The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B, St. Philip’s Church, Donelson, March 17, 2024

“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” (Jo. 12:27-28).

Old-time Episcopalians and others may remember “Passiontide”: the last two weeks of Lent that had their own distinctive liturgical marks. Crosses were veiled, for instance: a Passiontide practice that in many places has been extended to the whole of Lent. Most importantly, the pace of things changed, as the theme of Christ’s suffering, or “passion,” grew in prominence as Good Friday drew near. In Passiontide, Jesus’ death begins in earnest to cast its long shadow over the Lenten season.

Our reading today, from the Gospel of John, brings us within the shadow of the crucifixion by showing us Jesus, greatly troubled, praying to God about what lies ahead. “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” (Jo. 12:27).

It’s John’s version of Jesus’ prayer in the other Gospels, in the garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done” (Lk. 22:42). It’s the same idea: Jesus, greatly agitated, but nevertheless open to what God wills. Jesus, deeply troubled, but still leaning into the future that God has prepared for him.

What we’re given in our reading is Jesus Christ, fully God but also fully human: a benchmark notion of Christian orthodoxy. Sometimes Christians “spiritualize” Jesus so much that he scarcely seems human: so ethereal and high-minded that it’s hard to imagine him breaking into a sweat, much less agonizing about anything. Sometimes we turn him into “beachcomber Jesus”: someone so cool and laid back he couldn’t possibly be fussed.

But Jesus’ words, “Now my soul is troubled” (Jo. 12:27) don’t allow us to do that: to turn him into either superman or one of the super chill. Here, we have Jesus under stress, feeling the pressure. “And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour?’” (Jo. 12:27) adds another dimension: the specter of Jesus, heading out the door and running for cover.

Christian faith presents us, as we say in the Creed, with Jesus who “suffers, dies, and is buried.” We worship the Word made flesh, who because he is fully human, can feel what we feel, experience what we experience. As it says in our reading from Hebrews, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…” (Heb. 5:7). Sometimes we think that if we emphasize Jesus’ humanity too much we will undercut his divinity, but nothing could be farther from the truth. As it says earlier in Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). We worship a savior who is human; just not merely human.

John’s Gospel gives us a “passionate” Jesus: not just a savior who can feel what we feel and suffer what we suffer, but one who is fully human and who passionately pursues God’s call to him. Make no mistake: Jesus is in charge of the situation in John’s Gospel. When Jesus prays, “Father, glorify your name” (Jo. 12:28), he’s leaning wholeheartedly into the future God has prepared for him. Jesus is obedient to the Father’s word. In John’s Gospel, it’s clear that Jesus is passionate about the glory of God, and the salvation of the world.

John’s Gospel also gives us God’s answering voice: a response to his prayer. The voice says, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again” (Jo. 12:28). The hour is drawing near when God’s glory will be revealed on the cross: God’s judgment on the world, and his victory over sin and death. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jo. 12:23). When Jesus is lifted up from the earth, as he says, he draws all things to himself.            

So what are you passionate about? Maybe this season you are feeling the pressure that Jesus was feeling as his hour drew near. Maybe you are thinking about running for cover, looking around frantically for the exit out of whatever dead end you think lies ahead. If so, you have a savior who can sympathize. Or maybe you are hearing the call of God to lean passionately into the future that God has prepared for you. If so, you are also following the path that Jesus has already trod. Our confirmands are thinking about these things today, and all of us together have the chance today in our liturgy to reaffirm our faith in the Word made flesh. This is the hour for God to be glorified in us.

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee