Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Tuesday in Holy Week

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord's Passion that we may receive the pardon of our sins; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Three-Year reading continues yesterday's Gospel from John 12, with verses 20-36. The One-Year Series has verses 24-43. The thoughts here will combine both readings.

Our section begins with the Greeks who had sought out Philip and expressed a desire to "see Jesus." Many years ago I saw the words of the Greeks printed and placed on a pulpit, visible only to the preacher. The idea was that every time he proclaimed God's Word the hearers should "see Jesus." Although probably not the true application of this passage, it makes a valid point. The Scriptures as well as all preaching is first and foremost about Jesus. He said the same of himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus on Easter evening.

Yet when we desire to see Jesus, what are we looking for? Some Christians today do not like the suffering and dying image of the Savior. They insist on an empty cross and avoid the crucifix. They also do not like the idea of suffering and pain in the Christian's life. Thus, they flock to preachers who tell them that all they have to do is want wealth and health and God will give it to them.

But Jesus equates his "glory" with his suffering and death. He also shows that the idea of the believer's life is not to hang on to this life here in desperation to the loss of one's true life in Christ, but to "hate" one's life "in this world." That is, we ought to have more love and desire for the life that Christ gives. We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. We are simply passing through. Our citizenship is in heaven.

Still, the idea of glory is not always the same for Christians. Glory is seen in terms of earthly success and numerical increase. A good church is an actively growing church; a church with many programs to offer. But this glory is more of the world. The Father has glorified the name of His Son even in the midst of rejection and suffering. His glory comes from the defeat of the evil one and the sacrificial death on the cross, where "lifted up" he will "draw all people unto himself."

Glory will not be seen in an earthly way this week. Already by the end of his teaching on the first day the people still question him: "Who is this 'Son of Man?'" They will not believe and Jesus goes away from them. It is a fulfillment of the prophet: "Lord, who has believed what they heard from us?" God allows them to be blinded and hardened. John 6 is repeated again.

Beyond our reading we hear Jesus' final remarks, which are worth reviewing as well in verses 44-49. He reminds his hearers that those who hear him, hear the Father, thus God himself. He warns them not to remain in darkness. His mission, however, is not to condemn the world but to save it. Final condemnation awaits the Last Day. Now is the day of salvation, of redemption, of God's proper work in the death of His Son. And so we medicate on that alone today and pray for all who still reject the Son of Man. We pray that the light of the Word may still be seen, the welcoming voice of the Father still be heard. It is not too late for those still living. May God in mercy draw them yet to himself. May their hardened hearts melt in His love.

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