We are all familiar with the very human experience of facing a deadline or change. When I was a student faced with writing essays I used to read voraciously, but when the due date drew near I knew I had to put pen to paper to complete the assignment. There was that familiar last minute adrenalin rush to meet the deadline because the hour had come. I must say that experience prepared me well for the last 40 years of preaching with the only difference being there is no possibility for an extension! Whether we sit final exams, move house, get married or need surgery we all know what it is like to face times of crisis or change.
These experiences give us a very small window of understanding into the experience of Jesus who once said the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23). The years of waiting were over. The time had come. Of course the hour he faced was much more significant than any we might face. It was the hour of his passion. It was the hour of the cross. His ignominious death for our sins was the first stage on his way to receiving glory and, paradoxically, at the same time the supreme revelation of his glory. In fact this was the most significant hour in world history, so as we make our journey through Lent let us make sure we take time to meditate on what this hour meant for Jesus, to deepen our devotion and nourish our faith. There are at least three things mentioned in the verses surrounding this key text.
In the first place, the hour meant incredible fruit. Jesus spoke about a grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying. He used a small parable from horticulture to illustrate what his death would achieve. We are familiar with the process in our gardens. Many years ago in one of our homes one of our children planted some sunflower seeds in our front garden. These dry dead seeds extracted from pet food were buried in the earth but sprang to life in magnificent yellow blooms and produced in the process even more seeds! Shortly after that we moved so I sincerely hope the next resident liked sunflowers! Like a kernel of wheat is buried so Jesus died. Like the seed whose death is the germination of a great crop, Jesus’ death generated a plentiful harvest. As the seed is vindicated, Jesus the Son of Man is glorified. Only through his death is fruit borne. Death is the pathway to glory for him and many others. Jesus died so many will flourish and live.
In the second place, the hour meant deep fear. As he contemplated his death he was deeply troubled, which is a strong word signifying revulsion, horror and anxiety. In his humanity he shrank from this hour. He faced his future ordeal in acute emotional pain with apprehension and terror. No one honestly relishes the prospect of death. Jesus was no coward and the prospect of enduring the spiritual agony of bearing the sins of the world filled him with dread, but thankfully fear was replaced by faith.
In the third place, the hour meant renewed faith in God. Having faced his hour Jesus was determined to prayerfully submit himself to his Father’s saving plan. Jesus prayed that the Father’s name be glorified as he committed himself obediently to death on the cross.
So my friends as we approach our celebration of Easter it would be helpful to reflect on the meaning of this hour for Jesus. We recall with renewed and deep gratitude that, although appalled by what he had to face, our Saviour Jesus willingly confronted his ordeal with determined faith in order to please God, knowing that as a seed dies to bear fruit he must die to bring us with him to glory. Moreover we can give humble and deep thanks that in the words of Hebrews 5:7 ‘he was heard because of his reverent submission’.
Bishop Trevor Edwards