This message is a part of our Lent series focused on Repentance, Renewal, and Revival.
Find the rest of the messages in this series here.
Sermon Debrief Audio
(The debrief is a series of podcast episodes on the Faith Church podcast where Pastor Daniel and Pastor Eric discuss the message from Sunday, answer questions, and share stories or interviews that also relate to the message)
We are currently in the part of the year in Souther Indiana where you can wear shorts and a t-shirt on Wednesday and have to consider whether or not to venture to church in the snow on Wednesday. We regularly experience every season in the same week around here… One of the stranger traditions that our country celebrates is groundhog day, a day wherein we are supposed to get a clue as to how much longer the winter will be. The legend has it that if the Groundhog comes out of his hole and sees his shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter.
Apparently this tradition comes from an old legend in Europe that our ancestors brought over when they immigrated to the New World and it was Americanized over time. In Europe they had Candlemans day, where on the 2nd of February if the sun was shining, it was a sign that winter would be extended and they need to buy more candles while the sun was shining… Kind of sounds like a holiday made up by candle manufacturers like greeting card manufacturers create holidays today… The idea of the sun shining is where the Groundhog seeing his shadow part of Groundhogs day comes from… Today we are going to talk about Lent, a season that helps us look toward Easter for 6 weeks, and as we do I’d like for us to look at a passage where we see Jesus looking toward the crucifixion as well.
Read John 12:23-37
It is probably hard to believe, but Easter is 7 weeks away. Maybe it feels difficult to believe to me because this winter currently feels like it will last forever… I’m pretty frustrated with the weather forecast for this week- it seems that we once again will come down to Sunday morning unsure if we’ll be able to have worship due to snow. There are other times with Easter seems to sneak up on you… Of course this is partly due to the fact that Easter moves around on the Calendar each year. Last year it was 3 weeks earlier in the year that it is this year. Because Easter was a solemn day in the early church, Lent was established to focus the hearts and minds of the people on the celebration well in advance.
Looking at church history it seems that pre-easter fasts were common, but they varied in length and manner from church to church and region to region- Lent became a common and long standing occurrence for a few of reasons.
1- Easter became a day that was common for baptism, and the church would often encourage candidates for baptism to fast beforehand to give them a period of repentance before identifying with Christ in the act of baptism.
2 – The Council of Nicea in AD 325 brought a commonality among the practice of many churches…
3 – as the devotion and zeal of the churches seemed to wane, the fast was lengthened to emphasize the seriousness and devotion of the Christians.
This is where we are at, our lives are so busy, so filled up, so tight… The Breaker App – skip silences… another way to fit more in…
When we’ve heard the story of Christ again and again, we can take it for granted… This passage is about the impact and effect of the cross…
No matter the climate, we need to focus on Easter.
We are currently in a season of reaching for renewal, reaching for zeal and devotion… a season of repentance, a season of revival. We are observing Lent beginning this Wednesday.
We will focus on renewal of covenants on the 10th.
We will have our revival beginning on the 17th.
Lent is a season of repentance.
The word Lent actually comes from the old English word “Lenten” which means lengthen, and speaks of the season when the days begin to lengthen.
I’ve had a couple of conversations with you this week about how the days are longer, that when you come out of work or when you head to work, it’s daylight… It is a dreary time when we go to work in the dark and return in the dark.
This is a season of the preparation for Spring, the season for the beginning of the lengthening of days, the beginning of warmer weather, the beginning of the greening up of everything all around us…
The passage we read in John 12 is the phase of Jesus’ ministry where he is headed toward the cross, he is in his final days.
Even though chapter 12 is only about halfway through John’s book, the focus has been placed on Jesus’ final week.
The reason for this is clear, this was the reason that Jesus came.
It is the reason he is here.
That’s actually what Jesus says in verse
27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
Jesus came for the purpose of dying on the cross.
You see, there must be a death before there can be resurrection.
Just as there must be winter before there can be spring.
The death of Christ was essential to the resurrection of Christ.
The death of Christ is essential to the resurrection of us.
This is what Jesus is referring to in verse
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone:
but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
Jesus uses the analogy of a seed, specifically a grain of wheat, saying that unless it dies, goes into the ground, it will only remain a seed, but if it dies and goes into the ground, it becomes wheat, which reproduces and bears much fruit…
Jesus is speaking of himself, and he makes his meaning explicitly clear in verse
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
33This he said, signifying what death he should die.
Jews would cast you down if they killed you.
Romans lifted you up on a cross.
Apparently this was a familiar phrase, like someone would know what you meant if you said,
You commit that crime and you’ll fry or you’ll get the chair and people would know that you meant the electric chair…
The cross was far more ubiquitous. Where in our culture capital punishment is only used for the worst of offenses, Jesus would be crucified between two thieves…
The people obviously knew what Jesus meant because they ask why he’s talking about dying in verse 34.
Jesus came to die on the cross, being lifted up by the Romans for crimes he did not commit to take the punishment for the crimes we did commit…
I want to go back to Jesus words about the grain of wheat.
While Jesus is referring to himself, he gives us an application for ourselves.
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
We do not have to live in the winter forever…
Christ has made it possible to for us to experience the spring.
However, we must die to self.
We must turn from our old life to follow Christ.
We must like him, die to become bountiful.
There is a line where the seed is no longer a seed and it is a plant,
it is a shoot…
For the seed, it’s not that it experiences death as we think of death, it doesn’t have a heart that stops beating or brain waves which stop functioning..
Rather, at some point it crosses a line where it is no longer a seed and it is a plant. It has lost it’s identity as a seed and gained a new identity. It is transformed into something greater, something better, something it was always designed and purposed to be..
When we come to Christ we cross the line into a new identity that is better, greater, and what we were always meant to be.
At some point we cease to be who we were-
We lose the identity we’ve walked in all of our lives and we become something new, something better, something that we were always designed and purposed to be…
But it isn’t that the work as then done it is just beginning…
For this reason Jesus says “let him follow me.”
We use this phrase in our steps-
Grow in a Group
Serve on a Team
We have intentionally stayed away from phrases like “get saved,” even though that’s correct, because we want to make it clear this is not a line you cross and then you’re done.
It’s not a finish line, it’s a starting line.
Trusting in Christ is a starting line, not a finish line.
On the first day of spring, we do not receive enough sun or rain for the whole season- we must receive it everyday.
A month from now the farmers will need the weather to be conducive to growing corn, and 2 month from now…
It is a glorious thing when someone truly welcomes the kingdom of Christ into their hearts at the end, but that’s a lifelong winter with a day or two of spring.
Spring comes in starts and stops… in southern Indiana we have spring one day and winter the next and back and forth for a while…
Sometimes people move forward and backward in their relationship with God
We don’t have to stay in winter.
Bill Murphy, living the same day again and again.
Stuck in winter…
Always winter and never Christmas…