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Fifth Sunday in Lent
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar, March 22, 2015

Even Jesus Had to Face Crossroads

Text: John 12:20-33

Jesus once said that there is a narrow gate and a wide one. And He urges us to take the narrow gate. He says wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life. (Matthew 7:13-14) He was talking about a crossroads, where we have to decide which way to go.

Jesus was at a crossroads in the reading from the Gospel of John this morning. Some Greeks came and asked to see him. As soon as Andrew and Philip told Jesus, He knew His time had come. John doesn’t explain why this was a sign to Him. Perhaps in His prayer, Jesus had been told by the Father to watch for a sign. Whatever it was, Jesus knew that the hour had come. (John 12:23)

It was a crossroads moment. Down one road lay the easy choice. Down the other lay the choice the Father had ordained for Him. It was the easy choice against the hard choice. It was the easy choice against the right choice.

We heard Jesus speak to the disciples about it this morning, because they would stand at many such crossroads in the years to come. He spoke about how a grain of wheat must die if it is going to bear fruit. He said to them, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” What Jesus was saying was that you can take the easy road, and hang onto things, or you can choose the right road, the road God has ordained for you. And when you choose that road, you give up some things you are going to miss, and you will take on some things that will scare you. But the easy road is the path to destruction, and the road God has ordained for you leads to life, real life, life in God, everlasting life.

We see in verse 27 that this was a difficult struggle for Jesus. His human flesh admitted, “My soul is troubled.” (John 12:27). He was looking down that road, and He didn’t like what He saw. Down that road was the cross.

•  Down that road was the apparent failure of His ministry,

•  the apparent victory of His enemies.

•  Down that road was humiliation.

•  Down that road was the most excruciating pain one could imagine.

And Jesus said, “...what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” That was Jesus’ flesh saying, “I don’t want to do this.” Down that other road lay the easy way—the continuation of the way things were. He had His friends, His travel, the crowds who came to hear Him. He had His miracles, His prayer times, His parables.

His flesh wanted to go there instead. But He looked again down the difficult road, and what He saw there was the glory of God. It was the road God had ordained for Him. “But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27)

We all stand at those crossroads over and over in life. Down one road lies the easy choice. And down the other lies the path God has ordained for us.

Now, by speaking of crossroads, I’m not talking about every decision we have to make in life. I’m not talking about whether to trade in our car on the new model. I’m not talking about whether to go out for lacrosse or baseball. I’m not talking about whether to vacation in Aruba or go visit your grandchildren. I’m talking about those moments when your spiritual life or somebody else’s is at stake, or those moments when you face a major moral issue. There are times when you know that there is a hard road down which God wants you to go, and there is an easy way if you say no. Always, God leaves the easy road open to you. But it leads the wrong way, and the right road leads to new life. The problem is that we know how hard it can be along the way to the new life.

•  There are things that will have to be given up.

•  There are people who will turn their back on you and not support your decision.

•  There are risks of losing things that you don’t know how you will replace.

I had a parishioner once who was the administrative assistant to a high-ranking man in a private institution. She had discovered that her boss was engaged in a pattern of illegal conduct with the books of the institution. She had confronted him about it, so she had already at least put her foot on the hard road. Her boss had denied any wrongdoing, and, of course acted offended that she could think such a thing about him. But she confirmed that he was lying and that he had broken the law. She knew the right thing was to blow the whistle on her boss. But she was afraid. She knew she would probably lose her job. She liked her job. She had a family to feed. She came and asked me to pray with her. “And what should I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ Take the easy road? Keep your mouth shut, take home your big paycheck, continue on with life?

Down the other road lay the right choice. “...for this purpose that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

One road is denial, life as usual. The other road is risky, uncertain, and the path to new life.

Alcoholics anonymous is about people who stand at the crossroads. They have to decide if they are going to continue on the road of denial, and continue to enjoy the drug they love so much. That looks like the easy road. But it is not. Their love of alcohol is killing them slowly. It interferes with their job. It damages their family relationships. It endangers people on the highway. What looks like the easy choice is the wide road to destruction.

When Jesus was at his crossroads that day, He told His disciples:

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [John 12:25]

What does Jesus mean when He speaks of “hating your life?” He doesn’t mean that you are supposed to be miserable and complain all the time that life is awful. He means that if you want to find the kind of eternal life that He offers, you have to be willing to let go of some things. “Losing your life” He called it. You have to be willing to renounce things that He has forbidden. You have to turn away from the things that are bad for you. And you have to be willing to turn to Him. You have to be willing to take the risk that what Jesus tells us is true, and that what may feel like an unduly hard road is actually the road He has chosen for you. You have to trust that in the end, the glory of the life He holds out there for you will make every other thing you might have done with your life pale and insignificant.

