Jesus said that if he is lifted up, then he will draw all people to him. And so during this period of Lent, we have been looking at lectionary readings through the lens of spiritual exploration, and what it is that's out there for us and what it is that's in here for us. All around in the spiritual realm, the things that God has for us, and the things that we want to discover in Christ, the things that we want to discover about ourselves and our relationship with God and God's creation.
In this passage of the gospel, [John 12:20-33] Jesus emphasized his
lifting up as the way that he would be crucified at the end of his earthly
ministry. And throughout his time, he predicted that he was going to be killed
in this way and that then he would be raised from the dead, and so that's a
part of our preparation as we come to the conclusion of Lent over the next
couple of weeks. But he also promised that because of that, there would be a
plentiful harvest and that his being lifted up would draw everybody to him.
Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on March 21, 2021
for Briensburg UMC
He spoke about this in the beginning of his ministry that
we talked about last week, in John chapter 3, where he talked about being born
again. And then he talked about the people in the wilderness who were being
bitten by the snakes, and that Moses had set the pole up for everybody to look
at, and if they would look, they would be healed or saved. And that in the same
way, Jesus said, "In this same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life."
And now he says this about being lifted up and drawing all people to him.
Jesus is the draw
And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me. John 12:32 (MSG)
And I think sometimes in the church, we might all have recognized that there's a tendency to want to try to get ahead of Jesus maybe a little bit, get ahead of the cross a little bit, and to find other things that might draw people together and draw people in. And they might do that, but you know, I like to think that when we came together here at church today, we came to praise the Lord. We just came for Jesus. We came because we want to worship.
And I think it's better if we have fewer people who all want to worship than a
lot of people who came for a lot of other reasons besides Jesus.
And I think that our mission and ministry and the other
things that we do as the church to help people are not to manipulate them or to
make them want to come and be a part of the church. But they are because out of
this love that we have growing within us and the gifts that we have that
empower us to ministry, that we want to serve Christ and all the people in this
way. And so we're not doing ... Some of the other things that we do are not in
order to get people to come and be a member of our group, but they're because
of we love them and we want to help and serve them.
And then through that, we want to lift up Christ in all
that we're doing so that they're drawn in to Christ, and not to us or not to
our ... We're not lifting up our group. We're lifting up Christ. We're not
lifting up our particular ministries, whatever they may be, but we're lifting
up Christ, and those become opportunities for us to lift up Christ. But if we
do it the other way around, then we're getting the horse before the cart. And
you still need a horse. Well, that's where it belongs, isn't it? We're getting
the cart before the horse. If you're going to draw a cart with a horse, you're
going to need a cart and a horse, but it does make a difference what order they
And so that's how it makes a difference with us. We're
lifting up Christ, and we want to lift up Christ in all we do, and point to
Christ, and help people come into a personal relationship with Christ. And he
promises that the harvest is plentiful, and that he wants people to follow him.
Why? So that where he is that we can also be there, wherever that may be. And
that's a promise that he made a couple of chapters later on his way to the
cross, when he said that, "If I prepare a place for you, I will come again
and take you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also." So,
there's a couple of places right together there where Jesus is emphasizing that
he wants us around. He wants us with him, and that's why he's drawing everybody
But I also like to highlight that in The Message
translation, the word everyone, and in the King James, the word all, will draw
all people to me, it's a promise that keeps coming up in the scriptures, that
there are texts that can be used to argue against it, and a lot of people do.
But Jesus and the apostles and the prophets tend to have this all idea, this
idea that all people are being called, all are invited, and that "God's
will is that all should be saved," as Peter said. It's not God's will that
anyone should perish, but that all should come to this knowledge of Christ. And
so, that's the attitude that I think this passage invites us to have is that
it's for everybody, that we celebrate our differences and our diversity, and
not use it as walls to separate us, but as bridges to unite us and to bring us
together, and to look at everybody as a child of God, being saved, being
healed, being transformed into the image and likeness of him that filleth all
in all. So, lift Jesus higher.
Called by God
Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 5:10 (KJV)
And then Hebrews 5, that reading talks about the priest,
Melchizedek, who came and took and worshiped with Abraham and received the
tithes from Abraham back in super primordial times, I guess super primeval
times. That was a long time ago, the days of Abraham. We celebrate Abraham and
being the children of Abraham's faith, and that was far back in the Book of
Genesis. And I was interested to see that that Abraham was born in 1948 AM,
Anno Mundi, the year of the world, in the way that they were measuring time,
some people measure time in their religion. And so in what they felt was 1948 ...
And I thought that was kind of a interesting little
connection there to think about, but that was still a long time ago. It was not
the 1948 that we usually go to in our minds. It was a long time ago, and a long
time before any of the rituals that we have, any of the prayers in the Bible,
anything about the Bible was ever written, anything, any kind of the forms that
we follow, or any kind of practices that we have. And so his priesthood
preceded the priesthood that was established by Moses by a long, long time, and
all of the things that we think of in connection with religion are preceded by
this priest, Melchizedek, coming and being a part of Abraham's life.
And that's who the Bible lifts up, that Jesus is a priest
after that order, the old time one, the real old one, the one that precedes all
the others. And that is very personal and it is deeper than ... And so that
includes, really, all of everything that came afterwards, but it goes back
deeper, to something deeper that we're invited to really be a part of when it's
brought up that way.
