The Fifth Sunday of Lent
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The Collect, Prayers and Readings can be found here:
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Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip… and said to him: ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“I’m a celebrity…get me out of here!” That’s the cry that goes up from contestants on the long running television programme. I watched half an episode many years ago, and that was quite enough. Never again have I delved into the jungle from the comfort of my living room. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, celebrities are flown into a remote jungle location more often than not in Australia. They are stretched to the limit mentally and physically, and they have to complete ‘trials’ in order to survive. More often than not it involves eating the body parts of animals – most of which are frankly disgusting. One by one they drop out until there is a King or Queen of the jungle. The victor will have overcome every trial and beaten their fellow contestants, thus earning their crown.
Whilst I loathe the programme, it perhaps gives us a little way into our readings this morning. We heard, in the opening lines of the gospel, that some Greeks had come to Jerusalem to worship at the festival. The festival itself was the Passover; the commemoration of the great Exodus from death to life – the liberation of the Hebrews from captivity in Egypt under Pharaoh. It was mandatory for all Jews to go to the holy city in order to offer the Passover sacrifice – keeping the feast – commemorating their salvation.
And yet, they want to ‘see’ Jesus.
Jesus had become quite a celebrity. And you can just imagine that group chatting amongst themselves about the goings on, about the miracles he’d performed, the words he had spoken, and if we were turn back a few verses in Saint John, Jesus had just raised Lazarus; he who was dead was now alive. And we are told that from that moment, the authorities wanted to put Jesus himself to death.
With all of that happening on your doorstep, it’s a safe bet that you too would want to ‘see Jesus’. Could this Jesus be that long awaited Messiah? The one as we heard at the beginning of Lent would gather his people, cleanse the temple, defeat Israel’s enemies and then reign as King. All the indications are promising; Jesus is fulfilling them. The Greeks recognise that fact.
And yet, at the same time, what he says next baffles them: the hour has come – the moment is at hand – all things had been leading up to this moment: ‘when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself’.
There would, without a doubt, have been silence, disbelief and incredulity.
Jesus is speaking plainly once again: he must die. He must undergo trial he must be lifted up on the cross, he must experience suffering, all before death occurs.
The words of Jesus today: ‘now my soul is troubled. And what should I say, Father, save me from this hour?’ Is almost akin to Jesus saying: “get me out of here”.
The trails, the agony, the suffering, the physical pain, go beyond anything imaginable, and naturally, any person who knows what’s ahead of them would want to escape that journey to death. Jesus recognises both here, and as we will learn in Holy Week, in the garden of Gethsemane that “get me out of here” would be the easy option. And yet, and yet, he is ever faithful, he is ever faithful to the plan of salvation, he is ever faithful to the Father’s will.
The Passover that the Greeks had come to celebrate will be a Passover like no other. For that Passover will be the Passover of Jesus. The liberation they had come to commemorate will not be the one of ages past from Egypt – rather they will see new liberation, liberation from death in this new moment.
Jesus’ passion, his suffering and death is to make that new covenant foretold by the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading, a reality. The law of God’s love, his forgiveness and his grace being made available for all time in the person of Jesus, who, as we heard in the second reading from Hebrews, becomes the very source of our salvation.
Jesus will complete his trial – he will not shout “get me out of here” – he will remain faithful to the end. He will bring about a new and eternal covenant in his own person. We don’t often think in these terms, but in the time of Jesus, on the pages of the scriptures, how were covenants sealed? They were sealed with blood. The new covenant is sealed not with the blood of animals, but with the blood of Jesus Christ. We are edging towards the spilling of his blood; we are edging towards the establishment of that new covenant. We are called to participate in such a covenant. We are called to share in its benefits; that is the salvation of our souls. What is required of us? It’s quite easy really: ‘faithfulness’.
Are we faithful? Are we willing to lay down our own lives? Are we, in his words, willing to follow him? Or when it comes to it, do we shout “get me out of here” do we prefer our own way, our own style, our own preferences? Our own ideas? Our own beliefs about God and whatever else?
This Sunday, as we approach the end, we are called to ever deeper faithfulness, just as Jesus was faithful, faithful even unto death, death on our cross, so that we might have life, and truly be ‘his people’. As we approach Holy Week, let us not take the easy option and say: “get me out of here”, but rather let us follow him continually, all the way to the cross. Pray earnestly for faithfulness to behold the new covenant made through him. Begin today by asking like the Greeks, ‘to see him’ and in so seeing him ‘know the Lord’ and be faithful to him with all our hearts.
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