Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B

by Alfred Gorvie



John 12:20-33
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B
Analysis by Chris Neumann


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.


From Canva

“Bask in the incomprehensible, unwavering love your Father, God has for you.”


DIAGNOSIS: Sleeping with the fishes

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem): Can we have some time with the big guy?

A scene reminiscent of the beginning of The Godfather. There, a bunch of folks want an audience with Don Corleone. It is to be assumed. It is part of the deal. No Sicilian can refuse a request on the day of his daughter’s wedding. The key is to be one of the select few who get a piece of his time and to use the time wisely with something compelling.

In our case, Greeks are in town and wanting to see Jesus. The Passover festival seems the logical place to do that. First things first though. These guys have to go through layers of personnel checkpoints as though Jesus has set up the first syndicate in history. Philip first. He’ll funnel the requests to Andrew.  Andrew will check with the head honcho on whether or not he’ll grant the time and entertain them.

What exactly do these outsiders want? Is it simply to get a look at who everyone is talking about – the guy who turned water to wine, fed 5,000 hungry people, made the blind to see, and raised this dead Lazarus guy to life? Or maybe there are aspirations to join the family? The answer is not especially clear. But what’s the point, if you can’t even get him to listen to you?

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem): It’s not personal, it’s strictly business

Jesus’ response to hearing these Greeks want to see him? Badda-beep, badda-bap, badda-boop. Bunch of stuff to include anything other than an answer to the question. His time coming. A grain of wheat falling. Umm, so do you want to meet with them or not?

Seemingly preoccupied with his work and the immediate business to attend to, Jesus shares a few of the guiding family principles:

Love your life? You’re out of luck.
Hate your life? It’s yours for eternal life.
Desire the Father’s honor? Follow me. Serve me.

Not so sure that is what the Greeks had in mind. Who does for that matter? Certainly not me.

I woke up this morning safe and sound in a nice house. Stumbled downstairs for hot coffee. Selected from an abundance of clothing for the day and drove off in a car I own to a job that pays the bills and then some. Even provides me access to medical care whenever I need it. I go home to a family I love and a plate full of food – third meal of the day, by the way.

After some exercise, I get plenty of time to kick my feet up and relax. Maybe even a swallow or two of gin over a book or movie while the fireplace roars. I tuck myself into a nice, warm bed and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow. That’s a pretty good deal. Suffice to say, I love my life.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem): Don’t tell me you’re innocent – it insults my intelligence, and it makes me very angry.

Here is Jesus though, saying that loving my life isn’t such a good thing. I don’t understand. Everything I just rattled off is a gift from God, no? We call them blessings. So, I’m not supposed to covet the things I don’t have or to be jealous of what other people have, but now I’m also not supposed to love the life I actually do have?

Obviously I don’t have what it takes to be part of this crew. Perhaps if I crank up the self-imposed distress and misery a little. It is Lent, after all. A season dedicated to feeling badly. Still some time left to manufacture some suffering and show the Father that I’m serious. Yep, I’ll demonstrate just how determined and capable I am of following and serving exactly the way he wants.  How will I know for sure if I’ve done enough though, because if for some reason I come up short… yikes.

Exactly who do I think I’m dealing with here though?  The great I AM most certainly isn’t about to have the wool pulled over his eyes with my carefully contrived gloom.  There is no dodging the fact that when it comes to me and my life, well, I’m in it to win it and not to lose.  It’s for that very reason that God says I must lose.  Everything.

From Canva

PROGNOSIS: My final offer is this… everything

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution): Look how they massacred my boy

As if sensing what is going on in the heavy hearts and minds of those listening, Jesus jumps in and articulates exactly what I’m already thinking, “now my heart is troubled.” Without giving me additional time to let my anxiety riddled thoughts percolate, he offers an alternative solution to the dilemma at hand, and in doing so actually addresses the original request.

“When I have been lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”

When we want to know what Jesus is all about, what God’s final verdict is on us, look no further than this same Jesus, lifted up high on the cross. Fastened there by nails in his hands and feet. This is where we can truly ‘see’ Jesus. Every last person the world over. See him fulfilling the ultimate plan. See him doing what we could not. See him hating his life in order to gift us with the corresponding eternal life. All for us, and all free of charge. A back door deal if there ever was one!

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution): Leave the sin and death, take the grace and life

Akin to Clemenza’s famous instruction to leave the gun, take the cannoli, we too now get to leave the bad stuff behind: the sin that weighs us down, the corresponding guilt and shame, the helpless feelings of inadequacy. All of it – buried for good. No more insistence on reconciling ourselves. No more anxiety over what ultimately happens to me.

Instead, let’s move forward with the good stuff in hand. Utter sweetness. It is an irrevocable membership to the gang. Slipping up doesn’t even get you whacked, it gets you forgiven. You are a member of the family. Period. Bask in the incomprehensible, unwavering love your Father, God has for you.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution): Go to the mattresses

The text cuts short of this, but only several verses later do we hear that ‘they did not believe him’. That is the battle we’ll be fighting as we head into the week. Out into a world that feels much the same way – that this nonsense is nothing more than a complete racket. Pushing back on the nagging voice of our own that tends to agree.

Fight that natural inclination. Trace the sign of the cross that was once lifted up over our heart and remind ourselves whose family we will always belong to, no matter how many times we break the code.  Radiate with that confidence amidst the skeptical masses, all the while  understanding that same offer is on the table for everyone the world over.  Trust the grain of wheat isn’t done producing fruit and let the Spirit work in and through us to initiate people into the Jesus mob every chance we get.


  • Alfred Gorvie

    My passion for harnessing the power of data to better reflect on the past, understand the present and project into the future led me to earn a certificate in data analytics and visualization from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. With an innate curiosity and a problem-solving mindset, I am committed to delving deep into data, uncovering hidden insights that have the potential to bring about positive transformations. My goal is to contribute to a dynamic and quality-focused team, utilizing my skills to drive impactful outcomes. Let’s connect and collaborate on leveraging data for meaningful change!

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