On this last Sunday in Lent, the last Sunday before Holy Week begins, we are challenged to preach on desire for the high priest who comes into the world to live and die and be raised from the dead, who tells us about dying in order to become something larger (single grain to wheat that has full heads––many grains), all wrapped in the mystery of the Resurrection.
The preacher must help the assembly enter into the willingness to lose established patterns in order to see or know or move into yet greater ways of living. This is not to validate suffering or encourage martyrdom. This is to become reflective about our allegiances and believe that we can detach for the sake of life abundant.
Walter Brueggeman preached on the verse, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” noting it offers the strongest rationale for a Christocentric theory of homiletic. The role of the homilist, particularly, is to offer a message that is transparent to the person of Jesus.
. . . The desire to see Jesus may have been mere curiosity, or search for some new religious or political cause célèbre. For whatever reason, the seeking crowds were sufficient in number for some authorities to exaggerate: “Look, the world has gone after him.”
There follows Jesus' teaching to a select few, presumably Phillip, Andrew and some of the other disciples. He speaks of a reversal of fortunes, one of those rare sayings recorded in all four gospels: “Those who love their life in this world lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Those who seek to lead must serve. Then follows a revelation of glory. His glorification will be the product of a similar reversal. The loss of life in abject circumstance will initiate eternal life in glory; the grain of wheat that dies will grow, bloom, and bear much fruit. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt
In this season, when we focus on stories in which Jewish authorities plot Jesus' demise, it is crucial to recall how the new covenant is both like and unlike the old. It is the same God, the same promise, the same expectations, the same people. The One who brought Israel out from a land of bondage to a new place of freedom remains author of the new promise, restorer and sustainer of the people. Israel, now subject to punishment, remains the people to be loved and redeemed and transformed, the people who are to keep the law and witness to the One who saves and liberates before all the nations. None of these things change. The new does not contradict or rescind the old. The new is unlike the old simply in that God will no longer be satisfied to have the law carved in stone but will write the law on each heart. –– Scott Haldeman
[This passage] offers an extended treatise on the analogy between Jesus and Melchizedek. (Genesis 14) To understand the analogy, one must read beyond the lectionary verses. Christ, as priest, (Heb. 6: 19) is comparable to the High Priest who, on Yom Kippur, would enter the Holy of Holies to intercede before God for the forgiveness of the nation.
The early Christians knew that Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi and could not have been an Aaronic priest. Yet, they remained convinced of his having performed a proper “priestly role” throughout his saving death, resurrection, atoning and eternal presence before God. The reference to a priesthood long before Aaron, in the person of Melchizedek, who offered cereal offerings of bread and wine to the God “El,” was powerfully attractive to ancient Christians who saw in him a prototype for the saving works of Christ. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt
Jeffery VanderWilt, author of Communion with Non-Catholic Christians (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003) teaches at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Southern California.
W. Scott Haldeman is associate professor of worship at Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.
Homily Service 39, no. 5 (2006): 2-8.