First Presbyterian Church of Olney

An evangelical church in urban Philadelphia

A family of believers of all ages and ethnicities

First Presbyterian Church of Olney Philadelphia PA

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Lenten Season Devotions 2017
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - Allan McKeown, Elder

John 12:20-36 NIV
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. 34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”



Just when people had started to think that their long awaited savior had arrived, many of their aspirations were dashed when Jesus spoke about death, trouble, and darkness. Recently Jesus had completed his greatest miracle (to date) by raising Lazarus from the dead, he had been anointed by Mary at a dinner in his honor, and then he immediately made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem with many of his followers behind him. That moment represented the pinnacle of his earthly power; he had never been more popular, and the potential revolution where he could lead the people against their oppressors seemed to be on the horizon-- or so they thought. It’s understandable that there would have been confusion in the minds of those who witnessed this conversation in John 12. How could the answers to Israel’s prayers be in a leader who was talking about being like a dying kernel of wheat?
In Isaiah 49:6, one of the passages that the lectionary relates to the above account in John, both modern and ancient listeners would be reminded that that the Servant’s objective was not just restoring the tribes of Israel but also to be a “light to the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” But many of Jesus’ followers were looking for a strong Messiah to restore their national pride and power. The Messiah they imagined would be their military leader, yet Jesus was speaking as the Son of Man-- a servant.
I feel like, even though the disciples usually get a bad rap, some of their questions were understandable. They had given their lives to following this Jesus. They left their careers and families and put their lives in danger, and they must have been wondering what it all would be for. What did Jesus’ words mean?
Of course, the disciples eventually figured it out, and their lives were fundamentally changed forever. We get to reap the benefits of the servanthood of these heroes. We also have the advantage of hindsight-- seeing more of God’s plan for Jesus’ sacrifice than the people of that time were able. They were called to experience the “foolishness” of the cross without knowing the outcome, and they persisted! Their leaps of faith help me to realize that we are truly blessed to live in a time and place where we can follow our Lord without much fear of persecution. Though many in our society do view what we believe to be foolishness, we know that we can trust in our Creator who is orchestrating a perfect plan even when the way it unfolds is vastly different than what we’d expect. What a mighty God we serve!

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5435 N. Third Street, Philadelphia, PA 19120