Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13 John 12:20-33

This Sunday is the fifth week of Lent. We are now at the end of Jesus' public ministry, signaled by the arrival of "men from Greece" requesting to see Jesus. Asking to see Jesus seems a simple enough request. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night for various reasons, mainly to find a more profound knowledge of the Lord. In the reading today, John's narrative doesn't give us any clue why these men from Greece came to Jesus, except that they were at the festival, which makes us think that they are proselytes and may have heard about Jesus' teachings and want to know more.

It is hard to track the meaning of John's narrative because he has a distinctive way of telling Jesus' story. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John's gospel displays Jesus' teaching in a series of discourses focusing on signs that show both his humanity and his divinity. By doing so, he drops some details about places and times.

The prevailing question in this narrative is why John did not elaborate on the visitors from Greece. Theologians wrote extensively about this story. A comment that caught my attention is that John did not elaborate on the visit because, for John's purposes, Jesus' announcement about his death and glorification was enough. He intended to emphasize JESUS' DIVINITY, his DEATH AND RESURRECTION.

Walking with Jesus is challenging, as seen from interruptions in his journey to Jerusalem - the crowd hailing him with "Hosannas" and religious opponents hunting him down for just about anything he says. Then we have his disciples who, even at this eleventh hour, do not fully understand their Master's mission.

It's easy to comment on [or] misunderstand the disciples' actions because we have hindsight about the entire gospel story. However, please understand the disciples' seeming ignorance. Also, come to terms with Jesus' feelings about his crucifixion, accepting he had a nature like ours. He shrunk back from pain as we do; he had a mother, brothers, and sisters; he had a unique place in the mountains for quiet times and broke bread with friends. To turn his back on all this and set his face towards vicious whipping and beating, mocking and shameful crucifixion was not easy.

You can tell from Jesus' words from the scripture today that he felt isolated from God. John allows us to feel this isolation with the beautiful dialogue in which God's voice responded with thundering, cheering Jesus on. Jesus must die to reconcile us to God because man cannot keep the Law of Moses. God set this redemption plan long ago, and the disciples are in the plans to be witnesses of Jesus' redemptive plans. They are to spread the gospel in Judea and to the ends of the world.

Jeremiah prophesied Jesus' redemptive plan with a passionate and symbolic meaning: "I will engrave my Law within them and write it on their hearts." This engraving signifies a transformation of God's people with an "INWARD SIGN OF IDENTIFICATION" – where God is the center in the holiness of the believer's life. But to get this new identification, we must die to our old self, like a grain of wheat. And plants teach us that decay is not the end. They grow their leaves during spring, blossom their flowers, and bear fruit during summer; however, they lay down their leaves during the fall and accept slumber during winter. Then, they rise again as the spring season awakens. That's transformation. David repented his sins and prayed for God to transform him – to give him a clean heart and renewed spirit (Ps. 51).

Let me ask you what you will do with your clean heart – a chance to start over again? You see – a renewed and clean heart gives a way to respond to God. And it is not about living in a cautious and closed-off way. It is Jesus' way of life. Jesus' way of life is taking risks, reaching out to others, serving the poor, working for justice, being reconciled with others, and being like grains of wheat that will multiply to give the certainty of being seeds for the adventure of growth and new life and the spreading of blessings.

C.S. Lewis (C.S. Lewis Classics) says of this offer of grace: "Considering the staggering nature of these promises, we are half-hearted creatures - We are like ignorant children who want to go on making mud pies in a slum because we cannot comprehend that God is offering a holiday at sea."

Let's pray that God brings our unmanageable hearts and affections into order, giving us the grace to love what he loves and fixing our renewed hearts where true joys are found. AMEN!