+ Lent 5 B
TEXT: John 12:20-33
DATE: March 22, 2015
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas
For twelve chapters of John’s story
Jesus has been saying, “My hour has not yet come”.
That changes today.
Because some Greeks,
who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover festival,
come to Philip and ask to see Jesus.
And so, Jesus’ soul is troubled –
and really, it’s more like “struck with terror”.
Because he knows what this means –
that these Greeks have come seeking him.
He knows what this means for him.
It means that his hour has come, at least in part,
because the work of being lifted up
and drawing all people to himself –
people like these Greeks –
It means it was time to enter into his glory.
What they probably did not expect, however,
was Jesus’ reply to them and their wish,
and his understanding of what that glory looked like.
You wish to see Jesus, huh?
You want to see the Son of Man glorified?
Well this is what you can expect to see, he seems to say.
And he explains to them the meaning of his death.
You’ll see something like the burial of a dried and dead seed
that will then bear fruit.
You’ll see something like nothing you would ever expect in this world
when, for the sake of eternal life,
one gives up his life –
loses it and rejects it in this world.
You’ll see something like a final breaking point embraced.
Not rejecting it, not pleading for deliverance from it,
not bargaining out of it,
but embracing all the suffering and pain
that comes with being lifted up and glorified this way.
Jesus knows who he is and his purpose for living –
for being made flesh and dwelling among us.
In John’s story, he is profoundly confident of his destiny
and the purpose of his death is very clear to him.
And that’s what he’s telling those who wish to see him:
the meaning of his coming death.
He tells them, in a poetic sort of way,
that being lifted up in glory
is his being made flesh,
and then suffering the way of all flesh and dying,
and then being raised in new life
and ascending to his heavenly Father
for the sake of the world God loves
and for the sake of all those whom he will draw to himself.
He tells them, in short,
“look down at the dirt
at the life that sprouts from there,
now look up at the cross
and watch for the life that springs from there.”
The dirt and a dead seed;
the cross and a lost life:
these are not the ways one would expect
to see the Son of God lifted up and glorified.
And that’s exactly the point.
It’s just like Thomas later.
He, too, wishes to see Jesus.
He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to the others,
and that’s all he wants.
And that’s when Jesus comes
and shows himself in all his resurrected glory to Thomas.
But what does he show?
He extends his nail-pierced hands,
and he invites him to stick his hands in the hole in his side.
He shows him the wounds of his crucifixion,
and then Thomas recognizes Jesus
and knows that he is Lord and God. (20:26-28)
The same thing holds for us too, of course.
Like the Greeks, we want to see Jesus, too;
we want to see the glory of God.
But also like the Greeks,
our nature is to look up,
look for light and wonder,
look for majesty and grandeur,
look for stunning scenery and scenes of stunning beauty.
But God directs our attention to the unexpected,
and to all the ways we don’t want Jesus to be human:
in suffering, humiliation, crucifixion, and death.
But see, only through the proclamation of the cross
do we see the one who took on human flesh,
suffered, died, rose again and ascended
so that he could draw all people to himself
and God could give eternal life
to the whole world he loves.
Only in the hidden and unexpected ways of the world
do we see the life and salvation of God for us:
unexpected ways like common, everyday flowing water
poured out on a clueless infant,
or like common bread and a cup of wine
shared in the community.
To see Jesus in all his glory,
we look to what he has shown us
of God’s incredible mercy and love
for us and the whole world:
we look to how God gave his only Son
to human flesh and to death.
We look at how he was buried
like a dried and dead seed
to sprout and grow in the full fruit
of eternal life and salvation for us.
Giving his life – dying to himself –
to give us life, eternal life.
And so what about those among us,
around us, apart from us,
who wish to see Jesus?
We guide them to the same Jesus we see.
The thing about Jesus’ words
about a dead seed buried to bear fruit,
about losing our life for eternal life,
and serving Jesus by following him –
the thing is that the life Jesus lived in the flesh
is the life his followers live too, in the flesh.
Because Jesus took on human flesh
and lived among us –
abided with us, lives in us –
then the ways of Jesus lifted up
and the glory of Jesus for life
are the ways for us, too.
And because we also will die –
like Jesus, like the seed –
we also will live, give, love, and bear fruit
with every confidence in God’s purpose for us
and in the one who gave himself for the sake of the world.
Because Jesus has done these things,
you will too.
And even greater works than these,
he told his followers. (14:12)
See, Jesus isn’t so much calling us here
to do anything particular as disciples
as he is describing what discipleship is like
by its very nature.
It’s not what we should do to become his disciple
but what we, whom he has made his disciples, do.
Discipleship, like Jesus himself,
and our own Christian life,
is about dying to ourselves
and giving, living, loving, and bearing fruit.
And that’s how we show Jesus
to those who wish to see Jesus.
We show them the way of death and life.
We show them the community gathered in his presence –
We show them the fruits of the Spirit.
We show those who wish to see Jesus
the Jesus we have come to know
in our own sacrificial, loving service to others,
in every refusal to insist on our own way,
in every expression of restoring relationships,
in every generous gift of our time or resources,
in every rejection of hopelessness,
in every acceptance of someone different from ourselves,
in every declaration of forgiveness.
And that too, is his glory.
And how Jesus continues to draw all people to himself.
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