The Fifth Sunday of Lent

The Fifth Sunday of Lent (18 March 2018)

Lectionary readings: Jer 31:31-34; Ps 51:3-4. 12-15; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33

Theme: Father, glorify your name.




To what feast is verse 20 referring? John’s public life of Jesus stretches over three years – three Passover Feasts. This is the third and last and Jesus will be the Passover Lamb.


The first Passover is at the time of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple (Jn 2:11-22). This action would have reached many Jews because of the feast. This narrative follows the changing of the water into wine where Jesus tells his mother that his “hour has not yet come” (2:4). We are also told that his disciples began to believe in him.


The second Passover takes place when Jesus gives bread to the crowds (‘manna’ – Jn 6:1-15); walks on the water (‘Exodus’ – Jn 6:16-21); and promises his body and blood as food and drink (vv. Jn 6:22-65). Many disciples walked away while the Twelve, through Peter say: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (v. 68)


Back to our reading for today: the Greeks come to Philip and he goes to Andrew with the request to see Jesus (12:21-22). The message of Jesus is extending beyond his disciples and the Jews. Verse 23 speaks about the hour that has now come for “the Son of Man to be glorified”. In case the disciples and we are thinking it is going to be without suffering, Jesus speaks about the importance of the grain of wheat needing to die before it can bring forth fruit (v. 24). If we love and want to protect our own lives we will lose them in “eternal life”. The people who wish to follow Jesus to “eternal life” must be like the grain of wheat (v. 25).


‘Service’ is the hallmark of being a follower of Jesus. As the Father honors the Son, so those who follow the Son will also be honored by the Father in “eternal life” (v. 26).


Jesus calls on his Father to save him from the hour for which he has come into the world (v. 27). It is the humanity of Jesus that is shrinking from the suffering and abandonment. This echoes what the Synoptics have Jesus cry to his Father in Gethsemane: Matthew 26:39 is an example.


Jesus calls on his Father to glorify his name. The Bat Kol is heard answering Jesus. This voice was heard at the Baptism of Jesus and at his Transfiguration. This is God’s assurance of his love for and pleasure in his Son. God answers his Son but it seems that only those who truly listen or whom God has chosen hear the voice (vv. 28-29).


Jesus then speaks of the judgment on the world when “the ruler of this world will be driven out” (v. 31). The battle between darkness and light, blindness and true sight is about to take place when Jesus is “lifted up from the earth” on the cross. The seeming disgrace and failure of Jesus hanging on the cross is actually the triumph of the Son of God where he will save all of creation by drawing all to himself in obedience to the Father for the salvation of all (vv. 32-33).


For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Be with Jesus in this passage as he looks towards the final Passover. Allow yourself to feel what he is feeling. What is the Bat Kol saying to you?


Bibliography: Kee, Young & Froehlich. Understanding the New Testament (New Jersey: 1973); King, N. The New Testament, (Great Britain: 2004); The African Bible, (Nairobi: 1999).


This week’s Sunday Gospel Commentary was prepared by

Bernadette Chellew, Durban, South Africa, Bat Kol Alum 2008
Email address:


[Copyright © 2018]



PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Gospel commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Sunday Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the Bat Kol Institute, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bat Kol. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome



Bat Kol Institute for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem


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