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By Greg Hughson in Sermons

God's love for the world is seen through the journey of Jesus to the Cross

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and we are now in the season of Lent. Over the next six weeks we will journey with Jesus towards the Cross. I suggest that you consider reading the Gospel of John during Lent. This Gospel, written sixty of so years after Jesus’ death, provides us with many sacred insights into the experience and trauma of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion. John tells us that Jesus went up to Jerusalem just before the Passover celebrations began. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. He was not impressed. The last public action of Jesus’ life according to John, was to angrily expel the money changers from the temple courts . When asked whether he had the authority to act in this dramatic way, Jesus refered to his imminent death and resurrection. (John 2:19) John highlights for us that it is only after his resurrection, that the authority of Jesus can be understood. The aggressive action of Jesus and his puzzling metaphorical statements must have infuriated the businessmen he castigated. Traditionally this story has been used to legitimate righteous anger. There are indeed times when as Christians, we are justified in actively “overturning the tables of economic exploitation” and challenging the inappropriate use of sacred space.
Jesus declares that “just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15) Such statements are written in to the story as later theological interpretations. This is not to say however, that this was not indeed Jesus’ own self understanding. According to John, more than any other Gospel writer, Jesus was very aware of the inevitability of his death, and the reason for his death. Jesus, according to John, “came to live, die and rise again so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) . All of this happened, John proclaims, primarily as an act of God’s love for the world, rather than out of God’s desire to condemn (John 3:18) Jesus compared his imminent death with a kernel of wheat, which needs to fall to the ground and die in order to produce many seeds (John 12:24) Jesus death was indeed the seed which led to the birth of our Church, an incredibly diverse international family which now has billions of members all around the planet.
The death of Jesus (John 19:30) and his burial (John 19:42) complete the tragedy. It was all over. As readers of John’s gospel however, John gives us many hints that this may not indeed be the case. Often, we are given access by the narrator of John’s gospel to the post-resurrection perspective. This can sometimes prevent us from appreciating the true depth of the horrific torture and abuse Jesus suffered, including nakedness, sexual violation and humiliation.
The traditional Methodist covenant prayer connects us to the mindset of Christ throughout his ministry, but especially as he approached his death on Calvary. Let’s make our covenant prayer our Lenten prayer this year, and always.
“I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you , or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal”
Greg Hughson