And there's not much to know about him, but John Wesley brought that up as a high point. He said, "The Holy Ghost seems to have concealed who Melchizedek was on purpose, that he might be the more eminent type of Christ."
And I can add a word that was in The Message that he was designated by God, that we use the word called in the King James, but in The Message it said designated. And that's kind of an interesting way to think of it too, that our calling is a designation, and God has called you and gifted you to something then, that the Holy Spirit has designated you to do that job.
The Holy Spirit has designated us and called us and
specified that this is our assignment, and that's what God would like for us to
do. And if we do, then it's not just because of a whim that God might have that
day. It's because it will be what will fulfill you in your life and make your
life, and not only you, but the people around you and the people who receive
the benefit of your ministry.
Everyone will know God
None of them will have to teach a neighbor to know the Lord, because all will know me, from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and I will no longer remember their wrongs. I, the Lord, have spoken. Jeremiah 31:34 (GNT)
And then the prophet Jeremiah spoke as an oracle of God,
spoke the Word of God, that "everyone will know me." That promise,
there it comes again, everyone will know me. "None of them will have to
teach a neighbor," it says in the good news, "to know the Lord,
because all will know me from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their
sins and I will no longer remember their wrongs. I, the Lord, have spoken
One of my favorite commentaries, Daniel Whedon, wrote, he
translated it this way with a little paraphrase, "I will break down the
barriers of separation and bring back the lost harmony." Yeah. I love to
think about it like that, because that's part of our salvation is that the
disruption in our relationship and the discord that we experience and we see
around us, in our own relationships and on the news and every place else,
there's that sense of discord. But there's that sense of where people will put
people in different categories and then hate that group, whatever it may be,
and there's so much of that. And it becomes so intense and so violent and so
connected with religion, so that people start getting a sense of that's what
they should do. It's their Christian duty to hate someone and to express that
hatred in whatever ways they can get by with. And nothing could be further from
The truth is that we're invited into love and fellowship
with one another, and that God expects us all to be a part of this, that we
all, that everyone, everyone will know God. Maybe eventually, and it may not
have happened yet, but it's happening. That's in the process. And we're a part
of that process as we come to know Christ and as others around us come to know
Christ, and we all relate to each other, and as people who are coming to know
God better in that process.
And it's not just something that Jeremiah thought might be
a good idea, but Jeremiah said, "I, the Lord, have spoken." And we
have a hymn that sometime you might like to look up. It's in our hymnal and
it's online and everything, but it has this, the hymn's name is "God Has
Spoken by the Prophets." And I think that's a good thing to think about
when we think about who's saying what, and whose opinions that we're following
or implementing in our lives. What has God actually said? What did the prophet
say God said? And here's something the prophet said "God said." The
prophet Micah and the prophet Amos said some sayings like that too that we
bring up a lot that go along those same themes about loving and about taking
care of people. And they'll say, "And God said this. God will do
Restore our joy
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Psalm 51:12 (KJV)
The purpose of it is not for our condemnation, as we see
from what Jesus said right after John 3:16 in John 3:17, in the very next verse
that often gets marginalized or left out of the conversation about where he
said that "He didn't come to condemn anybody, but to save or to heal
everybody." And so, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and
uphold me with thy free spirit," as it says in the King James. Now that
passage from the Psalm 51 that we began the service has several other verses
that we might be familiar with from some of the songs that have been made out
of them are from. Otherwise, they're used in so many of our services and our
liturgies, "Create in me a clean heart. Purge me with hyssop and I shall
be clean. Blot out all my inequities. Cast me not away from my presence, and
take not thy Holy Spirit from me," are just a few of the things in that
verse that have become a part of our whole praise and our whole worship and our
whole relationship with God.
God wants to restore us to joy, and just to restore the joy that was intended in our creation that we would have. "Uphold us with his free spirit." I love that idea of the free spirit, because we all probably know some people we would describe that way, as a free spirit, and it just ... It's a very attractive trait, I think, when we find people to be free and in a way of just freely loving and freely giving and being happy and making others happy around them. And the Bible here invites us to think of God that way, and that that's who's upholding us, a spirit that is sovereign and free and loves us just freely and wants us to be happy.
Enter the Relationship
“Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” John 12:21 (TLB)
And so the invitation, going
back to the gospel message, again, as it began, we're invited to enter into a
relationship with Christ. And then to extend that invitation to everybody
around us, to enter into this kind of a relationship that the people who came
looking for Jesus, they said, "Sir, we want to see Jesus." That's
really what people need and want above anything else that we have to offer.
John Wesley, in sending the Methodists over here in the first place to form the missionary group into a church, he said, "Offer them Christ." That's our mission. That's what we offer. That's what we have to offer that the world doesn't have to offer, but the church, not just our church, our denomination, but the body of Christ, the church has to offer, is Christ. Who he is, what he thinks, how he loves, how he wants everybody to be in love and harmony and union with each other, and be blessed and to be filled with joy, and to "do unto others as you would have others do unto you." And all the things that he sends us to teach and invite and encourage, that's what people need. That's what people want.
They want to meet Jesus, and so
let's help facilitate that. Amen?