Scripture: John 12:20-33
Adam has a hobby. Some might say that it is a worthless pursuit but he enjoys it. When he engages in this activity it seem to possess him totally the people around him find him more pleasant, more alert, more open. It is as if this Adam is the true expression of who he is. Yet Monday rolls around and Adam again is transformed into the serious business man, the logical, calculated man.
What makes the difference? The one version of the man is experimental, risky, takes a chance. The other will only advance and act under careful consideration. One even questions if the two aspects of the man can be united. One man lives by the heart the other by the wisdom of the world. One man lives by dreams the other by the knowledge of the world.
This passage brings to light a very interesting aspect to the life of Christ. Maybe I see it because that is what I do. The world in ancient times was a diverse place. People moved around much more than we tend to think. This is evident because throughout the world there are Jewish communities centuries old. And for those who study language they can find influences from areas that looking on a map seem impossible. Even in the native American cultures, which many assume to be descendants of Siberian Asians, they have found influences of extinct cultures originating in France. Humans are mobile. They look to explore the world around them, and they find a way to survive. Israel is an example and testimony of the mobility of humanity. When one looks at the empires of history they grow out of obscurity rise in power and influence, and grow toward other empires to eventually dispute. Israel emerged as a nation on the highway connecting the empires. They themselves were never the superpower but they held the land that controlled the definition of true power. They controlled the highway of ancient trade. They connected the east to the west and the north to the south. there were other routes but this one had the greatest profit.
This means that Israel has always had a diverse population. Groups of people were constantly moving through on their journies. They brought with them goods to trade, as well as cultural knowledge. This led them to want a king, this led them to seek alliences with other nations, this ultimately lead them to become controlled by Rome. Yet through all of this they have kept a unique culture of their own, no matter where they live or who controls their homeland. They have always been a light to the nations, but never the empire. Gentiles, or the nonJewish person has had a curiosity with this group of people. At times it has been positive and other times negative. Their influence has been seen in every major empire around the world, with a few exceptions. The Greek culture tried to spread their influence to the ends of the world yet they held the Jew in curiosity. They allowed them to remain to some degree. Many Greeks even embraced the Hebrew life. The Romans and Persians were annoyed yet intreged by these people. These conquered people that seemed to never seemed to be assimulated.
The Gentiles of Jesus’ day were curious, they wondered what drove these people, there was something that both attracted and repeled them. Jesus’ popularity was growing among the Jewish community, it was growing among the Sumaritan population. Both have a history as Israel. Now those outsiders of the Gentile populous were curious.
The Greek culture is one that takes pride in the pursuit of knowledge. They had schools of philosophy, where they studied the ideas of knowledge and how to come to a conclusion. They taught students how to make a case, how to argue and debate. They heard the stories about Jesus now they wanted to sit at His feet to listen to the teacher.
I find this story interesting in many ways. It shows the openness Jesus had as well as the invitation he provided to all people from the very beginning. Of all the disciples there was one who had an 100% non-jewish name, Phillip. This is who the Gentiles went to to gain an audience with the great Rabbi. Phillip was not just a back ground disciple either. He was the third disciple called to follow, and he quickly found his friend Nathaniel, saying ” we have found the one spoke about by Moses and the prophets.”
This man though Jewish had a foot in the gentile world, through him the door was opened for all to come to Jesus, and he was the third to be called. Very early the choosen one of Israel was to be the light to the world. And as soon as the Gentiles sought Christ the message took a different tone.
Until this point Jesus said not to speak because His time had not yet come. Now the Greeks want to talk and Jesus says now it is time. Now it is time for Him to be glorified, for the fullness and purpose of His mission to be set into motion. Now the attention of the world has been gained, now the message of the kingdom has extended beyond the temple courts and has found its way to the university of the Greeks.
