Holy Cross (Jn 12,20-33; 1 Cor 1,18-25; Num 21,4-9)

Photo by Adrian Dascal on Unsplash

Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

INI + AMEN.

When I say, “The glory of God,” what comes to mind? What do you think of? What sort of mental picture do you get when it comes to God’s glory? Brightness? Light?

What about God’s power? What do you think, then? What sort of words come to mind? Almighty. Omnipotent. What sort of stories? Creation is probably top of the list. Same with God’s glory, right? His glory, His majesty, His power is seen in creation.

We’re used to power and glory talk right now. It’s an election year and so we’ve got people, parties, politicians campaigning for power. There’s unrest in many cities also around who has power or who should have power. Many are seeking glory. Sports are starting up again, and those teams—our teams!—are looking for glory.

((3. We want to see our version of God’s glory.))

We have all sorts of ideas and pictures and stories and definitions of both power and glory. We understand what it looks like in the world. We know, and maybe have experienced, what it’s like to not have power or control. We know the glory of victory and the agony, the pain, of defeat.

Power and glory have to do with winning and doing well in the world. Power is being stronger than someone else, being more influential that someone else, being better than someone else. Glory is the same thing. There’s glory for the Super Bowl Champs, and there isn’t for the losing team. There’s glory for the Valedictorian. There’s power, glory, praise to the person elected. The spoils, the prize go to the winner. Confetti. Fireworks. Parties. Parades. Power. Glory.

So, it’s only natural for us to apply those same sorts of things when it comes to the glory of God. We do the same thing when it comes to His power, too. He’s almighty when it fits with our definition, and we end up being silent when things don’t go our way. We expect God’s glory to be seen in our lives. We expect Him to use His power so that we win and do well. Christians being in charge of the world is what we expect. Persecution, suffering, being sidelined, less influence—not so much. One’s power and glory. The other isn’t. “Where’s the glory of the good old days?”

((Transition.))

What comes to mind when I say, “God’s glory” or “God’s power”? What’s your expectation? What do we expect those to mean? And if that doesn’t turn out like we expect or want, then what? It’s all fine to say that God’s power is seen in a beautiful forest, but what about when those forests are on fire? It’s great to see God’s glory in the creation of our bodies, but what about when there’s a pandemic, or cancer or old age or even death? Where’s God’s glory then?

((2. Jesus reveals God’s true glory.))

Now, God does have almighty power. He does dwell “in unapproachable light.” But God’s power in creation is only there so that mankind is left without excuse. They can’t say He doesn’t exist, not honestly. But what good does that sort of power and glory do for you? All you know from it is that God is big and powerful.

Jesus defines and reveals God’s true glory. Christ Himself is the “power of God.” The glory and power that Jesus reveals is a complete reversal of our definition of power and glory. Jesus goes the opposite direction. Our ideas, our definitions about power and glory don’t fit with what Jesus says today.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat that falls into the earth dies, it remains alone, but when it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus, the Son of Man, is glorified in His death. The Glory of God is the death of the Son of God! “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw everyone to Myself.” Jesus is lifted up, exalted at Calvary.

Do you want powerful signs or miracles in your life? Or do you want some sort of wisdom, a powerful way to live your life? We need to repent because Christ gives neither. The mental image of God’s power is “Christ crucified” because that is “the power and wisdom of God.” The Son of Man’s glory is His death for you. That’s how He wants you to see Him—crucified, dead. His answer to the Greeks who want to see Him is to preach He death.

((1. God’s glory gives life.))

There’s a reason that Jesus reveals this glory—the true glory of His cross. He wants us to see Him that way because that Jesus is your life. Just like the serpent on the pole was the source of life for the Israelites who were bitten by the snakes. Looking to Jesus, who was crucified for us, with trust and confidence means life for us. Not because of our looking, but because of the promise attached. “He will look and live,” the Lord says. “When I am lifted up, I will draw men to myself.” Draw their sins into Myself, into My body. Their death becomes My death. Their grave, My grave. That My life would be theirs.

In a world where winners are praised and honored but the losers aren’t, Jesus uses defeat to win. The world of Championship rings is empty. Jesus’ crown fo thorns is His victor’s crown. His condemnation is our salvation. His death is the source of life. His beings sentenced to death is our being sentenced to eternal life. And so no matter what whether there’s fire or sickness or death, all those Jesus takes up into Himself. They become His that you would receive His life.

Jesus wants you to live. He doesn’t lay out some worldly glory for you to look for. He doesn’t lay out some path of wisdom for you to get to it. The only sign we see, is the sign of His cross. A cross traced over our heads and hearts in the water and Word of Holy Baptism. “We preach Christ crucified.” That preaching delivers the crucified for you Jesus to you, as does the Supper, which gives you His body and blood to eat and to drink, the body and blood that were given and shed into death for you, for your forgiveness and eternal life.

((Conclusion.))

Losing isn’t winning. Weakness isn’t power. Dying isn’t living. Not in the world. Losing, weakness aren’t what think of when it comes to power and glory. Power is strength. Glory is victory. That’s how we also think about God’s glory. Light. Almighty. Creation. Aren’t those the sorts of things that quickly come to mind?

Not so with Christ. Christ has a different definition. He brings something else to mind when it comes to the power and glory of God. He shows it. He does it. He wants you to live. CHRIST SHOWS YOU HIS TRUE GLORY—HIS CROSS—AND SO YOU LIVE. Christ dead on the cross that’s His power, His glory, His Kingdom. That’s your salvation. It’s yours—made yours in His Baptism and Supper. Look to those things (trust them)—Christ crucified made yours—and live!

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” “Christ crucified—the power and wisdom of God.” “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” You live, too.

INI + AMEN.

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