Golgotha, The Place Of The Skull: This Is Glory

Text:  John 12:20-43

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

For the last 40 days or so we have been in the season of Lent.  Our Wednesday Lenten Services and our Sunday Morning Services have intended to slow us down, help us contemplate ourselves and Christ, and gradually funnel us towards Holy Week.  Indeed, we have spent some 40 days moving a little closer and closer to Holy Week with a sense of soberness, with a sense of being keenly aware of our sin, and with a sense of seriousness.  And now, we are here.  We have arrived.  We stand at the edge of Holy Week today, this Palm Sunday.  This is indeed the week where things are supposedly going to get going.  We have been patiently waiting, anticipating, and looking for Christ’s glory.  Do we sense that we are on the brink of hearing and seeing Christ’s glory this Holy Week? 

In our Gospel reading the disciples must have felt the same sense of anticipation as Jesus continually said to the disciples over 3 ½ years, “My time has not yet come.  My hour has not yet come.  It is not my time yet.  No, not now my disciples; the time is later.”  Yes, there were countless occasions where Jesus was either almost arrested or taken by force to Jerusalem, but it simply did not happen because the time was not right.  The hour of Jesus’ glory had not yet arrived. 

However, in our Gospel reading from this morning, things are a bit different.  We encounter an event that happened right after Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey.  After the palm branches, the great welcome and yelling of, “Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” we read in our Gospel reading that Jesus is interacting with His disciples and a group of Greeks.  He then says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  What?  Yes, after all the countless times of saying that it was not His time, here in our text, Jesus is now saying that it is His time.  Now is the time for Jesus to reveal His glory. 

Do you realize that this could not have come at a better time?  Jesus is in Jerusalem, the capital city!  They have given Him a hero’s welcome.  The city of Jerusalem is packed with people for the annual Passover Celebration.  There are so many people in Jerusalem that people are camped everywhere in and around the city.  There is a great buzz of energy in the air as the people of Israel remember and celebrate how God rescued them from the oppression of Egypt in the days of Moses.  And here in our Gospel reading Jesus says, “The hour is here.  The time is now; it is time for the Son of Man is to be glorified.”

We can just imagine the reaction of the disciples and others when they heard this news from Jesus.  “It is about time.  Now, we will see things happen.  Yes, the timing is just right Jesus; now we are going to see something really spectacular.  Let’s capture the buzz and excitement and funnel it towards Jesus as He unleashes His glory.  Yes, Jesus you healed, gave sight, and imparted health; now you are going to drive out the Romans … restore the temple … and make Jerusalem great.  Hold on and fasten your seatbelts for we are in for a ride!”
Yes, Jesus said that the hour had come for the Son of Man to be glorified!  “What earthly glorious pictures those words must have called up in the minds of the disciples. They were flushed with the glory of the palms and hosannas of Palm Sunday. This, they thought, was the real Jesus, the royal Jesus. This was Jesus coming into His own. The kingdom was about to be established.”[1]

Surely, glory is about to be revealed.  The disciples and followers were on the edge of glory; they were about to experience and see glory in Jerusalem.

For you and me today, we stand on the edge of Holy Week looking forward knowing that we will hear and celebrate Jesus’ glory as well.  But what does this glory exactly look like?  What do you think glory looks like as we stand on the verge of Holy Week anticipating the glorification of Jesus?

Well, some believe that glory is the accumulation of power and status.  Glory some others is the gathering of money, health, and influence.  Yet glory for another group may be acquiring first place and having a list of achievements, achievements that provide a platform for boasting.  Victory, prestige, health, money, power, influence, confidence, status, boasting, control, and beauty are all words that are attached to and communicate the word ‘glory.’

Thus, is this what we will see in Jesus?  Is this what we can anticipate this next week as we hear about Jesus being glorified during Holy Week?  As we have been journeying towards Holy Week during Lent, has our slow journey been a steady uphill climb towards the flashing glitter and power of glory that anchors itself above the troubles of suffering?  As we come closer to Good Friday will we find that the Roman Empire has been destroyed, that the Pharisees have been silenced, and that Jesus sits in power and control on a mighty golden throne?  Will we find ourselves sitting on Jesus’ right and left established in health, wealth, and happiness?

My friends as we step into Holy Week we will most definitely hear and see Jesus in glory.  However, the glory that we will see is quite a bit different from the glory that you and I anticipate.  It is different from what the disciples anticipated as well.  We will not see Jesus overcome and destroy the Roman Empire but Christ destroyed, bloodied, and beaten on a Roman execution cross.  My friends, we won’t see Jesus correcting a crooked justice system but we will see a Kangaroo court enacting perverted justice upon a truly sinless man.  My friends we won’t see a halo, but a crown of thorns.  My friends we won’t see a radiant Jesus sitting on a golden throne but rather we will see a suffering servant, spit upon, beaten to mush, and crucified.  This week we won’t see anything of renown, honor, beauty, respect, delight, splendor, and adoration.  My friends, it seems that Jesus’ definition of glory is quite different from our definition of glory. 

Yes, instead of rising out of the Lent Season to a glittery and flashy glorious Holy Week, it seems that we are going to travel to a place called Golgotha; the place of the Son of God’s death. 

But how can this be glory you may ask?  It does not look like glory.  It does not sound like glory.  It does not feel like glory.  I want glory.  I need glory.  I don’t want to know what happens when we plunge deeper and further away from what I perceive glory to be like.  I don’t want to follow Jesus any deeper or go any darker into the valley of death.  I don’t want the cross.  I don’t want to see the crown of thorns.  I don’t want to be spit upon.  I don’t want to hear the hammer and nails.  I don’t want blood to be spilt upon me.  I don’t want suffering.  Where Jesus goes, I cannot go. Thus, my friends, Jesus goes alone.  Abandoned by His disciples and abandoned by the crowd, Jesus goes to the cross on His own solidarity.  Jesus goes to this anti-glorious place to be lifted up on a cross.

When the Christ is lifted up on the cross—after being spit upon, bloodied, mocked, betrayed, and forsaken—the scriptures say that He draws all men to Himself.  Yes, in this anti-glorious place; in this dark, ugly, low place of shame and death, Jesus drags and pulls the weight of sin from the world unto Himself.  Do you and I truly hear this?  Jesus chose the crown of thorns.  He chose the hammer and nails.  He went into the darkness.  He chose the cross.  He drank the cup of wrath and He drags and pulls the weight of sin, your sin and mine, into this anti-glorious place, called Golgotha, where sin finds death, where sin is finished for you and for me.  

This. Is. Glory.  This. Is. Glory. 

This is the glorification of Jesus Christ: going where no other person would go and doing what no other person could do, taking the world's sin upon Himself and considering it well-worthwhile.

Now, the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] (Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel (p. 106) for Palm Sunday, preaching on John 12:20-29)

CLICK HERE to join in the conversation on Facebook.
CLICK HERE to follow on Twitter.