Friday, March 23, 2012

B, Lent 5 – John 12:20-33, Hebrews 5:8-10 “To Come and See Jesus”

The place was abuzz. People were expectedly excited as the numbers of visitors made the city's population swell. Jews from all corners of the world had flooded Jerusalem for the Passover, and even more so as the Passover fell on the Sabbath, making the Jewish day of rest, even more special.
But even with this high Sabbath approaching the excitement was not on what was to come, but on he who was already there, and what had just happened.
Jesus seemed to be the man of the moment, everyone scrambling to see this man who had just raised Lazarus from the dead at Bethany. And Lazarus has not just died, but was four days dead! He would have been a decomposing dead man when Jesus opened his tomb and brought him out to his sisters, Mary and Martha.
The temple town was in turmoil. All the attention should have been on the preparation for the Passover. The animals amassed for the sacrifices, the lambs ready for the Passover meal. And yet those who upheld the Jewish Law throw their hands up in disgust that the world has gone after Jesus and showered him with celebration amidst palm branches, just as they once did for King David. (John 12:19)
But unlike the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders, the rest wanted a piece of Jesus. Not only did Jews from all corners of the earth greet Jesus riding on a donkey, but some Greeks wanted to get amongst the excitement and requested an audience with Jesus too.
One can only imagine how the events which had just unfolded would have puzzled the Greeks. After all the Jewish public had signs from Jesus and now the Greeks sought to make sense of Jesus' sign by looking for what wisdom might come out of raising Lazarus, and Jesus receiving a hero's welcome amidst the palm fronds.
We hear the Gospel as it's recorded in John 12:20…
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.
"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."
The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:20–33 ESV)
Now we can't be sure if the Greeks eventually had their audience with Jesus. But from what Jesus said after they made their request through Philip, and the lack of any account of a conversation between Jesus and these Greeks, we must suspect not!
If you think Jesus not speaking with these Greek men puzzling, put yourself in the shoes of the Greeks. They would have been completely confounded by Jesus saying he must be lifted up from the earth to draw all to himself. It might have seemed possible if it wasn't for the fact that, days earlier Jesus had reinstated the life of Lazarus. You see Greeks believed death was the perfect escape from the imperfections of the flesh. Why then would this Jewish hero give life back to Lazarus if he had just escaped his imperfect decaying body?
Nevertheless, they wanted to see Jesus, but Jesus says he is going to be seen by everybody because, "the hour has come for the son of man to be glorified." And, "when I am lifted up from this earth I will draw all people to myself." Jesus glorified God's name in his life, and now he was going to glorify it again in his death and resurrection.
Jesus glorified God's name in his life, he was perfect in God's eyes, and in ours he should be too. Yet God sent him to suffer so in his perfection we might see him be made perfect despite being already perfect and complete. We hear from Hebrews Chapter five…
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:8–10 ESV)
It seemed the whole world had gone after Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey after raising Lazarus from the dead. The hopes of Jerusalem had been raised that they would have a king like David on the throne once again! But little did anyone know this man who had captured the hearts and minds of both Jews and Greeks would be designated by God to be the highest of high priests. A perfect priest and a complete king!
Yet it didn't happen in the way we would think! Jesus' completion and coronation as king didn't follow the usual route to power, and once there the judgement bestowed was greater than the judgement of any earthly king, overpowering even the devil, the ruler of this world. Jesus was not only a king but a priest in the order of Melchizedek, who was the king of Salem. A town that was to become Jeru-Salem!
Melchizedek was a priest in Abraham's time. By his name we know he was the king of Salem too. For his name means king, from where we get the name Malachi, and the second part of his name "zedek" means righteousness. He was the high priest and king of Salem, which means peace, from which is derived the Jewish greeting "shalom". And so in Abraham's day much peace flowed to him from Melchizedek the priest and king of righteousness.
But in these days of Jesus, Jerusalem was not peaceable in the least. The crowd was at fever pitch, the priests were worried, and the excitement of the special Passover seemed it might be passed over in favour of Jesus raising Lazarus. Who would have known Jesus' death was the crowning glory of his coronation as king! This was far from being a perfect sign for the Jews and was complete folly to the Greeks.
Yet this was God's plan to have our King of Righteousness enthroned in glory so the entire world might be drawn to him. And so God draws you to him!
His invitation stands everyday for every person to come and receive the Jeru-Shalom – the flow of peace from our High Priest and King in the order of Melchizedek.
You see we are the Greeks in this narrative. Just like them we are Gentile believers looking to the righteousness of Christ on the cross, receiving the flow of peace from the true source of eternal wisdom. And this happens despite all other excitements, disappointments — every good and bad event!
It may have seemed the Greeks lost out in not seeing Jesus that day. But in Jesus' death and resurrection he has been glorified eternally so that all who hear his word are met by him in all his glory as we are daily raised to life by the Holy Spirit having been drowned in our baptism.
This too is an unlikely way, one might think, of being conjoined to Christ's coronation on the cross and victorious resurrection. But, nevertheless, baptism is God's wisdom that through Christ crucified you are receiving forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. You are free to come and see Jesus! Amen.