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Today We Continue…, Lent 5 (B) – 2006

April 02, 2006

Today we continue to draw closer to the week of the Passion of Jesus. Our scripture lessons focus on the passion he experiences as he moves toward the trial before Pontius Pilate, the cross, and the Resurrection.

We talk a great deal about compassion. Jesus was the most compassionate person God ever put on the face of this earth. Jesus set the example of the grace of God in ministry through his compassionate love for all peoples. Compassion is the sorrow one feels for the suffering of another.

But what is passion? The first thing Webster’s dictionary says about passion is “the suffering and death of Christ.” It is a passive condition, as opposed to action. It is an emotion of the mind. Sometimes we become so passionate about a situation in our lives that it brings us to a level of intensity that can run the gamut from ardent love to great anger. Passion can be good or bad!

There seems to be a great paradox in Jesus’ response to the Gentiles who came and asked to see Jesus. After Andrew and Phillip went to Jesus and told him these folks from Galilee wanted to see him, Jesus responded, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Who ever serves me, the Father will honor.” We are never told that Jesus personally talked with those who were seeking him.

Jesus was reflecting on the passion he would face in the immediate future. Jesus’ plea in the Garden of Gethsemane was, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me.” We need to be reminded that on three previous occasions in John’s gospel there is reference to Jesus’ hour. At Cana, Jesus said to his Mother, “My hour has not yet come.” Later in Jerusalem, “They tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.” Finally, in the temple, “No one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” Here, Jesus cries out, “My soul is troubled, Father, save me from this hour.” He answers himself with a resounding, “No! It is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

The turning point for Jesus was the raising of Lazurus. This was why the Greeks were coming to see Jesus. Yet the raising of Lazurus hardened the Pharisees. This is the moment when the words from Isaiah shout out to the world, “See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.”

Jesus knows what lies ahead. It is his passion. He must do what his Father has called him to do: He is to be slain, but at the hour of the cross he will be lifted up, he will be exalted, he will be glorified, he will give himself for the life of the world. It will be the moment when all of God’s children will be gathered together to receive salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of God’s beloved Son.

Jesus’ obedience to the Father is the glorification of God. God’s response through the angel, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” is judgement on the world, for Christ’s death means the overthrow of Satan. This passion of Jesus — to be obedient, to serve, to do the will of his Father — was the driving force in his life. Jesus knew that before victory must come defeat. He knew that glory brought with it isolation and shame. He knew that before the throne there would be the cup. He knew that before the light of Easter morn, there must be the darkness of a desolate Friday noon. He knew that before his ascension into heaven there must be a descent into hell.

Remember, on Palm Sunday when the people shout “Hosanna,” he will already be in agony, knowing what lies ahead. Remember, on the side of the Mount of Olives, Jesus wept, no doubt from his agony. All of these emotions are wrapped up in the passion he carried for each of us. He died to lift those burdens.

So what are we to do? We must follow him. Sacrifice explains Jesus’ life. God will honor the person who imitates Christ by having the passion to serve others, just as he has the passion to meet your needs and mine. We must experience the service ministry to which each of us is called. My ministry may differ from yours. That’s as it should be. We each have been gifted with special ministries. It would be sad if all of us were the same. God made each of us unique for many reasons. Among those reasons is the ability to meet the needs of relationships, of healing, and understanding. We must develop a passion to use our gifts as an extension of Jesus’ ministry.

In Mark’s gospel Jesus first asks to be delivered from the necessity of dying, but immediately submits his will to God. Jesus’ sacrifice is deepened by the readiness with which he submitted to it. Jesus’ final answer in his crisis of the spirit is when he prays that his Father glorify his name. Jesus wholeheartedly accepts his Father’s will: no if, ands, or buts! The reality is that there is no other way but the way of the cross!

The final paradox is when Jesus tells the crowd — in a very positive way — that when he is lifted up from the earth, he will draw all to himself. The death of Christ is part of the glorious realization of God’s plan. It is part of the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross drawing all humans to himself. This is the fulfillment of Jesus’ universal salvation for the sins of the world.

The Gentiles wanted only to see this man Jesus. The crucifixion of Jesus has drawn people from all parts of the world to see and believe in him.

There is the story of the little boy who wanted so much to be like his grandfather that he knelt down at the side of his bed before going to sleep and prayed, “God make me like Poppa so I can be kind to everybody.”

In childlike faith, we need the passion of Jesus that will guide us to experience God’s love in Christ more fully, to be drawn to Christ, and to serve and follow him through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we will know the passion of Jesus’ love.


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Christopher Sikkema


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