Tuesday of Holy Week: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies.’ - Revd Dr Fiona Haworth
The Tuesday of Holy Week: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies.’
Reflection by Fiona Haworth
Each year, the pattern of readings during Holy Week take us through the events of the last week of Jesus earthly life. We begin with Palm Sunday and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On Monday we remember the meal Jesus shared at the home of Lazarus in Bethany, where Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. On Tuesday we remember the Greeks in Jerusalem who asked to see Jesus; and in response to their request, Jesus speaks of his glorification. On Wednesday we remember Judas setting in motion his betrayal of Jesus.
Collect for Palm Sunday
True and humble king,
hailed by the crowd as Messiah:
grant us the faith to know you and love you,
that we may be found beside you
on the way of the cross,
which is the path of glory. Amen (Church of England Additional Collects)
Bible Reading: John 12:20-36
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip,
who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told
Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very 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. Those who love their life
lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me
must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will
‘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. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from
heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that
it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for
your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be
driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people* to myself.’ He said this
to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law
that the Messiah* remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is
this Son of Man?’ Jesus 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. While 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.
Tuesday of Holy Week: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies.’
Reflection: Fiona Haworth
The enforced isolation brought about by the corona virus has ensured that our garden is the tidiest and most weeded it has ever been during our time here. There is a semi wild area left which provides early flowers for the insects when pollen is in short supply, but the lawn is mowed, the new raised beds are awaiting young plants, and the borders are showing promise of colour to come. We are watching for signs of life from the seeds we have planted and our excitement when new shoots break the surface puzzles our dog. Happily he isn’t a great digger, so plants are safe.
Waiting for the seeds to sprout has me pondering the words that Jesus speaks in our gospel
reading for today, about a grain of wheat needing to fall into the earth and die if it is to bear much
fruit. Jesus is referring to his coming death. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ This passage is as close as John’s gospel comes to recounting the agony of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Having spoken of glory, Jesus goes on to speak of laying down his life as a seed is laid in the ground. It is a prospect that troubles Jesus to the depths of his soul. But his way is clear, God will glorify him because he is ready to let go of his life, to lay it down, to inhabit the grave that waits for us all. In this acceptance of the necessity of suffering and death, Jesus and the Father are one. It is only in letting go, that Jesus will receive life back again. It is only because Jesus is willing to let go, that God can act to raise him again. In this dance of self-giving love within the Trinity, God is, and will be glorified.
This is a sign offered freely to the whole world. These words of Jesus have been prompted by the request of some Greeks in Jerusalem to see Jesus. They approach Philip, who in turn goes to Andrew, the two disciples who have Greek names. They come to Jesus not out of idle curiosity, the Greek implies that they wish to see and to believe in Jesus. We do not know whether these were Hellenistic Jews from the Jewish diaspora, or gentiles. Whatever their origins, it is in response to their request that Jesus asserts that when he is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself. Their question lead to an assertion of the limitless love of God.
We are sometimes tempted to rush through Good Friday and Holy Saturday in our haste to get to the joy of Easter Sunday. As Good Friday is not part of our usual weekly pattern of church going, it would be possible to skip the solemnities all together. The way to Easter Sunday cannot avoid the cross. Similarly, if we are to follow Christ, we must follow him in the laying down of our lives in acts of love and service. We must be like wheat planted in the ground.
Planting a seed is an act of faith. What happens below the surface of the earth is in many ways a mystery which involves the interplay of a rich and largely invisible world of fauna and flora providing the seed with water and nourishment. We have a clearer understanding of what happens to the seed itself. The husk, the protective outer coating, softens allowing the seed to take in the necessary nutriments that allow it to begin breaking down the food source within the seed, sending roots deep into the soil, and the shoot searching upwards to the light.
This has been a hard Lent and Holy Week for the church. Our usual ways of being have been suspended. We have been forced into isolation, buried as it were in the earth. There are lessons to learn here, not least about quietness and prayer and the sustaining of our inner lives. May this be a time in which the hard outer shells we have acquired soften and allow new life to grow, new ways of being church to and with each other to emerge, that once this crisis is passed (when Jesus speaks of the judgment of this world, the Greek used is the word crisis) we may play our part in the reordering of society into a kinder, fairer and more just social ordering in which we are measured by our care of the most vulnerable.
Jesus laid down his life
that all people may be drawn to him.
As we lay down the routines and certainties of our lives
in this time of crisis,
may our hearts be softened with your compassion;
reaching out to those in need,
calling for the recognition of those who serve,
and caring for the lost and lonely.
Fit us as a people
to live and work
for the coming of your kingdom here on earth.
We ask this in Jesus name.