Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B

Title:Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B

This was the final Sunday in Lent prior to Palm Sunday next week and then Holy Week.

Hymn today “When I survey the wondrous cross”

The Gospel from John today shows the progression of opposition to Jesus. Jesus brings notoriety with the raising of Lazarus. The authorities cannot tolerate the raising of Lazarus, so they finalize plans to kill both him and Jesus. Jesus himself senses that the final hour is coming. The appearance of “some Greeks” (v. 20, probably “God-fearers”—those who were attracted to Judaism but did not fully keep the law) indicates that Jesus’ public ministry is now complete. If he were like most of us, he’d get out now while he can. But his response is unique. Jesus’ response is to announce that his “hour has come” (v. 23), the time for his glorification in death on the cross, resurrection and ascension.

The sermon started and ended with videos of time lapse photos of flowers blooming.

The sermon compared these flowers opening to the progress of our lives during Lent -” The season of Lent is about the mysterious and miraculous opening of our lives to God, the unfolding of ourselves to God’s love, our reaching toward God, the season of rising from whatever has kept us dormant, the opening and letting go of those things that we have needed for protection during the long hard winters of our lives, and finally, the revealing of our inner beauty, the centers of our hearts, designed and finally brought into visibility through God’s warm love.”

“When our lives fully open to God’s will and purpose which God has planted at the center of our hearts, others can see that God is there, glowing, beautiful, a vision of new life, hope, possibilities, and joy.

“The season of Lent, though, also reminds us that even though our lives have these times of unfolding and unfurling, there’s also the inevitable wilting, fading, and the end of all the opening beauty.

“And yet, this wilting, fading, dropping, and returning to the earth is necessary for the whole process of life to continue, and to bring forth new life. The renewal that takes shape during the times of dormancy or even reversal in our lives is essential if we are to grow in God. Part of the process of renewal is to open greater spaces in our hearts for God to dwell, so that when we come to the spring times in our lives, those times of opening, we open with such beauty that God becomes more visible in the world. ”


Today’s readings explore our covenant relationship to God through Jesus. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God looks forward to a new relationship with God’s people—a relationship of intimacy, forgiveness and faithfulness. The author of Hebrews describes the action of God that makes this relationship possible: through his suffering and submission, Jesus becomes the source of our salvation. In today’s gospel, the final chapter in Jesus’ suffering and submission begins as Jesus faces his crucifixion. 

In the first reading, Jeremiah looks forward to a “new covenant” (v. 31). Unlike the old, this one will be written on the heart – it will be internalized. The internalization of the covenant will enable people to keep it. The will of the individual shall become one with the will of God. There will be no need of teachers, for all will know the Lord, not just in intellectual terms but in the Hebrew sense of a close, intense and intimate personal relationship.

The psalmist knows what is needed "I need your mercy, your loving-kindness, your compassion. I need you to wash out this heart clogging stuff that has taken over. Please, purge it out of my body. I need your wisdom. And God, this disease has affected my hearing. I want to hear joy and gladness again. For a long time, all I’ve been able to hear is the loud racket of negativity. I need you to make me new, and most of all, I need the assurance that you are always with me.”

God is the cosmic cardiologist. "On the piece of paper, the psalmist sees only a cross, and in the center of the cross is a heart, a human heart…It’s as if this heart is reaching out, enveloping him in such peace, such acceptance, such grace! The heart is warm, and alive in his hand. "

"The psalmist feels himself relaxing, feels his heartbeat matching up with the eternal health giving rhythm of the heart God has handed to him. He feels the sludge that has damaged his heart being transformed. He can feel new, lifegiving blood, carrying divine oxygen, flowing through his body."

The Hebrews reading explores the role of suffering of Jesus. For his lifelong submission to God, Jesus was saved not from death but through death. Whereas human beings learn to be obedient because they suffer for disobedience, Jesus, through his suffering, learned that obedience itself exacts a price in human life. Through his obedient suffering, Jesus is “made perfect” (v. 9) and becomes our source of salvation.

According to Jewish tradition, Jesus could not be a priest because he was from the tribe of Judah not Levi. But the author of Hebrews argues that in fact Jesus is the real High Priest because he, like Aaron and Melchizedek, was chosen by God for his priestly ministry on our behalf.

The Gospel shows the progression of opposition to Jesus. Jesus brings notoriety with the raising of Lazarus as recounted in the Gospel of John. In John, there are seven signs, and the story of Lazarus illustrates the final one: the resurrection and the life. John 11 and the following chapter of John 12 act like a literary bridge between Jesus’ ministry with others and his own final demonstration that God indeed provides eternal life.

The authorities cannot tolerate the raising of Lazarus, so they finalize plans to kill both him and Jesus. Jesus himself senses that the final hour is coming. The appearance of “some Greeks” (v. 20, probably “God-fearers”—those who were attracted to Judaism but did not fully keep the law) indicates that Jesus’ public ministry is now complete. If he were like most of us, he’d get out now while he can. But his response is unique.

Jesus’ response is to announce that his “hour has come” (v. 23), the time for his glorification in death, resurrection and ascension. As Jesus’ mission bore fruit only through his death, so Christians bear fruit only through death to self. The term hate (v. 25) would reinforce the challenge to separate oneself from what this life requires. It does not express an emotion so much as an action requiring separation.

Jesus freely accepts his destiny in a plea that God’s plan be carried out as the expression of God’s name, that is, of God’s essential character. The victory over Satan is won through Jesus’ “lifting up” (v. 32), a term for both his crucifixion and his exaltation), but its working out in this life is the ongoing task of Christians.