Sermon: Lent V(b)

Dow Sanderson on March 28, 2012 Comments (0)

V Lent: audio
March 25, 2012
Jn 12.20-33
Fr. Dow Sanderson

+ + + 

It would be more than fair to say that the 11th and 12th Chapters of St. John's Gospel present us with an abundance of information... and  it is delivered...at a rather rapid pace...

If we pause for just a moment, we may consider that in the space of seventy or so verses, we learn of the illness of Lazarus... the delay of Jesus in coming... the death of this dear friend...  the arrival of Jesus at Bethany... the conversations separately with both Martha and Mary concerning what would have happened if Jesus had been a little more expeditious in coming... (and some rather important words concerning Resurrection and the role Jesus shall play)...

We learn that the tomb is sealed, that it is has been four days and "he stinketh"... and yet, even with all of the abundance of evidence of death and decay, Jesus cries out with a loud voice... and out walks Lazarus ... still bound in his grave clothes.

As the members of my Sunday School class put it last week...At this point, even the skeptics might have begun to catch on! There is something different about this man!  The dead are raised!

This sign is so well-attested that Jesus can no longer walk about openly...  He draws more and more of a crowd everywhere that he goes... all the while increasing the anger and hostility of the religious authorities.

Chapter 12 opens with a dinner party.  Mary, Martha and the very much alive Lazarus are all present.  Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with costly perfume (Judas Iscariot complains loudly about the waste)... and the next morning, a great crowd waving Palm branches greets Jesus... eliciting from some Pharisees the comment:  See, you can do nothing about him now.  The whole worldhas gone after  him!

And it is at this point that we pick up the narrative in the Gospel assigned for this morning's mass.

And it is a rather important turning point.  Why was that Palm Sunday crowd so enthusiastic?  And why were the religious leaders so afraid?  Because they thought Jesus had power.  The crowd wanted what ever he had... and the religious leaders were jealous that he might steal their thunder.

But no matter what side of the economic equation one came down on... the commodity was the same.  Jesus was a deal maker, they were certain.  He had what every man and nation... in every generation... had ever wanted.  If  the events of Palm Sunday were contemporary...both the Republicans and the Democrats would be clamoring to nominate him for the highest office in the land!

Up to this point, everything seemed to suggest that the popular notion of a Messiah was about to play out... and it was just going to go from one large success to another.

And just as if on cue... two Greek men show up...asking to see him.  They find Phillip, the disciple with the Greek sounding name... and say to him, Sir, we would see Jesus.

It is the only line they get in all of recorded history... and yet it has been carved on more pulpits and remembered by people of faith as if they had  just coined a famous phrase like Four Score and Seven years ago...

Sir, We would see Jesus.

At this exact moment, Jesus appears as if he is about to become an important political figure...

And with the eyes of Hellenistic antiquity now focused sharply on him... it would also seem as if there was the expectation that  he was about to join his voice with the greatest philosophers and thinkers the world had ever known...Socrates in the City and Jesus in Jerusalem!

Yes, this was THE moment.  It all fit together now.  It all made sense.  The next speech would be the most important one of His young life.  And every eye was intently focused on Him... Every ear straining to hear what rousing  victory speech, what sublime wisdom... they might be fortunate enough to hear.  This would be the kind of stuff they would tell their grandchildren for ages to come...

But it was not the speech they expected.  It was not a victory speech.  And it did not contain anything resembling common wisdom.

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone.

He who loves his life looses it..

He who hates his life will keep it for eternal life.

Now is my soul troubled.

Now is the judgment of this world

Now... is the ruler of this world cast out...

And when I am lifted up from the earth...

I shall draw all men to myself.

It was the least expected speech that anyone could have imagined.

At the moment everyone thought they knew most what to expect...

Jesus turned their world upside down.

Some were disappointed...

Some were humiliated...

Some were seething with anger...

But that was the point, really.

Jesus had come into this world to take its worst... the meanest, the nastiest it could dish out..

He came to win by losing...

When someone strikes you... turn the other cheek.

When someone steals your coat, give them your scarf as well..

Love your enemies...

Forgive those who do you wrong...

This was not just advice that he gave... it is what he came to do.

John Henry Newman once remarked that God could create a world... just by speaking ...but he had to die in order to save it...

It is rather amazing, isn't it.  The cynic looks at the world, and sees its violence, its corruption, its despair... and that gives him all the evidence he needs to be convinced that no God could be in charge of this chaos...

But it is that same broken, violent and disordered world that evoked in the heart of God the greatest love story the world has ever known.

For Jesus died, not only to break the power of death... but also to break the power of hatred and vengeance.

No, it was not the speech they expected.  And Jesus was not the Messiah they expected.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom... But we preach Christ Crucified.

And so he was high lifted up...

And his arms were eternally outstretched in a gesture of embrace...

And it is, in fact, a love so compelling... that all men are drawn to him.

We are drawn precisely because he is such an enigma... he is so contrary to everything this world clamors for!  ....Everything we claim to want!

And yet, there he is... loving you...

Being lifted up... for you...

On the Cross...

In the elevated host...

On his Altar throne and in the hearts of the faithful...

He is high lifted up... for you. For me.

Sir, we would see Jesus. +++AMEN.


 

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