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Receiving Jesus’ Heart Donation

March 30, 2012

John 12:20-21 says: “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’”

The Greeks’ question presents the disciples with a dilemma. Is Jesus Lord of all? Is he just for them, or for Gentiles as well? They come to Jesus with the “problem.”

Jesus responds by first affirming that he is Lord of all: “Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’” (verse 23). The disciples will think, “This is it ! He’s going to oust the Romans and rule the world!” But no – Jesus will be glorified in a different way: “‘Very truly, I tell you,’” Jesus says, “‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’” 

N.T. Wright, commenting on this passage, writes:
Jesus’ death will be like sowing a seed into the ground. It will look like a tragedy. In fact, it will be a triumph: the triumph of God’s self-giving love, the love that looks death itself in the face and defeats it by meeting it voluntarily, on behalf not just of Israel but of the whole world, the world represented by these “Greeks.”

Jesus continues: “‘I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’” (verse 32). All people – including Greeks, with the love of Jesus melting our icy hearts.

For what people need are new hearts, not mere makeovers, not mere instruction. As N.T. Wright says: “Not just to ‘see him’ as the Greeks desired, but to ‘come to’ him, in the sense of being drawn by the powerful love of God, drawn into fellowship and new life.

People need what was promised in Jeremiah 31:33-34:
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

They need what is spoken of in Ezekiel 36:26-27:
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you.

Wil Pounds comments: “In contrast to ‘thou shalt not,’ and ‘thou shalt’ are the words, ‘I will put,’ ‘I will write,’ ‘I will forgive.’” 

The difference is marked succinctly by Barbara Brown Taylor: “I know how to be obedient but I do not know how to be in love.”

Jesus came to enable us to be in love with God – to inaugurate new covenant, to liberate his people.

Through his death on the Cross, he offers us life. Jesus’ words in John 12:32, “‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself,’” remind us of the words of John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever puts their trust in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This is a free gift. We need only to accept it. We need only look to him, raised up on the Cross like the bronze serpent in the wilderness, and live – to receive him as the antidote to the poison coursing through our veins that is death.

Jesus came that we might receive his life within us, receive new hearts – his heart (a heart transplant, if you will) – a heart not of insensitive stone but of flesh, living, alive with a passion for God that translates into passion for people.

(This is adapted from the sermon at our 8:30 Service on March 25.)

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