Fifth Sunday in Lent (Series B)icon-download-pdf-wp
March 21st, 2021

Gospel: Mark 10:(32-34) 35-45 (John 12:20-33)
Epistle: Hebrews 5:1-10
Lesson: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm: Psalm 119:9-16

CLB Commentary on the Gospel Text by Dr. Gaylan Mathiesen
(Originally published in 2012)

The first thing that strikes me about this text is how it begins and how it ends—with a strong reference to the expansion of the Kingdom to those who are outside of the Jewish community. In this way John gives us a glimpse into God’s intent to include all nations in His redemptive mission. We see here that God is already drawing the world to His Son, as He did with the magi at Jesus’ birth, a movement that will grow much stronger in the book of Acts. (See Solomon’s prayer, I Kgs. 8:41-43.)

The coming of these Gentiles appears to turn Jesus’ thinking to the great harvest that is to come, and it is for that purpose that He came. In addition to thinking of the harvest, Jesus’ thoughts progress to thinking of the way in which that harvest must come about. If all humankind is to be saved from the curse of sin and death and spring to life, then Jesus, like a grain of wheat, must first take this death into Himself. Here is an illustration that would communicate the power of the gospel to all people in all times: “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Up to this point, Jesus has been saying that His time has not yet come. But now with the Greek seekers approaching him, Jesus knows that the time has come: time to faithfully lay down his life as a sacrificial offering for sin by dying on the Cross. As Augustine said, “The death of Christ was the death of the most fertile grain of wheat.” Indeed, in Christ’s victory, the power of the “prince of this world” was forever broken, and the way to eternal glory was opened up for all . His death will bring Him glory.

Jesus is also glorified through those who follow Him. In the next verses we see Jesus illustrating how the life of those in His Kingdom is diametrically opposed to the life of those in this world. While the people of this world seek and cling to power and possessions, those of the Kingdom of God know that it is only a proper hatred of self and the things of this world that frees us from sin and death. The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross secured our pardon, but it also serves to illustrate what it means to follow Him as a disciple. In chapter 15 Jesus will remind his followers, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” A life of following Jesus will bring the hatred and persecution of those who do not know Him. The community of the Kingdom of God will hold the things of this world loosely, and will by their actions as well as their words point to the far greater glory of the age to come. And that age will come.

There is a beautiful certainty to Christ’s words: “where I am, my servant will also be.” The Christian’s hope is rooted in the certainty of God’s Word of Promise. While all the world may oppose Christ and His people, the triumphant outcome is already determined. What God has promised will without a doubt come to pass—there is no maybe about it. The mission of God will be consummated in the certain coming of His Kingdom. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The way that Jesus was “lifted up” looked like defeat; so too the church will often look weak and powerless before the hateful forces of the world. In the same way, as we take up our cross and follow the crucified One, God’s strength is revealed and Jesus is most glorified. Let us be reminded also that it was through that same cross that there came a glorious resurrection. The full power of that is still yet to be revealed. Today, through the church that Jesus founded, the fruit of His death is still multiplying. Today, through His church, He is still drawing all people to Himself. “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.”

Palm Sunday
Fourth Sunday in Lent