Remembering the Determined Love of the Lord Jesus
What a privilege it is for us to gather in the Lord's house on the Lord's day and to do so this morning at the Lord's Table. Do you realize that we are at the table right now? Communion is a preaching rite. So this sermon is at the table; we are already gathered in a special way in the presence of God. Today, I want us to particularly remember the determined love of Jesus as brought before us in John 12:20-36. So as we work with John 12, remembering the love of Jesus in John's Gethsemane, we should begin with some matters of brief introduction. Three important things should be stressed. Two are in general regarding communion and the 3rd will hone in on John 12.
1) The focus of communion is on the Lord Jesus. We are here to remember Him. He said "do this in remembrance of me." Therefore confession of sin and self-examination are not the keys to communion; they are the keys to the daily Christian life. Remembering the Lord Jesus is the key to communion. A God-centeredness is appropriate; looking away from man, from ourselves, to Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.
2) Communion is for sinners. We are sinners. But communion is for sinners like the gospel is for sinners. You dont clean yourself up preparing for the gospel; gospel is needed for the cleaning up. Communion points us to the gospel. Furthermore, communion is for sinners but not all sinners. This is important! Communion is for sinners who acknowledge their need of the body and blood of Christ. You are invited to the table with us only if you are a believer, only if you are trusting in Jesus Christ as your prophet, priest and king. Otherwise, you ought not to partake; you eat and drink judgment to yourself. (you do not have to be a member of this local church but you need to be a member of the church, by faith in Jesus Christ the risen Lord).
3) Third, to hone in on our text in John, we need to think about the context of the passage and note how the love of Christ is presented. The text begins with the Greeks who would like to see Jesus (vs. 20-23a). Did they? The impression is that they did not. Instead, Jesus in effect said, not now but soon. When? In the hour of glory (v. 23) which is the hour of his death (v. 24). So, by these Greeks, Jesus is caused to reflect on the coming hour. The clouds of Gods wrath are beginning to form in the distant sky. The shadow of the cross extends its foreboding image across the city of David. Why? Because we, Jews and Gentiles alike, have sinned and we need protection from the holy anger of God. Jesus must die in order for many to be saved (v. 24b). You may ask, how do I find this salvation for me? Jesus tells us (vs. 25-26). You must give yourself away entirely to the Lord, to be His, to acknowledge His authority over you, over all you are, possess and do. Put your trust in the light (vs. 34-36a). The context ends with Jesus hiding Himself from the crowd (36b).
He shows us here that, as the light of the world and the revealer of God, He is also concealer of God. This gives us a glimpse into the workings of the Lord in history. He works out His purposes by manifesting Himself and hiding Himself (cf. Lk 24:16; he prevented them from seeing Him, from knowing Him, followed by precise revealing). He decides the who, the what, the where and the when of our salvation. This text in John is similar to Matthew 11:25-27 where Jesus states His sovereignty in revealing God to sinners (to those He chooses). There is an ultimate point here that salvation is of the Lord, 100%. In the fall of the human family into sin, no one knows God. The only people who come to know God are "those to whom the son chooses to reveal him" (Matt. 11:27). This is a great humbling and comforting truth. Our salvation is not in our hands. It is not determined by anything we do. It is not ultimately determined by our choice or decision for all our choices are sinful unless the Lord reveals the Father to us. Our salvation is ultimately decided by the Lord Jesus. In this context, Jesus directs us away from all man-centeredness; He directs us to the cross and to His love for the Father and His love for sinners.1A. His love for the Father (Jn. 12:27-28)
To get the impact of this we need to examine the translation. Note the number and location of the question marks. More can be said, but here is a basic reason to read this as one question with two answers. There are two addresses to the Father ( v. 27; v. 28). What then is the impact? This turns out to be a very emotionally charged prayer by the Lord Jesus as He stands under the looming shadow of the cross: "My soul is exceedingly troubled, and what shall I say? With every ounce of self-preservation in my being, I must say, "Father, save me from this hour! And with every ounce of resolve and determination in my being, I must say, it was for this purpose that I came to this hour, so "Father, bring on the Cross and its pain and shame, and through it, glorify thy name!" Jesus is one with us; He is truly human and He recoiled from drinking the cup of the wrath of the Almighty Father in heaven.
But He came from glory on a mission to glorify God through the cross. Although He saves through the cross, the saving of sinners is not its ultimate end. The chief and ultimate end is the glory of the Father. His love for the Father is a determined love. He is resolved to display the radiant beauty of God. It is all there at the cross: wisdom, love, power, justice, wrath, mercy, and grace. Would you like to know what these attributes of God look like? Then look to Gethsemene and Calvary.2A. His love for sinners
Arising from this determined love for the Father (to display His glory and do so remarkably on the cross), is also a determined love for sinners. He is determined to save and to do so in a way that glorifies God. The kernel of wheat that dies produces many seeds (v. 24; there is a must and a certainty). If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself (12:32). Notice that this is not simply an invitation; it is a divine drawing (Jn. 18:10 Peter having a sword drew it; Jn. 21:11 Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fish; Acts 16:19, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace; Acts 21:30, taking hold of Paul, they dragged him out of the temple; Jas. 2:6, Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?)
The cross is powerful; it is a fish net cast by God that pulls the fish into the boat. Not one will slip away. These will all be brought, Jesus says, "to myself" (and to the resurrection of life, Jn. 6:44, 40). Jesus will see the fruit of His determination to save. He endured the suffering of the cross to in fact save those upon whom He casts this net! What then do we do with the all (v. 32)? We know that some will not be saved. So, we search the context and find our answer in the Greeks. Jesus will save everyone upon whom He casts His fish net and that means that people of all nations, tongues, and families of the earth will be drawn by Him to make up the new human family, the redeemed human race, the new world. Thus, the "all" is not "all without exception" but "all without distinction." It is such a comfort to know that this work of building the church is the work of the triune God (recall that Jesus said no one can come to me unless the father draws him, Jn. 6:44; and it is the Holy Spirit that convicts and drives us to Christ, Jn. 16:8; 1 Thess. 1:4-5). It is the work of determined, resolved, unfailing love that brings wayward fish into the boat of safety. Isn't this a great and awesome truth, our salvation rests in the hands of almighty, resolved, determined, saving love and not one wit on ourselves. This truth of the determined and saving love of the triune God is important because it builds up faith, gives us impregnable security, trains us in humility, elevates us to admiration of the immense goodness of God towards us, and excites us to praise this goodness (Calvin, Eternal, 56).
"Remember me" Jesus commanded. These reminders ground our sense of awe, gratitude, hope and safety. He was lifted up in order to draw sinners from every nation to His bosom forever. He did this in order to glorify the Father. We have these reminders that all contradiction may be ended and that we may firmly believe that we belong to that covenant that stands as a rock!