Once upon a time, two acorns were born in a big Oak Tree in a vast forest. Their names were Albert Acorn and Amanda Acorn. Albert and Amanda lived in their shells side by side. It was springtime and they enjoyed the bright green foliage around them. They liked to gaze at the wide blue sky. Albert especially liked this. They were intrigued as they watched the forest floor far below. Little green plants poked their shoots out of the soil. Tiny flowers poked their purple and red petals out of the leaves. Amanda especially liked this. Albert and Amanda became friends. They were happy in their big Oak Tree in the vast forest. Spring turned into summer...Albert and Amanda planned for the future every day. They talked about important things.
Amanda: "Albert? Where do Oak Trees come from?"
Albert: "Well.....The other day I overheard wise old owl talking about acorns becoming Oak Trees!"
Amanda: "You mean acorns like us?"
Albert: "Well yeah, acorns like us."
Amanda: "You mean we might become oak trees?"
Albert: "Wow! I sure hope so!"
Albert and Amanda both decided they would be oak trees. Day after day Amanda thought about oak trees. One day she blurted out, quite unexpectedly....."Albert! How do trees grow? What keeps them from falling over?!"
Albert: "They have roots, silly!"
Albert: "Yeah, roots. You know, down in the ground."
Amanda: "Hmmm...I wonder what it's like down there."
Albert: "Well, I don't know."
Amanda: "I'm just glad we're up here where it's nice and snug."
Albert: "And warm."
Amanda: "The tree gives us all our food."
Albert: "And we're getting fat!"
Albert and Amanda smile at each other. Summer turned into Fall....
One day, Albert knew that something was bothering Amanda. <> Albert: "What's bugging you Amanda?"
Amanda: "Remember when we talked about roots?
Amanda: Do all trees have roots?"
Albert: "Well.... I think so. Why?"
Amanda: "And trees grow from the ground up?"
Albert: "Yeah. So?"
Amanda: "And we're wanting to be Oak Trees."
Albert: "Yes Amanda! So what's your point?"
Amanda: "Albert, maybe we have to start on the ground!"
Albert: "Ha! So you think we should jump?"
Amanda: "Well.....I don't know...I..."
Albert: "You're actually thinking about it?"
Amanda: "Sort of... I don't know...It's a long way down...But it's the only way..."
Albert: "That's foolishness. You're nuts! Don't do it Amanda! Please..."
Albert pled with Amanda not to do it. But one day in late Autumn they said their goodbyes and...Amanda Jumped.
Autumn turned into winter...Albert spent a lonely winter. And he didn't feel very well. But he was safe and secure in his shell in the big Oak Tree in the vast forest. He thought of poor Amanda. She was dead now. But he, Albert, would still be a mighty oak! And so he dreamed.....But each day Albert felt worse and worse and he shriveled up more and more. It was too late when he discovered.....He had rotted from the inside out!
Winter turned into spring...and in the very spot where Amanda had fallen into the ground, a little green sprout poked up out of the soil. The acorn shell was now empty and Amanda grew, and grew, and grew until she became a towering Oak Tree. She provided branches for many bird nests and shade for many weary travelers. Many small acorns began to form on her branches. She was so happy that she had learned a simple rule: A fruitful life comes only through death to self.
Why did Jesus tell this story----which may have been embellished a wee bit? Turn with me to John 12. Some interesting events have just happened to Jesus in quick succession. Things were coming to a close in His life.
Lazarus has died and been resurrected. This attracted a lot of attention, and not just among the Jews. Word spread throughout the region.
Jesus has been anointed by a sinful woman at Bethany. It's kind of funny how those counted as the lowest common denominator of society are often the first to recognize Jesus while the upper crust of religion have too much pride to see it.
Jesus has triumphantly entered Jerusalem. People want to crown Him King. Jesus has cleansed the temple once again, and people who just wanted to crown Him, want to kill Him. "Who does He think He is? Things are coming to a head."
This is where we find ourselves in John 12:19, So the Pharisees said to one another,... By the way, you know what? Pharisees are not bad people. We have given them a bum rap because of the part they had to play in this story. The Pharisees were people that had truly loved God. And they truly sought to protect God's law. These were good people. But the Pharisees that we read about, many of them had allowed this to go to their head because other people looked at them as good people. So, there's hope for Pharisees. After the events that take place here, many gave their hearts to Jesus. So the pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
Do you remember John 3:16? Who did God love enough give His Son to die for? The whole world! For God so loved the world And who can have eternal life? Those who believe. Whoever believes, not whoever deserves. If it was whoever deserves, there would not be a person here who would not be in big trouble. Especially this guy. But whoever believes will have life eternal. The whole world is to follow Jesus. Not just a certain race or class of people. That is not who is going to be welcomed.
Remember, the Jews thought that if a rich man has a hard time getting to heaven, who can? Because the had the belief that if God blessed you with riches, then he must think highly of you, so you are going to heaven. Poor people can't get there. They are evidently doing something wrong. But it doesn't matter. Whoever believes can have this eternal life.
As if to bear out what the Pharisees are complaining about, look at John 3:20. Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the feast. Yes, more than just Jews celebrated the feasts of the Passover In spite of themselves, people from everywhere were drawn to God's temple and they believed. They just were not allowed in the inner sanctum of the temple where Jesus was teaching. So we have the interaction that follows in John 12:21. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "We would like to see Jesus." I can't think of a better request than that. "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
Interesting point: These men came from the West to find the Savior at the close of His life, just as the wise men had come from the East at the beginning of His life. Both were desiring to see Jesus when those who should have been first to see were blind. This has some troubling implications for you and me! Are we, like God's chosen people were then, so sure about what's about to happen, or what should happen, or what will happen that we are not seeing what is happening? Are we so blinded by our own agendas and a self-centered gospel? Let us make sure, through the eye-salve, of Jesus that the parallels that we find in this story and the story of His birth do not continue in you and me.
"We wish to see Jesus." The implication of the way this phrase is worded in the Greek is that they wished to interview Jesus to find out the truth of His mission. "We want to see Him. We want to see the truth about Jesus" is th way it could be worded. That does not seem so significant until we realize that His own people were not seeking truth but were relying upon desire and their past beliefs. They assumed Jesus was fitting into their mold of a King to defeat the Romans. When Jesus uttered truth it fell upon deaf ears. Time and again He told even His disciples, "I will die," and it went right over their heads. It didn't fit their mold. It did not fit their manner of thinking, It did not fit their past beliefs. So, thus, ir was not even said. Too many have allowed so much earwax of legalistic pride to build up that the simple truth of the Christ centered Gospel can't penetrate any longer. We should pray for the Q-tip of the Holy Spirit to open the way once again.
John 3:22 is interesting, and raises a couple of human interest questions. Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Why did the Greeks go to Philip? And, why didn't Philip go directly to Jesus himself? These are just questions as I read the Bible. What's going on here? Probably not even significant, but curious. Well, I imagine that the Greeks might have chosen Philip because his name is of Greek origin, as is Andrew, by the way. It was something they identified with anyway. You know, people come to people they can identify with. It doesn't pay to be high and mighty in front of people because most people don't indentify with that. Be real. Allow people to identify with you so that they can come and say the same thing: "We would like to see Jesus."
They were not afraid to come to Philip. They identified with him for some reason. It seems that Philip went to seek the advice of Andrew as to what to do. Should they interrupt Jesus to bring Him out to meet the Greeks. Would Jesus even want to speak to a Greek person? He's here talking to Jews. I'm not sure, but when you're looking at the feeding of the five thousand, we also meet with Philip and Andrew.1 For Philip, it was like: "Where are we going to find this food?" It was Andrew that said, "Here's a boys' lunch." Andrew is the more practically minded and Phillip exhibits a tendency for caution and slow belief.
Well, Jesus does come out to meet the Greeks, just like He met the Samaritan woman, just like He went to meet the tax collectors, just like He went to meet anybody that wanted to see Him. In response to their presence, the truth of His mission comes out. This is amazing. It seems that at this point Jesus is really coming to the realization that His hour has indeed come. Remember the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding feast, when He told His mother that His hour has not yet come? Here we find that "(My) hour has come." Well, the hour is now here and it seems to be revealed by the very presence of the Greeks.
Look at John 12:23-26. 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. It kind of reminds me of Albert and Amanda. 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.
Where is Jesus, that we might follow Him and be where He is? The context of this passage makes it clear that Jesus is to be found in the way of the cross. We are where He is when we follow Him in the way of the cross, when we take up our cross and follow Him. He is to be found where His people are, particularly the suffering, the downtrodden, the weak, the sinners, and the outcasts. The lowest common denominators of society. That's where Jesus goes. That's where is emphasis is. He says "I didn't come to save the righteous, I came to save the wicked, those that are lost!" Our hour of glory is to give ourselves to self-sacrifice for the sake of others in some very down-to-earth places, not hiding behind closed doors to keep ourselves and our families from being "contaminated" by "sinners." The Gospel commission is "Go ye!" Not "Hide ye!"
Look at John 12:27. "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?" Wh is saying that? Jesus is the One who said, "Let not your heart be troubled." Here we find that Jesus' heart is troubled. Is that possible? Evidently. "And what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour?' Here we find what has been called John's Gethsemane. But John doesn't record Gethsemane in his gospel. But it takes place right here. Jesus asks the question of the Father about being saved from what was to come. The coming of the Greeks is almost like the temptation in the wilderness where Satan offers a following from the world without suffering. "I'll make you king of the whole world. You don't have to die." And here, Jesus meets up with the Greeks. "They are coming.! They're following Me now. And I haven't had to suffer. But Jesus had already answered Satan on this point when He was younger, so He was able to stand when the going got tougher. I have a hard time remembering that as a parent. My natural instinct as a parent is to try to try to prevent temptation from meeting my kids. I'm beginning to wonder if that is the best tactic. Maybe we not protect them so much from temptation now, so that when they are tempted, they can begin to get in the habit of saying "No" now, while they are still in my care. And if they do say "yes", they are still in my care, and we can talk. I can deal with it. But when they are out of my care and meet that temptation, I want them to have the habit of saying "No. This is not where I go." I don't want to rob them of that habit.
John 12:27-35. 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!" "I don't need to be glorified by these Greeks, or the Jews, or the Samaritans, or anybody else. Glorify You 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.
The crowd spoke up, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?"
Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
This day's teaching concluded the public ministry of Jesus. He sought to teach only His disciples after that. It is believed that these events took place on the Tuesday before Jesus was indeed lifted up for my sins. Many concentrate upon the brutality and the pain of Christ's death. This indeed was horrific! But the hour that Jesus was dreading was not this. It was something far, far worse. The separation from His Father: The second death. This was the death that He died so that I could live! I may have to die the first death before Jesus comes again. It may even be a death of great agony and pain. But, that is not what I have to dread. It is the second death. And that's what Jesus took so that I didn't have to die that. I will never have to experience that, if I believe.
Do you still wish to see Jesus? You can! He no longer fills the tomb so that He is able to fill your heart!
It was obvious that eight-year-old Stephen's mental retardation was becoming even more severe. His Sunday school teacher did her best to include Stephen in the classroom activities and to avoid situations which might prompt his classmates to make fun of him.
In the springtime, she gave each of the eight children in the class an empty L'eggs pantyhose container (plastic egg) and she said, "Go outside and find something that represents new life, put it inside the egg, and bring it back and we'll look at them together. Fearing that Stephen might not have caught on, and not wanting to embarrass him, the teacher had the children place all the containers on the desk so that she could be the one that opened them.
The first had a tiny flower in it. "What a lovely sign of new life," said the teacher. One of the students couldn't help but erupt, "I brought that one!"
Next came a rock. The teacher assumed this must be Stephen's, since rocks don't symbolize new life. But Billy shouted that his rock had moss on it, and moss represented new life. "Very good, Billy," agreed the teacher. A butterfly flew from the third container and another child bragged that her choice was the best of all. The fourth container was empty. This must be Stephen's, thought the teacher, quickly reaching for a different one.
"Teacher, please don't skip mine," interrupted Stephen.
"But it's empty, Stephen." said the teacher gently."
"That's right," said Stephen. "The tomb was empty, and that represents new life for everyone."
Later that summer, Stephen's condition worsened and he died. At his funeral on his casket, mourners found eight L'eggs pantyhose containers one from each of his classmates and all of them empty.
Last Sabbath, Pastor Gettys told us that we have to truly die to self before self can be buried. The book, Desire of Ages states: "The Grain of wheat that preserves its own life can produce no fruit. It abides alone. Christ could, if He chose, save Himself from death. But should He do this, He must abide alone. He could bring no sons or daughters to God. Only by yielding up His life could He impart life to humanity. Only by falling into the ground to die could He become the seed of that vast harvest, the great multitude that out of every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, are redeemed to God."
With this truth Christ connects the lesson of self-sacrifice that all should learn: "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who loses his life will keep it for eternal life."2 All who would bring forth fruit as workers together with Christ must first fall into the ground and die. The life must be cast into the furrow of the world's need. Self-love, self-interest, must perish. And the law of self-sacrifice is the law of self-preservation. The husbandman preserves his grain by casting it away. So in human life. To give is to live. "3
Just as a planted seed becomes an empty hull as new life comes forth, the tomb of Jesus is an empty hole. Yes, you may see Jesus. He can be seen in your fellow Christians. If He is in your heart, you can see Him there. He will be seen coming in the clouds to reap the harvest. Are we helping His harvest to multiply through self-sacrifice? Are you looking forward to the hour of His coming?
If you have traveled on Pine Hill Road lately, you know that someone special has been expected to come home from the military. It started long ago with a yellow ribbon in the yard. Then there was more than one. Then there were several. Then the yellow ribbons started creeping down Pine Hill Road. Now they reach all the way to Lee Highway and have headed down McDonald Road towards Tallant Road. Then U.S. flags started to appear. I have driven by and have seen family members tying ribbons and planting flags. There must be a hundred or more along Pine Hill Road. Banners have gone up welcoming Drue home. I don't know Drue, but is there any doubt that Drue is loved and welcomed! Anyone who passes by knows about Drue coming home.
We have been waiting for Jesus to come so that we could see him. Do our neighbors realize it! Is it noticeable? Is there a flag flying high in the castle of our hearts! It is time to come out of the house and let it be known in the highways and byways of our lives that we love our resurrected Jesus and long to see Him and that He is coming soon! We would see Jesus.
1. John 6:5-14.
2. John 12:25
3. Desire of Ages, by E. G. White, p. 623.3.
Major Sources: The Desire of Ages by E.G. White SDA Bible Commentary The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier: JOHN by Jon Pauline Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice
Hymn of Praise: #167, Alleluia! Sing to Jesus Scripture: John 12:20-21 Hymn of Response: #494, We Would See Jesus
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