Troubled into Life – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

John 12:20-33

The arrival of Jesus’s “hour” is a pivotal moment of transition in John’s gospel. Like road signs advertising a major attraction miles in advance, significant mention has been made of this hour throughout the gospel. In chapter 2, when the mother of Jesus urges him to change water into wine at a wedding, he initially demurs, saying, “My hour has not yet come.” In chapter 7 and again in chapter 8, Jesus is teaching in the temple and the Judean authorities try to arrest him, but “no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.” In chapter ten, we encounter a different kind of foreshadowing. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd, declaring, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” Here in chapter 12, with the arrival of Greek Gentiles who wish to see Jesus, the much-anticipated hour has indeed arrived. Every word, gesture, and action of Jesus from this moment on will be charged with new meaning in light of his coming death and glorification.

But even as Jesus moves with confident purpose toward this climactic event, we receive a precious detail about his innermost experience that belies his calm exterior: “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.” The word translated soul is important here. It is psyche, from which we get our English word psyche. But it is the same word translated “life” a few verses prior, when we heard Jesus say, “Those who love their life [psyche] lose it, and those who hate their life [psyche] in this world keep it for eternal life.” The life that is clung to and lost is psyche. The life that is held provisionally, offered up, and thus transformed into something greater is psyche. This psyche is individual; particular; dependent; fragile; and ultimately comes to nothing without God. The greater Life which touches and transfigures it is, in Greek, zoe. When Jesus says, “I am resurrection and I am life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,” this is zoe. My point here is that Jesus is troubled in his psyche – his individual, particular, dependent, and fragile human life. In this, he shares so much of what is ours.  Though he knew himself to be held within the greater life, the zoe of the Father, Jesus knew as well what it was like to feel troubled –  at the core of his finite being. Read More