Tuesday in Holy Week John 12:20-36
Yesterday’s story was intimate, taking place within closed doors, with only friends close by. Mary showed her capacity for love in the act of anointing. Tonight, we are outside, perhaps in the marketplace and there is a festival taking place. Action is limited but familiar prophetic verses are abundant.
If we transplant ourselves there, in the crowd, we can witness this odd bit about Philip and Andrew and the Greeks who say “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” No more information is provided about them, or whether they got their wish, but rather, Jesus begins to share what is on his heart and we can hear each word, as though for ourselves alone. “The hour has come” and then we hear those oft quoted phrases… Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…those who love their life will lose it…whoever serves me must follow me…where I am there will my servant be …now my soul is troubled…when I am lifted up…
These could be simply a string of sayings without correlation but, taken together, they offer much. Jesus speaks about his death, complete with the ‘voice from heaven’ special effects and veiled references to his crucifixion. He leaves this thought with the crowd: “If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. Believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” We all know what it means to ‘walk in the darkness’ however we might variously interpret it: the darkness of anxiety, of grief, of depression, of anger, of despair, of sin…of these COVID 19 days. We have all experienced ‘darkness’, to not know where we are going and frustrated that the way out seems hidden…or perhaps we are just too frightened, or too tired to want to look for it.
But I think that if we focus on the call first, to be children of light, then the other verses… “whoever serves me must follow me” and so on, make more sense. We can understand them as the ‘how’, or at least part of the ‘how’, we can overcome the darkness. This is teaching on true discipleship and what it means to live in the light. Is this not what it means to accept God’s forgiveness and grace and live the new life? The words of response to the Baptismal Covenant come to mind. To each question, “Will you persevere in resisting evil and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? And so on… The response is “I will, with God’s help”. And that is a good message to take to heart for this journey of ours, the life journey, the Christian journey, the journey of this Holy Week.