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Grace and Lenten peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, Amen. This evening we consider the Word of God in John, chapter 12, beginning with the 27th verse, as follows:
[Jesus said,] “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die. 34 The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. So far the Holy Word.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Who was lifted up from the earth that where He is, there we might be also, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Magnets are funny things. They both attract and repel. That is, they are capable both of powerfully drawing things to themselves and, in certain cases - as with the opposite pole of another magnet - of powerfully pushing things away.
You may never have thought of the cross as a magnet. And yet there is something about our Lord's elevation upon the cross - and beyond that, His elevation to glory at the right hand of God - there's something there that exerts a tremendous magnetic pull in people's lives. If only that were the only force being exerted on us! But there are many other forces affecting us as well, not all of them good. Well, if you've felt yourself pulled in many directions lately, if the attraction of the cross has become less forceful in your life, if you worry that your plan for your life and God's plan for your life might just be drifting in different directions, then today's text will be good news for you. Our theme this evening is a simple one:
THE CROSS IS A MIGHTY MAGNET
I. It has power to overcome every other attraction.
II. It has power to draw us with our Savior to glory.
The events of our text find Jesus in Jerusalem with his disciples. It is Tuesday of holy week. The festival of Passover is imminent, and the city itself has become something of a magnet for throngs of devout pilgrims and visitors. Among them are certain Greeks who express a wish to see Jesus. They have evidently heard of His teachings and are attracted to Him. They want to find out more. So Phillip and Andrew introduce them to Jesus, and Jesus begins speaking. He speaks of His mission on earth, He speaks of the glory of His Heavenly Father, He speaks of how Satan would be cast out and his power over men destroyed. But one thing in particular that Jesus says is troubling to these visitors, And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.
These people were drawn to Jesus. Unfortunately, they also had other forces pulling them the opposite direction. One of them was skepticism. They were skeptical about Him being the Son of God, and especially skeptical about what Jesus had said would be the manner of His death. He made no secret about the fact that his death would be a shameful one, lifted up on a criminal's cross, and that offended them. We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?A little later in this chapter we hear of others who were attracted to Jesus at first, but in the end were pulled away by another very powerful force - peer pressure. …Even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." (12:42-43) How many of those people, do you think,kept silent when Jesus was unjustly condemned? How many were finally convinced to raise their voices, too, in the bloodthirsty cry, 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'?
But don't forget, the cross is A MIGHTY MAGNET. It has the power to overcome every other attraction.And it did, didn't it? At Calvary on Good Friday, there were a few disciples who overcame their fear and were drawn back to the cross. On a mountaintop on Ascension Day more disciples were drawn to Jesus as he was lifted up from the earth to the right hand of His Heavenly Father. In Jerusalem on Pentecost the ascended Lord Jesus continued to draw all people to Himself, when over three thousand souls were saved through hearing the message of the cross. The disciples became His witnesses "…in Judea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." The message of the cross spread and grew. Centuries passed and multitudes of people were drawn to the cross of Christ. Today, two billion people - one-third of the people on the surface of the earth - claim the name Christian.Clearly, the cross is a magnet that has the power to overcome every other attraction.
And it's a good thing, because there are many other attractions to compete with it, especially in our world of today! If you're complacently thinking that the cross of Christ is only magnet in your life, you're not paying attention. There are so many forces pulling us in other directions. Forces that at best are distractions from the cross, and that at worst are pulling us directly away from our devotion to our Savior and His cross. Money and possessions are a magnet that frequently compete with the cross for our devotion. Paul said, The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness. As we saw above, peer pressure can be a magnet pulling you away from the cross. So can pride. So can lust, and the desire for sinful pleasure. Your own human reason and the desire to reconcile God's Word with your own thoughts and ideas of what seems right to you - that can be a powerful magnet that pulls you away from your Savior's cross. And the sad thing is, we don't even always fight these other attractions!
It frightens me when I see Christians toying with these dangerous forces – forces that they know stand in direct opposition to the cross. It makes me think of how when a mighty meteor is passing the earth, there inevitably comes that moment when it first, almost imperceptibly, comes under the influence of the earth’s gravitational pull. Here’s this huge rock weighing thousands of tons, hurtling through space, and the first frail fingers of earth’s gravity reach out with just a few ounces of force and begin to pull it this way. Time passes, the rock comes a little closer, gravity gets a little stronger, and if you’ve ever seen a “shooting star” then you know how the story ends. Before long the meteor is a burning cinder of destruction hurtling brightly across the sky in its death-throes.
