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See The Light

Sermon Series:

Light Up the Darkness

Nate Harney
Nate Harney

Ministries Pastor

Peace Church

Main Passage:
John 12:12-26


Good morning church. My name is Nate. I'm the family pastor here Thanks for joining us here in the worship center and in the chapel and the family venue downstairs and online Just want to say welcome. We're so glad you're here. I look forward to studying God's Word with you.

Young people these days don't know what is like

Well growing up in the church. I remember preachers telling these Young people these days don't know what is like stories. You know, I'm talking about. I remember some of them.

One of them that sticks out in my mind was when a preacher said, young people don't know what it's like to have to navigate on a road trip with just your spouse and a foldable map. And I don't know what that's like. And I don't think I want to know. I don't know. Maybe I'm just so used to the GPS stuff, but I don't think that would be good for my marriage. How about this one? I've heard this young people today. They don't know what it's like to not have a remote for your TV So to have your parents treat you as the remote Some of you know what I'm talking about Apparently you'd get sent to go change the channel yourself and adjust this thing called something called an antenna something like that No I know what that is but I didn't have that when I was growing up or this one really stuck out to me because I've heard it said young men, young husbands, young dads don't know what it's like, what it was like to have a baby and to not be a part of the process. You're not in the labor and delivery room, you're certainly part of the process, but you know the end process. Gotta be careful with my words here. The end process. I was told, so correct me if I'm wrong, but you'd wait out in a waiting room, any of you who had kids a long time ago and then you'd meet your kids through a glass window? Is this right? Is this ringing a bell for any of you? I thought that was just in the TV and movies. You know, I asked my grandpa about it. I said, is this really what it was? He said, yeah, that's how it was for me. And I felt so bad for him because that's such a meaningful and beautiful experience walking with your wife through that. And I was explaining that to him and he seemed like he didn't really miss out on too much. He seemed okay that he didn't have to be present for that. He didn't mind the whole glass window thing. Well, I want to fully embrace the circle of life today and I want to share with you my first ever young people don't know what it's like.

Are you ready? Okay, here we go. So young people today, they don't know what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night, a completely dark room and a dark house and have to navigate something, go to the bathroom go somewhere and not be able to just do this and lead and guide your way some of you know what I'm talking about unless you were really ahead of the curb and you got a flash right right there with you you probably know the dance of darkness that we've all done at some point where you're you know making your way and you know how to get to your bathroom but you're still worried you've hit your shin before and it's not going to happen again so you're doing the whole thing you finally find your way to where you're going.

New Sermon Series

Well this sermon series that we're launching into this morning, we are looking at the gospel of John and this picture that John and Jesus give us again and again and again, especially near the end of his life, that Jesus is the light of the world.

And we don't shy away from here at Peace Church because the scripture doesn't shy away from the reality that we live in a dark world. Sometimes it feels like this is what life is like for us. We're just trying to make it one more step, one more day. We're trying to navigate our way through all this darkness we experience out in the world. And there might be some of you here today who you might not be a follower of Jesus and you might say, I don't know about this whole Jesus as a light stuff, but yeah, I mean, I can relate. Sometimes it feels like, man, it's just hard every day. Or for those of us who do follow Jesus, you might be saying, hey, I know Jesus lights up the darkness, but there's times in this dark, dark world where it just feels like I don't know exactly where I'm going, I don't know how to do this. You might think, how do I stand for the truth of God that I see and believe in in the scriptures when the world out there doesn't even believe truth exists? Or how do I show the love of God, the lavish love poured out that we learn about in the scriptures when so many people today they hear what is biblical love and culturally they've been trained to think of it as hateful bigotry. How do we navigate that? Or you might even be in a season of life like my wife and I are in where we're not just navigating life, but we got kids, we're trying to bring up the next generation and we go, man, it's dark out there. What are we gonna do?

Well, in this sermon series, and especially this Holy Week, we are gonna be reminded by looking at God's word that Jesus lights up the darkness. And we are going to grapple, we're gonna wrestle with the harsh reality that it is getting pretty dark out there. But we are going to remember and be encouraged and refreshed by the truth that Jesus shows up in our lives just like he showed up in Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday to light up our world. Today, what we're gonna especially be looking at on this special day, this Palm Sunday, we're going to remember that when Jesus showed up as a light in Jerusalem, he was showing up as King Jesus who came to defeat the darkness.

