“How’s Your Heart”
Now, I need you to try to stay with me this morning.
The message today
draws on both our Old Testament reading of Jeremiah 31: 31-44 and our
Gospel reading of John 12: 20-33.
Old Testament reading of Jeremiah 31, as a whole, may well be one of the
best examples of a poem in the whole book, both due to its beauty of
expression and its religious content. It is possible that the single
most important teaching of Jeremiah can be found in verses 31-44. He
tells us here that He will put His law within us, and He will write it
on our hearts; and He will be our God, and we shall be His people,
because He will forgive our iniquity, and remember our sin no more. This
text that is an allusion to Judah’s hardened heart and their failure
to know God in all strata of society – they broke their covenant with
God - but God will make a new covenant, which will be inscribed in the
hearts of his people.
is not a promise of sinless-ness, but one of the forgiveness of sin.
Through this new
covenant all will know and love God, as the prophets had known Him,
directly and intimately, in our hearts.
heart is the most persistent single image throughout these readings.
the time of Jeremiah, the heart was not understood to be the "the
opposite of the head," nor the center of emotion, that was the
intestines. The heart was thought to be the center of intellect and
heart was the bottom line of the approach to God, the world, and
everyone and everything in it that drives all our actions and decisions.
in our culture, has many associations that it didn't have in the
biblical world. It
is the heart that will be the witness to God's new covenant. It is the
heart that seeks instruction and wisdom in the psalm. It is the heart of
Jesus, not his ancestry or ritual perfection, that makes him our Savior.
It was His heart which
reflected his willingness to seek God's glory, even in his own
execution, while calling those who serve him to be right alongside him
in the process, then and thereafter, facing death with the power of
Gospel reading today, John 12: 20-33, marks the conclusion of Jesus’
is a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus. It begins with the request of
some Greeks, Gentiles, to see Jesus. This, it seems to me, is almost a
signal; a sign that Jesus has been looking for or at least He seems to
take it to have special meaning, for He begins to speak of His death, of
“this hour.” Note the theme here of “this hour”.
(John 12:23) Jesus answered them,
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (12:24)
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth
and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much
here that Jesus uses the word “grain”. He does not use the word
seed. We know that a seed can survive in a dormant state for hundreds,
even thousands, of years. Yet it must die, be transformed, to bring
forth new life.
Greek word for “grain” used here is Kŏkkōs (kok-kos) and
is used to mean the kernel of a seed. Kŏkkōs (kok-kos) or
kernel, as used here, means “the central or most important part of
something” (the Heart).
is a connection to the teachings that unless we are reborn, unless our
seed, our outer husk, our hard part, dies, we will not gain the kingdom
This seed, this hard part of all of us must release our grain, our
kernel, our heart, because it is in the rebirth of our heart to God’s
form and substance that it multiplies life to others.
Jesus talking about a physical death here?
would argue yes, and that may be. Others may argue that Jesus was
talking about His own soon to be realized death. That day was coming in
“this hour” just ahead for Christ.
I wonder why the appearance of these Gentiles, though, makes Jesus think
about “this hour”?
He sees in these Greek Gentiles the first fruits of kingdom from the
world at large. Until this time…until the gentiles ask to see Jesus,
His life and ministry had been confined to one small country and to
mostly one people.
But now, the Gentiles are beginning to see, to hear, and to seek him.
Jesus knows this cannot continue to bear fruit until he, like a seed,
dies, is buried, and then grows to yield a hundred-fold and more. It
cannot be as Jesus of Nazareth that the Gentiles come to believe but
only after the Christ of the cross, the Resurrected Lord, that the
message could be planted in the hearts of Gentiles – just as his own
disciples and missionaries like Paul would do.
How did they make this seed grow?
What did they do and preach?
They lifted up Christ.
They told of His works.
They told of His Death.
They told of His resurrection.
That testimony, that witness, drew and continues to draw people to him
work on Earth was about to come to an end.
Jesus was about to be finished!
Jesus was about to release His Grain, His kernel, His heart, so that we
could be reborn.
We, you and I, are not yet literally finished here on Earth, but that
does not mean that we cannot shed our seeds of finished work and release
our kernels, our hearts, and be reborn in our hearts right now.
Become like the Gentiles that wished to see Jesus.
"finished work" in us as individuals, or as a congregation,
needs to die to make way for new life to emerge? What
are we so afraid of having taken from us or destroyed that we would hold
it all in — like the covering of the wheat grain?
In John this metaphor of
a grain of wheat is a reference to the coming passion of Jesus – the
death on the cross. But note that there is a tie here to the Jeremiah
days are surely coming,” says the LORD, “when
I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of
This gives a preview of the release our kernels, our hearts, and our
spiritual rebirth. Perhaps, Jesus saw himself as the suffering
servant of Isaiah, as the way to bring about the redemption of humanity
through the way of suffering. By his stripes, the wounds of the world
are healed. By his death, abundant and eternal life come to all who hear
and believe, who wish to see him as did these Greeks.
"Now my soul is troubled. And what
should I say--' Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this
reason that I have come to this hour.”
”Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven,
"I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."
Did it have to be this way? Yes.
Did He have to drink of this cup? Yes.
Could He not ask to avoid it, to find another way?
Yes, He could ask, but He doesn’t.
He submits here, as He would in Gethsemane, to the will of God.
He will suffer and die and be raised from the dead because that will
glorify God and bring hope, healing, and life to humanity.
If somehow his being raised up on a cross (and perhaps there is also a
reference here to the resurrection) could draw people back to God, then
so be it. All I can say
is what millions of others have said before – that when you truly
stand at the foot of the cross, looking up onto the face of the Son of
God, something happens to us. There is a love that flows from the cross
that profoundly touches us, changes us, makes us want to love back –
love God and love others. It’s a love that we know will suffer
anything, any pain for us.
It’s the ultimate evidence of just how far God is willing to go to
show us how very much we are loved.
You may have noticed the “Ole Rugged Cross” in front of the Church
this year let me warn you to stay away from that cross. Don’t look at
it. Don’t go near it… unless you want to be overwhelmed and changed
forever by the love of God. Dying
to give life is a law of nature. It is also a spiritual law.
Jesus says, “Those who love their lives will lose their lives; those
who hate their lives in this world will keep their lives for eternal
It is a fact of life that no person truly
lives who makes himself, his ambitions, his comfort, his pleasure the
center of his life.
The more he turns in on himself, the more alone he becomes, the further
away from life he gets. It is only as he risks his life, that he
sacrifices, gives of himself that he begins to truly live, to find
fulfillment for his deepest needs.
This is also the law of Christ. Jesus hears
that Greeks, Gentiles, are asking for him and then he begins talking
about death to give life.
I think he is looking ahead to the harvest of Gentiles, but knows that
this cannot happen unless he, like a seed, gives up his life, and plants
His Sacred Heart so that we (you and I) will have rebirth.
Jesus planted his life in the soil of Golgotha and from his life… new
life has come… and still comes to so many.
Dying to live is also the way of all those who would follow Christ.
To truly be his disciple we are called upon daily to take up our cross
and follow him, to die to self and give our all, to fill our days with
lover of My Soul” (verse 4)
grace with thee is found,
grace to cover all my sin,
let the healing streams abound,
make me and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
freely let me take of thee,
spring thou up within my heart,
rise to all eternity.”
proclamation and experience of the Word today is focused on a personal
examination of our hearts. Each of us…every one here… and out
there… needs to answer this one question: