What does heading to the cross look like?
Heading to the cross is hard
Jesus begins by telling the truth about himself. Without the death of a single seed there can be no harvest crop. The death of Jesus is God’s solution to man’s biggest problem. The Bible says we are dead in our sin. We can’t live in sin and live with God at the same time. Jesus says his soul is troubled (v27). He knew that his death was the only way to deal with the problem of human sin. He then makes this picture of himself also a picture of us (v25-26). Jesus calls us to hate our lives, deny ourselves, take up our cross. follow him, and serve him. It is hard to serve Jesus and others when you feel people are taking advantage of you.
Heading to the cross is glorious
If the seed dies, it will produce many other seeds (v24). If we hate our lives, we will keep our lives for eternity (v25). What are we willing to sacrifice for Jesus? If we follow, we will be with Jesus our King (v26a). If we serve, the Father will honour (v26b).
Heading to the cross is triumphant
It’s through Jesus’ death that God is glorified. Jesus says the last judgement will be dragged from the future into the present. At the cross God passes his punishment on sin and instead of placing it on us, he places it on Jesus. This is the time for judgement on the world and for when Satan will be driven out. Death will not hold Jesus. Satan won’t see it coming. The Christian will have the power within them to say no to sin. Jesus says it’s also the time he will draw all people to himself.
Like the Greeks, are you wanting to see Jesus? The death of Jesus on the cross was God announcing “here I am”. We see the hard road Jesus took to be the only sacrifice good enough to rescue us from the clutch of sin and death. We see God’s glory revealed and we can be sure of our future. God invites us to know life forever in his name. Will we allow the cross and the death of Christ to change our lives?
John’s intention was to focus entirely on Jesus. When we writes these words, he’s an old man. He’s probably the last survivor of the apostles. His purpose in writing this gospel is clear (John 20:30-31).
Who is Jesus?
There’s no doubt that this whole passage is about Jesus, even though his name isn’t mentioned until v17. The opening parallels with Genesis 1. The Hebrew word for ‘Word’ also indicates deed. What God says, he does. The Word is eternal (v2). This passage makes it clear that Jesus has always existed. He is the eternal son of God. He is the creator (v3). When we think of how small the earth is compared to the Sun, it should make us humble and want to worship. Jesus is the uncreated light (v4-5), the light of the world. That is the light that God is shining into our hearts. He’s the source of light and life (v9). At the heart of the Christmas message is the Word became flesh (v14).
Why did he come?
To be light in the darkness (v5). God lives in unapproachable light, but Jesus is God in human form who came and lived among us. The problem is that Jesus said people loved darkness more than light. We don’t like being exposed when we’re wrong. He came to give light to everyone (v9), to give life to all who believe in him (v4), and to live among people and make God known (v14 & 18). What is God like? Look at Jesus. He came to bring God’s grace and truth to us (v17). God’s law shows us our sinfulness, but Jesus came to fulfill the law. He alone can rescue us from our spiritual darkness. Without faith in Jesus, we can’t be accepted by God.
How can we know him?
We need to acknowledge that Jesus is who he says he is. The world doesn’t recognise him, but he’s calling people to recognise who he is. We are to believe in his name. God makes us his children. Having faith means following him. God takes delight in his people. Let’s enter that delight. Let his grace be seen in our lives so that people would be drawn to him and follow him.
For Christians there’s a sense that everything starts on a Sunday. The early church couldn’t stop talking about the resurrection. In some way, all believers are sent once. Mission involves us all.
The continuation of God’s mission through Jesus
The goal of mission is the gladness of people in the gladness of God. God wants his love to overflow to others. He sent Jesus so that we can know the Father as he knows the Father. God had an only son and he made him a missionary. We have to continue what the apostles began.
We have a mandate for our mission
We have a command from God to go. The great commission isn’t a suggestion. God wants to send you somewhere to somehow be witnesses. We can know peace because we have peace with God through the cross.
The same mighty power of the Holy Spirit
People have hard hearts and are deaf to the word of God. The apostles weren’t just filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost but they prayed they would be whenever they were preaching the gospel.
The same message of the gospel
As the apostles were sent out, they weren’t to die for the sins of others. They were to proclaim the message of forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s still the same message.