So if you would, we're going to be in the Gospel of John, chapter 12, to start out today. If you could pull that up. Love, if you could follow it in your Bibles or if you have an app there, you can look it up. And where we're jumping into the life of Jesus, where you're turning right now, Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead, so a buzz has started. There's a crowd that's starting to gather and follow him. And it only grows from there because Jesus sets his sight on Jerusalem and on the cross. That's where we're picking up.

John 12:12-26

So would you read along with me this morning?

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;

behold, your king is coming,

sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Some Greeks Seek Jesus

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.


Would you pray with me?

Heavenly Father, we thank you this morning that you are the light of the world and that you showed up in Jerusalem as not just the king over all, but the king over our lives. Pray this morning you to illuminate your word to us so you can touch our hearts and transform us from the inside out. We love you, Jesus. We pray all this in your holy name, amen.

So our main point for this morning, for this Palm Sunday, is

Jesus wants us to see that he is King over all, is King over our lives.

So we walk through this first portion of the scriptures, we're going to see the light just start to go on for these different groups of people, these crowds, the disciples, even the religious leaders of the day. And then we're going to look at what Jesus teaches after the triumphal entry and bring it home to look and evaluate our own lives and see if we're following Jesus the way he demands to be followed.

So back to the text. If you're looking at verses 12 and 13, that's what we covered with the kids here. Well, remember the crowds are starting to gather and the lights just starting to go on because they're shouting out that Jesus is the King of Israel. Look at verse 12 again. "'The next day, the large crowd that had come to the feast "'heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. "'So they took branches of palm trees "'and went out to meet Him, crying out, "'Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord even the king of Israel Now while the crowds were shouting that he was the king of Israel We know that many in these crowds didn't really understand fully what kind of King Jesus was going to be and what he was going to be doing on that trip to Jerusalem a lot of them would have envisioned a political or military leader to liberate them and Jesus liberated them but of something far greater than Roman rule and the different daily things that they battled. Jesus came to give his life on the cross for their sins and we know they didn't fully understand because just days later many of these same people, these same crowds, would change their cries from Hosanna to calls crucify him. The crowds didn't fully understand who Jesus was. But we look and see that the disciples didn't fully get it either. Look at verses 14 and 16. They're also not really understanding what kind of King Jesus is showing up to be. Verse 14 says, and Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it just as it is written, fear not daughter of Zion, behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt." Listen to this, his disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. So these disciples are watching and Jesus asked to ride in on this donkey and said the traditional royal steed that a king would ride into town on, and Jesus is certainly being humble by riding a lowly donkey, but even more than that, he is intentionally fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. The prophecy that's mentioned right here that we find in Zechariah 9, 9 and 10. And just like the crowds didn't fully understand what was going on, these disciples didn't fully understand either. But here's the difference. Many, most of the disciples didn't end up turning their back on Jesus, even when they didn't understand. Because the crowds were curious. That's not a bad thing, that's a good thing. But the disciples took the next step and they were committed to Jesus.

