Today is Ash Wednesday; let us prepare our hearts for the season of Lent! (Join us in worship this evening at 7 PM if you can.)
27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people* to myself.’ 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah* remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ 35Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’
In John’s Gospel, there is no struggle in Gethsemane – this is the nearest Jesus comes to questioning whether or not he is to go on with his journey to the cross, a journey he has been well aware of for some time through the earlier chapters. But here he says that his soul is troubled – this is, after all, not a journey anyone would willingly take. But the question is rhetorical – should he ask the Father to save him from this hour? No – it is for this hour that he has come. In it he will glorify the name of the Father. And the Father speaks from heaven, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” Even the crowd hears the voice, thinking it is thunder – others say an angel has spoken to him.
But Jesus tells them the voice was for their sake, not his. It is time. He will be judged by the ruler of this world; but he will be lifted up and will draw all people to himself – and then he will judge. He speaks of being lifted up, the author says, to indicate the sort of death he would die. But the crowd answers that the Messiah will remain forever – how can he say that the Son of Man will be lifted up? Although many Jews of the time believed in a coming Messiah, there was not an understanding that he would be the “Suffering Servant” described by Isaiah. Those who waited for the Messiah believed that he would establish a new empire, centered in Jerusalem, where they would be the “chosen” and that the Messiah would then rule from there forever. Compare that idea to who Jesus really was, and what he really did! Small wonder they had difficulty changing their concepts to his way of being the Messiah!
And who is this Son of Man anyway, they ask – But Jesus says to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.” Light is his light – hope, joy, salvation; darkness is evil, sin, decay. While they have Jesus with them they should learn to see his light – for the community to whom this author is writing, it is a given that they no longer have the earthly Jesus with them, walking with them and teaching them. But can they see his light? Can they allow his light to illumine their paths so that they do not stumble in the darkness? Can they believe so that they become children of the light? Can we?