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Why Jesus?

Part 2: As a Kernel of Wheat

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(6/16) Today we continue our sermon’s series "Why Jesus" answering some of the most common questions about Jesus. We’ve looked at Him as the Bread of Life, As a Man, and today we’ll see Him as something really unlikely… as a kernel of wheat. So what we’re doing in this series is we are looking at the most important, controversial, and significant person who has ever lived…Jesus Christ! And today as we get started we’ll be talking about the death of Jesus on the cross and answering "Why did Jesus have to die?" So you should have a Bible nearby so if you can grab that and find your place we will open up to John chapter 12.

It’s interesting as you read the four Gospels which tell us about the life of Jesus… Mathew, Mark, Luke and John… that you notice only two speak about his birth… but all four speak about his last week leading up to his death. And about one third of the four Gospels is focused on that last week of Jesus life, those last days and moments leading up to his murderous death by crucifixion.

So as Jesus was heading into that week in John Chapter 12, Jesus himself speaks of his last day, the cross, and his death. Let’s read together beginning at verse 12…

John 12:12-33 "The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,


"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

"Blessed is the King of Israel!"

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

"Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!"

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die." (John 12:12-33; NIV).

1. A Cruel Way to Die

Jesus speaks of himself, the cross, and his death saying, I quote, "It was for this very reason that I came to this hour." Jesus knew that His life… His ministry… every temptation and trial… all of His life and teachings… were culminated in this coming moment… a moment when He like a kernel of wheat would fall to the ground and die… when He as the Son of God would complete His mission of dying upon a cross.

And so, what I want to do first is to explain something of the history, and the nature, of death by crucifixion. My fear is that some of us may be so familiar with the cross that we just sort of pass it over. You know that Jesus loves you and died on the cross for your sins but sometimes the significance and the horror of that cross can be missed.

Crucifixion was invented by the Persians and perfected by the Romans in the days of Jesus. And so crucifixion came to be considered the most horrendous, despicable, and disgusting way to die. The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, calls, it, "The most retched of deaths". The Greek philosopher Cicero was quoted as saying, "That crucifixion is such an all together horrific thing, that decent Roman citizens shouldn’t think about it. And they shouldn’t hear about it because it isn’t fit for good, decent, noble people."

That being said it may surprise you to hear that crucifixion was actually very common. And not only that but crucifixion continued into the 20th century, when under the leadership of Adolph Hitler the Nazis crucified Jews in Dachau in WWII. With bayonets and knives they ran them through men’s shoulders, throats, and genitalia; impaling and literally nailing them to the sides of buildings to die in anguish. In 1975 under the leadership of Pol Pat the Communist forces of the Khmer Rouge, crucified people in Cambodia. In 2006, a video game called Roma Victor was released where one of the consequences of losing was that you might be crucified. And even today crucifixion continues in the Sudan where Christians are being crucified in contemporary Islamic culture. All of that to say that crucifixion has a long and brutal history among the most cruel of dictators and nations.

Now if I were to explain crucifixion in great detail it would probably shock some of you. Which I might consider a good sermon… but maybe you wouldn’t... or just maybe you’ve become desensitized by the songs we sing about the cross.. You know like "At the Cross", "Lift High the Cross", or "The Old Rugged Cross". We sing these songs with glowing and flowery terms, but to really understand the cross is to be horrified. It is so all together horrifying that a word to describe the pain of crucifixion was invented… that word being excruciating… which literally means from the cross. Death by crucifixion was such a horrible, painful way to die, that a word was created to describe it.

And if you saw the movie the Passion of the Christ, this was actually very accurately portrayed. About 700 years earlier the prophet Isaiah saw the coming of the Christ… saw his death by crucifixion… and explained it this way, "Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness" (Isaiah 52:14; NIV). In other words, for some of you to witness the crucifixion you would’ve thrown up… some of you would have passed out… some of you would have looked and quickly looked away. Because it was just too disgusting… it was appalling… it was horrific…

2. The Cross is Good News

Yet Jesus embraced it and said, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24).

Jesus embraced the cross because he knew that there was a great harvest on the other side. He knew that there would be joy in the suffering. So the cross is Good News; as we sang earlier, "I’m forgiven because You were forsaken… I’m accepted, You were condemned… I’m alive and well, Your spirit is within me, Because You died…." Yes, Jesus died "and rose again". So the cross is Good News… it produces many seeds… as Jesus said in verse 32, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32).

And you know it didn’t take the early church long to embrace that fact that the Cross was in fact Good News. Church history tells us, that early Christians wanted a symbol of the faith. They wanted a logo… they needed some sort of branding… some way to be identified… and they could’ve chosen just about anything. They could’ve taken the rainbow before the homosexuals did. They could’ve used the dove before the peace activists stole it. But they chose not to pick something as nice… not to pick something as inoffensive… not to pick a rainbow or a dove… The early Christians chose the cross. And they begin making the sign of the cross. They began wearing crosses around their neck. They began decorating their homes with crosses. Their kids began drawing pictures of the cross in children’s church. They began singing songs about the cross. They began to rejoice and to celebrate the death of Christ on the cross.

But that’s a little weird isn’t it? How in the world can Christians say this is Good News? That’s what’s so shocking and confusing to non Christians. You know what I mean… just think about it… what is so good about that?