That’s what scares me when I see people toying with sin in their lives. They are voluntarily bringing themselves under the sway of these other influences, influences that are exerting their own magnetism. Drawing them subtly but inexorably away from the Cross of their Savior. And make no mistake, human beings do have the power to pull away from the cross. Eventually there comes a time when they can't get back, and don't want to get back. They become hardened in their unbelief, and the cross no longer draws them. From that point the cross actually repels them. My fellow Christians, do not allow the forces of sin to grow and flourish in your life. Repent of every sin every day. Don't allow anything to even start pulling you away from the cross! Bear in mind the warning spoken to Christians by the writer to the Hebrews: How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? Hebrews 2:3.
Oh yes, magnets can repel as well as attract, and sometimes repel quite strongly, too. In 1999 Japanese scientists developed a train that can travel 343 miles per hour. The train is called the MagLev, which is short for magnetic levitation. Powerful magnets are imbedded on the top of the single track, and equally powerful magnets - of opposite polarity - are in the bottom of the train. The magnets repel each other, and the train actually glides along several inches above the track, with no parts touching. That's how it achieves such high speeds. And it also illustrates how powerful the repelling action of magnets can be. The cross is the same way. It is a powerful attractant force. God would have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. But there are also many people who are powerfully repelled by the cross of Christ. Those who harden their hearts against their Savior will find the Gospel repellant and foolish. When they've finally turned their back on their only Redeemer, they will find it easy to glide away down the track to eternal destruction. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. I Cor 1:18.
Thank the Lord! To us who are being saved, the cross is the power of God, and that's the most attractive power of all.
In 2010 a magnet was constructed at Florida State University that set a new world record for sheer power. The electromagnet generated a sustained magnetic field of 45 Tesla, which is roughly equal to a million times the magnetic field of the earth. An attractive force that strong is hard to even imagine. There's only one force stronger. And that's the miraculous, life-changing, magnetic power of the cross! The cross is A MIGHTY MAGNET, in the second place, because it has the power to draw us with our Savior to glory
Jesus said, And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. Two days later, in the Upper Room He promised His disciples, In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2-3. How could you begin to measure the magnetic power of this force - a force that can take wretched, sin-laden people like you and me and draw us away from hell? How can you gauge the power that can take pathetic, morally bankrupt creatures such as ourselves, and pull us straight through the gates of heaven into the mansions of everlasting glory? That's the power of our Savior's cross! When He was lifted up on that cross, Jesus paid the price for each one of your sins. He wiped from God's book every last offence your disobedience had written there. He took all your guilt, all your sin upon Himself, and on that cross He atoned for every scrap.
Well might it bring tears to our eyes when we survey the wondrous cross. And not only tears of godly repentance for our sins - appropriate as those may be. No, we blessed creatures can shed tears of joy and pure relief, that Christ has drawn us from the pit of hell and delivered us to everlasting glory. With startled wonder once again this Lenten season we glimpse the depths of God's love for us! Delivered from eternal death, safe from sin's punishment, we read with delight words such as those of the prophet Jeremiah: The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “ Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Jer. 31:3. How blessed are we who have been drawn to the Savior! This is the magnet of God's grace, the mighty magnet of the cross. What a delight and a privilege it is for us to sing with hymnist,
Drawn to the cross which Thou hast blest,
With healing gifts for souls distressed,
To find in Thee my life, my rest,
Christ crucified, I come!
Now Jesus is our ascended Lord, lifted up on high to the right hand the Father. From there He governs all things for the benefit of His Church. From there He continues to draw all men unto himself. Through the means of grace - the Gospel in Word and Sacrament - our Lord continues to draw ever more people into His kingdom of grace. This He predicted in such a comforting manner in the sixth chapter of John: All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.Come to your Lord Jesus! Forsake your sins and cling to the cross! Let that blessed cross on which the Prince of Glory died draw you. Draw you to grace, draw you to forgiveness, draw you, finally, to everlasting glory in the presence of your Savior in heaven!
Magnets are funny things. Remember how fascinated you were as a kid, pulling the magnets out of old speakers, playing with horseshoe magnets in science class, rubbing a nail with a magnet so the nail would become a magnet too? If you’re like me, maybe you still find yourself absentmindedly playing with the magnets on the refrigerator. Well, suppose we incorporate that into our Lenten mediations this year. Each time you see a magnet, why not think of the cross, and meditate just for a moment on how blessed you are that you've been drawn to the cross of your Savior. The cross is a mighty magnet. It has the power to overcome every other attraction in our life, and it has the power to draw us, with our Savior, to glory. May the magnet of the cross once again draw our hearts and minds heavenward during this Lententide, AMEN.
-Pastor Paul Naumann