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Daily Devotional • February 19

Pamela Lewis
The Hour of the Grain
A Reading from the Gospel of John 12:24-32

24 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. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.26 Whoever 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. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Everyone was having such a good time (except the Pharisees). As had been foretold by the prophet Zechariah, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey’s back (John 12:15; Zech. 9:9), under a canopy of palms, and surrounded by the jubilant hosannas of the crowd praising God for giving them the king they so desperately wanted. Even some Greeks who are among the celebrants at the feast ask to see Jesus. This doesn’t sit well with the Pharisees; Jesus is getting too popular.

But in today’s passages it is Jesus who punctures hopes for a heroic conqueror, explaining instead that his mysterious, yet significant “hour” has come when he will die and be glorified. While the revelers are rejoicing in their fantasy of a leader with earthly glory, Jesus tells them the truth that his imminent death will result in a supernatural glorification. Jesus implicitly likens himself to a single grain of wheat that must do what wheat does to provide greater life. He must die to become the bread of life. Jesus also presents one of the great paradoxes embedded in following him: we must lose our lives to find it, and we must hate this life to receive eternal life. This is not to be understood as intentionally seeking to end our lives, but to achieve a godly detachment from earthly things in favor of eternal ones. Prefiguring his agony in Gethsemane, Jesus in his humanity questions whether he should ask God to spare him from his hour; but he acknowledges and accepts this as the reason he came into the world.

The voice of the Father that had spoken from heaven at Jesus’ baptism speaks again at Jesus’ behest to glorify the Father’s name. Whereas only Jesus had heard the voice at his baptism, the crowd hears this second voice but is unable to tell whether it is thunder or an angel. As God’s voice is heard by all who are attentive to it, Jesus accepts all people who seek him. 

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for 30 years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, New York, she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Auburn, California
Eglise Anglicane du Rwanda
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