Tuesday of Holy Week - John 12:24-43 - Mach 31, 2015
St. John 12:24-43
St. John 12:24-43
Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s Passion that we may obtain the pardon of our sins; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
1) Yesterday Jesus was anointed for His burial. Today Jesus teaches the necessity of His death and burial. He says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12:24) Jesus is the grain of wheat. If Jesus is not planted in the cold, dark ground His blessings will not be any good to us. He was a wonderful blessing to the men, women and children He came into contact with during the days of His humiliation. His presence was beneficial to the paralytic who received the use of his legs back from Jesus as well as the forgiveness of all his sins. Jesus was beneficial to those who received their dead back from the grave and their children back from the possession of devils. Those who heard Jesus’ preaching and doctrine were blessed to hear such words of the kingdom of God, how it comes to them by grace and not by works. But that is where the benefit of Christ stops unless He suffers, dies, and is buried. If Christ remains alive He can only be a blessing to those He personally visits. The grain of wheat would ‘remain alone.’
2) Jesus’ death and burial are necessary because it is only by His death that Jesus will draw all men to Himself. This is the fruit of the cross, the salvation of the souls of mankind. If this grain of wheat does die, if it is placed in the ground, then it will produce much grain. Jesus is this grain of wheat, which, when placed into the ground, will bring forth an uncountable harvest of men’s souls. This is why He tells His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38) This single grain of wheat that is placed into the ground yields what St. John sees as “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10) Augustine spoke truth when He said, “The death of Christ was the death of the most fertile grain of wheat.” His death procures atonement for all of your sins. His death acquires for you the perfect remission and forgiveness of all your transgressions against God and neighbor. His death wins God’s absolution for you for that it might be given out through the preaching of the Gospel and the sacraments.
3) Jesus, having described Himself as a grain of wheat which must die to be of any benefit to anyone, then likens His Christians to the same. He says, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (John 12:25-26) What does Jesus mean by this, that we are not to love our life but hate our life in this world in order to keep it? He means that we are not to be so attached to this life that we forfeit everlasting life. We are to tend to our vocations. Hating one’s life for Christ’s sake does not mean the monastic abandonment of marriages, families, cities, and all public life and responsibilities. All our vocations come from God our heavenly Father and are gifts from Him and trusts from Him that we are to fulfill. Adam was put in the Garden of Eden to tend it and Adam was able to do this vocation while still walking with the Lord. Hating one’s life does not mean fleeing this life, or ending it prematurely, or even desiring to end it. Hating one’s life means not attaching ourselves to closely to its luxuries, its pleasures, happinesses and treasures so that we being to think this life is far better than any heavenly life Christ is able to give. We are not to cling to the things of this life as little gods, expecting every good thing from them so that we forsake Christ, His cross, and cease to look forward to the life of the world to come. Loving one’s life, as Jesus means here, is not wanting heavenly treasures because the soul is infatuated with worldly things. They are to be put to use, guarded, and kept according to God’s will, not loved excessively over and above our Lord Jesus Christ.
4) For in Christ’s sufferings and death, His “being lifted up” on the cross, we possess two great blessings. The first is that when Christ is lifted up on the cross, “the ruler of this world is cast out.” Christ breaks the power of Satan, not chiefly in exorcising demons from troubled souls, but by dying with the sins of the world on His shoulders, so that those sins can no longer be used against us in Satan’s accusations. Christ breaks the power of the ruler of this world by enduring God’s full against sinners so that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” by faith. Satan’s power to terrorize you with thoughts of God’s wrath is stripped of Him, for faith unites you to Christ and declares you forgiven of those sins and their punishments. Christ breaks the power of Satan at the cross by enduring the accusations of sinful men against Him. By enduring false accusations, you no longer have to listen to Satan’s true accusations against you about your sinfulness, your unworthiness, and your uncleanness, for all that is removed by faith in the Gospel. These are treasures of far greater value than anything this world has to offer because these treasures make one wise unto salvation and fit one for dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem.
5) The grain of wheat must be placed in the ground and die so that it can bear a harvest throughout the world, but also in you, for your salvation. So Jesus must die or else He is worthless to us poor, miserable sinners. And you, His Christians, justified by faith in the Gospel, believing and trusting in His merits and atoning death, must die as well, but you must die to your love of self and your love of this world and its pleasures. The gifts or forgiveness and freedom from the ruler of this world and his accusations, these are your everlasting blessings and your true treasures which we celebrate this week and enjoy forevermore with Christ in eternity. Amen.