Our Gospel reading today is a bit strange, the scene has been set in that it is Passover, there is so much going on in Jerusalem. Jews and also Gentiles are converging on the city. Money is changing hands, animals are being sacrificed and Jesus is busy at work. People have heard about this man and his reputation now goes before him.
They have heard that he has turned water into wine, that on a previous occasion he had overturned the money changers tables in the temple, that he speaks to those he shouldn’t, that he heals the sick and drives out demons. They had heard that he had fed five thousand people and made a blind man see and a lame man walk and on top of this, apparently, he had raised Lazarus his friend from the dead. He had split opinion, enraged and excited crowds and divided families and now these Greeks, these outsiders wanted to speak with this man who claimed to be the Son of God. This is when the calmness and strangeness come into his words. Instead of welcoming them to come, to sit, to listen…. he speaks of the time now being right, He speaks of grains of wheat, dying to bear much fruit and that those who follow him and serve as he has will honour God.
His time had come.
Every school summer holiday we would head north with the children to spend at least two weeks with my mum in her little bungalow by the sea. It was a very Enid Blyton existence, picnics on the quiet beach or in the back garden, the ‘pop man’ delivered to the door glass bottles of dandelion and burdock and fizzy orange and ice-cream was in plentiful supply.
At the end of those visits during August and as we were nearly tipping into September, mum would head into the garden with brown envelopes ready to harvest any seed heads she thought might fill our borders back home and invariably there would be the little pumpkin like seed heads of the orange marigoldsthat were dotted here there and everywhere. Into the brown envelope they would go to be transported back home and into our own garden shed. Sometimes they would emerge and be placed into the children’s hands for distribution in the autumn but at other times they would be forgotten until the following spring when we would open the envelope to discover the seed heads had separated into hundreds of tiny crescent shaped coils, dried to perfection and ready to float to the ground from clumsy little fingers.
We never see the fruits of this type of sowing immediately, it may take a while, it may even take a season, but eventually tiny little shoots will break through the surface of the soil, encouraged by the sun and the rain and from one pumpkin shaped seed head many marigolds grow, and life begins again. Could we ever find those seeds in the ground? No, because their purpose was complete and yet something of themselves continued… they were mirrored in the new orange flowers that pointed their faces to the sun.
Their time had come.
You see, ‘there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1). This is a verse read at many a funeral, where the emphasis is obviously on death and grieving families seek in the midst of sadness for the slightest glimmer of hope for the future.
John’s gospel has brought us to this point, this gospel full of signs, clues and hints about Jesus prepares us for the reading today. Just as children on a long car journey may ask ‘are we there yet?’ John keeps us waiting with phrases of anticipation and the need for patience:
Ch 2: ‘My hour has not come’, Ch 4 & 5: ‘a time is coming’, Ch 7 & 8: ‘His hour had not yet come’
Now Jesus tells them ‘the hour has come’ but then he drifts on into talking of grains of wheat? How much do they really understand of this? Jesus’ death would produce much fruit and his death would bring freedom and hope for God’s people but was this too soon for them to understand? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, we know how the story progresses, but they didn’t. In amongst this Jesus too is troubled because pain, sorrow and death were his future. How much would he have been filled with fear, Jesus was God but he was also human.
The Greek visitors were seeking a direct encounter with Jesus, they may have been looking for another dramatic expression of his power and authority. They didn’t get it but what would they have learned if they could hear him speaking with his disciples as he sat just out of their reach? They would have learned a lesson on discipleship. He was trying to explain in his usual storytelling fashion that if you want to follow Jesus then you have to understand that you must be like him. Grains of wheat must be lost to the ground for them to bear much fruit. What of ourselves do we need to lose and allow to die to live more for God and less for ourselves? What from our lives to we need to lose to live more for God and less for ourselves? What do we need to lose from our minds, from our attitudes or opinions? What do we need to lose from our bank balances or perhaps from our churches to live more for God and less for ourselves? What needs to die in order for there to be more fruit?
We need to give this some thought
because as disciples… Our
time has come.