O Lord Jesus, You chose the Cross as the path to glory to show us the way of salvation. May we receive the word of the Gospel joyfully and live by Your example as heirs and citizens of Your Kingdom. Amen.
We just heard in the Gospel reading that a group of Greeks approached Philip and Andrew, saying
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)
At this time in history, Greeks were considered ‘gentiles’ – outcasts, non-religious, non-Jews, and aliens. Up to this time, the ministry of Jesus and His disciples had not included the gentiles – only those of Jewish faith. So, these Greeks, to have come to Jerusalem during the Feast of the Passover, was an unusual occurrence – and even more unusual was that they asked to see Jesus, for they had heard of Him. Why were they even interested in meeting this controversial Jewish man?
In His usual welcoming manner, Jesus instructed Philip and Andrew to bring the Greeks to him. Now, this was yet another instance where Jesus violated the societal laws – He was often speaking with non-Jews, or heathens. Jesus was always breaking all the rules. We hear nothing about these Greeks once they are taken to Jesus, but they serve as a segue to Jesus’ teachings about the inclusion of ALL in his Kingdom.
In Matthew 10:32-33, we are told:
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
This is just another example of John making it very clear that Jesus drew all kinds of people to Him, and to God.
I believe that all of us sitting here today, are a little like those Greeks, – we are searching for Jesus. We search in our own personal studies, by coming to church, through meditations and prayer, either alone or with other people. We yearn our whole lives to get to know Jesus better. We strive to understand who He had to suffer for, even though we are told that He is the Son of God, that God sent Him to save His creation.
Why the suffering?
Why the struggles?
Why the meanness?
Why the betrayal?
I grew up in the Catholic Church and I can remember as a young child, looking at the crucifix hanging over the altar with the broken, bloody body of Jesus on it, wondering what horrible things I must have done to cause Jesus to be murdered for my sins. I never could wrap my little mind around that, but I took comfort in knowing that through His death, I was forgiven of all my sins and when I died, by the promise of Jesus:
“when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32).
I didn’t understand it, but I believed, somehow, it was true, and it gave me comfort.
We also heard in Jeremiah that God
will make a new covenant with the people (Jeremiah 31:31)
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, (Jeremiah 31:34)
This is the promise of the Judeo-Christian covenant: that we will always be children of God, never to be forgotten. And we will take our rightful place with Jesus for eternity.
As I have grown older, I find I am more and more drawn to Jesus, the Son of Man – that Jesus became, in a short time, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by all who knew Him or followed Him – someone in whom many believed that they, too, suffered and died and would not deny Him. But I still associate most with Jesus, the Son of Man – whose one solitary life changed the world forever.
Many of you may know this prose poem by Dr. James Allan Francis, but I cannot read it enough – I want to share it with you.
And in many ways, this ‘One Solitary Life’ has shown us ‘the way’ – and indeed, lifts us up.
For we all must die – and to live knowing we must die is, in many ways, painful. We may not die on a cross – but if you have ever observed a friend suffering from cancer or MS or heart disease – this is a type of crucifixion. If you have lost a loved one to death, a child, a spouse, a parent – this is suffering. If you have known someone encased in despair and depression, mental illness, or dementia – oh, indeed, that is suffering.
In many ways, to live is to suffer – loss, confusion, disappointment, doubt – and despite the love, the joy, the successes and accomplishments, we all suffer – and fear – and hurt. At some point we all are betrayed or abandoned, persecuted or bullied, and we must die.
We are at the end of winter now, and we have been surrounded by death – trees barren, flowers gone, grass mown, days short – all dead,
Spring is coming!
Easter is coming! Life returns in a beautiful endless cycle of resurrection and renewal.
And this is what Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God – this ‘One Solitary Life’ – came to tell us. I will leave you with this:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)
Always be where I am! And I will be there, too!
Jesus defied death to show us that death is not the final thing we feared! Life goes on and on – Life is eternal – and where He is, so shall we be.
This is how we are lifted up – past sorrow and disappointment, past grief and despair, beyond loss and confusion –
To Eternal Love!
This is why we follow the teachings and examples of this ’One Solitary Life’ – to learn to live a life of love, surpassing suffering, so that we may recognize and join the eternal life of Jesus, Son of Man – and Son of God. Without this ‘One Solitary Life’, this earth and all of us would be dark and dismal, indeed – but with Him, secure in the hope and promise of His life, this earth and you and I can be lifted up – each day – and for eternity.
Let us pray:
Dear Jesus, we resolve—and will try this day—to imitate Your example, to be like You. We will redouble our efforts to see Your image in all those we meet and deal with this day, and to be as loving to them as we would be to You. We resolve to avoid all those shortcomings we have and which we now sincerely desire to give up forever. Amen.
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 18 March 2018