Monday, April 11, 2011

Fifth Week of Lent: Hunger for Self Giving

Yesterday was the 5th Sunday of Lent, Easter is 2 weeks away! The three of us worked through John 12:20-33. Below is the section that I shared.

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

This passage follows Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and we will be talking about the triumphal entry passage next week on Palm Sunday. It was the time of the Passover Feast and there are thousands upon thousands of people arriving for the celebration. Jerusalem is busting at the seams. Jews from all over would make pilgrimage to the city for this God ordained holiday.

In the throngs of all these people we are introduced to some Greeks, possibly Hellenistic Jews, and they want to meet this man that came riding into town earlier on a colt. This was the guy that the crowds were excited to see. Who was he? Was he really the Messiah?

Maybe they heard that at a wedding in Cana, Jesus changed water into wine. Not just any wine but really good wine! Maybe they heard about the healing of a man born blind. Maybe they heard about the crippled guy that Jesus healed. Maybe they heard about the feeding of 5,000 people from 5 loaves of bread and 2 freeze dried fish. We are told in John 20 that Jesus did so many miracles that they were not all recorded. No telling how many miracles these Greeks heard about.

But these unnamed Greeks, possibly God-fearing gentiles were asking to see Jesus.

Before this narrative in the bible is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. Lazarus was dead and buried for four days. Four days ensured that the dead was really dead. You can imagine the excited and awe from the crowd.

John 12:17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!

Maybe it wasn’t just a couple Greeks, maybe it was hundreds, or thousands or tens of thousands demanding “We would like to see Jesus.”

Greeks were allowed only in the outer court area at the temple. It was here, in the outer courtyard area that the money changers and the dove salesmen had set up their tables. It was here that Jesus came armed with a whip and an attitude and turned their tables over.

So maybe they heard about the temple cleansing or maybe they were eyewitnesses to the event.

The Greeks and all women were not allowed to enter the inner courtyard area. There was an isolation of the Jews from the gentiles. Outsiders isolated from the insiders.

Is the point of this small passage to show to the reader that those on the outside were acting as insiders? Is the point of this passage to show to the reader that the outsider was soon to be the target audience of the disciples?

We would like to see Jesus.

Jesus came to the Temple to cleanse it. To drive away the money changers. To drive away the sellers of doves. To reveal the injustices being done, all in the name of God.

To the religious leaders this was a man that stood against the established religion. Jesus wasn’t the Messiah a lot of the Jews were expected—there’s no exclusive nationalism in his message. His citizenship is not of this world. And these Greeks want to see him—they hear that he hangs out with pagans and sinners; they hear that his kingdom might just have room for them, those outside Abraham’s offspring.

Who do you see when you look at Jesus? A miracle worker? A savior? God? Man?

I believe there are millions of people that would love to see Jesus. Does the church set up barriers or obstacles keeping the outsider out? These outsiders don’t want the ritual. These outsiders don’t want religion. These outsiders want to see Jesus. They want the relationship.

I hope that tables would be overturned in our own places of worship. That the den of thieves would be cleansed and this place of worship would become the place where God would be pleased to hang out with us.

Why did the Greeks approach Philip? Was it because of his Greek name? More importantly why did Philip hesitate?

Another passage to read according to the liturgical calendar is Psalm 51:1-12, I encourage you to read it as well and pray that God would cleanse us and create in us a pure heart.

As we proceed in our passage we feel that Jesus is not just responding to Philip and Andrew but we feel that maybe Jesus is talking to the disciples and to the Greeks that asked to see Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[g] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

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