How To Be Lifted Up With Jesus (5th Lent, B)
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 honor. 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[e] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
"How To Be Lifted Up With Jesus"
5th Sunday in Lent (Year B) - March 18, 2018 By Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda
“And I, when I am lifted up [hypsoo] from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).
Our Gospel passage from John 12 is admittedly a little confusing. Jesus seems to bounce all over the place in his thought. It’s hard to track the logic carrying one phrase to the next. He keeps talking about glory, then seeds, then servants, then being saved from the hour, then judgment, and finally being lifted up. It can be easy to read this passage and think that Jesus was a rambling maniac. He almost sounds crazy here!
But sometimes the best way to understand a confusing passage in the Bible is to look for where key words and phrases pop up in other places. What does Jesus mean when, after all these others sayings, he proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32)?
There are two other places in the New Testament that come to mind when I think on the word “lifted up” or “exalt” (same word in Greek):
“All who exalt [hypsoo] themselves will be humbled [tapeinoo], but all who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18:14b).
Jesus does not intend to exalt himself here. He is exalted, or lifted up, by others (passive voice). According to Jesus you will be exalted only if you humble yourself. That means that first Jesus was humbled.
Jesus’ exaltation comes in a literal sense on the Cross of Calvary. He is murdered by the state and hug up high on a hill for all to see. This is the most humiliating thing that can happen to someone.
But through the humiliation, we believe that Jesus is actually being glorified (“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” - John 12:23).
St. Paul explains it well in the second important connecting passage.
“5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled [tapeinoo] himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted [hyperhypsoo] him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11)
Jesus humbled himself, even to death on a cross and is exalted (lifted up) so that all people will come to him.
“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also” (John 12:26). Jesus calls us to join him in his path toward the Cross. Paul says the same thing: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
We join Jesus in his humility by emptying ourselves and turning toward Jesus. A grain must die to bear much fruit.
A key way we achieve self-emptying is through silent prayer. In silent, centering prayer, our goal is not to stifle all our thoughts before they come up, it’s to allow thoughts to percolate and then turn away from them. We acknowledge the distracting thoughts, and we say, “No, thank you.” The truth is that most of our thoughts are about ourselves and our feelings and our egos anyway. So the practice of setting aside our thoughts in silence is a practice of emptying ourselves of self-centeredness. It’s practice in saying no to the self-centered thoughts that lead toward sin.
Turning away our thoughts (especially self-centered ones) opens our minds to hear the words of Christ: “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Jesus comes to empty himself and humble himself for our sake. This glorifies God the Father. Our calling is to follow him in humility, which also glorifies God.
We’re just one week away from Palm Sunday and Holy Week, our journey with Jesus toward the Cross and the Tomb before we are raised up with him on Easter Day. In this celebration of Lent and Easter, we participate in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. We, the Body of Christ, live and die with him whether we choose to acknowledge anything special this season or not. We’ve already died and been resurrected with him in the sacrament of baptism.
But as we approach this holiest of seasons, our goal is to walk humbly together with God. I invite you especially to take on some practice of silence in your daily life. Practice waiting for God and saying no to yourself even in small ways. You might discover the the very presence of God, which is the greatest gift of all. In the silent mystery, we might see the unspeakable glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who lifts us up through humility. Amen.
Disclaimer: These are somewhat incomplete notes I used in delivering the sermon on Sunday. It's not perfect and it doesn't contain everything I said live, but it's the best I can deliver online on a weekly basis. Thanks for understanding.