The Holy Gospel takes place after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. When Christ entered the city on a donkey, the Pharisees were frustrated by all the people thronging to Him. In verse nineteen they said, “Look, the world has gone after Him.”
As if in answer to their words, some Greeks came looking for Christ. They said to a disciple, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” The disciple reported this to Christ.
Oddly, Christ does not seem to grant their request. We could assume that He actually did see them and it is simply not recorded in the text. But something else seems to be going on here. Near the end of the Holy Gospel, Christ says, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Here is the tie in with the Greeks, who are representatives of the nations. Not only the Jews, but all nations will be drawn by the Cross.
The Father’s voice from heaven also describes His glory that is about to happen. The Father’s glory is the Cross, where Christ pays for the sins of the whole world. God’s glory is that the ruler of this world is cast out by the death of Christ.
So Christ is saying, “Do you want to see Me? Then look at the Cross. There you see who I am and what I am all about. My love and mission and great glory are in My death for the sins of the world.”
If the Greeks came and saw Christ before the Cross took place, they would only see a man. Christ is more than a man, to be sure. But earthly eyes usually saw Christ as if He was no more than an ordinary person.
To see Him in the essence of His character, and to see His heart revealed, they needed to see the Cross.
May we learn to think this way, to see who Christ is by looking at the Cross.
Of course, we are too late in time to see the event that happened at Golgotha about 30 A.D. But we still see the death of Christ by looking at the Body and Blood that sit upon this Altar. For as often as we eat and drink, we proclaim His death till He comes. In the Supper is the declaration of the Cross.
In the Word and in the Sermon we hear the death of Christ for our sins.
When Baptism buries a sinner with Christ into death, then we are seeing the Cross enacted through water and the Word.
In the Holy Absolution, we hear the benefits of Christ’s death applied to us. There is no forgiveness without the shedding of Blood that happened on the Cross.
In these ways, we see the benefits of the Cross being distributed among us. We therefore see Christ and His Cross here, in this House. Here we see Christ most clearly, as the glory of God unfolds for us.
Behold the Lamb of God, who does not back down from the terrors of the Cross, even though He knows they are coming. He could not be tricked or forced into giving His life. He had to voluntarily lay down His life for sinful men. Although His soul was troubled more and more as the hour drew near, yet He did not turn away from His destiny. For this reason He came. For this reason He took human flesh.
So He went on to fulfill His purpose and the Father’s plan, and thus revealed the glory of God.
Our natural inclination is to think that the Cross was a shameful defeat, but the Empty Tomb was a glorious victory. But no, the Cross in itself is the victory of God. He considers nothing more glorious than that He should pay the salvation-price for all humanity, no matter how ugly and painful that price was for Him.
Our natural inclination, when viewing our own life, is to view pain and sorrow and death as defeats or setbacks. But not so. In our weakness, God is glorified, for His grace is sufficient for us. Like Christ, you are a seed. By dying, and only by dying, the seed springs to new and abundant life and bears fruit. If Christ had refused to suffer, then His life would have lost the meaning it should have possessed. In the same way, a Christian who refuses to suffer sidesteps the plan and purpose God has set in place.
We do not like this. But it is truth, and it is life. We must constantly be suffering, constantly struggling, constantly being put to death. Our life looks like a seed that is shriveling up and tossed to the ground. That sounds bad. But that is what we must be. It was what Christ was before us. We must embrace and patiently endure, because even in our weak, pathetic lives, the glory of God is being revealed. We cannot see the hidden reality yet.
Our identity is the Cross. We are the redeemed, the atoned ones. Blood was shed for us in agony, and therefore we live who once were dead. Although we seem to stumble and falter in our Christian life, yet we are full of life and glory. We have been drawn into Christ, pulled into His identity by faith, so that we are sons of God in His image.
But while this husk of a life remains, the image of Christ means suffering. We are the seed that dies so that it can be planted. Be content with that, although it may hurt more cruelly than you can bear, at times. God is still with you. The Father still speaks His approval of you from heaven, since you, too, are a beloved Son in your Baptism. Endure to the end, and you will receive the crown of life that no one can take away.
In the Name of this one true God, and to His glory alone. Amen.
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