Jesus sends us to be his witnesses
God wants to send us into the world to tell the world that it’s true. Not everybody will believe us. The early church had to speak because it is true. They couldn’t deny the truth. Are you willing for God to send you anywhere?
There is something that connects everything that’s ever existed. That meaning is totally accessible to us. The truth is very near but it’s disturbing. It’ll change everything if you find it.
For some reason Jesus has become the most significant figure in human history. Our calendar is arranged around Jesus. John has an explanation. He describes Jesus as the Word. He says Jesus was there in the beginning. Jesus connects everything that has ever been made together. God is also plural. Jesus was God and was with God. The one who made everything brings a relationship to this world. When we feel that things matter we’re close to the truth.
There is only one God and he’s not the self loving, rule obsessed God of our imagination. He’s in himself one who gives himself away to serve. When Jesus washes the disciples’ feet he’s showing us what God is really like. God has always had this relationship of giving himself away. There is one word connecting everything and he is a person. It’s an acted out picture of something much bigger. Jesus taught us we need him to come and give himself for us.
There’s a darkness in all of us that’s real. There’s a God behind everything who has eternally been a servant and knows that our problem is that we do these things wrong. If you own it, he’ll pay for it. When he died he took all the darkness on himself. The one who was with God has always been the one to give himself away for others. God chooses to serve us.
Foot washing is a picture of radical service. We are very slow to serve and to love people. We’d rather make people bear their own dirt. In life we fall back into thinking our choices should be all about making our lives great. We want to point people to Jesus so that they put their trust in him. We don’t do him justice when we don’t put others first. Once you trust him, it is finished. You’re not greater than him. He served everybody at his own great cost.
If everything is all about Jesus, this moment matters. If we are made clean, we can do nothing except serve others. What you do in this moment matters.
We should love people in the way Jesus did. He’s showing the disciples a bit of the relationship between the trinity. Creation is an overflow of God’s love. Jesus dies as a perfect example of what it is to be a friend. At the cross broken relationships are fixed. Jesus loves us by being a perfect sacrifice. We try and sell ourselves to earn friendships. There is safety in Jesus’ friendship. He doesn’t abandon us. His friendship is important. The truth of Jesus’ love for us will never fail.
Friendship with Jesus is the basis for our friendships. We need Christian friends. It’s more than just people you go to church with. We need friendships that encourage and remind us of the gospel. Friendship requires effort. Take the initiative. Be discerning but inclusive. Don’t be nostalgic. Be honest. Share the things you struggle with. Share the joys so that people can rejoice with you. Be willing to accept criticism. Don’t try and justify yourself. Forgive others. None of us are perfect. Every friendship will let you down in some way. Think about how much Jesus has forgiven us. Pray that God will enable us to be friends like this. Keep going back to Jesus.
Being a good friend is more than just seeing someone on Sunday. It’s spending time together, it’s praying together. We have security in Jesus. He commands us to love each other.
The ache for friendship is the one ache that isn’t a result of sin. God has made us in such a way that we can’t enjoy paradise without friends.
Jesus is the true friend who always lets you in
We want to have relationships with real people who care about us. Friends share what’s going on in their lives and it brings them together. We need to get to know one another. In the gospel Jesus isn’t wanting to make us servants. He wants to make us friends. He shared his inner life. Do we believe that the God of the universe wants us as friends? God is graciously offering us his hand in friendship. Is your Christian life motivated by fear rather than love?
Jesus is the friend who never lets you down
How do you know who your real friends are? They’re there when things gets tough. Friends are willing to make sacrifices. Being a friend means choosing to love someone even if nothing inside you forces you to do it. By nature we just ruin relationships. Jesus lays down his life for his friends.
Jesus is the friend who calls you to love
Jesus wants us to love one another. There should be a special quality of love among Christians. He calls us to love like him. He makes his disciples his friends by spending time with them and explaining things to them. Jesus thinks we should all be doing this.
You could invite people round. Get stuck into a home group. Talk to people who are by themselves. Let people in. Don’t give up on people. Be there for them.
We need Jesus, the true friend who always lets us in and never lets us down.
This is a great, fantastic death for our benefit. John is saying ‘please become a Christian’ throughout his book.
