A matter of life and death- Fifth Sunday of Lent – John 12:20-30
Jesus has clearly accepted the cross in His life. He has come to Jerusalem for the Passover but this will be the last time He is here. It is Palm Sunday and Jesus has entered Jerusalem to the shouts of Hosanna. The Pharisees are seething with anger as they sense the loss of control as the “world has gone after Him.” However, the crowds that follow Jesus are still divided and unable to square up His claims of being the Messiah. We are told that among them are some Greeks who approach Philip with a wish to see Jesus.
The irony of this passage is all too evident. The ones who seek Jesus are Gentiles; the ones that the Jews scoffed at and mockingly called them “dogs”. For the Jews, these were pagans, yet they come seeking Jesus while the Jews reject Him. Josephus, the historian tells us that there were ‘God fearing’ Gentiles who came to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover.
In Chapter 7:35, the crowds express their curiosity about Jesus teaching ministry. Would Jesus go to Gentile land to minister in the Diaspora? Perhaps by the time that John wrote the Gospel, the process of evangelization had moved from the Jews to the Samaritans and now to the Gentiles. It is the Gentiles who seek the Lord and this helps explain their presence in Jerusalem.
In this narrative, the Greeks wish to see Jesus but we are not told if they do. They make a request to Philip who tells Andrew, and together they tell Jesus (verses 21-23). Andrew is no stranger to the word ‘see’. One chapter earlier, when he was curious to find out where Jesus lived, he was told. “come and see.” Jesus’ discourse that follows is, in part, a response to this request. If you wish to see Jesus, then this is what you will and must see and a lot of it may not be pleasant.
Audrey West explains the consequences of following Jesus; she says that following Jesus is a matter of life and death. Or, to put it another way, life and death matter to those who follow Jesus.
During this season of Lent we follow him all the way to Golgotha, all the way to the cross, where we will stand beneath it, together with those followers who asked at the beginning of his ministry, “Where are you staying?” (1:38). It is there, in the face of the world’s many ways of death (e.g., poverty, economic collapse, hunger, sickness, war) that we are drawn even closer to Jesus. It is there, in the light of the stark reality of life at its end that we begin to catch a glimpse of life at its fullest.
Jesus promises, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (12:32). It is for such a time as this that Jesus has brought us to this hour. There is nothing like impending death to focus our attention
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