Old Testament: Jeremiah (31:31-34)
“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.”
The Response: Psalm (51:1-13)
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.
The Epistle: Hebrews (5:5-10)
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.
The Gospel: John (12:20-33)
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 die.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
All through the gospel according to John, we have been waiting: waiting for Jesus’ “hour” to come. That “hour” referred to the time of his glorification, the very reason that the Word of God had become flesh to dwell among us from the beginning. It would include Jesus’ literal raising-up on the cross and his figurative raising-up as he is glorified and God is glorified in him. It is the very heart of John’s version of the gospel. But until now, all people could do was to wait for that hour to come.
At the beginning of his public ministry, at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus had informed his mother (2:4), “My hour has not yet come.” In a later scene, one that takes place in the temple in Jerusalem (7:30), John noted that Jesus’ opponents wanted to arrest him, but they couldn’t because “his hour had not yet come.” And, shortly after that (8:20), we hear of a similar threat in the same place; but again no one take any action against him “because his hour had not yet come.”
What could possibly bring that critical hour so that Jesus’ work might be accomplished? In the end, it wasn’t changing water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana. It wasn’t the healing of the official’s son in Capernaum or the healing of the lame man at the Pool of Beth-zatha in Jerusalem. It wasn’t the feeding of 5000 near the Sea of Galilee. It wasn’t giving sight at the Pool of Siloam to a man who had been born blind. It wasn’t even raising Lazarus of Bethany from the dead — and what could possibly top that? What powerful event could possibly signal to Jesus that his hour had at last arrived?
Finally, in today’s gospel reading we get the answer. Some “Greeks,” as John calls them (that is, non-Jews who admired and followed some of the practices of Judaism), came to Philip and informed him simply, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” That’s all: “we wish to see Jesus.” Compared with the great and dramatic miracle stories that preceded it, that brief scene seems totally anticlimactic. And yet, as soon as Jesus heard that simple request, he declared, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
Their request sounds like such a modest thing, almost an aside from the main story. And yet, that apparently simple request served as the impetus for Jesus to begin the great work for which God had sent him.
All they wanted was to see Jesus. But then, isn’t that what people have been searching for, whether they realize it or not, throughout every age, including our own? They most probably don’t express it that way. In fact, they most probably don’t even know that that is what they are looking for. But they are looking. They are looking for a Higher Power, for God, present in their lives, present in a fellow human being, bringing them acceptance and love and meaning and purpose and hope. And it is up to us to show them Jesus. But to do that, we need to be so present to them, and so perceptive of their deepest longings, that we enable them to see Jesus in us.
But how well do we respond, as a church and as individuals to that request? Do we enable other people to see Jesus in us? That thought probably scares us. It seems like a huge stretch to have people look at us and talk with us and expect them to see Jesus in us.
But notice that, in the gospel story, it wasn’t a huge stretch. In fact, it all began so simply. These so-called “Greeks” came up to Philip, who then went to Andrew, who conveyed the message to Jesus. Why Philip and Andrew – other than the fact that they obviously were physically there? Actually, Philip and Andrew seem like logical choices for them to begin since, among Jesus’ closest followers, they both had Greek names. It wasn’t much of a connection, but it was something. These strangers had a little something in common with these two, and so they might have felt maybe a little more comfortable talking with them than with Jesus’ other followers.
Fortunately, Philip was paying attention. Philip could have been too busy to bother with them. He could already have been talking with people whom he had known for a long time and been too busy to turn his attention to these newcomers. But instead of doing what came easily to him, he took advantage of this opening and made use of the opportunity to show them Jesus. This might have been his only chance to connect them with him, and he took advantage of it.
But what about us? The opportunities to show people Jesus, to let them see Jesus in us, don’t usually come along on our schedules, when it might be convenient for us. We have to be ready whenever the opportunities arise. We have to recognize and respond to those openings when they come. We can’t be so wrapped up in whatever we happen to be doing at the time, or in our somewhat closed conversations with the same people with whom we always talk, that we miss the opportunity to bring Jesus, to be Jesus, to those who just might be searching.
Is the life of God in us so much a part of everything that we do, so much a part of who we are, that we recognize and respond to the openings that present themselves to us in our everyday lives? To use the words from our Jeremiah reading, are the words of God and our covenant with God so written on our hearts that others can encounter the loving and compassionate God in us and in the way that we respond to them and treat them? And where might we be able also to go out to others whom we do not know, but who also might be searching for and longing for that acceptance and love and meaning and purpose and hope in life?
All these priceless gifts have been given to us by God. But they have been given to us in order that we might share them with others. And those “others” look to us; and, whether they recognize it or not, they look to us so that we might simply show them Jesus.