Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Jesus contemplates his own death

A reflection for morning worship with the Community of Brendan the Navigator on Tuesday in Holy Week, 12th April 2022

The reading we have just heard (John 12:20-36) gives us an insight into Jesus’s thinking as he approaches the culmination of his life’s work. He is speaking to Andrew and Philip in front of a crowd

‘Very truly, I tell you’, says Jesus, ‘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’. Jesus is contemplating his own death. He knows only too well that the path he is set on, the path that his loving Father is calling him to, can only end with a shameful, painful execution. But he also knows that to turn away from that path, to love his life more than he loves doing God’s will, would make his life pointless. It is only by doing God’s will that his life can bear fruit eternally.

Jesus does not want to die – he is a man in the full strength and vigour of his early 30s, he loves life, he loves his friends, and he loves his ministry to those who need healing and forgiveness. ‘Now my soul is troubled.’, he says, ‘And what should I say - “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name’.

John tells us that Jesus received an answer to his prayer. ‘Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again”’. The crowd who heard it thought it was thunder, or the voice of an angel.

Now, Jesus’s mind is made up. He answers the crowd, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’.

The crowd do not understand Jesus’s words and question him. He replies, ‘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. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light’.

We know what happens next. On Maundy Thursday, Jesus celebrates his Last Supper with his friends. Afterwards, he is betrayed by Judas, arrested and subjected to a show trial. On Good Friday he is lifted onto a cross, dies in agony, and is hurriedly buried. On Easter Sunday he rises in triumph from the dead, and is seen by his disciples. Forty days later he ascends to God and is seen no more. But on the day of Pentecost his disciples receive the gift of the Holy Spirit he promised them, and the Church is born.

As Jesus foretold, his body like a grain of wheat dies and rises and bears much fruit. As Christ’s Church we are that fruit. Although we no longer see him, the Holy Spirit remains with us, a light in the darkness. While we have that light, may we believe in the light, so that we may become children of light.

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