You should become a Christian because Jesus is the King
We get the idea that Jesus is the king but no one really believes it. John does. The sign above Jesus’ head is there for everyone to see, for maximum effect. He really is the king of all of God’s people. He’s the king who fulfils God’s promises. It might be natural to look at the cross and see defeat. It looks like failure. We forget how unlike a victory it looks. Many of the people walking past may have listened to him and followed him. They think he can’t be what he claimed.
The psalms quoted are written by David. They rise up with a sense of triumph as God rescues David. They reflect God’s king appearing to be in a hopeless situation. John quotes Zechariah too. It’s not just God’s king that is pierced but it’s God speaking. John is telling us that Jesus is God.
Jesus is the king who serves others. Even here he is serving others. His mother is watching and Jesus wants to make sure she’ll be looked after. He’s the king who serves others even as he dies. This is a small picture of what he does for all people. He dies in our place. God is gracious. He accepts a lamb in the place of us. John tells us what the Passover was hinting at. It was only ever meant to point us to God’s grace. John wants us to see that Jesus is our Passover lamb sacrificed in our place.
Before Jesus died he set up communion. As he dies everything that he came to do is finished. Becoming a Christian isn’t just ticking a box. It means having Jesus as your king. Keep believing.
We hate Jesus
The Jewish leaders hate Jesus. They’d rather have a known criminal released. They kept shouting. We hate Jesus too. Laws show that people hate Jesus. We see it around the world. Jesus makes demands of us. He says lots of things we stand for are worthless. He says he will forgive anyone regardless of what they’ve done.
We condemn Jesus
Pilate is more surprising. He goes outside to the gathered Jews and says he finds no basis for a charge against Jesus. He’s insistent he has no reason to kill Jesus. He seems to be on Jesus’ side. Yet he doesn’t set him free. He’s the Roman governor. It seems his good intentions are enslaved to his greed. His actions show the truth of his words. The priests are so wound up there is no telling what they’d do. Are we any different?
We don’t want Jesus to be our king
The idea of Jesus being a king is all the way through this passage. Jesus claims to be everybody’s king. He wants all of us to submit to him. We would rather keep our own priorities. Having Jesus as our king means we can’t do that. We must submit to what he tells us but we hate that. He doesn’t arbitrarily make those demands. Jesus loves us and is condemned for us because he is the king that we really need.
Jesus knows he is going to die even though he is innocent.
Religion can’t make you right with God (v28-33)
The Jewish leaders might have looked like good citizens but the way they treat Jesus says otherwise. They know that Jesus has done nothing that deserves death by Roman law. The Jews don’t love Pilate. Pilate doesn’t love the Jewish leaders. He knows what they’re doing and wants them to admit they need him. We all have our own checklists of what makes us a good person. We end up being like the religious leaders – plotting to kill Jesus while thinking we can remain clean.
Everyone needs to be right with God (v33-38a)
Jesus puts Pilate on trial. He recognises Jesus is king. His response is ‘what is truth?’ He thinks it’s irrelevant. He doesn’t care that he’s the king of another place. This boils down to what you think of Jesus. Pilate is rejecting Jesus just as much as the Jewish leaders were. Jesus says to tell others about him. We don’t want to be told that our good works won’t make us right with God. We all reject Jesus. He knew that would be the case.
Jesus came to make us right with God (v32)
God is able to use even our evil actions within his great plan to save us. Jesus came to make us right with God because we can’t do it ourselves. He came and lived. He died and he rose again so we can be right with God. We only need to listen to him.
Jesus uses this situation to talk about himself and his relationship with his father. God does break the sabbath, Jesus says. He was making himself equal with God.
Two important truths:
Jesus says that giving life to the dead is amongst the powers he has. Who is it that God wants to give this life to? Eternal life must begin with God and not with us. Life comes as a response to the message that God brings. Living in a self centred way proves that you don’t know Jesus at all. The life the Father offers is for one group of people that fall into all three categories. People who do good are those who believe Jesus’ words. Jesus comes to reveal to us that God is transforming those people.
Jesus says that by himself he can do nothing. He seeks to please God who sent him. The judgment that will pass on the last day is that of God the Father. The desires of the Father, Son and Spirit are aligned. Judgment on evil is the plan of God the Father and all of it will be executed on his behalf by Jesus. What Jesus does tells us what God the Father is doing. Jesus is clear that if you do not honour him then you do not honour the Father. We cannot disobey Jesus and please the Father at the same time. We mustn’t fool ourselves that there is another way to honour God.