This week’s Gospel reading goes back to before Jesus’ death. We’re back in the upper room where they are having the last supper. At this point in the evening, Judas has just walked out after Jesus has predicted that he would be betrayed and handed the bread to Judas to indicate he knows it is he who will betray him. I think it was probably a tense moment and the other disciples were probably confused and frightened by the way Jesus has been talking. In some gospels he’s already talked about his body and blood and death.
Now he says, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” When Jesus says the “Son of Man” he’s referring to himself. While researching this passage I read that some consider this his way of saying he was not just the Son of God, but also fully man. I also read that it may distinguish him as not just a Son of David (Jewish) but as coming for all mankind as he’s a Son of Man.
As for the being glorified, that’s a bit complicated. I took classes in New Testament and in Theology in college, and I’m still not sure what exactly that’s about. All I can figure is he is talking about his death and resurrection (which is what the focus of this last supper has been). Then he goes on to say that he will only be with them a little longer and he says, “Where I am going, you cannot come” (again referring to his coming death and resurrection).
At this moment it’s like he’s preparing them for that time and then comes one of my favorite scriptures, and the heart of his gospel: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” How true that is…and how sad that many Christians do not show that love to one another or especially to those who are different from them. It’s such a simple command, and yet can be so hard to fulfill.
The brothers James and John come o Jesus and ask him for a favor. They ask that when he is king they can sit at his right and his left in places of honor.
Jesus tells them they don’t understand what they are asking. He asks them if they can drink from the cup he will drink from or be baptized as he will be. Of course they respond enthusiastically (because they still don’t understand).
He tells them that they will indeed drink from the same cup and have the same baptism, but it is not for him to say who will sit by him because God has prepared those places.
The other disciples were angry at James and John for their lobbying tactics. Jesus called them together and explained that they would not function like the rest of the world and its rulers.
Whoever wants to be your leader must be your servant.Whoever wants to be first must serve the rest of you like a slave.Follow my example: Even the Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.
Mark 10:43-45 (Easy-to-Read Version)
Again Jesus is teaching us how to follow him, and it flips the script on society’s norms (the society of his time but also ours). Even a couple thousand years later, his words are revolutionary. Serve to lead; lead by serving. There’s no looking out for number one or grabbing all you can to get ahead. Live by love and live for others. How would it change your plans for today and the days to come if you lived by these words?
After Jesus feeds the five thousand, he leaves the people behind. Then the people go looking for him and find him on the other side of the lake. He asks why they are looking for him–if it is only because they saw miraculous signs. He tells them they liked that he fed them, but earthly food doesn’t last long. He tells them to work for the food that gives them eternal life. “The Son of Man will give you that food. He is the only one qualified by God the Father to give it to you.”
So the people ask what God wants of them and he tells them to believe in the one God sent. Then they ask for more miracles and talk about the manna God sent the Israelites in the desert.
Again, they seem focused on miracles but also mostly on physical food. As I said about last week’s passage, Jesus does care about their physical well-being, but he also cares about their souls.
I can assure you that Moses was not the one who gave your people bread from heaven. But my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.God’s bread is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
John 6:32-33 (Easy-to-Read Version)
So the people say, “Sir, from now on give us bread like that.” I think they still probably don’t get it.
Jesus responds that he is the bread that gives life, and those who come to him will never be hungry or thirsty. This, again, seems to be about spiritual hunger and thirst, rather than physical. And again, this passage forecasts our Eucharist, when we receive physical bread but also the spiritual bread of Christ and his grace.
In today’s passage, some Greeks come to Philip (Bible commentaries note that Philip is a Greek name so that might be why they came to him) and asked to see Jesus.
Jesus’s response seems a bit odd. He says, “The time has come for the Son of Man to receive his glory.” It is perhaps related–his message is spreading beyond the Jewish people to Greeks and others, so his time has come in that.
He also says that those who are willing to give up their life will keep it and have eternal life. He says that he is troubled and that he come to this time so that he could suffer. Then suddenly there was a voice from heaven saying, “I have already brought glory to myself. I will do it again.”
