Jn. 12:12-19; Ps. 118:19-29; Isa. 50:4-9a (OT changes); Phil. 2:5-11; Jn. 12:20-43.
Understand, [Jesus’] disciples did not understand these things at first, but when [he] was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him (v. 16).
What “things” were not understood by the disciples? Certainly, they did not understand Jesus come for division, judgment and grace; neither did they comprehend feeding the 5,000 to portend a new wilderness exodus to festal board; nor raising Lazarus; nor Jesus’ rejection in Jerusalem and the “necessity” of his Passion, death, and resurrection as providing the contours of his Kingdom. Jesus’ disciples did not understand “these things at first”.
But in these latter days starting with our Baptism, growth in understanding “these things” is essential to a vibrant faith life. Only by the power of the Resurrection with the Father’s bestowal of the HS would the church experience advance in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ whom he sent (Jn. 17:3).
One theologian describes the church’s advance as “all theology is Christology”; that one does not come to God apart from the revealed word and work of the man Jesus. Isaiah puts a fine point on the church’s Christology; Jesus is God’s Listening, Obedient, and Suffering Servant (50:4-6, Series A), and so too in the life of the Baptized.
Mary treasured in her heart “the things” spoken by the Bethlehem shepherds of her firstborn son; and Simeon prophesied that her “soul would be pierced” by those opposing him (Lk. 2:19, 35); yet from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Mary was without comprehension of “these things”.
At Cana she urged Jesus to resolve the dilemma of a wedding without wine. Jesus responded, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn. 2:4). Still Mary’s request triggered in Jesus the archetype mystery of his work for which he was sent.
Jesus reconsidered, turning water to wedding wine, the chief revelation of his signs for the church’s comprehension of “his hour”, his Passion we celebrate today and its sacramental instantiation on Holy Thursday.
As for the actual moment of “his hour”, Jesus awaited the Father’s signal. Greeks attended Jerusalem’s Passover hearing triumphal shouts, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (12:13, 14). The Greeks requested to “see” who the Jews proclaimed King, a reprise of the Magi’s seeking at his birth. Perhaps this is why the church employs Jesus triumphal entry in both Advent and Lent.
At Cana, Mary expected wedding wine from Jesus; from his Father Jesus expected “his hour’s” signal. When the Greeks desired an audience, Jesus understood the Pharisaic prophecy, “Look the world has gone after him” (12:19b) to indicate “his hour’s” arrival. Knowing death’s imminence, Jesus explained by parable, the Fallen Grain.
The parable instructs of his kingdom investiture, God’s Fallen Seed for multiplication of fruit (Gen. 1:28; 9:1); being lifted on the cross Jesus would drawing many to God, and so “complete” (Jn. 19:30) his Father’s commission from JB in the Jordan.
The parable’s Christology reveals the church as Jesus’ “woman”, who now understands: the 5,000 to harken God’s provision for Israel at Sinai and her promises of fidelity and obedience (Ex. 19:5-8).
Still, Jerusalem’s ebullient greeting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” was frustrated, misunderstanding the manner of God’s triumph. The visual, the seeing of Jesus’ welcome would be revealed only at the cross; there can be no hail of Jesus as king apart from his nails. Jesus, first and last, is crucified Lord.
Spiritual sight comes by heaven’s Light. Jesus of himself, said “The Light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the Light, lest darkness overtake you” (Jn. 12:35a). Thus, the parable of the Fallen Seed by germination in death gives us to “see” our source of new Life in Jesus’ “hour”, his crucifixion. Of the Jesus’s death and our Baptism into it, God says, “[T]here is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive” (Dt. 32:39, Series C).
At Jesus’ lifting, the church understands with the Psalmist, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24); and from the house of the Lord (v. 26b) we proclaim, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD, even the King of Israel” (v. 26a).
By the Christology’s light we discern God’s household of bread, first at the Nativity in Bethlehem, and finally its locale on the cross for our exodus feeding out of the land to the place of Jesus’ crucified flesh. In the power of the Resurrection Jesus’ body and blood are unceasingly “the Things” of the church’s wisdom and Life.
The parable of the Fallen Grain teaches what his Passion entails for those, as the Greeks desiring to “see” Jesus; to know him as God’s Granary-Servant for forgiveness, purity, and zealous participation in the life God bestowed in Christ.
On the cross Jesus is new Israel, fallen Servant in our place, who gestated in the grave, that all might be refashioned from dust and “living water”, a single Eucharistic loaf to the glory of God and our ongoing reception of his provision in his NT Bread-house.
Ancient Israel “grumbled” against God’s manna, quail, and water in the desert. Temple Jews likewise grumbled against Jesus. The woman at Jacob’s well, and fed 5,000, at first, only had hearts for potable water and belly-bread. But God desires better for his people, “the Things” of heaven, “Living Water”, “Bread of Life”, and celebratory “wedding-Wine” deserving of his “Woman’s” request.
When Pilate presented Jesus, scourged, wearing a crown of thorns, Jerusalem saying, “Behold the man!” (19:5), the crowd changed triumphal shouts of “Hosanna [save us]” (Ps. 118:25) to “Crucify him!” (Jn. 19:6). Jerusalem turned away from their humble, obedient, and suffering Servant King (Phil. 2:6, 7).
From his birth to death Jesus is our Bread of Life, source of “living water” and “wedding-cup”, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). In zealous acceptance of this offer, we unite in Christ, “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” to “be fruitful and multiply”.
Sacramental reception of Jesus body and blood is counterpoint to his rejection on the cross. It is in eating his spiritual food and wedding-wine, that the church’s Supper comprehends the fulness of Jesus’ Passion, death, and Resurrection.
At the consecratory Verba for Christological remembrance we, “Take, eat; this is my body… Drink of… this cup… the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Today, I a sinful man with Pilate, present for acceptance or rejection, the same Jesus whose glory is his Passion, saying, “Behold the man!” (19:5), and in the power of the Resurrection, respond to your desire to see Jesus, say, “Behold your King!” (v. 14b).
The cross repulses many; still the Lord’s Supper inaugurating Jesus’ Passion is what it is: He is our Bread, Meat, and Drink in the new creation through our obedient listening and suffer; it is “In this manner God loved the world” (Jn. 3:16). Amen.