And the thing is, we do not face those times of choosing and those times of challenge alone. God doesn’t just sit up in heaven on His throne and watch how we choose. God doesn’t just tell us to make the right choice.

•  He suffers for us when we make the wrong choice.

•  He suffers with us when we make the right choice and take on pain and humiliation and loss.

•  He rejoices for us when we head down that right road.

•  He walks down it with us.

•  And He rejoices when we find the new life that is there.

That, after all, is the message of the cross of Christ. In Jesus, God Himself came and took on our suffering, our struggle and our joy. God put Himself there at the crossroads that day, when Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus had our flesh and our fear and our dread. He wanted to say, “Father, save me from this hour.” And it was because He loved us that He moved down that hard road, toward the humiliation and the loss and the pain—and finally the glory. That is where He was looking when He said, “Father, glorify your name.”

People ask all the time, if God is so good, why does there have to be suffering? Maybe we should ask them a question: “If man is so good, why do we make each other suffer so much?” It is the sin of the world that has caused all the suffering. One of the consequences of sin is that making the right choice, doing the things God commands us to do, is a thousand times more difficult than it ought to be. And another consequence of sin is that God’s plan for each of us is a thousand times more painful than it ought to be.

•  Ask those Christians who have declined to bake the cake or take

the pictures or arrange the flowers for a same-sex wedding.

•  Ask a teenager who is ridiculed for being a virgin.

•  Ask a parent who wants to talk to her child about his addiction to drugs.

Or ask Giovanni Francesco Bernardone, whom we know as St. Francis of Assisi. He was the son of a wealthy merchant at the end of the 12th Century. They were a well respected family. Francis’ father wanted him to come into the family business. But Francis saw himself at a crossroads. God had given him a passion for the poor and the lepers. One day he was praying among the ruins of a falling-down church in San Damiano, next to Assisi. He heard God say to him: “Go and repair my house, which as you can see, is falling into ruin.” Francis had a choice. He could take the easy road, the expected road, the road considered socially preferable, and go into his father’s business and get rich. But he chose the road God had ordained for him. He threw aside his fine clothing and his possessions and he headed down the risky, difficult road. He began to rebuild that church at St. Damiano. And as he gathered people around him who shared the vision, they ministered to the poor and the lepers. A movement began that overshadowed the physical rebuilding of the church at St. Damiano, for it became clear to them that God’s call had been to reform the Church. They became the seed of revival.

We stood at a similar crossroads three years ago. We had just moved here to First Baptist Church. God had provided wonderfully for us.

•  Our war in court was over, and we were relieved.

•  Our friends here at FBC have taken us in with great hospitality.

•  We have space downstairs for offices and classrooms.

•  We have this space for worship.

But we heard God saying, “Build my church.” The easy road would have been to sit back and rest for a few years. But we have taken the other road. And in doing so, we have had to sacrifice. We have lost a few people who didn’t share the vision. We have taken on risk. We look down the road and say to ourselves, where is the money going to come from to finish paying for the new building?

Yesterday, I stood on the foundation of that new building over on Northumberland Highway. Its footprint is very visible now. And I as looked at where each of the rooms is going to be, I was looking down the road God has ordained for us.

•  I saw children rushing around and singing and dancing and learning how to grow up as Christians.

•  I saw a sanctuary packed with people and throbbing with joyful worship.

•  I saw a parish hall with 150 Christians from many churches, sharing the faith.

•  I saw people being prayed for,

•  and people singing,

•  I saw people healed,

•  I saw people giving their life to Christ.

What I saw down that road—beyond the sacrifice and the risk and the difficulty—was the glory of God. And there in the midst of it all is Jesus, the crucified Savior, the risen Lord, the God of love.

We’re coming close to the end of Lent. We have taken five weeks now to look at our lives as disciples of Jesus. Hopefully, that means we will have confronted some of these choices God calls on us to make. We will have seen and understood why they are so hard. And we will have embraced the truth that making the hard choices and going down the road God has ordained for us is a beautiful journey. It is almost always a hard one. But it is always a journey with Jesus. And it always leads to new life. “Father, glorify your name.”

© Jeffrey O. Cerar, 2015

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