Fifth Sunday in Lent

by Crossings

Restored to being
John 12:20-33
Fifth Sunday in Lent
analysis by Ed Schroeder

It is Passover again, the third and final time in John’s narrative, and Jesus “goes up” for the feast. The synoptics record only one Passover in Jesus’ ministry. The one they report, like this 3rd one in John, merges into Jesus’ Passion. Today’s pericope opens with Greeks wanting to see Jesus. I interpret these people to be Greek-speaking Jews, who are also “going up to worship at the Feast.” See John 7:35. If read this way, these are “Diaspora Jews,” themselves inside the O.T. covenant seeking to fit Jesus into their covenant faith.

In the 14 verses of this pericope John weaves a tapestry of many of his major images from his theological repertoire: the hour of Jesus’ glorification; a kernel falling into the ground and dying; loving your life only to lose it; serving Jesus = following Jesus; Jesus’ Father honors the one who serves Jesus; Jesus’ heart troubled by his approaching hour, though it is the hour for which he came; in this hour the Father will glorify his name, and then a voice from heaven speaks: God has glorified the name, and will do so again; the crowd does not comprehend the heavenly voice, though it was for their benefit; now is the time for judgment of the world, and of the world’s prince; when Jesus is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself, thus signaling the death he will die. In today’s appointed Gospel, the lectionary-experts have cut off the final verses of the narrative. We ought to add them back on for study purposes–at least through v. 36, and better yet to the end of chapter 12.

DIAGNOSIS: The lethal consequences of mis-prioritizing, misperceiving, mis-confessing Jesus.

STAGE 1: Mis-prioritizing Jesus. In this text such mis-prioritizing consists in not comprehending the Father’s testimony to Jesus (v. 29-33). Or again using God’s Law (v. 34) to misread Jesus’ death, to misperceive the light (vv. 35f.)

STAGE 2: Lightless, lifeless. In this text portrayed in Jesus’ own words, vv. 35f.

STAGE 3: Disinherited. In this text “losing your life” (25), “dishonored by Jesus’ Father” (26), losing “in the time for judgment” (31), “overtaken by darkness” (35), forfeiting “praise from God” (43).

GOOD NEWS: Restored to being “children of light,” when the Son of Man is glorified, when Jesus is “lifted up.”

STAGE 4: God’s glory in the flesh. Articulated in this text’s own terms in vv. 23-24, 27-28, 31-32.

STAGE 5: Believing is having. In this pericope see vv.26, and esp. 36! Look at all that you possess when you “believe in Jesus” (vv. 44-46, and then 49 – 50).

STAGE 6: Witnessing. In this text it is the language of serving and following (26) and walking (35). It is the antithesis of the behavior described in vv. 42 – 43


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