- Jeremiah 31:31-34
- Psalm 51:1-13 or Psalm 119:9-16
- Hebrews 5:5-10
- John 12:20-33
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ encounter with some Gentiles (Greeks) seem to signal to him that his mission is completed; only the cross remains. Through his brief parable about the grain of wheat needing to die before it produced fruit (12:24), Jesus tells his disciples that his time had indeed come, his time to die.
Jesus’ words become progressively more specific about the centrality of relationship with him. We are to follow and serve him, no matter the price. The people, who have concluded that, in some sense at least, Jesus is the Messiah, expect such a figure to “remain forever” as the prophets foretold (Isaiah 9:7).
We are to write this message on our hearts: Jesus’ death becomes the pivotal point to which humanity receives mercy or condemnation (3:18); Satan will be defeated (8:44); and through Jesus’ crucifixion humanity is united and reconciled to God (3:14-15). We are to become people of the new covenant.
The Baptismal Rite focuses on this very concept. In the prayer of Thanksgiving over the Water:
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection (BCP 306).
In two weeks we will liturgically reenact the process of entering into Christ’s death so that we may have life at the Easter Vigil:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (BCP 272)
Fred Craddock (Preaching Through the Christian Year, Year B: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Lectionary: Trinity Pressing International, 1993) writes:
What then is new about the new covenant? That God initiates the covenant, that God forgives sins, and that Israel will “know” [God] intimately had been features of the old covenant. What is without precedent is the law written on the heart, the covenant at the core of one’s being. The newness is a special gift, the capacity to be faithful and obedient. In the Old Testament, the heart is the seat of the will . . . ; consequently, the special gift here is a will with the capacity to be faithful. God thus promises to change the people from the inside out, to give them a center. This covenant will overcome the conflict between knowing and wanting one thing and doing another. In the new covenant the people will act as if they are owned by God without even reflecting upon it.
Which laws, then, are written on the heart? All the laws of Moses? Just the Decalogue? The answer is all of these things, and none of them. Just these words suffice: “I am yours, and you are mine,” says [God]. That is the language of love and faithfulness.
In Jesus’ death and resurrection and through our baptism, we have a covenant with God written on our hearts.
- What was the fruit (12:24) that was produced as a result of Jesus, the grain of wheat, dying? How is that fruit harvested today? In what ways do we die? What fruit do we bear?
- In what sense is the world judged by Jesus’ crucifixion (12:31-32)? In what sense is the world united by it?
- How has Jesus been written on your heart?