Some who are there think the voice is just thunder but others believe it is an angel. Jesus tells them the voice is not for them and not for him. He says, “I will be lifted up from the earth. When that happens, I will draw all people to myself.”
He will be lifted up onto the cross and therefore people will be drawn to him ever after–not because of the cross but because of the resurrection and his message of love and reconciliation.
So again, this story starts with some people wanting to see Jesus. And Jesus basically responds that he will draw people to him in his death. His response is also that they need to be ready to give up their life. To really see Jesus, to know Jesus, is to know his suffering–to give up their life. It’s a radical message. It’s one maybe we still aren’t usually ready to hear. Do you want to see Jesus?
Today’s story is Jesus telling his followers about a judgment to come in the future. He says the Son of Man will be sitting on a throne and all the people will be gathered before him. He will separate people into two groups like a shepherd separating sheep from goats–the sheep to his right and the goats to his left.
“Then the king will say to the godly people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has great blessings for you. The kingdom he promised is now yours. It has been prepared for you since the world was made.It is yours because when I was hungry, you gave me food to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I had no place to stay, you welcomed me into your home.When I was without clothes, you gave me something to wear. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25: 33-36 (Easy-to-Read Version)
They will be surprised that they ever did hose things for him, but he will answer, “The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here,you also did for me.”
The reverse occurs with the goats to his left–they are the ones who never did any of those things for others and so he rejects them.
The question Jesus is asking in this story is what have you done and what will you do for others? Because how you follow Jesus and how you love him is to love others. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the homeless, share clothes with those who need clothes, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. This is not just the task of the church, but of the individual. Whatever you do for God’s people (that is all the people–we are all God’s children), you do for Jesus Christ.
This week we study another parable Jesus told his followers. It’s a challenging one for a modern reader. In this parable, Jesus talks about God’s kingdom being like a man planting wheat seeds (somewhat like the last parable we studied). While the man sleeps, his enemy comes and plants weeds among the wheat–pretty nasty thing to do. So the weeds and wheat end up growing together in the field. His servants ask if they should pull up the weeds but he says not to, because they might pull up the wheat as well. He says they should leave them until the harvest and then separate the weeds to be burned.
This time, Jesus does not tell all the people he’s teaching the meaning when he’s done. However some of his followers came and asked him to explain it.
I’m going to quote this explanation in full here:
He answered, “The man who planted the good seed in the field is the Son of Man.The field is the world. The good seed are the people in God’s kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One.And the enemy who planted the bad seed is the devil. The harvest is the end of time. And the workers who gather are God’s angels.
“The weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire. It will be the same at the end of time.The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will find the people who cause sin and all those who do evil. The angels will take those people out of his kingdom.They will throw them into the place of fire. There the people will be crying and grinding their teeth with pain.Then the godly people will shine like the sun. They will be in the kingdom of their Father. You people who hear me, listen!
Wow! That is some wild and scary stuff. I think the point to take away for us today is that it’s not our job to judge our fellow human beings (gosh, this is a hard lesson–I can be so judgmental), but that God is the judge in the end. He can sort the wheat from the weeds. He knows the human heart.
I do think it’s o.k. to call out if we see someone proclaiming God’s kingdom in a way that seems inconsistent with the teachings of Christ. But in the end we cannot determine what’s really in their hearts and how God would judge them.
The gospel lesson this week is a little different. Instead of Jesus teaching crowds of people or his disciples, he is talking to just one man. The man is named Nicodemus, and he’s an important man among the Jewish people. He comes to see Jesus at night—I have read that this is because he didn’t want to be seen consulting Jesus openly so he comes by cover of darkness. I don’t think that’s explicitly stated, but it could be true. So he comes to Jesus to find out more about him. He says, “Teacher, we know that you are a teacher sent from God. No one can do these miraculous signs that you do unless they have God’s help.”
Jesus tells him, “Everyone must be born again. Anyone who is not born again cannot be in God’s kingdom.” Continue reading →