Now for us today, I know that for each one of us sitting here, there is a lot about God's word and there's a lot about God's ways that we don't fully understand. And can I tell especially the young people who are here right now, if you are waiting to fully understand Jesus to get to the point where you're willing to fully follow Him, you're gonna be waiting the rest of your life. You're gonna be waiting till it's too late. I know for me, I'm a pastor, but there are things that I just still I'm trying to figure out that I'm trying to understand. I I know probably the hardest thing historically Traditionally the hardest question that gets asked of Christians of the Christian faith is something that you would see in textbooks called the problem of evil And it just goes something like this It's just this philosophical question of if you guys really believe that God is totally good and he's completely powerful and He's all sovereign. He's in control of everything, then why would he allow evil to exist? If he's good, he shouldn't want it. If he's powerful and in control, then we shouldn't have to deal with it, right? It's a challenge to our faith, but it's a fair question. As a pastor, I've walked with a lot of Christians who have asked a similar question, but in a very different way. Because we don't always just approach these questions in textbooks and technically, philosophically, but I've heard it asked out of pain, personally, intimately, deeply. Questions like, how could God allow my son or my daughter to die? How could he let that happen? Or how could God allow me to have family and friends that don't end up coming to saving faith in Jesus. That I know where their eternity is, and I just can't even comprehend why God would allow this to happen. Can I tell you, whether you're approaching that philosophically or whether it's right in your face just personally, as you're experiencing terrible hardship. As I have studied this, as I have walked with people through their darkest valleys, can I tell you, I don't fully understand either. But what I do understand is that God is good, and he is powerful, and he is in control, and sadly, evil exists. The darkness is real. And we could talk about that at length and I actually really enjoy having that discussion. But the reason I bring this up today is just like the disciples and even like some of the members of the crowd that would go on to follow Jesus, we don't always have to think for myself that there's going to be a day someday when I see Jesus face to face where I'm going to understand a lot of this stuff even more. And I'm going to be able to thank him for giving me faith and sustaining me through the hardest time. And I don't want to be misunderstood here. We as Christians, we as the people of peace church, we love understanding. That's why we study God's Word, but we have faith first and then we seek that understanding This morning if you're a follower of Jesus Have you let your curiosity give way to full commitment? Disciples they recognized that Jesus was King even if they didn't put all the pieces together yet, and they stayed committed to them To him even when they didn't fully understand, but in our next section we're gonna see a whole nother group. We're gonna look at the Pharisees, these religious leaders. In verses 17 through 24, we learn what's going on in their lives. We see that this situation of Jesus entering Jerusalem, the King showing up on the scene, the light coming into the world is causing them tons of stress, tons of anxiety, because they have a grip on power and control in the religious world in that area and they are worried rightfully so that Jesus is about to overturn all that they've held on to so dearly. So in the first verses 17 and 18 we see that these crowds are following Jesus because the signs they've seen and the Pharisees are observing this and we actually know exactly what they say to each other here in verse 19 it tells us. Since the Pharisees said to one another, you see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after them. Because Jesus is clearly presenting himself as a king, he is threatening to overturn their power. And when they say the world is starting to go after him, they aren't wrong. Because in verse 20 and for the rest of our passage, we see that even the Greeks, even the non-Jews in the area, are seeking out Jesus and are asking questions and are trying to seek understanding about who he is. We need to remember that Jesus isn't just king of the Jews, but he is king over all. He is king over everyone.

So from the very beginning before Jesus ever hung on a cross, before the grave was empty, he knew what he came for and he showed up in Jerusalem and he showed up in our lives as the light of the world because he wanted to be the Lord and Savior for all who would believe in him. It's been about seven years since my favorite Palm Sunday of all time.

Jim's Story

And every Holy Week, every Easter is great because Jesus, but this one in particular was made very special by this guy named Jim. And Jim lives in China. So you might be surprised that his name is Jim. That was the American name he went by. He said, I'm not going to make you guys try to pronounce my actual name. Call me Jim. So Jim showed up to the States. He was doing a doctorate program in neuroscience at the University of Stanford. He's the brightest guy I've ever met. Just crazy smart and totally no faith. But the reason why Jim and my paths ended up crossing is another person, this woman named Sandra. And Sandra went to Stanford and she went to our church. And Jim saw something in Sandra that he had never seen before. He was seeing just the authentic shining light of Jesus reflected in her daily life. And so he was asking Sandra questions about Jesus, about what drove her, about her faith. And she got to the point where she said, Hey, you're so curious. Can I just introduce you to one of my pastors?

So Jim drove down and he met me and I was so excited to meet with him. We started talking all about it. And I just thought, how neat this guy from China who's, who had very little exposure to the gospel, this guy who's just a brainiac, who's, who's just kind of agnostic, no faith, he's just curious about Jesus. And so we're talking, we're talking, and it hit a certain point where Jim realized that I wasn't fully understanding what was going on. So he decided to explain to me. He said, oh, Nate, I'm not really, personally, I'm not really interested in Jesus. But the reason why I'm studying neuroscience is I'm hoping to be a lead voice, a lead developer in the movement to create artificial intelligence. At this point I'm thinking, where is this going right now? What is this conversation we're having? And he says, so whenever I meet someone that something really stands out, and Sandra is unlike anyone I've ever met, I try to figure out what drives her, what makes her tick, because I want to somehow try to build that into my future AI.

