Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B, March 18, 2018
By Deacon Otto Anderson
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and
the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by
the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,
says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the
Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall
be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they
shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and
remember their sin no more.
Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one
who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although
he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he
became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest
according to the order of Melchizedek.
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who
was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of
Man to be glorified. 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate
their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am,
there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
“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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have
glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder.
Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for
mine. Now is the judgment 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.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, *
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you only have I sinned *
and done what is evil in your sight.
5 And so you are justified when you speak *
and upright in your judgment.
6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
a sinner from my mother's womb.
7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
10 Hide your face from my sins *
and blot out all my iniquities.
11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
and renew a right spirit within me.
12 Cast me not away from your presence *
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
13 Give me the joy of your saving help again *
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
† Sir, we wish to see Jesus… those words can be found inscribed in Pulpits, in easy
view of the preacher, and these words are whispered to preachers before they step into
the pulpit…”Sir, ma’am, we wish to see Jesus”…It is a reminder…to preach in such a
way as to show Christ, show the Good News to the congregation…it’s a reminder to
demonstrate the Good News, not only in the spoken word but with our actions.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus” simple words from some Greeks, visitors from the west,
spoken to Philip, who then took their request to Andrew and then to Jesus.
Who were these Greeks?…they could have been Jews now living in Greece who had
traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover or they could have been Gentiles from Greece
had heard about Jesus,
had heard about his raising of Lazarus,
had heard about other healings,
or who had witnessed his cleansing of the temple
and, like Nicodemus, wanted to learn more from this person named Jesus.
At his birth came visitors from the east and now, as the time of his suffering and death
on the cross comes near, come visitors from the west. Jesus offers himself not only to
the Jews but to the nations, east and west.
We do not know if these Greeks had a face-to- face visit with Jesus but what we do
know is, if they stuck around Jerusalem that week, near Jesus and his followers, then
they would witness who Jesus truly was. They would SEE the real Jesus.
Jesus’ response to the request of the Greeks is an announcement, an announcement
that the time had finally come; The Son of Man was to be glorified…Jesus was
announcing his: suffering, death and resurrection…what the Greeks and his Jewish
followers heard and thought about these words was, probably something different. They
were expecting a continuation of that triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, looking for the
restoration of Israel.
But, it was something different that would be revealed, a different kind of victory, a
different restoration that Jesus had in mind – the conquest of the cross. In our Gospel
reading today, Jesus lays out the hard truth of the days ahead.
As we worship today, a week away from Palm Sunday, the Gospel lets us see what lies
ahead for us as we prepare to make our own Holy Week journey.
Jesus says, “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.” A seed, by itself, is only a small thing. If eaten, it
provides a little nourishment. If left in the sun, it dries up and loses its value. Properly
sealed it can remain viable for centuries. But if it is buried it can release all its potential,
a whole stalk of ripened wheat.
Jesus’ own death and resurrection is the way through which, not only his disciples and
curious Greeks but, all humankind, could see Jesus …to truly see what he was all
about. It was by dying that the power of God in the Son would be fully released. Jesus
was saying that only by his death could true life come.
Making sure there would be no mistaking the stark reality of what he meant, Jesus
added this: “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world
will keep it for eternal life.”
So, the truth Jesus said, is also true for his followers. Those who would truly see him
know that only by their deaths to the values of this world could they gain true life.
The Christian reality is that, only in dying to self, can the power of God be embraced
and released. Jesus laid out this model not just for the disciples to see but also to
follow… Jesus’ words are to be combined with our action.
While Jesus is troubled about the events that are to take place, he is ready for the hour.
Then the Father speaks
Some thought it was thunder. Some thought Jesus was talking to someone, but they
couldn’t see any one. “Must be angels”, some surmise. It was that voice from
heaven…The same voice he heard at his baptism… The same voice from the cloud on
the mountaintop with Peter, James, and John. Are we …listening for that voice?
While everyone is trying to figure out what is happening, Jesus announces, “This voice
has come for your sake, not for mine.” This voice, that keeps calling, is for us, not for
This makes sense. Jesus knows the voice. The voice knows him. He has always heard
the voice. He is trying to get us to listen to the voice… a voice he already hears and a
voice that is already in his heart.
That word heart brings us to our reading from the prophet Jeremiah… Jeremiah spoke
to a people whose world was about to be destroyed: the final years of the kingdom of
Judah, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BCE, and the
Jewish people’s exile in Babylon.
When the world around us falls away: who, …what can we cling to?
Jeremiah speaks to us about God’s solution…God’s promise.
In the face of this impending destruction, he foresaw a restored life for the people, one
in which they would be even closer to God than before.
God promised to maintain a covenant with the people, just as he had after the
Exodus—but instead of a law written on stone tablets, God would write the law of this
new covenant on their hearts.
Later, Christian interpreters would see themselves as the recipients of this “new
covenant” this “New Testament.”
As we progress in our Lenten journey, towards Jerusalem, to Palm Sunday, the Cross
and resurrection…we are reminded that this is but, one step in a continuing process
involving prayer and spiritual renewal as we look forward to new life and new hope.
Listen to that voice coming from within you seeking Jesus in your lives… Recognize that
the same voice seeking Jesus comes from the people we meet… the friend, the
stranger, the unlovable.
Remember that God has written on your hearts the law, the law of Love. Take Gods law
of Love into your whole being and share it with those who are also seeking to See