The Paradox of Jesus

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

John 12:9-26 | May 26 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
May 26
The Paradox of Jesus | John 12:9-26
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Let’s pray. Stronger than darkness, new every morn, our sins they are many, but O Lord, Your mercy is more. With trust, O Lord, that these are not just words, but they represent the affection and the conviction of our heart, that our sins, indeed, are many and we need Your mercy for things we have done. We need Your mercy for things we have left undone. And now we need Your mercy that we might hear, receive, understand, and obey Your Word. Give us humble hearts, not least of all that the preacher may be humble as I speak Your Word. Teach us that the way up is down and that the path of death is the way of life. In Jesus we pray, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.

We come this morning to John’s Gospel as we have been in for almost two years, coming now to John chapter 12. As you can see in the summer schedule, we will be taking a break from John’s Gospel and doing a series, an intermittent series on different themes in the book of Proverbs in the morning, and then moving through the small letter of Titus in the evening. And we will, Lord willing, resume with John chapter 12 come the end of August. John, chapter 12, beginning at verse 9 through verse 26.

“When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of Him but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

‘Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!'”

“His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him. The crowd that had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet Him was that they heard He had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him.'”

“Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

We have in this section three scenes, and we are going to focus on the third. You see in verse 9, we have a large crowd of the Jews. They had been wondering, “Is Jesus going to come to the feast?” This is the third time we have mention of a Passover in John’s Gospel. And because the tension had grown thick and there was now a plot to kill Jesus, they wondered would He come to the feast as was required for all the Jews at this great pilgrimage feast. And so they came out.

And we read in verse 12, the second scene, again a large crowd came to meet Him. And this is the familiar story of the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. Just having passed Palm Sunday a month ago, we are not going to focus on Palm Sunday, but on the next scene that follows. But one thing just to note, and it’s one of the preacher’s favorite points and I’ve probably made it years ago, but it’s a mistaken point, and that is to say, “Look at how fickle the crowds were, that they sang ‘Hosanna’ and they welcomed Him as a king on Palm Sunday, but then a few days later at the end of the week they were ready to cry out ‘crucify Him.’ How fickle they were.”

Well, it’s true that we are fickle, but it’s almost certainly the case that these were not the same people. Notice that this large crowd had come to the feast, heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, and they welcome Him. We read later the crowd, verse 17, that had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to bear witness. These are those who had either seen Jesus and were at some stage of enamored with Him, or these themselves were pilgrims who had come and had followed and some of them had followed Jesus ministry, we read in the other gospel accounts. By contrast, later when the crowd calls “crucify Him,” it’s not the pilgrims, but rather those in Jerusalem, and in particular John mentions the chief priests and the officers, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, who are crying it out.

So, the sin of this crowd will be largely the sin of omission rather than commission, the things that they don’t do, the silence that they keep, rather than that most of them then were chanting with bloodthirsty cries to crucify Him by the end of the week.

So we have a large crowd in verse 9, we have a large crowd in verse 12, which brings us to verse 20, and likely a small crowd. Now what’s the connection here? Well, the connection is two-fold. Verse 20, you see among those who went up to worship at the feast. So we are still dealing with those who had come, with some pilgrims who had come to the Passover feast. Now we’re pulling out of this large crowd and we’re focusing in on the Greeks. But notice a second connection. Verse 20, comes after verse 19, the Pharisees said to one another “you see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him,” and in a wonderful bit of literary flourish inspired by the Holy Spirit, right after that remark, “the world has gone after Him,” we read “and some Greeks came to Jesus.”

Because here we have not just Jews, but Gentiles. This was a broad term for anyone in the Hellenic world who were not Jews. Thy could have come from as close by as the Decapolis or from the region north or east of the Sea of Galilee, or someone farther out in the Roman Empire. But they were Greeks, and they, too, part of the world, are coming, God-fearers coming to do their part in the feast and they have heard of this Jesus and what He has done, and they, too, want to see Him.

