RCL Year B Lent 5
Jeremiah 31:31-34, Psalm 51:1-13, Hebrews 5:5-10, Saint John 12:20-33

Remarkably, Jesus says, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”[1] Jesus is claiming that he is glorified in his crucifixion. Jesus tells us that his death begins the germination that leads to the ripening of the fruit. He is saying that his death will attract us, all of us, to him.

Jesus’ crucifixion attracts us, draws us into the divine life, when we appreciate what Jesus is saying to us. His life, the life he offers us, isn’t pain-free. His life is hard to share if we wish to avoid pain. It is in dying to ourselves and being raised in him that we enter his life. If we wish to be comfortable, isolated, and uninvolved, then we will miss his life. His life involves sacrifice and pain though the sacrifice and the pain aren’t the end. Just as he does, we pass through them to go on to greater and eternal life.

I know that all illustrations of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are trivial in comparison with what they illustrate. But let me mention the one Jesus mentions and try to mention it afresh.

Two weeks from today is Easter when this church will be adorned with people and beautiful flowers. Jesus is telling us that the glory of a beautiful Easter lily is not its being in beautiful foil and placed on an elegantly carved marble altar just in front of a skillfully-carved reredos with crowds of people admiring it. The glory of that lily is in the horrible weather of January and February, that same weather we are hoping is past, when the bulb is buried beneath the frozen soil, when no one is paying it any attention. That’s its glory. That’s the heart of God, and that’s the glory of the lily, because only God can make the lily bloom. Only God can bring life from death. The bulb in that frozen dirt gives us the best perspective of who God is and of what God can do. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”[2]

[1] Saint John 12:24.

[2] Saint John 12:32.