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I Will Draw Everyone To Me…

March 21, 2015

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The above picture was taken at St Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. I was on a retreat there for Columbia Seminary’s “Certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation” program. I see Jesus, arms open wide, welcoming all to come and know him. It is a powerful statue for what it represents to me. And it fits in well with my struggle around this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

For some reason, I have really been struggling with the Gospel reading for this week (John 12:20-32). Not because the message isn’t powerful or relevant, but because it is paired in the Lectionary with Jeremiah 31:31-34 and the new covenant written upon our hearts. Strangely enough, the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday in Lent in Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary comes AFTER Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday! In the words of Biff Tannen in the movie Back to the Future, “Hello, McFly!” Why are we looking at a post Palm Sunday Entrance into Jerusalem passage BEFORE  Palm Sunday? Sorry about the random quote from one of my favorite movies, but that was what hit me!

Anyhow, what we have is a whole bunch of folks gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. By this point in the game, Jesus’ reputation had gone far outside of the bounds of Palestine. Some Greeks had heard about this fellow Jesus and asked Philip to arrange a meeting. “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” (12:21b) So Philip told Andrew and together they approached Jesus.

And Jesus’ response? “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (12:23) Here we are, in the Lectionary cycle, a Sunday before Palm Sunday, getting ready to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, and a transition is occurring. Jesus knows that the time is at hand. Even though the reading isn’t clear, I like to think that the Greeks were in the crowd when the “thunder” or the voice of God spoke. These Greeks wanted to meet Jesus and yet they didn’t know what they were asking for. Did they hear the thunderous voice of God? Did they watch what happened on Golgotha? Who knows… Actually, God does.

The Greeks are actually similar to you and to me, dear reader. We have never physically met Jesus… We want to meet him… And we do, spiritually if we still our hearts and simply open our hearts to His presence. Yet, even at the end of his earthly life, Jesus reaches out and meets people where they are. Even though scripturally he was mere days away from his bodily death, he spoke to the people. What does that tell me? It tells me that it is NEVER too late to come to Jesus!

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (12:32) I will draw EVERYONE to me! Everyone! Do you realize how significant this is? Just as the promise from Jeremiah about a new law being written upon our hearts was phenomenal, so too is this! In these current days where so-called “christians” (lower case intentional) try to be so judgmental and hate-filled, we need to hear once again from our Lord. Stop being so judgmental! In a phrase I used all too often in the military and sadly still do today, “Who died and made you, God?”

Just as the new Law was written upon our hearts (love God and love neighbor), why shouldn’t we share the love of Christ instead of the judgmental attitudes of the Pharisees? As Jesus approached the cross, and as he found himself surrounded by criminals (on the cross beside him and down beneath his cross), he asked God to forgive them.

Dear reader, as you approach the cross with me, may God help us all to be less judgmental and more Christ-like.  Let him draw EVERYONE to him! And for heaven’s sake, don’t get in the way!

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