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Lent Reflections Week Five: The New Dawn

Lent Reflections Week Five: The New Dawn

Monday March 22

The Very Rev Dr Derek Browning says that, even at times of trouble, Jesus offers the hope of the resurrection

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince 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 show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12: 20-33 NIV)

Nowhere in the Bible are we given a physical description of Jesus.

We have His words that only reveal a fragment of what must have been going on in Jesus’ mind and heart. What of the soul of Jesus? What of that spiritual part of Jesus, the part that was His very essence, that illuminated and motivated and connected all that Jesus was? The soul of Jesus – the wisdom and insight and compassion. The soul of Jesus – the open channel, that living connection, part of the divine DNA, that knitted Him to the Creator and the Inspirer.

This passage in John’s Gospel follows the raising of Lazarus, the anointing at Bethany, and the events of Palm Sunday. It forms a bridge between Jesus’ public ministry and the beginning of Jesus’ focusing His teaching on His disciples. Crowds swirled around Jesus. Events are confusing almost as if to show in the turmoil of their action the turmoil in Jesus’ soul. He did not have a moment’s peace. This isolated figure in the midst of a vortex of human activity, His soul turning and turning. Knowing what lay ahead, and needing to focus on that, Jesus articulates Himself out of the confusion and trouble, and into focus.

“Now is My soul troubled”, He begins.

Jesus had been troubled before: at the tomb of Lazarus where He was deeply moved, and troubled. He will be troubled again, at the point in the Last Supper when He recognized Judas would betray Him. In these moments of death, and brokenness, resurrection is barely to be glimpsed on a far horizon. But it is here we see the heart, and mind, and soul of Christ at work.

This troubled soul of Jesus, echoing Genesis: out of the chaos – creation; out of the formlessness – shape, even that of a cross; out of the restlessness – stillness; out of the darkness – light. And now, out of the death – life. John does not describe Gethsemane in his gospel, but here is its echo.

Rising out of the seething crowds we are confronted by and comforted with the purpose of the life of Christ: to save God’s world. Jesus recognises this is the very hour, the very moment, when that purpose approaches conclusion. In the grain of sacrifice comes the harvest of salvation.

As at Jesus’ baptism, God speaks in confirmation. With salvation comes glory. With glory comes transformation. With transformation comes hope. With hope comes life.

Jesus, even when troubled, points beyond life, and death, to resurrection. No cheap grace, no easy path, no tidy resolution. It is in this moment of anguish, recognizing what it would mean to be forsaken, that the comfort of God’s voice comes to reassure. After each dark night always the new dawn.

If we are facing trouble in our personal lives, or in the life of our community, or country, or world, then Jesus, in our time of trouble, stands with us. He points us beyond trouble to the new dawn.

The Very Dr Derek Browning is minister of Morningside Parish Church, Edinburgh

From Palm Sunday, March 28, Life and Work will begin a series of reflections for each day of Holy Week.

Lent Reflections

Week Four: On a Good Way
Week Three: God Will Do Something New
Week Two: Rebuking God
Week One: A Challenging Form of Waiting

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