Reflection: Fifth Sunday of Lent

Welcome to our series of Lent and Easter reflections.

On the fifth Sunday of Lent, the pivot between Lent and Passiontide, The Reverend Mark Birch considers the significance of pivotal moments. The reflection begins with a reading of John 12:20-33.

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John 12:20-33

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 honour.

Jesus Speaks about His Death

‘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.


This Sunday marks the pivot between Lent and Passiontide. From here we slide inexorably towards the awfulness of Good Friday, yet always backlit with the glory of Easter.  
When some Greeks say they want to see Jesus, when the Gentile world is paying attention, Jesus senses that ‘his hour’ has come.  He will be lifted up to draw all people to himself.  His death will bear fruit in the church, the new community-without-borders that will bear his life forward.  
But his soul is troubled.  This ‘hour’ is terrifying.  His humanity, like ours, shrinks from the knowledge of death; its proximity.  
Pivotal moments come in many guises: in a phone call, a knock on the door, a declaration of war.  Suddenly our comfortable assumptions are shattered, and our dependable world feels anything but.  With a sickening tilt, everything starts sliding into nothing.  
In his hour, Emmanuel slides with us. He will be tipped into pointless suffering, a senseless death, and an empty grave, where meaning decays. If he hadn’t, if he had been ‘saved from this hour’, then the glory of Easter would have nothing to do with us. As it is, it makes even the grave a ‘bed of hope’.   


Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.