The Hour Comes

One of the blessings of observing Lent for six weeks is the focused anticipation of Easter. Some of us anticipate it with the breathless excitement of a child waiting for her Easter basket full of jelly beans. Some of us anticipate it like a child attending an Easter egg hunt….we know there are hidden treats there somewhere, but we are still looking through the high grass. Most of us just want the six weeks of self-deprivation to end.

Whatever your perspective is as we begin this fifth week of Lent, Easter is coming. The hour approaches. The culmination of this season of disciplined waiting is about to end.

How are you doing?

Have you kept up with the commitments you made on Ash Wednesday to be more diligent in your fasting, prayer, scripture reading, meditation, repentance, worship, and serving?

Yeah, me neither.

You might be like me. I have been satisfactory in one area. I’m teaching a Lent study to help me focus in on scripture and the commitment to teach gave me no out! But I totally bombed in another. I committed to not snacking in the evening and that has been a big fail. My definition of “evening” keeps getting pushed back…all the way to midnight.

Today’s scripture is a glimpse of how Jesus spent his last hours before the crucifixion. Notice his complete and total commitment to what was about to happen.

John 12 (English Standard Version)


20 
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

The hour has come. This must be finished. A grain of wheat must die in the ground to produce seed for the fruit. You must die to your life to produce seed for eternal life. Jesus invites us to follow him in this last hour.

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus didn’t waver at the end. Neither should we. Let us push on with our Lent practices and finish strong. Remember that the whole point of Lent is to bring us closer and deeper into God’s Holy presence. It’s not so much about “giving up” as it is “focusing in” on who God is and whose we are. That focus allows God to be glorified in our lives and the crowd of people around us will know we are Christ-followers by our example.

No turning back.

Glorified by Kathy Schumacher

Betrayal

Think of a time when you were betrayed. It happens to everyone sooner or later. It might be as simple as a confidence that was shared inadvertently, or as devastating as a spouse cheating on you and destroying your marriage. Maybe it happened in your family, with siblings or parents. Perhaps it was a co-worker who stabbed you in the back in order to further their career. Whatever the circumstance, betrayal is a gut-wrenching experience. You suddenly feel like the floor has dropped out from under your feet and you are riding one of those centrifugal-force carnival rides that presses you up against the wall. All you can do is wait for it to stop spinning.

Imagine being Jesus, sharing a last meal with his buds, and realizing that one of the cherished twelve was about to do that very thing:

John 12 (The Message)

21 After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.”

This tight-knit group was confused and somewhat horrified. Who, among them, could do such a thing? You probably felt the same way about your betrayer.

Note the tender care John takes to describe his own relationship with Jesus here. I love the image of him reclining next to Jesus with his head on his shoulder:

22-25 The disciples looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, “Master, who?”

Now watch what happens with the bread. In our understanding of Jesus as the Bread of Life, and realizing that this meal is the institution of Holy Communion, it is fascinating to see how bread is used here:

26-27 Jesus said, “The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I’ve dipped it.” Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.

“What you must do,” said Jesus, “do. Do it and get it over with.”

28-29 No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor.

30 Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night.

Jesus broke the bread (his body,) dipped it in oil (an anointing,) and offered it to his betrayer. The betrayer took it, but did not consume it. Satan took that opportunity to fill the void.

Then Judas left, bread in hand.

This is what happens to us when we are offered the Word of God but fail to internalize it. It opens us up to all kinds of influences. Jesus is the Bread of Life, but in order for that take hold, you have to consume him by taking in EVERYTHING he taught, and by following the example of his life. Otherwise, you are simply getting up from the table and walking away unchanged, with the bread in your hand.

Jesus said, “Take. EAT. This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

So eat the bread, people. Let him fully enter in to your mind, your heart and your life. He died for it, so that you might live.

The Garden of Gethsemane by Michelle Baker

Reckless Love

The first time I heard Reckless Love by Cory Asbury was at a Youth Sunday worship service several years ago. Three teenage girls sang it, and I thought it was one of the most wonderful things I had heard in a long time. Those sincere young voices are in my heart today, as we have realized that we most likely will not have our annual Youth Sunday as a live worship experience this year.

Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.

Our scripture today describes Jesus’ act of reckless love as he faced his final days on earth. He was speaking to a crowd of people as his death was drawing near, and explained reckless love like a grain of wheat, which must be buried in order for it to bring forth life and multiply:

John 12 (The Message)

24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

Truly his love for us is reckless. It is never-ending and overwhelming. Here he was in his final week, feeling storm-tossed about what was about to happen. But did he think of himself? No, he thought of you. He would not ask his father to get him out of it. Instead, he invited God to use his death to display his glory.

27-28 “Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”

”Father, put your glory on display.”

Jesus is committing to following through. He, who was present at the creation of the world, was willing to be falsely tried, spit upon, ridiculed, beaten, scorned, pierced, and nailed to a tree for us.

How can we possibly respond to this kind of reckless love? This is a love that you can’t earn or deserve. This is a love that chases you down. This is a love that brings the gift of eternal life.

Are you ready to stop running?

26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

Then follow him.

Following Footsteps by Elaine Walls Reed

Reckless Love