Then he speaks about life and death, love and hate. Passion. I began today with a story of Adam, a man, who lives a double life. His hobby life and his business life. Both consume him. The businessman consumes the creative man, while the hobby life consumes the rational man. He is fully engaged in each sense. Jesus speaks of this. Unless a grain of wheat dies it won’t produce fruit. Unless you are all consumed in your task you will not produce. This is not just a spiritual commitment it matters in everything you do. If a member of our local hockey team isn’t all in, they will not make the cut, but when each player is fully engaged all consumed by the game, it is a beautiful and exciting game. When my coworker and I are fully focused on the task we get things done quickly without, mistakes, and usually have fun too. An artist is probably the greatest example of someone totally consumed by a project. When they get a taste of inspiration they start to create with such a ferver that they lose track of time, they forget to eat. At times they may not even realize you are in the room. until fruit has been made they are totally focused. Are we all in for God?
Historically speaking when people fully engage in their pursuit of God they attract attention. When Francis of Assisi’s father said he was a freeloader never to amount to anything Francis gave his father everything even his clothes and pursued God, he started a movement that still survives today after hundreds of years. When Fox fully pursued God in the English countryside he attracted thousands. If we fully engage fully serve we will see results. Why don’t we? Why do we fully engage our lives in work, or hobbies yet only spend a few minutes with God? I think we are afraid. We are afraid that maybe God may direct us into something we couldn’t control, that growth would be so rapid we couldn’t anticipate it.
To live passionately make us vernable. to live passonatly we fully invest all of our mind, body, and spirit. This sort of investment consumes us entirely we are lost in it, we cease to exist apart from it. This is what God calls us God, in all that we do. God created us to have passion to get excited and to go all in. I often wonder if we miss read this passage, I believe we mix up the charactors.
He is speaking to the Greeks, these men are filled with Greek philosophy, much of which says that we should not worry about our bodies because our bodies are just prisions of our spirit. This idea entered into Christian thought through the gnostic herises This concept pushes the idea that aslong as I do spiritual things I will inherit eternal life, and what I do with my physical body doesn’t matter. Jesus engages this idea he calls it what it is, an unproductive, uncreative, shell of existance. If we live a life of hating this world and only wanting to get through it so we can get on to heaven, we miss the point. Life is important. Life is so important that God came to this world just as we all do through the womb of a woman. He developed from a single cell, into an embryo, to a fetus, passed from the womb to become an infant, grew to be a boy, and finally a man. He lived life fully, he celebrated weddings, cried at funerals, he got angry, and told jokes. This is not a man who hated life. He loved life he invented life. He did not create us to as spiritual prisons but living humans created to glorify God in life. Those that hate life on this world will keep it for eternity. They will keep the empty, purposeless existance forever. The Greek idea of the human shell was invading humanity and keeping the truth from becoming fully realized. Life does matter.
This life does matter. But living a hollow shell of a life is unacceptable. Living life devoted only to worldly pleasures are unacceptable, living passonatly for a cause to promote life, to promote life more fully is a life lost in the one who created us. We were made to live. Created to enjoy life and to glorify God in the process. I want to do that as much as possible. I want to live my life in such a way that everyone around me will love life and praise the giver of life. I want to enjoy life so much that I can cross over to the other side and know how to act around those saints already sitting at the Lords banquet table. I want to lose myself in the passion of living a life for God.
What does this life look like? I can’t fully discribe it, it is a existance were the rational man and the creative man are joined together it is where the artist and the business man strive together to lose themselves in each others passion for life. It is a place where the weapons of war are made into tools of creativity and growth.
The message of Jesus was that the kingdom of God is at hand, the kingdom of Heaven is around us. He said this multiple times. So much that it got the attention of the entire world. He lost himself in that message which is filled with love and life. The world did not like that message. It spoke against their ways. They sought to silence the message because their ways promoted darkness and death, not light and life. If life was not important, if our actions and how we live are unimportant why did Jesus live a full life? If God did not love all people both Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female why did he engage every aspect of Life?
We are bearers of light in the darkness promoters of life in a culture of death. As we enter our time of open worship let us consider our own lives are we embracing our life fully and glorifying the giver of life? Or are we living as shells empty of life and empty of hope? My prayer is that we will lose ourselves in life and passionately love God, embrace the Holy Spirit, and live Christ’s love with other.