Archives: John 12:20-36

Tuesday: Where I Am

Jesus says something very important in our gospel lesson today. He says, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

We’d like to think of ourselves as servants of Jesus.

Well, we’ve just been given a very simple test of whether we are in fact servants of Jesus.

We ask where he is, and then we evaluate whether we are there also.

This seems like a simple test at first.

Where is Jesus right now? Well, he’s everywhere and nowhere, at the right hand of God the Father and present in the Eucharist and living in our hearts.

Jesus is in a lot of places.

So in that sense, it’s not a very helpful test. But let’s ask where Jesus is just in this gospel lesson and see where we end up.

We begin with the Greeks at the festival.

They have clearly heard of Jesus and they approach Philip saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Well, let’s start there. Is anyone approaching us to ask to see Jesus?

Are we living in such a way that people, strangers, know that they could approach us to ask about Jesus?

If someone has heard something interesting about Jesus, would they know that we are someone who could tell them more, show them more? Continue reading

Tuesday: Dying to Feed the World

“Very 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.”

In a gospel reading so rich with meaning and import, it can be easy to skip over this one sentence.

But this short piece of the text sums up in many ways the entirety of Jesus’ life on earth, and how we are called to join him in Holy Week.

The grain of wheat falling into the earth is a simple agricultural image, easily accessible to the people hearing it in Jesus’ time.

But the meaning is so much deeper than it first appears, when we think about it in terms of how and why Jesus gives us his life.

What is Jesus talking about? What does it mean to be a grain of wheat?

Well, first, it means smallness.

You’ve seen grains of wheat—you know you can hold hundreds in a handful. And yet it creates a large plant that then becomes bread for the world.

We could not sum up Jesus’ life on earth more clearly or simply than that.

And the original smallness matters.

Jesus came to earth as one person, born into a poor family in an obscure location.

There may have been angels and Wise Men at his birth, but aside from drawing threats to his life from a fearful king, these early accolades earned him little.

He lived a normal childhood in an ordinary town. Just like most of us.

A grain of wheat does not stand out among its fellows.

You can’t pick it out from others and say, “That’s the one. That’s the one who will change the world.” To be a grain of wheat is to be small and hidden, unappreciated, unrecognized, then to burst forth with growth.

So far we follow the metaphor. Great work for the Kingdom of God can come from one seemingly ordinary person, a person who is radically open to God’s grace flowing through them.

That’s encouraging. That’s hopeful. That’s something we can get on board with for ourselves in terms of following Jesus.

We all like to hear about how we’re full of wonderful things just about to happen if we say yes to God.

But then the image takes a turn. Continue reading

Tuesday: We Need Each Other to Find Jesus

There two groups of people in our readings for today, Jews and Greeks.

The first important thing to realize here is that these words are only superficially referring to ethnic groups.

For both John and Paul, “Jews” and “Greeks” are not people of Jewish heritage or people who were born in Greece.

Jews and Greeks are people of two different spiritual personalities.

Consider our texts about Jews and Greeks for Tuesday in Holy Week. We have a story and a theological description.

The story comes from the Gospel of John: “Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’”

It’s actually an unfinished story. We don’t know if the Greeks actually met Jesus or not.

They probably did, and heard Jesus’ teaching on the grain of wheat falling into the earth. But let’s come back to this in a moment.

Our other description of Jews and Greeks comes from Paul in 1 Corinthians: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Here we have Paul describing these two types of spiritual personalities.

What can we learn from these two passages? Continue reading

Tuesday: When God Runs Out of Courage

No one is brave all the time.

Not even Jesus.

Not even God.

That is the message of our scriptures today.

Courage and fear are poles that we bounce between all the time.

Our hope is that we will be able to stand in the place of bravery when the most important moments come, and our faith is that God will undergird it all even when our fear rises up to choke us and we fail at the moment of testing. Continue reading

Tuesday: Sir, We Wish to See Jesus

Being there for one another in times of trouble is harder than it appears on the surface.

We often define a friend as someone who will be there for us, but what does that really mean?

Our first instinct when something terrible is happening is to turn away, to run and escape, to get out before the terrible thing can suck us in as well.

If we make the decision that we’re not going to run away but instead stay with our friend who is suffering, our next instinct is to try and fix it, to say, no, look, do this, change this, fix this and you’ll be fine.

It takes a very disciplined and patient sort of love to truly be there for someone in crisis, an art that I sometimes despair of ever mastering.

It is exactly that sort of love that we can often look back and recognize in God’s response to our dark moments. Continue reading