SERMON: Eucharist on Wednesday

SERMON: Eucharist on Wednesday

A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley by Andrew McKearney on 29th March 2023

John’s Gospel has so many distinctive ideas and phrases that tumble over each other. Just one I want to reflect on this morning and that’s when we heard Jesus say: ‘The hour has come’.

Up to this point in John’s Gospel we’ve only ever heard Jesus or the Evangelist say that the ‘hour’ has not yet come.

In the first 11 chapters of John’s Gospel, all the references to the ‘hour’ point forward, saying that the ‘hour’ has not yet come. So, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus says to his mother at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, ‘My hour has not yet come’ (2.4); when Jesus’ teaching astonishes Jerusalem, the leaders attempt to arrest him, but fail because ‘his hour has not yet come’ (7.30); a little later John’s Gospel explains that Jesus could not be arrested because his ‘hour has not yet come’ (8.20).

In today’s Gospel the situation changes – Jesus says that his ‘hour’ has now come. What’s happened? Why the change?

Just before this in John’s Gospel, and as we heard on Sunday, Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead – for John, this is a defining moment. The division, between those who recognise something good and of God in Jesus, and those who see only trouble, has deepened and become entrenched.

As a result of the raising of Lazarus, the Pharisees and the leaders of the Jewish community plan to put Jesus to death (11.53). In fact, their reaction to the raising of Lazarus is so extreme that they plan not only to put Jesus to death, but Lazarus too (12.10-11). Jesus could not help but recognise the depth of the opposition that he now faced, and from this perhaps he drew the only conclusion he could – his hour had now come.

And it may be that just as concerning for Jesus was the growing adulation that he received. That too became more apparent after the raising of Lazarus, so much so that immediately before today’s Gospel reading, the Pharisees say to one another:

   ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone  after him!’ (12.19)

As an illustration of ‘the world going after him’, we heard this morning how some Greeks who have come to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, want to see Jesus. They approach Philip, who passes on their request to Andrew, and together they tell Jesus – and it’s on hearing of their request that Jesus then says:

   ‘The hour has come.’ (12.23)

So it may be that Jesus senses that his hour has now come, both because of the depth of the opposition that there now is towards him, and also because of the growing popularity that he now experiences.

Both have inherent dangers that together prove fatal. So, perhaps it’s no wonder that we next hear Jesus exclaim:

   ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say –

   ‘Father, save me from this hour’?’

Under mounting pressure, Jesus questions himself and the rightness of the path that he’s taken – should he turn back? In the way that John tells the Gospel story, this is Jesus’ Gethsemane moment.

In the other three Gospels it happens in the garden just before Jesus is betrayed by Judas. He’s grieved and agitated, so much so that, using a powerful image, Luke says that his sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground.

   ‘Abba, Father’ we hear Jesus pray, ‘remove this cup from

   me; yet not what I want, but what you want.’    (Mark 14.36)

John puts it slightly differently. For him, Jesus says:

   ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say –

   ‘Father, save me from this hour’?’

But in all the four Gospels, the outcome of this wrestling is the same – Jesus doesn’t turn back, but resolves to remain faithful:

   ‘It is for this reason that I have come to this hour’ (12.27)

   we hear Jesus say.

His hour has now come.