When Daryl Holton went to the electric chair… when Richard Cobb was injected with lethal drugs… it was a bad day… it was bad news. And what they did to Jesus was cruel… He was framed… He was murdered… it was a bad thing… so how can you possibly call it Good News?

And so I want to share with you… and explain to you… is why Christians believe that the death of Jesus on the cross is Good News.

And to begin, the foundation of our faith is first that Jesus Christ is without sin… He is sinless and perfect… because Jesus is God with us, God in the flesh, Immanuel. Therefore He is able to be the middle man… our mediator… and our high priest. We read that last week in Hebrews where it says, "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

So Jesus is without sin. But how about you and I… are we without sin? No! And if you said yes you’re sinning and now you’re on our team anyway. We’re all sinners. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We’ve all turned our back on God. We’ve all chosen to do whatever we wanted to do. So God says we’re rebels and law breakers. We’ve all sinned.

And so the next thing we need to understand is that the result of our personal sin is death. The Bible says it this way, "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Okay, so our pay… what we deserve is death. God says what I owe you for what you have done is death. And that being said, Jesus never sinned.

So this is where we hear the Good News. The Good News is that Jesus died for… that’s the key word… "for" our sin. Jesus stood in our place and died for our sins. He took the bullet. He took away the sin that was so repulsive, that separates us from God the Father, so that we can be one with God again, in a loving connected relationship.

3. Our New Identity

And so the reason that Christians know Jesus’ death as Good News is because Jesus died for us. He substituted himself in our place so that we could have a new identity.

Let me explain this further. Martin Luther, the great German reformer calls this the Great Exchange. In the Bible in 2 Corinthians, we read this earlier, it says this, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

That’s the Great Exchange. Let me emphasize the first half. "God made him who knew no sin." That’s Jesus, "To become sin." Now let me explain this. I’m going to push you on this issue, but I want you understand what God is saying. You see we only have three options. Our identity... who we are… is marked by the sins we’ve committed… or the sins that have been committed against us… or the work of Jesus Christ that takes away sin.

You may have been raised in church… you may have been told Jesus died for your sins… but you need to know that Jesus also became your sin and that is exactly why he died. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us…" (2 Corinthians 5:21). And that makes it very personal.

So if you’re a person who lies, steals, hates, and cheats… if you’re a person who pretends to be religious, but inside you’re full of selfish desires and bitterness. Jesus became all that. If you’re unmarried and sexually active, Jesus became a fornicator, a homosexual, and pervert. Let me put this in the strongest, most horrifying terms. Jesus Christ became the worst of what you and I are and could ever be. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us."

And then what did God the Father do? He punished Jesus. Jesus suffered and died in my place, for my sins. He suffered and died in your place, for your sins. And again the key word there is "for". It’s a little word but it’s so important. We may get the historical facts of Jesus’ death, but without that key word… that transitional word "for" that explains what that means for us. Jesus death is not Good News.

There’s no Good News in the fact that Jesus was wrongly accused. That He was run through a series of false trials. That He was beaten. That He was flogged. That he was mocked. That he was stripped naked. That he was crucified and died. That in and of itself is not Good News… that is the worst atrocity in the history of humanity.

The Good News is this… that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’" (Romans 5:8). And that in and of itself changes me… makes me want to repent… to stop doing what I know is wrong… because in a very real sense I am "crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace" (Hebrews 6:6).

All because Jesus lived the life I could never live. Jesus died the death I should have died. And Jesus went to the cross for me, for my sins. That’s why it’s Good News. He did that for me. He did that for you. He did that for us.

The apostle Paul talks about how personal and powerful this is. He writes, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). So those who believe are changed… we’re transformed… our identity is found in Christ who takes away sin. That’s Good News and the result being that we are new creations in Christ. That all the old things have passed away and all things have become new.

Jesus came to take away sin. Jesus makes all things new. Jesus is the hero of the story. Jesus is the Savior of the soul. Jesus is the redeemer of the wicked. You don’t need to do anything so that God will love you. He has already loved you through Jesus. You don’t need to do anything for God to embrace you. He will embrace you through the finished work of Jesus. When Jesus said it is finished. What he meant was there is nothing left for us to do to be saved. Just trust in him. That’s why religion and morality are the enemies of the cross… trying to be a good person, to earn God’s favor, to pay God back, when Jesus took care of everything. We don’t need to pay off a debt. That debt has already been paid. The grace and love of God have been poured out through His dying on the cross.

So if you are here and you are not a Christian… if you’ve never trusted Jesus… our problem is sin. The answer is Jesus. Jesus Christ loves you. Jesus Christ lived the life you cannot live. Jesus Christ died the death you should have died. Jesus Christ rose. He is alive and well today. He was our substitute. And he is our God Man, mediating, High Priest. If you pray to him today, he is alive and well. He will hear your prayer. You can ask him, "Jesus, forgive me of sin. Make me Christian. And He will. There’s not one person that would come to Jesus, no matter, what they have done or failed to do, that Jesus would turn away, not one. There is hope for us all.

So I ask you now to respond to Jesus. Trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross to take away sin. Accept in that in Jesus, God has loved you. And that enables you to become a different person. Not so that God would love you but because he already has. And like the Bible says in Romans, "It is the kindness of God which leads to our repentance." That is what changes us.

Give your life to Jesus. Ask him to forgive you and He will.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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