Lent 5: Hope

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Psalm 51:1-13 Hebrews 5:5-10 John 12:20-33
Jeremiah is speaking about God’s promises to the people of Israel while they are still in captivity. “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, … when I will watch the people build and plant.” That’s good news for all of us, isn’t it? There will again be a day in which we can build and plant. In a very immediate way, we hope that Jeremiah means that spring is here, that we can put away our snow shovels, snow boots, hats, mittens, and ice melt. We can move on to complaining about the mud and weeds and bugs. And while Jeremiah didn’t know the world today, Jeremiah knows our hearts. He knows that the people need a word of hope, of promise and comfort and new life. The people of Babylon are in captivity, their Temple destroyed, their lives torn apart, their spirits broken – possibly all but dead.

God wants you to know something, Jeremiah says. There is a new covenant coming, and God’s laws will be written, not on stone tablets, but in your hearts. Imagine that. God’s laws will be part of who we are in our innermost being: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” How might we live if the laws were not smashed with the stones upon which they were written, but were renewed over and over again as the way that we knew to live?

How might we live if we believed simply – and only – that promise? That God is our God and we are God’s people, within whom the law of God lives. I could think on that for a few minutes and go home, healed and restored. Right?

If there is a problem with God’s new covenant, it is that covenants are not “one way” arrangements. Each party in a covenant has duties to fulfill, promises, if you will, to keep. God yearns for us to keep our part of the covenant. Umm, “what part is that?”

I will be your God. Good.
You will be my people. Okay …

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Some Greeks, Gentiles, not Jews, not believers, came to the festival and said that they want to see Jesus. Only “see” here has the sense of “know,” they want to “know” Jesus. I smell a covenant sneaking into the story. Greeks, Gentiles, not Jews, not believers means that a group of pagans want to know Jesus. That in itself is not surprising; this Jesus man had, after all, just raised Lazarus from the dead. They probably wanted to see Lazarus, too; “everybody” did. Is it you? Did it happen? Were you dead? What was that like? How did it happen? Man, I can’t believe this! Who IS this Jesus. The authorities are very, very worried. Who IS this Jesus?

We know who Jesus is, right? Who is Jesus? Which one do you want to know?

We are reading from the gospel of John, so we have Jesus: “in the beginning was the Word.” Jesus is the Word of God who makes God known to us. At the same time, Jesus is the one among us “whom you do not know (John 1:26).” [Citation from Dirk G. Lange, ON Religion in the Huffington Post, 3/21/2012]

We know Jesus
 Who turns water into wine
 Who heals a blind man
 Who raises Lazarus.

Can we bear to really know Jesus, and not just see him? Jesus never intended for us to gaze upon him, but to follow him, be in relationship with him.

Once again Jesus does not answer the plea that comes before him. In fact, we don’t know whether or not this group got to see Jesus. “After [Jesus] said this, he departed and hid from them.” That response comes after a skip of several verses.

Jesus’ reply – this is the gospel of John – reveals more to us about who God is, and not as much about who Jesus is. We are pointed, over and over again, to God and what God is doing through Jesus.

God is planting, watching. Is this the day in which God watches us plant? “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What “bears much fruit” must first die. New life is the work of God. Jesus is pointing to himself as the Son of Man and to God as the doer, the initiator, of abundant life. “Whoever loves their life must lose it … whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” Jesus is telling us about God.

Jesus’ response is not what we might expect from one who calls himself the “Son of Man.” “Now my soul is troubled.” We do not hear about Jesus’ soul being troubled. His complete obedience to the will of God bears a cost that we cannot imagine. Most of us are not called to that same level of discipleship; there is only on Jesus, one Son of Man. Jesus now points us to himself and says that he will be lifted up –
And that he will bring us to him.

Those are the words that we need to hear.
We can be broken, imprisoned, dead in our spirits, dead in our bodies

And there is hope for new life. That new life is not free. It is not cheap. It might be unbelievably hard to grasp, to believe in, to understand. Jesus’ words only make sense in light of the resurrection.

In the meantime, Jesus has told us what to do:
Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
I pray for the courage to know THIS Jesus.

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