude

on our day-to-day living.

God is reserved for beliefs,

or transcendence is just wishful thinking,

faith is just a private exercise.

But here the Father is attentive to the Son,

the LORD speaks to declare his righteousness,

for our benefit, says Jesus,

to know he is God-with-us

and the Lord is graciously present even now,

even in this.

But human beings are not prepared

for God to be so close.

The crowd anticipates Jesus overthrowing Rome

and expects Jesus to be their new king

who will prosper them materially and politically.

He can feed us with a word,

he can raise us from death with his authority.

With Jesus as king

we will live like princes and princesses.

But to bring us into a right relationship with God?

That’s not on their hearts and minds.

It’s not important to them.

The voice of God confuses them.

 

Nobody understands that

the Lord is present in sacrifice;

that divine love and sharing in loss go together.

That when God is with you

your love changes, your purpose changes.

Jesus willingly coming to die,

lovingly suffering the cross,

is confusing and threatening.

Can we really know Jesus in suffering and loss?

 

A few desire to see him:

20 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.”

But isn’t everyone able to see Jesus at that moment?

Not truly. Not rightly.

This is our confession and lament as well.

We gather wondering about God’s presence.

We have missed Jesus in the face of the poor,

in the needs of the hurting,

in the call to lay down our wants

and take up our cross.

 

The revelation here is that

the Lord is made manifest to us in sacrificial love.

Jesus reveals himself in love that lays down one’s life.

‘Anyone who loves their life will lose it . . .’

And a little more is revealed

about the character and practice of love we so desire.

What can this mean for us in Christ today?

What do you hear as Jesus speaks this to you?

 

  1. S. Lewis puts it this way:

“Christ says, ‘Give me All.

I don’t want so much of your time

and so much of your money

and so much of your work:

I want You.

I have not come to torment your natural self,

but to kill it…

Hand over the whole natural self,

all the desires which you think innocent

as well as the ones you think wicked –

the whole outfit.

I will give you a new self instead.

In fact, I will give you Myself:

my own will shall become yours.’…

[We] must be ploughed up and re-sown.”

– Mere Christianity, pp. 167-168

 

Can you accept this?

Can you say yes, this is what faith means,

what following Jesus means?

 

The key is verse 25 –

25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it,

while anyone who hates their life in this world

will keep it for eternal life.

 

What can that mean?

I love my life,

I think most of us do.

Sure, there are things about our lives we don’t like:

certain sufferings because of illness,

mental and emotional difficulties,

character flaws and weaknesses,

the limitations of aging bodies,

are a few of our struggles.

We are thankful for the gift of life

and we seek to be stewards of our days.

We know time flies

and for the most part we have unique blessings

that many in the world do not have,

so we try to make the most

of our time and opportunities.

 

So what does Jesus mean?

The word Jesus uses for love,

for loving life,

doesn’t mean the Christ-like love

that we’ve been talking about these last weeks:

the love that seeks to bless and benefit

another’s well-being in Jesus.

The love Jesus is talking about here is

a personal attachment to the pleasures,

safety and security of this life,

wanting to make the most of it here,

that kind of love,

that kind of life.

A selfish, what can I get out of it, living.

How do I get more,

the most I can for me?

Almost like hoarding life,

or making decisions that make the best natural, material life I can have

because after all, I’m worth it:

a self-love of me and my life.

 

Hearing Jesus speak against this

may be hard for you to comprehend,

because it seems most think

there is nothing wrong with living this way.

In fact, the cultural pressure is on us today

to make the most of our lives.

The term is expressive individualism,

and it is almost a given today.

It means that I am the master

of the meaning of my life.

It is my duty to flourish here on earth materially,

emotionally, relationally.

To miss out on anything is a deadly sin.

It’s wasting my life.

Whether it comes to money,

or education,

or sexuality,

or lifestyle choices,

the only true measure is

to be true to myself.

 

How much of that is part of your

day to day decisions and actions?

How much of your family life is run that way?

Your relational life?

Your community life?

Why you are dissatisfied at work?

The frustration in your relaitonships?

Why you are stressing out yourselves and your kids

by putting them in every program,

sport, and extra-curricular activity

for fear that otherwise they will miss out?

