The 5th Sunday of Lent: Jesus will be lifted up on the Cross

From the vicar

John 12.20-33

‘20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, 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. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. 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. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people (things) to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.’

Reflection: The Magnetic Power of the Cross

With the 5th Sunday of Lent, Passiontide begins. We concentrate our attention more closely on the death and resurrection of Jesus. This Sunday’s Gospel sets the cross before us by recalling last week’s image of Jesus lifted on high just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness for the healing of the Hebrews. We are also shown how evangelism and discipleship work. The ‘Greeks’ mentioned have heard of Jesus but they needed the disciples Philip and Andrew to bring them to him. Their arrival indicates that Christ’s “hour” has arrived, when he will die to gather into one all ‘…the dispersed children of God (John 11.52).’

Perhaps the greatest of Christ’s miracles was turning an instrument of torture into a symbol of redeeming love. Notwithstanding its ugliness, the cross – redeemed by the one who hung there – has now acquired a magnetic power, a power of attraction. Jesus crucified is not simply an image from the past. He is a living reality calling and pulling us to himself. The cross stands at the centre of our prayer, both communal and personal:

  • Communal because in our worship – and especially in the Eucharist – we continually proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes present amongst us again.

  • Personal because in ‘private prayer’ (though for a Christian as a member of the Body of Christ it is never really ‘private!’) we rededicate ourselves afresh every day to shaping our lives by the standard of his cross. In the morning we offer ourselves and everyone with him to the Father; in the evening we commend ourselves and everyone we remember into God’s hands as Jesus did on the cross - ready to rise for his service once more when day dawns.

Christians are called to be cross-bearers. Gathered around the cross, gazing on it in wonder and love, we draw from it the word of life (Philippians 2.16), with its power to transform individuals, societies and cultures. By regularly contemplating the cross, lifting it high and allowing it to draw us into his radiance, we receive Christ’s light. Then, bearing that light, he sends us out in the power of the Spirit, to live and work to his praise and glory.

Collects for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Most merciful God,

who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ

delivered and saved the world:

grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross

we may triumph in the power of his victory;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord Amen.

Gracious Father,

you gave up your Son

out of love for the world:

lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,

that we may know eternal peace

through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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