Sunday Sermon – Lent 5 2006

As we make our progress towards the cross, this year we are reading on Sunday from John’s gospel. And John is the one who always tries to unpack what  it all means.

The other gospel writers give us a good old story, but John had a bit more time to reflect on things and he told his story to tell us what it meant, not simply to try to tell us what happened.

And the readings over the last couple of weeks suggest that John perceived a development in the way Jesus was thinking as he headed off to Jerusalem.

Last week, we read John 3:16, with its promise of salvation for everyone who believed.

This week, the story has moved on. Jesus is prompted by the arrival of some characters whom we have heard little of before now.

The Greeks.  At the festival there were some Greeks and they said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”.

It is a simple request.

Sir, we wish to see Jesus. In a moment, I will ask you to think about what happens if we are asked that question.

But for now, think about the Greeks at the feast. Who were they? What were they doing in Jerusalem.

Well, they were in some ways the outsiders. People who were outside the covenant history which the Jews had developed, but people who loved God nonetheless and who came to worship there.

When they came asking, “We wish to see Jesus”, they raised all sorts of dilemmas.

Were these people a part of God’s plan for the world.

Were these people included in God’s love.

Were these people, outsiders and foreigners fit to meet with Jesus.

And we have this rather comic story. First they approached Philip (who had a Greek name) and said “We want to see Jesus” and then Philip didn’t know what to do, and he told Andrew.  And Andrew didn’t know what to do and so they went to Jesus himself.

And the response which John recorded is rather surprising. For we are not told of the meeting itself. Presumably, Jesus did meet with these people, but John misses that bit out and tells us what Jesus said, and what he meant.

And it is extraordinary.

Those following Jesus firstly thought that they would be OK because they, like him were Jews, God’s chosen ones. Then, last week, we heard that Jesus had other ideas, about believe and responding to God. And now, prompted by this visit by these foreigners, Jesus develops his ideas even further.

Because of his passion, because of his coming death, because of the pain and suffering that he would go through, because he would be lifted up from the earth,…

Because of all this, all people would be drawn to him

And the outsiders, those who came with their simple question prompted Jesus into making clear to those around him that the old ways were going to change.

A new covenant was on its way. Just as Jeremiah had spoken of so long ago.

A new covenant, which was not based on race. It would not be based on whether you were Jewish.

Neither would it be based on who your ancestors were.

Neither was it to be based on outward keeping of the law.

No, by his passion and death, Jesus was bringing in a new covenant.  A covenant which included people. A covenant based on love. A covenant based on passion. A covenant written on the heart.

This is the gospel.  This is the very essence of the gospel. This is what Jesus came to tell us:

That no-one can be left out again. That no-one can be excluded from God’s love.

Not by being Greek, not by being human, not by being you or I.

No, nothing can exclude us from the love of God.

It is a covenant written on the heart of all people of goodwill. God’s love is bigger than us. It leaves no one out and includes the unexpected.

If you think about it, a lot of the things which are going on in our own time and place are about these ideas. Who is included and who is excluded.

At last, people are beginning to speak of policies of social inclusion.  Making sure that people are not excluded from all the good things in life by poverty. The good things are for everyone.

The gospel is clear.  Everyone is included in the love of God.

And that is where we leave Jesus this morning. The shadow of the cross is beginning to fall across him. The passion – death and suffering are not far away, and in the face of that, he speaks of drawing everyone to him.

His eyes are open to the people around him. His mind is open to what will happen.  His heart is open to the whole world, insiders and apparent outsiders.

There we leave him for today, as we get ready for the rest of the story to unfold.



  1. Howard says

    God’s love leaves no one out and includes the unexpected”

    Your sermon reminded me that a have just read CHRISTIANITY REDISCOVERED: An Epistle from the Masai by Vincent J Donovan.(SCM Press, 9th Impression 1996)

    If you want to read about inclusion of people in community, rather than individual conversions, and have your ideas of mission turned on their head, this book is an eye-opener.

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