Verse 22, they have sought out Philip. Now why Philip? We, we can’t be sure, but Philip did have a Greek name. He was from Bethsaida of Galilee, that is, he was beyond the Jordan. Many commentators think that that region to the north and east there of the Sea of Galilee right on the borderlands with the rest of the Greco-Roman world was probably a place where there were Greeks, and Philip with the name that he has was quite likely bilingual. Bethsaida had a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles, so maybe they know something about “that guy is one of us” and they go to Philip. Then Philip, you notice, he goes and he tells Andrew.

I mentioned earlier in the Gospel one of the great things about Andrew, he is always bringing people to Jesus. That’s his character. John 1:41, remember, he’s the one who brings his brother, Simon Peter, “You have to meet this Jesus.” And John chapter 6, he’s the one who brings the boy with the five loaves and the two fish to Jesus. And so here, together with Philip, he is going to try to bring the Greeks seeking Jesus. Andrew is always bringing people to Jesus. What a wonderful example for us.

You may not think you have many gifts or are very impressive, but could you be this sort of person? “I know a guy.” Can you be that person? “I know a guy, His name is Jesus. Let me introduce you to Him.”

So he finds Andrew. We don’t know exactly what happens. Verse 23: Jesus answered them. We don’t is the “them” Andrew and Philip, or has he brought now the Greeks and He’s talking to the Greeks. Whatever the case may be, He does not directly answer this inquiry, or this request, but rather He uses the occasion, as they want an interview, to explain to him what His job description is. “The time has now come.” And so Jesus, following on this request, makes a number of claims. Claims that if we were there, would have sounded absurd to us.

Because many of us have a background in the church and many of us know this sort of language about losing your life and keeping it… It sounds very pious to us. But if we were there in that moment, listening to this rabbi, it would have sounded like nonsense.

But the things that Jesus says, though they might have sounded absurd in the moment, are, in fact, eternally and amazingly true. Paradoxical as they sound.

I can’t remember if I shared this story before, but when I was joining my church in Jenison, Michigan and I was in the fourth grade or fifth grade and I had to meet with the pastor, they didn’t have a nice, you know, curriculum and plan like we do, you raise and say “I think I want to join the church.” “Okay, well, what do we do with you?” So I had read the Heidelberg Catechism with my pastor and then I had to go before all the elders, not just one or two, but all of them. They were nice men, but it was very intimidating for me as a 9-year-old or something. And before meeting with the elders, my dad pulled me aside, I was all of 9 years old, and he said, “Now, Kevin, if they ask you about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility,” [laughter] I’m thinking, “Dad, why would they ask me that? I’m 9.” He said, “If they ask.” No, that’s what I’m thinking. I don’t know what he’s talking about. He said, “If they ask you that, I want you to say ‘that’s a paradox.'” I said, “Okay, Dad.” Now, my dad was not on the elder board, and I don’t know if he had some inside track of what was going to happen or he said “go ahead and…” They asked that question! [laughter]

I was reading through the Heidelberg Catechism and they asked me, you know, questions… “Tell us about Jesus… Tell about asking Jesus into your heart… ” And somebody said, “Well, this may be over your head, but what do you think about divine sovereignty and human responsibility?” and I said “I think that’s called a paradox.” [laughter]

And to this day, you ask some of those and they think I’m this great child prodigy. No, my dad just told me to use that word [laughter] which I didn’t even know what it meant, but boy, it sent me sailing through. [laughter] So just any of the other fifth graders, if you get an elder who’s really pressing you, you just drop the paradox [laughter], mic drop, walk away.

A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition than when investigated or explained may prove to be well-founded or true. So just as it may seem “how can God be sovereign and we be responsible for our actions,” well, when you investigate it, especially according to the Scriptures, you find that both of those things are true.

And so we have from Jesus three paradoxes in these verses. They are paradoxes about Jesus and they are paradoxes for everyone who will follow Jesus. Seemingly self-contradictory statements that when examined prove to be true.

Number one, you die to bear fruit.

Number two, you hate your life to keep it.

And number three, you serve to be honored.

First paradox of Jesus: You die to bear fruit. This is, of course, most importantly a statement about Jesus and His life and ministry. You look in verse 24, He underlines the seriousness of what He’s about to say with that familiar refrain “truly, truly, verily, verily,” in the Greek it’s “amen, amen,” “I’m telling the truth, listen up.” And He gives a familiar analogy, one that they would have all been used to.

Now He’s not trying to give a scientific lesson in plant biology. It isn’t the case that seeds literally die. But what He’s saying is abundantly true, that in order for a seed to bear life, you put it into the ground and that coating must give way and fall apart and the germinating power of the seed must shoot forth as that process begins. That’s how it’s useful.

You don’t see farmers taking a seed and saying, “You see this? My pride and joy. We’re going to put this one right up here on the trophy case for this year. There it is. Look at the seed. Man, we’re gonna be rich this year. Look at the seed. No, no, no. Careful, don’t touch it. It’s very fragile. We’re going to duct tape this thing. That’s gonna really help it hold together. Last for all time. There it is. The seed. Would you look at my wonderful collection of seeds!”

Of course, we understand that is not going to be useful. The power and the potency of the seed comes from its death. That you would put it into the ground, it would metaphorically die, and from that splitting apart would burst forth life. This is exactly what Jesus has been talking about from the beginning.

Keep your finger there and turn back to John, chapter 3, verse 13. As Jesus is talking here to Nicodemus and He uses this strange illustration: No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

Jesus is there talking about more than just a physical descent, coming from the Father and then ascent back to join with the Father. He’s speaking about the way in which His whole life and ministry will unfold. That He first must condescend, that He first must be brought literally low, that He first must leave all the glories of heaven, that He first must die before He can be glorified.

Listen, you do not understand Jesus if you think He’s a good teacher, a good example, and a good man. No, any fair reading of the Gospels can see that the central thing this rabbi is going to do is die. This is no ordinary biography, as we’ve said before. Even if you have a person who died very famously and tragically, Abraham Lincoln, MLK, you still don’t have half of the biography about the last week of His life. But here we are, we’re just at chapter 12 out of 21, and we are already clearly focused on the last week of His life and His death.

You don’t understand Jesus unless you understand that He came to die. Not first of all to say just “look at me” or to say “here’s some great teaching.” I want you get this. I want teenagers here, I want 8-year-olds, I want everybody to understand this so that nobody in this church, growing up here, going to Christ Covenant Church, can say someday “well, I just thought being a Christian was about being a good person.” If it’s just about being a good person, Jesus didn’t have to die. He could have easily taught a lot of good morals. He could have showed Himself to be a very fine person and love people and heal people. You have grandparents, you have parents, they’re good people.

No, His singular mission and purpose in life was to die for sinners, as we’ll see.

And notice what He says: “The hour has come,” verse 23, “for the Son of Man,” that’s a reference to Himself, and remember Son of Man is not actually a reference to His humanity but it’s that exalted, divine figure from Daniel chapter 7, the Son of Man who approaches the Ancient of Days to receive glory and power and a kingdom. It’s a divine title.

“Now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

If you were just encountering the Bible for the first time, you might think, “Well, what is this gonna look like? The King, God’s son, to be glorified. There’s gonna be a great military processional. There’s going to be angels coming down and there’s going to be blasting of trumpets. There’s going to be a great investiture and He’s gonna be crowned and people are going to bow down. He’s going to be glorified!”

But quite uniquely in John’s Gospel, the cross is not so much the place of shame and humiliation. It is that, as well, and the other gospels are right to point it out. But for John, the cross is supremely the place of glorification. You see, Jesus will be glorified not despite the cross, “well, He was a very good man and He did a lot of good things and it’s just a shame that He died so young.” No, not despite the cross. Or, “wasn’t it a pity He, He was wrongly accused.” No, not despite the cross, but in and through the cross.

And consider all that we’ve seen already, these signs of glory. The, the healing of people and the raising of Lazarus and the water into wine and the multiplying of the loaves and fishes… All of which are signs of His glory and then, as if to say “you haven’t seen anything yet… Now is the hour when My glorification begins.”

And how strange that the hours of His glorification will reach its climax with His death.

For the Father to say to the Son, “Here is my plan for Your glorification. You will humble Yourself. You will take on the form of a servant. You will be mistreated, mocked, misunderstood. You will suffer and You will die, and in the moment of Your death, on that cruel cross, You will be glorified.”

And of course there’s application here for us. The death of the seed is a necessary condition for life. We are Easter people. Resurrection people. And so when you feel like death, it could be figurative, just exhaustion, betrayal, fear… Or it could be literal, the end is coming, the cancer diagnosis is frightening… When you feel like death, as resurrection people we ought to be confident… “ah, that means life is coming.”

Unless a seed falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears fruit.

When we are most pressed upon and assailed, when we are almost overwhelmed by death, we should remember that this is a sowing that will yield in the follower of Christ a blessed fruitfulness.

There is no way on this side of heaven to make all of life’s suffering not feel like suffering. It is suffering. It does hurt. It is scary. But there is a way to rightly interpret our suffering, and that is to understand that in the moment where death feels closest is where God is just about to break forth with life. The way of Christ is the way of life through death.

Unless a seed falls into the earth and dies, it’s alone. It’s there. In other words, your life must be about something more than trying not to die. We’ll fail. You want to fail in life? Make your singular goal not to die. We all fail.

But if you say there’s something more in my life, something that my life is about that’s more than just living, it’s about the living that comes on the other side of dying.

Die to bear fruit.

Here’s the second paradox: Hate your life to keep it.

Now we don’t want to misunderstand what Jesus is saying in verse 25. He is not talking about a self-loathing that says “well, I should hurt myself” or “I deserve to die” or “no one will care if I end my life.”

I don’t have to tell you that one of the great sadnesses in our day, with all the prosperity that we have in this country, is a marked increase in the number of suicides, and many of us have felt the pain of that firsthand.

So that’s not what Jesus is saying. In fact, if I can say this as gently as I can, knowing that this is a very tender spot for people, it’s actually the case that when you succumb to ending your own life, it is not because you have had such low self-esteem but rather have been deceived into seeing nothing but yourself, that you can’t see beyond your own pain and hurt. You can’t see flowers and babies and sunshine anymore. You can’t see hope, you can’t hear laughter, you can’t see people who love you, you can’t see people that you are hurting. You can’t see all the people who will be crushed if you take the easy way out. No matter how deep and painful the problem, suicide is never the answer.

So when Jesus says “hate yourself,” He is not giving that sort of self-loathing diagnosis.

Calvin puts it well: “He who under the influence of a moderate desire of the present life cannot leave the world but by constant constraint is said to love life. But he who despising life advances courageously to death is said to hate life. Not that we ought absolutely to hate life, which is justly reckoned to be one of God’s great blessings, but because believers ought cheerfully to lay it down when it impedes them from approaching to Christ.”

Hate is a word Jesus uses to get our attention, and doesn’t He get our attention? He says, in Luke chapter 14, that “you can’t be My follower unless you hate your father and mother and brother and sister.” Now, that gets some people’s attention. There’s some kids right now saying “I didn’t even know that verse was in the Bible. That’s my life verse.” [laughter]

No, listen, as C.S. Lewis says, “The hard sayings of Jesus are only good for the people that find them hard.” Not the people that find them easy.

It’s a hard saying because we don’t naturally grow to hate our own family. We love them, just like we don’t naturally hate ourselves. He, he’s using the word to mean self-denial, that is a willingness to give up what is not in itself objectionable, be it life or family, but what is worth little compared to Christ? That’s what He means.

Unless you lose life, unless you hate your life in this world, that is in comparison to what is to come, in comparison to Christ. You say what is this worth?

The assumption throughout the Bible is that we already love ourselves. When Jesus says “love your neighbor as yourself,” some people have said, “well, see, Jesus was given two commands. Step one, you need to love yourself, and step two you love your neighbors as you love yourself.” No, no, no… Jesus is assuming you already have the first step down. You do love yourself. Even the person who goes around and says “I’m ugly and I’m no good at anything and nobody likes me and I guess I’ll go eat worms,” that, that person even? That person loves themself, for that sort of what we call low self-esteem is the flip side of that, it’s, it’s thinking about yourself so much that you have developed a morbid sort of introspection. No, we, we do love ourselves.

