Excerpted from Enough for All, a Lenten Guide for Lectionary Year B from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
‘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. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
There is “enough” for all in this world. God created this world and called it good. God’s desire for all to be fed, welcomed, and cared for is an overwhelming message of the Gospel. However, there being enough is not the same as all having enough. Systems of oppression prevent many of God’s people from access to enough food, shelter, land, and healthcare. These systems of sin stand in the way of enough, and these systems are the exact structures that Jesus’ ministry sought to tear down. The ministry of Jesus led him to the cross, to execution by the state, because the ministry of Jesus dared to proclaim “enough for all.” We must contemplate this as Christians. Today’s passage, which holds the highest concentration of statements regarding Jesus’ death in all of John’s gospel, provides us the opportunity to do just that.
When preaching the ordination service of his friend and student Chris Hedges, the Rev. Dr. James Cone said: “When Jesus calls you, he bids you come and die . . . Jesus’ way is the way of the cross.” He continues by noting that a vocation in ministry is a dangerous calling because the work of the Gospel includes work that “cuts deep and makes people mad.”
Speaking truth to power is not an easy task. When we speak truth to power, we upset the same systems of oppression Jesus worked to upend. In his sermon, Cone reminds the followers of Jesus that systems of sin will offer consequences to our truth-telling. When we follow Jesus, when we proclaim and live his message of enough for all, we walk toward the cross and crucifixion.
And yet there is hope. In this season of Lent, it is important to think intentionally about the ways crucifixion is still enacted – the ways systems of power still stand in opposition to the truth of “enough for all.” It is important to gather the courage to do the hard and courageous work of the Gospel – the work Cone reminds us of and Jesus invites us into. It is also important to remember the full arc of the story, and imagine the ways our prophetic witness might live into the narrative of resurrection that declares the radical and salvific love of God more powerful than the hatred of oppression.
God of Justice and Compassion, grant us the courage to prophetically speak truth to power and walk with you toward the cross. Grant us the courage to do the hard work of our faith – to love deeply and fully and radically. Grant us strength and wisdom for the journey. Grant us community that we may do this work together. Amen.