Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34
Psalm 51: 1 – 13
Psalm 119: 9 -16
Hebrews 5: 5 – 10
John 12: 20 – 33
Mr. Bredin was one of the best teachers I had in high school. He taught history to all grades from grade 8 to grade 12. His specialty was Canadian history, especially the development of responsible government in Canada and he had a way of making, what could be a rather dry and boring subject for teenagers, come alive with all the drama, intrigue and backroom machinations that are a part of all history especially political history.
But the lesson he drove home over and over again had little to do with history. Mr. Bredin had a thing about the English language. He was passionate about the correct use of English and had a real love for simple, preferably one syllable words. After handing back our essays, he would pull out what hair he had and plead with us to use ENGLISH words rather than complex Latin or French rooted words. Sure he would say, throw into a conversation a few “antidisestablishmentarians” or “consanguinities” and people may be impressed with your erudition, but they won’t understand what on earth you are trying to tell them. It’s the short words, he told us, that would pack the punch and make people not only pay attention but also grasp the importance of what you want to tell them.
The gospel today hinges on a short, incredibly short word. Until this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us over and over again that his hour has not yet come. He tells his mother this at the wedding in Cana when she tells him “they have no wine.” “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” [John 2:4] He says this again to his brothers when they press him to leave Galilee and go to Judea for the Feast of Booths so that his disciples “may see the works [he is] doing.” But again Jesus declares that his “time has not yet come.” [John 7: 6, 8] Later in Jerusalem during the Feast the authorities try to arrest him “but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.” [John 7:30] Sometime later during that same Feast “while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, … no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” [John 8:20]
But something happens here in chapter 12. Something happens as a result of a seemingly inconsequential event. Suddenly, with the arrival of a few Greeks who seek out Philip and Andrew in order to speak with Jesus during that last Passover, all of this changes.
As we read in the gospel some Greeks came and sough out Philip, whom we are pointedly told comes from Bethsaida in Galilee. They say to him “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip in turn seeks out Andrew who is also from Bethsaida and the two of them go and report all this to Jesus. And suddenly, suddenly everything is changed and the hour has come and NOW is the time. “Now my soul is troubled.” [John 12:27] “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out”. [John 12:31]
I can just see Mr. Bredin grabbing a fistful of air, his eyes aflame with passion, exclaiming “gotcha”. Something has changed. And we know it’s changed because of a simple, three letter word. Now. Now. Now. Whatever it is or was, can no longer be put off. Now my soul is troubled. Now is the judgment of this world. Now is the ruler of this world cast out.
Everything before this has been leading up to this moment, and all the moments that follow. Before this was not the time. But now, NOW is the time. “Now 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. Father, glorify your name” [John 12: 27-28]
So what changed? What changed for Jesus? What has changed for us?
Bethsaida doesn’t exist any more, but when it did it was a village on the edge. It was near Capernaum on the northern edge of Lake Galilee. It was a fishing village and the home of Philip and Andrew and his brother Peter. Bethsaida straddled two worlds. It straddled the worlds of a small town where everyone knew each other and were perhaps related or at least worked with one another and that of the cosmopolitan city which saw all manner of things pass through. It straddled the worlds of the Greek speaking Hellenists and that of the Aramaic speaking Jew. It straddled the worlds of Gentile and Jew. It straddled the worlds of occupier and occupied. It was a village of the edge of all sorts of things. In a sense it was a place where the world met. And that is what changes today. Today, the world comes to Jesus.
‘Now 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.’” [John 12: 20 – 21] With the arrival of these anonymous Greeks, it is not longer Jews who are seeking out Jesus, but Greeks as well. No longer is Jesus’ proclamation of the coming reign of God for Jewish ears alone, but for everyone. No longer is Jesus an itinerate Jewish preacher, but a herald of God’s reign of justice and mercy for all the people of the earth. No longer is Jesus an isolated, crazed preacher in some backwater of a Roman province, but now, now he has the ability to upset the entire world. In a sense, just as the world had been drawn to Bethsaida, so now the world is drawn to Jesus
So what has changed? Everything has changed because NOW is the time when Jesus will be lifted up from the earth, [and] will draw all people to himself. [John 12:32] And that is what changes for us.
In a sense, we are here, because those Greek speaking Hellenists were there. It was they who sought Jesus out and because they wanted to see Jesus, so too can we. It was because they wanted to see and know Jesus that we can as well. It was because they were drawn to Jesus that we are too. For the message of hope and healing and life that is the Cross is a message for you no less than it was for those first Greek seekers. The message of hope is a message for you no less than it was for those who first heard Jesus preach so long ago. The gift of healing is a gift for you just as it was for those who were first touched by Jesus so long ago. The promise of life is a promise for you just as it was to those in days long past.
Today everything changes not just for us, but for Jesus as well, because NOW is the time. Now is the time for Jesus to be lifted up from the earth on the hard wood of the cross, so that he might draw all people to himself. Now is the time when God’s message of hope and healing and life is proclaimed to all people. Now is the time when the Son of Man triumphs over death and the grave so that the ruler of this world is cast out. Now is the time!
We begin today in earnest our journey to Holy Week and Easter. Lent takes on a more somber tone as our faces are firmly set toward the Jerusalem of Good Friday and Easter Day. For it is in Jerusalem on the hard wood of the cross and in the Empty Tomb that we will discover not Christ’s defeat, but his victory; not his end, but a new beginning; not his humiliation, but his glorification. For it is there when he is “lifted up from the earth, [that he] will draw all people to” himself. That moment of being lifted up on the cross will be the moment of his glorification and exaltation. It will be the reason he has come to this hour. It will be for him, and for us, the eternal NOW.
‘Now’ isn’t such a big word, put is packs a punch that can throw us off balance and change our lives. For now is the time. Now is the time for Jesus. Now is the time for those Greeks who sought Jesus. Now too, is the time for us. It is our time. It is our time to lay claim, not just to the message of the Cross but of the Empty Tomb as well. Now is the time for us to lay claim to hope and health and life. Now is our time to lay claim to Jesus.
In the last several months the world has been turned upside down. Many, including many here, have lost security as pensions and savings, even jobs and homes have been lost in the economic turmoil that has sent shock waves around the world. But what we have not lost is our security in God’s love for us.
Those Greeks who were drawn to Jesus at the last Passover so many long years ago did so because for them Jesus was a sign of hope and health and life. Today as then, that same message of hope continues to draw us, for our world is no less in need of hope, than was theirs. Our world is no less in need of healing, than was theirs. Our world is no less in need of life, than was theirs. Our world is no less in need of the message of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, than was theirs.
Now is the time, not just for those Greeks to seek Jesus out, but for us to seek him out as well. For now, as then is the time for the ruler of this world to be driven out. Now is the time for death, and pain and despair to be overcome by life and health and hope. Now, no less than then is the time for the Cross. Now, no less than then, is the time for the Empty Tomb. Now, no less than then is a time for hope and health and life.
The world came to Jesus so many years ago because in those Greek seekers, the world knew its need of hope. The world came to Jesus so many years ago because in those Greek seekers, the world knew its need for healing. The world came to Jesus so many years ago because in those Greek seekers, the world knew its need for life. The world came to Jesus so many years ago because in those Greek seekers, the world knew its need of God. Now as then we come to Jesus because we know our need for hope and health and life. We know our need, and now is the time. It is the time for us. It is the time for Jesus.
Sir, we would see Jesus. Now. Now. Now.
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