Tim Keller, in a great little book, and I’ll try to make sure we get it on the book nook for next week, it’s called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. I think it’s based on a sermon called “Blessed Self-Forgetfulness.”

Here’s what he says in part: “Up until the 20th century, traditional cultures, and this is still true in most cultures in the world, always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all the evil in the world. What is the reason for most of the crime and violence in the world? Why are people abused? Why are people cruel? Why do people do bad things? Traditionally, the answer was hubris, the Greek word meaning pride, or viewing yourself too highly. But in our modern Western culture, we have developed an utterly opposite cultural consensus. The basic assumption of contemporary education, the way we treat incarcerated prisoners, the foundation of most modern legislation and the starting point for modern counseling, is exactly the opposite of the traditional consensus. Our belief today, and it is deeply rooted in everything,” he says, “is that people misbehave for lack of self-esteem, because they have too low a view of themselves.”

For example, the reason husbands beat their wives, the reason people are criminals, is because they have too low a view of themselves. People used to think it was because they had too high a view and too much self-esteem, now we say it is because they have too little.

Well, Keller is right in the profound shift that has happened. It’s not to say that we aren’t observing something in our culture. It is true that people, even maybe many of you, do feel like I’m not good at anything and there’s nothing and I have a very leaky love tank and I don’t know that people care about me, but can’t you see how that is just a more socially acceptable form of pride? To feed me, to stroke me, to affirm me?

You see, C.S. Lewis was onto something when he said “when you meet a truly humble person, you don’t walk away from that and say, ‘my, my, wasn’t she very meek and humble and lowly?’ No, you walk away thinking ‘what a wonderful time I had because I was talking about myself because she kept asking me questions about myself over and over again.'”

See, the truly humble person is not the person, “oh, oh, woe is me, and don’t I look terrible in this dress and oh, I’m so horrible…” That, what does that do? That draws attention to yourself. The humble person is the one who has learned to get off of the self-focus and be focused on others.

Lewis is right. You meet the truly humble person, they’re not the sort of person that you have to constantly “you’re okay, it’s all right, hang in there…” but they’re a joy to be around.

You see, what Jesus is saying, to use the old adage, is that humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It’s not thinking less of yourself, and I’m terrible and I’m not good at anything and I’m ugly… No, it’s thinking of yourself less. It’s learning to replace the endless focus of self with endless focus on Christ. That’s what He means. Hate your life, lose your life. Hate it in this world, gain it in the next. Contempt of this fading life, in contemplation of a better life to come. If you wanted to think of a best-selling title to be more at odds with what Jesus says, you would be hard-pressed to find something better than “your best life now.” It is precisely not what Jesus envisions.

Hate your life now. Not that life is reprehensible, but that losing one’s life in order to find it in eternity is a terrific bargain. Hate your life to keep it. Die to bear fruit.

And finally, serve to be honored.

Look at verse 26. There’s a striking force to the logic of Jesus’ words. He says “serve Me means following Me, following Me means you are where I am, and if you follow Me, and you are My servant, My Father will give you honor.”

This is harder than it sounds. He must follow Me, and where I am, there will My servant be also.

You want to know if you’re a servant of Christ? Do you hang out with Christ? You want to know if you’re a follower of Jesus? Do you go where He goes?

Now, it’s easy for us to think, “oh, yeah, I love Jesus. I want to be with Jesus. Yeah, wherever You are Jesus, I want to hang out, I want to get my miracles, I want to be with You.” Oh, really? Where is, where is He heading to in this passage? He’s on His way to the cross. Is that where you want to be? Is that where I want to be? They want to kill Him. He’s going to hang as a criminal on a cross.

Now, wrongly accused for sure, but try, try to think about the shame of being associated with Jesus on the cross. We all know the cross, we have crosses all over this building, we love the cross… This is as if Jesus were an accused, condemned sex offender. Oh, that makes you stand up straight. That sort of “who wants to be with that person? Who’s going to want to be associated with them?”

