We serve not a cause but a cross – Fifth Sunday in Lent – Year B – Jeremiah 31:31-34/ John 12:20-30

The Gospel of today is a little more than the halfway mark of the Gospel of John. John has 21 chapters and we are in chapter 12 and Jesus has entered Jerusalem (12:12). Unlike the synoptic Gospel where the triumphant entry of Christ is towards the three fourth mark of the Gospel, John places it almost in the middle.

Today’s Gospel is the last public teaching of Jesus before his death. Look carefully and it Palm Sunday when Jesus teaches this text. In chapter 13 Jesus washes the feet of the disciples (found only in this Gospel) and then proceeds to deliver a very long ‘farewell discourse only to the twelve. This discourse spans from chapter 13 to 18.

The Gospel of John has recalled for us the raising of Lazarus and we know that because ‘the crowds’ ‘believed in him’, the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish religious body, plotted to kill him. Interestingly, they justify his death, “it is better that one man die for the nation than have the whole nation destroyed.” (11:50).

Jesus is in the temple and has now got the Jewish religious authorities all riled up. Verse 19 of our text has the Pharisees exclaim in horror, “look the world has gone after him.” Don’t put this down to mere sour grapes. The Jewish religious authorities were walking a tight rope with their Roman overlords. The Chief Priest himself was a Roman appointee and the one flash point that would bring the might of the Romans down on them was talk of a liberator; a Messiah.

The Gospel of today tells us that there were Gentiles who approached Jesus. We are told they are Greek. It was not uncommon for Gentiles to travel to Jerusalem. The temples outer court was called the court of the Gentiles. Perhaps these Greeks had come to the temple but it is not the temple they now seek but the Lord of the temple. We may build beautiful houses of worship but never seek the Lord in whose name we have built it.

The Gospel does not tell us if they are granted a private audience through the good offices of Philip and Andrew but it does tell us that it prompted Jesus to teach publicly for the last time. At Canna, Jesus told his mother, “My hour has not yet come.” Now in 12:23 Jesus tells us that ‘the hour” has come. He speaks of it as the hour when he is to be ‘glorified’.

On reading the passion of Christ, none of it sounds like glory; it is suffering in its worst form. It is futile to approach this text with our human mind, rather with the mind of God. We seek human glory that has crowns and castles; Jesus sought to win the favour of the Father with a crown of thorns and a cross. HE sought to do the will of his father.

That ‘will’, is spelt out in this last public teaching. It is the will of humility and obedience. The grain of wheat is to fall to the ground in order to produce fruit. It is the will that demands that we chose to be nothing in order to become everything for God. It is a will that demands that we hate our life (to be understood as love less) in order to love God more. It is a will that demands a life of service to cross rather than a life of service to a cause. It is to this ‘glory’ that we work and it is this life of glory’ that pleases the father.

Christ made no bones about his hour of glory. It took him to a cross; it nailed him to a cross and he made an instrument of shame into the instrument of glory. What you wear around your neck is not an ornament but an advertisement and a testimony of your faith. Wear it with pride

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