Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Holy Week Reflection for March 26, 2013

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. (John 12:20-24)

When I read this story, I always want Jesus to say, “Great! The Greeks are here! Now I’ll tell them the Good News and everyone will know that I came for the whole world! Now find me some Ethiopians and some Brazilians!”

But he doesn’t. He just turns to his disciples and speaks of his impending death. He ignores the Greeks altogether.

Who knows? Maybe the Greeks thought Jesus was a local magician and wanted him to pull some rabbits out of a hat. Or, they might have been sincere God-fearers and wanted to talk with Jesus about life and faith. That would have made great copy for John. Either way, it doesn’t happen.

Jesus made it clear that he came for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). But he also claimed that God’s ultimate intentions were for the whole world (as in John 3:16). The two were not mutually exclusive, but his focus was, for the most part exclusively on the people of Israel. At the same time, the world would be impacted.

That’s an interesting paradox: Being exclusive for the sake of all. We often think of exclusivism as something negative, a party that sends out limited invitations. But Jesus knew that his mission involved the death and resurrection of the people of God, and he would enact that in his own life, suffering, and death. He would represent the nation of Israel in his death and rebirth, and ultimately it would be seen that this representation included the whole world.

This helps we who follow Jesus today to understand that there is an exclusivism to being the people of God, in that we are first of all a worshipping community. Others might worship other gods, but we do not. At the same time, our exclusive worship and devotion is not for our own sake, but for the sake of the world. We order our lives around the work of the Spirit of God and seek personal transformation—and that’s good. But such transformation is not like self-improvement—it isn’t just for us. It is so that our lives would bear witness to Jesus Christ and provide evidence that the kingdom of God is, indeed, at hand.

And that is truly the party that sends out unlimited invitations.

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