In our culture, it’s just [sound effect] never to be seen again. Unforgivable. That’s what they thought of Jesus.

Put your own category. You want to put something else, you want to put murderer, you want to put whatever, whatever sort of sin. You want to put racist. Whatever sort of cultural “other,” Jesus says “you’re my follower if you stick with Me,” and it is going to get very difficult to stick with Jesus.

We are, when it comes to controversial people, just like we are with Jesus, much more apt to be private friends than public friends. You know, privately, I’m with ya, I’m praying for ya, atta boy, okay, hang in there. What about a public friend? I can see lots of private friends of Jesus. “Oh, Jesus, you hang on the cross. Hey, man, I’m, I’m praying for you. If you need anything, just, just let me know. I didn’t get your text, sorry.”

What about there, where He is. That’s the Messiah. That’s the One I’m following, the One you’re killing right now, the One your condemning as a criminal with all the shame and the humiliation that comes with that, that One.

There was no one left in that moment. No public friends in His final breath.

But the reward, notice, “if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” The Father will honor those who honor the Son. You can have no greater reward than that God Almighty, God.

You know that scene at the end of the first Star Wars movie? If you’ve just seen the new ones, sorry, but go back, see the old ones. You know, and there’s, you know, Han and Luke and they’re up there and everybody’s there and, you know, R2’s squeaking around and Chewbacca’s roaring, and they get their big medals and this big military ceremony. They’re honored for blowing up the Death Star, even though they keep rebuilding the thing over and over again, but it always has a central weakness, you’d they would get some engineers to figure that out, but they, they give them the medal. “Here we are, honored in front of everybody.”

We’re going to have graduations. We had one here for RTS, we have one here for CDS, some of you will be at those and you see the honor, you get the diploma. Maybe your kid is going to give a speech, maybe they get an award. What honor.

Oh, there’s no honor like this, the Father to honor you.

Now, think about it. Think about goals in life. We’re in graduation season. You hear a lot of graduation speeches, and some are good and some are, are dreadful, and most are very ordinary, commonplace. What’s the sort of things you might hear? “Well, I want to make a difference. I want to, I’d like to life forever. I’d like to be honored by important people.” If you’re honest, that about summarizes a lot of graduating senior’s life goals. Make a difference, live as long as I can, and maybe be honored by some important people.

Well, you see what Jesus says in this passage? “You want that? I can give you all that. I can give you life forever. I can, you can make an eternal difference. And you want honor from important people? My Father will honor you. But here’s the catch. You gotta trust Me, and you gotta do it My way.”

See, many times the things that the world wants, and the things that the Christian wants, many times the same things: Living forever, making a difference, being honored. Same things, vastly different path.

One comes through self and platform and pride, the other through humility, sacrifice, and death. He died so that He might bear fruit. Jesus hated His life for the joys set before Him and He served His Father so that He might be glorified. The way of Jesus is the way of paradox.

And so look, finally, at verse 21. Come back to the question, it’s not really a question, it’s a request. Might it be your request? Sir, we wish to see Jesus.

You see, this paradoxical way of Christianity, I don’t want you to leave here and think “well, okay, it’s just about willpower or it’s some impenetrable mystery or it’s just about being a really humble person…” No, the secret of the Christian life is not to look inward. The secret, if there’s a secret, is to look outward at Jesus, to see Him, to savor Him, to come to Him, again and again.

So don’t leave here and say “I want to be a humble person, I want to be better.” Okay, fine, but leave here first of all saying “Sir, we wish to see Jesus, we wish to see the One who died for sin, the One who rose again. We wish to see the One who gives the only path that leads to true joy, true life, and true honor. We wish to see Him, follow Him, be with Him, now and forever.”

Let’s pray. Let me use this prayer from the Valley of Vision, a Puritan prayer book. The very first prayer in that book, which fits perfectly with our passage this morning.

“Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou has brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

Let us learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess everything, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells, the brighter Thy stars shine;

Let us find Thy light in our darkness, Thy life in our death, Thy joy in our sorrow, Thy grace in our sin, Thy riches in our poverty, and Thy glory in our valleys.”

We pray in Jesus. Amen.