January 21, 2021

Holy Tuesday 2012

Wheat Field with Crows, Van Gogh

John 12:20-36

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. The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

During Holy Week, we are running a special post each day here at Internet Monk. We glean one word or phrase for contemplation from the Gospel passage for the day, and hear a devotional thought from one of my favorite old books by Dr. John Killinger. The copy I have is called Devotional Thoughts on the Gospels but it was republished as Day by Day With Jesus.

• • •

Today’s phrase is JESUS’ HOUR. All through John’s Gospel, Jesus’ “hour” is the climactic moment of his life and ministry. The various terms used to describe it are striking in the contradictory concepts they capture. It is the hour for him to be “glorified” — a concept of heavenly grandeur. Yet Jesus explains this by appealing to the common earthy metaphor of a grain of wheat buried in the ground. He speaks of being “lifted up” but this lifting up indicates his “death.”

The whole passage is rife with opposing notions: death vs. vitality and fruitfulness, laying down one’s life vs. keeping it, loving one’s life vs. hating it, servants receiving honor, light vs. darkness, and so on. In this way, John’s Gospel reinforces that God’s ways are not ours, that God’s salvation will not come in any conventional manner, that our hope is based not in human wisdom but in divine love and sacrifice.

As. Dr. John Killinger notes:

Jesus’ metaphor to the disciples about a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying was an important lesson. He would be their great example, and they would later learn to give their lives as he gave his. “What good is saving your life,” he asked in effect. “If you do that, you destroy it. It is only by living generously — by sowing your life profligately, as wheat is sown — that you enable the future to spring from your deeds!”

And this is what Jesus did for us. What wondrous love is this!

Prayer for Holy Tuesday:

Father, on this day I confess you the King of glory and all-wise God. Your ways are not my ways, nor your thoughts my thoughts.

I confess my propensity to preserve my life, to shrink from serving, to drag my feet in darkness when I should run to your light. How thankful I am that Jesus graciously, steadily, unswervingly stayed on the path God chose for him until his hour had come and all was fulfilled. Honored through service, lifted up in death, bringing light through baptism in darkness, he secured our salvation.

Forgive me, renew me, and lead me, that in this holiest of weeks I may delight in your will and walk in your ways. Amen.


  1. Can you imagine how amazing it would have been to be there with Jesus and hear God speak? (Even though some of them thought it was thunder.) There was a time when I wondered about God speaking like that and wondered how that could be if God was a Spirit. It was actually a Hindu holy man/writer who “convinced” me that God could speak in this way. We all learn from various sources.

  2. Jesus was possessed this week. He was agonizing over the impending brutality, both the physical and much more so the spiritual, so when the disciples approach Him with a potential debate it is as though He couldn’t hear them. His response is utterly unrelated to arguing with Greeks. He is a million miles past His disciples at this point as though He doesn’t hear them and they certainly don’t hear Him. I think an ominous loneliness was settling upon Him. The horrifying ordeal He was born for was at His door step and there was no help. How could He possibly hear their ranting, or ours? We are each called to follow Him there. It is pain and loneliness. Unless a seed dies……

    • Interesting perspective. I always read this as Jesus recognizing the Greeks coming to speak with and learn from him as a sign of the approaching end. My understanding is that the Greeks would be associated with the “God-fearers,” foreigners sympathetic to the Jewish faith, and not necessarily there to argue a point of logic. Jesus’ statement of drawing all to himself would include these Greeks – and the whole of humanity – these who were outside the Mosaic covenant. He is about to institute the new covenant in his Body and Blood, to lay down his life that God might be glorified in and before the entire world. it is a radical declaration of grace that is missed by the disciples.

      It is absolutely appropriate that we recognize the apostles (and oftentimes ourselves) still don’t get it, and that we recognize Jesus’ humanity and isolation at the same time. Good thoughts.

    • One other point. I think His agony may have taken root when He sat upon the foal and heard the hosannahs, not when He went into the garden. It didn’t begin in the garden, it culminated there.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts BC. I thought I was replying to my own comment. iPhone – small type. Of course your right that there are many layers to the scripture and your point is valid.

  4. Chaplain Mike, I was wondering where all your van Goghs had gone (not that I don’t love Chagall). Excellent choice for this text.

  5. Look at Jesus who willingly went to the cross. Gave up his life for his enemies.

    – Example.

    Then look at us. Striving to hang onto our lives in this world and preserve our comforts and ensure our future, often at the expense of our neighbor…let alone what we think about our enemies.

    – Fail…at following the example.


    But He know who we are…and loves us anyway! Wow! 😀

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