In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Please take a well deserved seat. After that long Gospel!
Some people will say to you that Jesus was not popular.
In fact, he was so unpopular that they crucified Him. But the truth is, Jesus was popular. Scripture is full of examples of crowds following Jesus, so desperate to hear what he had to say, but more so because they were interested in seeing what Jesus could do. They were far more interested in his signs and his miracles, the healing that he carried out.
Now, of course, he was unpopular with some because of what he taught. And in particular, he was unpopular with those in power, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees that’s we’ve been learning about and hearing about over the last three months or so. And the reason he was unpopular with them is because he was interested in spiritual things. He was interested in teaching in the things of God, whereas the scribes and the Pharisees and the Sadducees were interested in the unspiritual things. They were interested in their comfortable lives that they had created through being able to control those around them and by attempting to nail down the spiritual things of God into those books of law.
So unpopular was Jesus with these people that at the end of John John chapter eight, it’s verse 59, I think the Jews start to pick up stones to throw at him and to accuse him of being possessed by a demon. Why? Why were they so upset with what Jesus was saying? So upset that they were going to stone him? It’s because Jesus confronted those in power in the temple and told them who he was.
“I am the light of the world” and they don’t believe him. They cannot see because they are so focused on the unspiritual world. They are so focused on trying to grab the awesomeness of God and codify it and put it down so that they can live their comfortable lives unburdened with difficult and uncomfortable truths. Jesus is a threat to their power, their comfort and how they live out their comfortable faith.
None of us really like being told uncomfortable things, do we? And we often react badly to being told uncomfortable things when we’ve got something wrong or we’re not understanding, or we read something in Scripture that is difficult to take on board. We often react like children having a tantrum in disgust.
That reaction of disgust is one that we see time and time again from those who are threatened by the truth that Jesus brings. So threatened were they that they picked up stones to throw. And at the end of John chapter eight, we read that Jesus hides.
That is why on Passion Sunday, as we enter Passiontide, our statues are veiled as we enter this great story at the end of Lent, as we get to the fifth Sunday of Lent and enter Passiontide; jesus hides.
Our statues are veiled.
Jesus knows what is ahead. And of course, so do we.
So then, how does Jesus emerge from this hiding? That is the subject of today’s Gospel. He emerges from hiding by doing what he always does, by action, by doing.
He emerges through signs and miracles. He waits for his friend to die, knowing that fulfilling the Scripture, that’s the Scripture, Ezekiel, that we read first. And despite the pain that we can clearly see it caused him and Mary and Martha and their friends. He waits for his friend to die because he knows that it is through that sign and that miracle that they will believe. We see it time and time again.
Jesus talks and teaches and people react. Jesus does and people follow.
Jesus was very popular when he did things, when people were able to see his faith in action. Jesus couldn’t teach us. We couldn’t hear it. He came to die for us, that we may be saved and find a home with Him in heaven. We couldn’t hear that.
We had to see it. He had to do it.
Despite the pain personal to Him and to those who loved Him, he did it. And this is the story that we now face over the coming two weeks. He said he was the light of the world and they accused him of possession and tried to stone Him.
He brought his friend back from the dead and they cheered Him and said, I believe.
He arrives in Jerusalem as a king. Cheered. He tells them what they need to do to follow Him and they crucify Him. But he rises from the dead in glory and we cheer Him once again.
He is the light and we believe.
So now it is up to us to avoid falling into that same trap that the Pharisees, the scribes and the Sadducees and the Jewish people of the time did by ignoring what Jesus said and only believing when he does. Jesus has died for us on the cross. Jesus has risen again for us. And so over the next two weeks, we will emerge from hiding, covered in the glory of what Jesus Christ did for all of us. But first we must endure that pain.
First, we must endure that loss. First, we must carry the price of living out our faith in the world. People will not come to know Jesus Christ if we simply talk about Him. People will come to know Jesus Christ when they see us doing his work in the world. People will come to know Jesus Christ when they see you focused on the spiritual and not on the unspiritual.
Through your loving devotion to God’s word, to working in the world in the way he called us to to show the world who He was and what He did for us, and what difference it makes in your life.
Jesus signs and miracles still happen. They happen through you. Do Jesus work in the world and make him known.