Holy Week: COVID Tuesday Meditation – “If I am lifted up” – Brad Jersak

What happened Tuesday?

As we continue our Passion Week trek toward the Paschal Feast, the specific events of Holy Tuesday are not entirely clear. I imagine Jesus bedding down in Bethany each night, then hiking the four kilometres up to the Temple in Jerusalem each day. There, the Lord would occupy his Father’s House, healing the sick, teaching his disciples and disputing with the religious establishment.

Christians around the world commemorate Holy Tuesday by focusing on various events that may or may not have occurred precisely on that day. No matter. Some recall Jesus’ debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees over marriage in heaven, paying taxes to Caesar and his source of authority (Matthew 21:23—23:39Mark 11:27—12:44Luke 20:1—21:4). They remember Jesus’ comments on the widow’s donation (Mark 12Luke 21), his meeting with God-fearing Greeks (John 12:20–36) and the eight “woes” he spoke against the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13–36). Finally, some associate that Tuesday evening as the night Christ delivered his Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24—25Mark 13Luke 21:5–36), with an emphasis in the East on the parable of the talents or the ten virgins, which I’ve written about before.

As we face COVID Tuesday 2020, another day of this fiery trial, we remember all those on the front lines, risking their lives to battle the coronavirus. We are mindful of those for whom quarantine takes a toll on their mental and emotional health. And we pray for the lives of those who’ve contracted the disease. For all these I pray, Lord, have mercy.

The Gospel Reading

I’ll follow the Revised Common Lectionary used by many Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans and Reformed believers. The Gospel reading comes from John the Beloved.

In order to feel the full impact of Jesus’ words, I suggest reading the passage aloud. Do you ever wonder how to get revelation from your head into your hearts? Remarkably, the One who spoke the universe into existence has given humanity the unique power of speech. When we echo the words of the divine Word out loud, his words do not merely pass from our eyes into our mind as data, but from the “page,” through our eyes and into our mind, then it rises from our lungs, past our vocal cords, over our tongue and from our lips, then back into us through our ears and down into our hearts. You may not feel a difference at first (I always do) but you will likely notice things Jesus says (not just said) that you’ve never heard before. Here we go:

John 12:20–12:36

  • 20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 
  • 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.27“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. 28Father, glorify your name.”
  • Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 
  • 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 
  • 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

What is Jesus saying to you?

On this COVID Tuesday, what words or phrases drew your attention? I encourage you to write them down. Sit with them. Let them permeate your heart. Don’t figure them out. Just open your heart and listen to the red letters that the Spirit highlights for you. What is Christ saying to you today? How are these words a “now message” for this moment?

This is why John recorded those words. So that Jesus could speak them to you today. To your heart. To your fears and worries. To shine the light of hope and courage into this present darkness.

To exemplify what I’m saying, here are some phrases that spoke to me as I read:

  • Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

And I thought, wait a minute… when a grain of wheat falls into the earth, it doesn’t really die. It may appear dead, buried and dry. But it’s not actually dead. Did the Gardener who created the Paradise of Eden not know this?

In my heart, I see Jesus smirk at me. He seems pleased that I noticed. He’s glad I asked. He knew very well. And that was his point. Death and burial are undone in resurrection. Oh yes, death happened. This was no temporary coma. But then death dies and life reigns.

  • Now my soul is troubled.

Think about that. Christ so embraced the human condition that could authentically experience a troubled soul. We call this his “co-suffering love” for all of humanity. And it means he knows just how I feel in these troubled times. He can empathize with my troubled soul.

  • I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

Does Jesus want to draw ALL people to himself? YES.
Is Jesus able to draw ALL people to himself? YES.
Does Jesus tell us he will draw ALL people to himself? YES.
What does Jesus say is required? What is this promise contingent on?
His being lifted up. And so he was. And now he is. Selah.

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