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Message from Our Pastor

Hoffman Lent purple

Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman’s March 18th sermon.  Relevant reading: John 12:20-33

In the gospel lesson, it is some Greeks that want to see Jesus. The text says that they were among those that went up to worship at the festival, the festival being Passover, and the going up meaning to the temple in Jerusalem.

Now I’m not sure why these Greeks were going up to the temple to worship at Passover.  Greek typically means gentile or not Jewish. As such, Passover would not be part of their religious tradition. But perhaps Passover in early Jerusalem was much like Christmas and Easter here and now – anyone with even a hint of faith attends Christmas Eve and Easter morning services. And, somehow, the Greeks were among the throng of Jewish worshipers celebrating the festival of Passover. 

It must have been something like New Orleans for Mardi Gras, or Time Square on New Year’s Eve. It was the happening place to be. And in the air there was a buzz. You can almost hear the Greeks singing that line from Jesus Christ Superstar: “What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening!”

Well, the buzz is all about Jesus: stories of healing, broken Sabbaths, touching the untouchables, eating with common sinners, miraculous feedings, teaching with authority.

There are so many stories that it is hard to know what is true and what isn’t.So the Greeks decide to get to the bottom of the buzz. “We want to see Jesus.”

Disciples take the request to Jesus, who replies: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

Now what is all that supposed to mean? I bet the disciples, the Greeks and whoever else was present asked the same question.

Let me offer one interpretation.  So, you want to see Jesus. Be careful what you ask for. This Jesus you seek is not a cuddly teddy bear, nor is he some magical miracle worker or wonder doctor. He is, as you have heard, the Messiah, the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote, but do not presume to think you know what it means to be the Son of God. 

“You want to see Jesus?  Open your eyes and see. I am the Son of man and like all other men I will die. But death is not the ending you believe it to be. When you plant a seed, you cover it with dark earth. Your hope is that it will become a plant and bear fruit. But in order for it to become a plant, it must cease being a seed. It must die in order to live. In the same manner, I must die in order that you may live.

“You want to see Jesus? Ok, here I am, but know that seeing is not believing and believing is not being. You want to see Jesus? Open your eyes and see. But if you want to know me, you must open your life. You, too, must be willing to die in order to live.

“You want to see Jesus? Prepare yourself because it is going to get ugly. There is going to be a lot of pain, a lot of tears, a lot of blood shed. That buzz you’ve been hearing will be nothing compared to the silent sting of death. I wish there was another way. I’ve prayed for another way. But if you really want to see, you must first walk with me to Calvary and watch me die upon the cross.

“Not what you were expecting me to say? Not what you were hoping to hear, my Greek friends? No, I suppose not.

“Well then, remember this: that grain of wheat, though it dies, yet shall it live. And not only will it live, it will flourish and bear fruit – golden yellow kernels. And that fruit you will harvest and turn into flour. And that flour will be baked into bread, which will nourish you and give you life.

“You cannot have the glory of the bread without the death of the seed. Whatever else you came to see; when you see the bread, remember me.


Of course, this is only my interpretation of Jesus’ words. It is my understanding of what Jesus was trying to convey, not just to the Greeks, but also to his disciples. 

In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus is trying to prepare the eyes and the ears of those who seek him, so they can put together the pieces of the puzzle we call Holy Week, after the nails are hammered, the is tomb sealed and the dust has settled. 

It is a harsh truth, but it is the basis of our Lutheran theology. There can be no Easter without Good Friday. But turn that around, and you get the good news of Jesus – the news Jesus wants everyone who seeks him to see – life springs forth from death. Do not despair. All is not as it seems. In the death of the seed, there is the bread of life.

Come and eat. Come and taste. See the Jesus you seek.

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