Today’s Lectionary Passage: John 12: 20-36
20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very 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 fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27“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. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
The twelfth chapter of John contains most of what Jesus had to say about his own death in that Gospel. And this is where we sort of start shutting down, isn’t it? We liked sitting there listening to accounts of his birth, the stories of his calling the disciples, and those wonderful little parables that fill the Gospel-readings with drama and wisdom and sometimes leaving us with a knot in our stomach as we begin to see ourselves through Jesus’ eyes. We even liked the beautiful story yesterday of the extravagant anointing of our Savior. But this…this is coming a little too close to the edge.
Do you remember running through the sprinkler when you were kids? You want to do it. You want to feel that cool, refreshing feeling right after you do it. But it’s that first blast of cold, paralyzing water that takes your breath away that you dread and so you put it off. And then, finally, you hold your breath and run through it as fast as you can. That’s almost what we have a tendency to do with the cross. We dread it as we slowly walk toward it, dragging our feet a bit, not really wanting to experience it again—the memories and reliving of the horror, the violence, the suffering, the pain, the loss, the grief, the ending of all we know. And as we approach, we then let our minds run quickly through it toward Easter morning when everything will be OK again.
But now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified. For, as Jesus says, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just single lone grain, worth nothing; but if it dies, it bears fruit and lives on. You see, wheat is as a caryopsis, meaning that the outer “seed” and the inner fruit are connected. The seed essentially has to die so that the fruit can emerge. If you were to dig around in the ground and uproot a stalk of wheat, you would not find the original seed. It is dead and gone. In essence, the grain must allow itself to be changed. So what Jesus is trying to tell us here is that if we do everything in our power to protect our lives the way they are—if we successfully thwart change, avoid conflict, prevent pain; in other words, if we expect everything to go back to the way it was before—then at the end we will find that we have no life at all.
This week of remembering is not an historical accounting of the events so long ago; this is not only Jesus’ journey to the cross; it is ours. You see, the tide has turned. Jerusalem is there before us, the cross probably almost fully constructed at this point. The problem is that we’re supposed to believe without faltering in the cross. We look at that big gleaming cross in the front of the sanctuary. We see them on the doors to the church and on the sign outside. Good grief, we even hang them around our necks. But, contrary to what most of Christianity holds out there as “belief”, I don’t think we were meant to worship the cross. We were meant to worship God, to hunger and thirst in the deepest parts of our being to encounter God. Well, we can’t see God. If we could there’d be no need for faith. But we can see Jesus, the One who points the Way to God. But this Jesus is more than a leader. He is more than a teacher. Jesus is the One on the Cross. And at that moment, God will do something incredible. God will take the worst of this world, the worst of humanity, the worst of proof or sensibility, at a cost that no one can fathom…and recreate it. In that moment on the Cross, God takes the worst of us and the best of God and reconciles them, redeeming us into oneness with God, pouring the Divine into humanity for all time. But you have to be willing to let go, willing to change; you have to allow that seed that you are right now holding so tightly die away.
So as we walk through this holiest of weeks, remember that this is not Jesus’ journey that you walk; it is yours. Let go that you might finally see what God has in store.
Grace and Peace,