March 22, 2015 (Year B Lent 5) Celtic Meditation

John 12:20-33

On his way to Jerusalem for what will be his last Passover, Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead; has been anointed by Lazarus’ sister, Mary, in what Jesus accepts as a pre-burial anointing; and has triumphantly arrived in Jerusalem. As the Passover approaches, Greeks, non-Jewish people, who were attracted to the God worshiped by the Jews, desire to see Jesus.[1] Jesus accepts this recognition from non-Jews as a sign that the hour for his glorification has come. Greek philosophy prized the good life and these Greeks must have heard something about Jesus that indicated that the good life was in him. But this good life is not what the ruler of the world offered then and continues to offer. The ruler of this world offers money, power, prestige, food and things as life, but this is not life that really satisfies. Jesus explains the paradoxical way of true life, eternal life, from an agricultural example.[2] Individual seeds die in order to produce fruit. Jesus was called to really die so that all might really live. Those who follow Jesus are called to die to the life the ruler of the world offers in order to really live. In what ways do we continue to seek after the things offered by the world rather than doing the hard work of following Jesus by living into our baptismal vows of turning from the ways that do not give life?

The work of dying for the sake of the world is not something that Jesus has looked forward to. Yet, the audible answer to his prayer is not for his comfort.[3] For the sake of the Greeks who represent the non-Jewish people of the world as well as Jesus’ disciples, God the Father audibly responds to Jesus’ prayer that the name of God be glorified. When have we, as church, heard the voice of God not for our sake, but for the sake of others?

When Jesus is lifted up, he draws all people to himself. God’s name is glorified at the crucifixion. With the scent of the anointing for his death probably still lingering about him, Jesus knew that he first had to suffer pain before he could enter into joy and his glorification.[4] Yet, in these Greeks who came to see him, Jesus saw the beginnings of the fruit of his death.[5] As followers of Jesus, what are we doing as a church community that demonstrates to us and to those around us that we are living fruit produced by Jesus’ death?

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

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[1] For a detailed discussion of why the Greeks were not expected to respond and how the coming of the Greeks affected Jesus, see John A. Davis, “The Desire of the Nations—John 12:20-22,” The Reformed Theological Review, 69 no 3 (2010): 151-163.

[2] Last week, we heard the explanation of Jesus’ death on the cross from a Jewish perspective, using the history of the Jewish people to explain that when Jesus is lifted up from the earth on the cross, those who know they are dying from sin and trust God for healing through Jesus’ death, will be made alive.

[3] This is the second time in two chapters that Jesus explains that the purpose of a supernatural event was for the sake of those around him so that they could believe and make sense of what is to come. For the sake of Jesus’ disciples, Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11:15-44) so that they would know that Jesus is the life-giver (John1:1-4, John 11:25-26), the one through whom the glory of God is revealed (John 11:40).

[4] Book of Common Prayer, Morning Prayer, collect for Friday.

[5] Richard L. Jeske, “John 12:20-36,” Interpretation 43 no 3 (1989): 292-295.

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