So I'm like, you're trying to get me to share the gospel with robots, not with you? I'm trying to figure out what's going on here, right? It's weird. But Jim came back week after week after week, and we talked through all this stuff. I started to see it turn a little bit, where he was asking me technical questions and he was writing notes. But I started to see, he asked it from more of a personal perspective. seven years ago we were talking that night and I just felt that I led to tell Jim I could sense something was going on so I just said hey Jim told me to do something I told a lot of people to do so I challenge you to read the Gospel of John the whole thing I knew he could handle it he's crazy smart so I just said this week read the Gospel of John the middle week I got a call from Jim and he said so I read the gospel of John. I read it in English, and then I want to make sure I was understanding what I was reading, so I read it in Mandarin next. He said, I sat down and did all that. And the next thing he said, just still to this day blows my mind. He says, then I read it a third time, and I believed every word I read that third time.

The Holy Spirit did something in Jim's heart and that Holy Week. He came back down from Stanford Stayed the weekend with me. We got him baptized He got to sit at the Lord's table to take communion with God's people on Good Friday for the first time And he celebrated that he has risen on Easter morning You want to know why the Pharisees were so terrified of Jesus showing up in town. It's because Jesus is the King overall. He is the King over everyone.

Jesus is the king over our lives

As we look at the last part of our passage, the words that Jesus shared with these Greeks and by extension that he shares with us today, I want us to just zoom into the fact that Jesus isn't just the king over all, He certainly is that, but He is the king over our lives. After saying this about Himself, in verse 24, if you're following along, Jesus says this, says, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus says this to us, whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there will be my servant also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Jesus is king over our lives, and this is his message to us. If you're gonna follow me as the king of your life, then just as I did, you walk in the shadow of the cross and you follow me in sacrifice and you follow me in service. Now, as I was reading that for some of us in a modern audience, you might have heard Jesus just use the word hate, that you hate your own life and go, what in the world is going on there? I thought Jesus was all about love, right?

Well, in Semitic communication, Hebrew, Aramaic, we often see this love-hate dichotomy used. And while today we use love and hate as kind of these visceral, absolute feelings, raw inside of us, in Jesus's time, this was a common idiom that they would use to communicate two fundamentally different perspectives. So Jesus is basically saying this, you have a choice. You either cling to your own life, you love your own life and try to make yourself king or queen of your own life, or you decide to release it all, to sacrifice to serve and to give it up to King Jesus and to all that he's doing in his kingdom. That's what he's challenging us with today. And it's sometimes easy to talk about these things very theoretically. I understand that. But I want us to get a little uncomfortable today as we just think through these categories of sacrifice and service through some very personal and practical perspectives. So first and foremost, when we see Jesus as King over our lives, we follow Him and His example of sacrifice. Now, we live in a time where our economy is kind of in the toilet, right? And so, a lot of us are thinking about money, we're talking about money, we're worrying about money, we're complaining about money, and there's some reality to that, to the darkness that we live in, but let's think through the two different perspectives we could approach this with. The perspective that Jesus is king over our lives, or the perspective that we love our own lives and we hang on to our own authority. If we approach our money with the perspective that this is my life and I'm in total control, you know what? We're going to be sad, we're going to be bitter, and we are not going to shine in this world. But if we remember that Jesus is the King over our lives, what can be seen as a scary and bad financial economy can instead be views through the lens of Jesus, through the lens of scripture, as an incredible spiritual opportunity. Because when it is darkest out there, we have the opportunity to shine the light of Jesus in the most special ways. If we cheerfully, sacrificially give all that we have, and I'm not just talking about saying we have open hands, but living like it, people will see that Jesus is King, and he's the light that's shown up in the darkness.

In my life, my dad was a pastor as I was growing up and I primarily was at two different churches we were at and one was when I was younger, one when I was older, and God was doing some great work in both of those places, very similar to what we're experiencing right now here at Peace Church. And so as those communities of God were growing and seeds were being planted and the Holy Spirit was bringing fruit. We had seasons where we had to do capital campaigns and building projects just to contain all the people that God was bringing. And I remember both times that I went through that with my parents. My dad sat me and my brothers down and two different times he just wanted to let us know, hey I know it's not your money but I just want you guys to be aware, we're clear in our savings account, we're giving everything to the work of the Lord right now. Now I wanna be clear, my parents provided well for me, what all of my needs and even beyond that, but that first time I sat down when I was young, he explicitly said, and that includes the money we've been saving in your guys' college accounts, we just want you to know. And the later time, I was a little older, I was already almost through college, but he said, hey, I just wanna let you know because traditionally this would be the money that would be like the inheritance that we would leave you and we're just gonna just all give it to the work of the Lord. And can I tell you, both times, when I was young, when I was older, when I heard that, I was furious. I know I knew it wasn't my money, but it could be someday, right? And I know that we're not supposed to have the love of money drive us, but let's get real. We've got to pay for stuff. We've got to live in this crazy world, right? I've got to raise kids.

And as I was studying this passage and remembering the sacrifice that Jesus gave and his call on our lives that if I your King sacrifice for you Then we better be sacrificing for his kingdom Just something broken me for the first time and I was able to call my parents and just say thank you so much For loving Jesus and being more passionate about building his kingdom than our families I've never been able to say that before, and I'm a pastor. But something special happened when I looked to the words of Jesus and just remembered how our lives are supposed to be just characterized by the sacrifice that Jesus gave for us.

Now, I want to share one more. Let's talk about service, because when Jesus is king over our lives, we serve. One of the harder things in life is talking about money, but right along there is our precious time, right? We only have so much time, and we've got to utilize it well, we've got to budget it, we've got to prioritize well. So when Jesus calls us not just sacrifice all we have, but to serve with everything we are, it is a tall order for many of us. But verse 26, our last verse in this section here is pretty straightforward. Here's what Jesus says. He says, if anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. It's pretty straightforward here again. If the King over all and the King over our lives showed up as a servant for us, then we better be serving Him as well. So how are you doing right now? Just think about it to yourself. How are you doing at home? How are you doing here at the church? Where are you contributing here? How are you doing out in your community, in your neighborhood, at your workplace? When people look at you, do they see the perspective that you are the one in control of your life? Or do you say, see the light in the darkness that only shines through when we recognize that Jesus is King and we serve selflessly and sacrificially because that's what Jesus did for us?

Mark a Neighbor and a Servant

I wish I could tell you stories from my life about how I've served selflessly, but honestly, it's kind of something that I struggle with. But thankfully, I have an awesome next-door neighbor. His name is Mark. He loves Jesus, passionately follows him, and he lives the example of a servant after Jesus' own heart all the time. He's helped me at my house more times than I can count, and just throughout the neighborhood if somebody needs something, Mark's there. People see Jesus through Mark. But one day, he showed up at my house, and he asked me for some help and so I thought man I gotta serve Mark you know he does so much for everybody else so I start walking with him and we go the opposite direction of his house I realized what's going on he's tricked me into serving somebody else with him okay here we go so we walk to this house and it's a single mom in our neighborhood and the wind a gust of wind had just blown off a bunch of her siding and it was laying there on the side of her yard. Mark had already set up ladders and a system so that we could put it all back up for her. Can I tell you something? I had driven by and I had seen the siding there. And you know what I thought to myself, oh, poor her, that's the last thing she needs right now. But when Mark drove by, do you know what he thought to himself? It's time to go serve my king, right?

That is the perspective that Jesus is calling us to have as we see him as a sacrificial servant, the King over all and the King over our lives, riding in Jerusalem, eyes set on the cross, ready for Good Friday, ready for Easter and the open grave. Now, I wanna end with this. There's been a lot of challenge here and I wanna be abundantly clear that we don't serve or we don't sacrifice Jesus to earn his love or certainly to earn his salvation. We know that that's given through the completed work of Jesus on the cross and in the open grave. But when we do understand Jesus, not fully, but when we're learning about him, we realize that when we follow the King over all and the King over our lives we start to look like him. We start to sacrifice and we start to serve and we start to be an example of light that lights up this dark world. Amen? Amen.

Ending Prayer

Would you stand with me as we pray? Heavenly Father, this morning as we've looked at your word, we just thank you for what we know is coming. We thank you for the cross, and we look forward to remembering that this Good Friday. We thank you and we celebrate the open grave. We can't wait for one week from today just to celebrate that you are risen God. But this Palm Sunday, I pray you'd be working right now by the power of your Holy Spirit in our hearts. Just help us reflect and evaluate to grow in ways where we reflect the light of Jesus in this dark world. God, throughout this Holy Week, throughout this series, pray you keep just bringing the light to our minds to see you as the light of the world. Light up the scriptures to us and light up our lives, God. We love you, Jesus. We pray all this in your Holy name, amen. We love you, Jesus. We pray all this in your holy name. We pray all this in your holy name. Amen.

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