Series: Easter: This Changes Everything
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Sam Millen
Live Wonder: Bec Reid
Live Adventure: Jess Lee
Live Beyond: Art Preuss
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: John 12:20–36 in the New Testament for Everyone (NTE). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: If there is a secret to church growth, I don’t know it. I remember thinking all I had to do was preach the Gospel and people would come. Didn’t Jesus say, “And when I’ve been lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32)? If “lifting up” Jesus would “draw all people” I naïvely thought preaching on the crucified Christ would fill church pews. As you might imagine, discouragement was the result. Why wasn’t my “formula” working? Correctly understanding any scriptural passage requires careful analysis of the context. This section in John started with the Greeks asking Philip to see Jesus, maybe because he spoke Greek. Not long ago, it dawned on me that Jesus was referring to both Jews and Gentiles as “all people” (nations). He never meant everyone would respond favorably to His crucifixion. Rather His death would provide a means of salvation (reunion with God) for all—Jews and Gentiles.
Christianity has circled the globe, but numerical growth is not occurring simultaneously in all locations. I find Tim Keller’s examination of the inconsistent reception the cross has received revealing. On page 134 of Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (Penguin Books, 2013), Keller explains, “In an interview Andrew Walls, a distinguished historian of world Christianity, noted that wherever the other great world religions began, that is still their center today. Islam started in Arabia, at Mecca, and the Middle East is still the center of Islam today. Buddhism started in the Far East, and that’s still the center of Buddhism. So too with Hinduism—it began in India and it is still predominantly an Indian religion. Christianity is the exception; Christianity’s center is always moving, always on a pilgrimage.” Christianity’s center has indeed shifted from Jerusalem to Europe and North Africa, then on to North America, and now it’s on the move again, this time to the “Global South.”
Andrew Walls attributes this phenomenon to the cross. In Keller’s words, “The heart of the Gospel is the cross, and the cross is all about giving up power, pouring out resources, and serving. Walls hinted that when Christianity is in a place of power and wealth for a long period, the radical message of sin and grace and the cross can become muted or even lost. Then Christianity starts to transmute into a nice, safe religion, one that’s for respectable people who try to be good. And eventually it becomes virtually dormant in those places and the center moves somewhere else” (pp. 135–136). Many people around me today, just like those listening to Jesus in our passage (for different reasons), have no way of relating to a crucified Messiah. Where I live, the Gospel doesn’t contend with hostility, but apathy. I’m not sure which is worse.
Recalibrate: In your experience, does preaching “Christ and Him crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2:2) draw people? Why or why not?
Respond: Reflect on the words of the song, “In Christ Alone” as you watch this online video.
Research: Read Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (Penguin Books, 2013) by Timothy Keller.
Remember: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, ESV).
Sam Millen is the pastor at Anacortes Adventist Fellowship in Washington State. He his wife Angie is a schoolteacher on Orcas Island and their three children are really awesome!
Play this song on YouTube— you can either watch it together with your little one or play just the audio and listen to the words together. If you are watching it on a TV or other device, ask your little one if they would like to make up new actions to the song or follow along with the character. If you are listening to the song, encourage your little one to make up actions. Remind them that Jesus calls us to walk in the light and also shine our light in our own little way every day.
As part of our week of serving others, go through the books you have grown out of. Donate them to a local women’s refuge, charity, or playgroup.
Yesterday we talked about how God has a plan for your life and wants you to stay true to that plan, no matter how difficult it may seem. We have seen the evidence that God will help us achieve that plan. As we continue to read in John 12:30-32, Jesus says something interesting. In Verse 32 He talks about being lifted up and drawing people to Him. (By the way, He was predicting how He was going to die.) This is a flashback to a story that the people knew very well. This story is about the time when the people were being bitten by snakes and Moses “lifted up” a statue of a snake made of bronze and those that were bitten by these serpents would live. Sounds too good to be true, huh? But that’s exactly how the people who were bitten felt.
Let’s get real: Does the idea of somebody raising a statue and instructing people to look at it strike you as odd, especially since God told Israel not to make any “graven images” (statues)?
Jesus was betrayed by two friends. Peter betrayed Him 97% and Judas betrayed Him 100%. This is not surprising. The Gospel troubadour, Michael Card, said it well when he sang, “only a friend can betray a friend.” You can never be betrayed by an enemy; only someone close to you can do that. The only way to completely avoid betrayal is to not have anyone ever close to you—otherwise life is a risk. That’s just reality. Now, let me strip your gears—the disciples were surprised and lost a friend when Judas turned. Not one of them expected it. When Jesus said, “One of you will betray me” they all said, “Lord, is it I?” They didn’t all turn to Judas and say, “I bet it’s you!” He’d been with them, ministered with them, performed miracles with them. He was a trusted friend. But only a friend can betray, don’t you know? Jesus was wounded by friends . . .
Bec Reid is a real estate agent within her family business. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and is a part of the Wahroonga Adventist Church community.
Jess Lee is an education consultant for the New South Wales Adventist education system. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and attends Kellyville Church.
Art Preuss pastors in Massachusetts at the Springfield, Florence, and Warren Adventist churches and serves in the U. S. Air Force Reserve as a chaplain.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.