Reflection given at St Philip’s Avondale Square for Holy Tuesday Mass
Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
Jesus Speaks about His Death
27 ‘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. 28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[a] to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah[b] remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ 35 Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. 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. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’
The Unbelief of the People
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.John 12:20-36
“27 ‘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.” These words from Jesus give us an important reminder of his humanity. Looking ahead to his trial, degradation, and ultimate execution, Jesus is not filled with heroic bravery. Nor is he stoic and passive, simply accepting what’s to come as an inevitability or something he cannot change. Instead, he is filled with fear and dread. He is deeply troubled. It is no wonder, then, that at the end of this passage he goes away to hide from the world.
So why does he continue? Why put himself through this gruesome ordeal when he could simply ask God to spare him from it all? Jesus goes ahead because he knows the revolutionary consequences his death and resurrection will have. He knows that his resurrection after being murdered by the imperial powers will bring liberation to the oppressed and will drive out the ruler of this world. He knows that death will be defeated, the weight of sin lifted, the marginalised drawn near to him, and the powers of the world completely overthrown and delegitimised.
Jesus calls us to follow him in the way of the cross, to leave behind the life we know and love to join him in bringing God’s liberative kingdom on Earth. And Jesus asks this of us knowing fully how daunting and terrifying that is. Looking around the world today, I can see Jesus standing in solidarity with all those who have no obligation to fight for justice and for the oppressed, but who choose to do so, knowing the risk and consequences such an act could have. I think of those in cities around the UK at Kill the Bill protests, defiantly protesting to keep our democratic rights and freedoms. I think of those in Myanmar who stand against the military coup, facing down a regime that has killed 500 people since February. I think of those who speak out against racism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny in the Church, bravely standing up to institutional power. Jesus, God made flesh, who was terrified at his own passion, blesses and walks with all those who stand up to injustice.
We all face trials and challenges in our lives that we’d rather shy away from: things we know we can’t do by ourselves; things we know are risky and potentially life changing. But let us remember that Jesus too was scared, and that in spite of his fear, his passion brought God glory. May we in spite of our fear walk in the way of the cross, becoming co-liberators with Christ. And may we glorify God through our actions, seeking justice for our communities, knowing Jesus stands with us in our fear anxiety. Amen.