Why your financial decisions think about giving last?

Isn’t this loving life at even the cost of our souls?

Jesus says,

if you love your life you’ll lose it.

If you live to get and not give,

if your energies and direction in life

are about enhancement,

and flourishing,

in the end you’ll lose it all.

Oh, you might have the big house

and the great vacations

and the high paying job

and the successful kids,

and the likeable selfies and popular Instagram posts,

but there’s a spiritual, eternal price for that.

 

How are you with that knowledge from Jesus?

What his love does to us

is help us die to self

to be raised in the assurance

of our belonging and identity in Jesus.

And this is just as radical today as it was

that first Palm Sunday.

For even today the sinful human heart

wants a god to affirm me

and maximize my own self

but above all let me determine my life

by my will and choice.

 

XTNY Today - Jesus is a king,

but not the kind the crowd wanted.

He will serve rather than be served.

He will die and not kill his enemies.

He enters unarmed, waging peace.

This makes a larger point that

God does not intend to meet our expectations. Instead, he meets our needs.

This type of God makes me uncomfortable.

I don’t want vegetables when I’m craving candy.

I want a God that satisfies my desires,

whether or not those align with my needs.

I want a god for me first, not you first.

And so it is with all of us.

 

But God is only God on the Lord’s terms, not ours.

If we insist on relating to God on our terms

we don’t have God;

we worship an idol.

 

If we don’t like this,

we sure won’t like what Jesus says next:

25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Now we have to hate our lives?

Just ignore our needs,

let our bodies wither and break down,

just give up and despise this life?

Jesus can’t mean that can he?

Hate is to put in last place.

What Jesus is talking about is not life itself,

but the lifestyles we choose.

The way we live.

What matters in our lives.

And he is saying all that matters

must take a back seat to the Lord.

I think he uses the word ‘hate’ because he knows us.

Jesus knows us by name.

He knows our hearts.

He knows the flesh is weak.

So if he said,

try to think of me once in a while,

or make sure you get to church

when it fits your schedule,

or just be good . . .

well, you get the idea.

He’s commanding a 180 degree turnaround,

repentance that is shown in life choices,

not just words and thoughts.

 

Because faith and love

are lived out not in word alone

but by what we choose to do and choose not to do.

Jesus gave some examples of love lived out

in the body, in the flesh, incarnate:

if someone takes your coat give your shirt too

don’t forgive seven times

but seventy times seven times

he washed the disciples’ feet

he led the blind man by the hand

he took children on his lap and blessed them . . .

the love of God was given

in the daily actions of Jesus.

 

Jesus tells us that

we find Jesus in everyday life:

real love which includes sacrifice.

We don’t want to hear that truth,

but Jesus says you see it all around you:

in  nature

in parents that sacrifice for you

in community churches that serve one another:

Jesus says these all point to me,

because this love comes from me

and you’ll see it as I am lifted up on the cross.

 

If you struggle with faith

or have wandered from church

because you don’t think you believe anymore,

maybe what you don’t believe is okay not to believe

because you are growing out of childish ways

to a childlike faith

that relates to Jesus as servant and friend –

in real time, in body and soul.

 

You’ve lost sight of him in wishes for

more from him,

but you’ll experience him again, anew,

in each loss and sacrifice,

these are his invitations to

find life by losing it at the cross.

 

The end is celebration.

Glory, says the Father.

Come to the table and celebrate this love.

How?

Nourished and strengthened to love this powerfully:

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!”

 

Yes, we are troubled by burdens and sorrows.

We face disappointment and disillusionment.

Why would God do this?

How could God do this?

Yet in the face of that trouble

we remember Jesus said,

In this world you will have trouble,

but don’t be afraid,

I have overcome this world.

 

This Palm Sunday we name our misplaced hopes

and pagan expectations.

We receive the Lord’s Supper

to remember where God’s goodness comes from.

We are nourished in the light of Christ’s love.

Walk while you have the light,

before darkness overtakes you.

 

We walk in the light of loving sacrifice.

To share another’s burden is to give glory to God.

To love when we do not like is to live in God’s glory.

To weep when others weep is to turn to the light

and resist the darkness overtaking us.