Fifth Sunday in Lent

by Crossings

Jesus Prepares For The Feast
John 12:20-33
Fifth Sunday in Lent
analysis by Carolyn Schneider

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. 27Now 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.

DIAGNOSIS: Cut Off and Alone

Step 1 – Initial Diagnosis: Those Who Are Far Cannot Come Near
The one ruling this world has built fences that keep people apart from each other and keep people from hearing God. The Greeks want to see Jesus, but cultural and religious boundaries prevent their direct access to Jesus, a Jewish rabbi with a Jewish name. Instead, the Greeks see Philip, a Jew whose Greek name hints at some ties to their culture. But Philip seems to find something troubling about their request because he, too, does not make direct contact with Jesus. He goes to see Andrew. Perhaps they were afraid. How would Jesus respond if they asked him to see these Greeks during the holy feast of the Passover?

Step 2 – Advanced Diagnosis: Those Who Are Near Cannot Hear
Even those gathered around Jesus, who do see him, cannot understand him and his connection with God. God’s Word of life is invisible, inaudible and incomprehensible to the world. Even when God’s words to the world are gracious, God’s speech comes as a judgment of the world because it is not heard. (verses 28-31) As Psalm 51:1-13 and Jeremiah 31:31-34 make clear, God’s Law is neither known nor followed. John makes it worse: Even God’s Gospel is unrecognized.

Step 3 – Final Diagnosis: “In Death There Is No Remembrance of You” (Psalm 6:5)
Both are alone, God and us. Who will bridge the gaps, if even God’s Word cannot? God takes the initiative and sends God’s Word in the flesh, mortal flesh, flesh that can die. By burying the Word in the flesh, God has made one human in whom there is no blockage. If Jesus allows the ruler of this world to take his life, the promise is that his life will expand to be a new life for many people. He will be able to draw them to himself and create new hearts in them. But as Jesus reflects on this, Psalm 6 comes to his mind and troubles him. The troubled psalmist asks God to save him, for “in Sheol who can give you praise?” (verse 5) What if Jesus’ death only creates one more life separated from others and from God eternally by death?

PROGNOSIS: Connected Together

Step 4 – Initial Prognosis: God Does Not Want to Be Alone
Jesus chose to go through with his suffering, trusting that, despite all appearances, it would come out as God had promised: “What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But, for this purpose I have come to this hour! Father, glorify your name.” (verse 27) God keeps God’s promise and raises Jesus from the dead. By learning obedience through suffering, Hebrews 5:5-10 points out, Jesus has become the source of salvation that he was intended to be. What does Jesus say will happen when he is lifted out of the earth? “I will attract everyone to myself.” (verse 32)

Step 5 – Advanced Prognosis: Jesus Draws Those Who Are Far Near
The grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies bears much fruit. It is no longer alone, but is part of a communion, a feast, you might say. Is that not what the Greeks had come for (but what they could not get until Jesus had died)? Now the ruler of this world that had put obstacles in between them and Jesus has been thrown out. Jesus’ life has gotten bigger than the walls that divide. There is room here for the Greeks, too.

Step 6 – Final Prognosis: Those Who Are Near Can Hear
Loneliness is replaced by a feast with the likes of Philip and Andrew as servers. (It is funny how they always seem to be the maitre d’s. See John 6:5-9 for their role in another feast.) Jesus is the main attraction here. All those at the feast have allowed their lives to go down to death in Jesus by faith in the promise that God will honor them with a new life. That is what Jesus told them, and they heard it and followed, risky as that is. So they always have Jesus with them, and as long as they are serving this magnetic main course, they will also have “all people” with them. (verse 32)


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