John 12:27-36 (NRSV)
“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 judgment 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 forever. 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.
I recently heard an interview on NPR about the popularity of “death memoirs.” Paul Kalanithi’s hugely-popular, posthumously-published memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, inspired reflections on this literary genre, which includes other titles such as The Last Lecture (by Randy Pausch) and Tuesdays with Morrie (by Mitch Albom). Part of the appeal of this genre, according to the interview, stems from the hope that we – as readers – find in the idea that a person might discern and articulate universal and particular meaning in life in the face of death.
The Gospels are a sort of death memoir, since Jesus – especially in John’s Gospel – is cognizant from the start of his ministry that he will die in a manner such as he does. All that Jesus teaches is said in the knowledge that the rulers of the world will crucify him. He is also cognizant of the fact that his death – not just his life – is purposeful; God’s name will be glorified in both his life and death. Indeed, Jesus’ death infuses his life with truth.
During Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ final days – his agony in abandonment, his pain in torture and death. However, we also remember his hope – that as he is lifted high to the cross, all people will be drawn to him, that people will understand and believe in the light. Imagining myself peering up at the cross with a crowd of perplexed spectators, I wonder, “What does Jesus’ living and dying mean for the living out of my days?” And how about for you? How does Jesus’ living and dying give meaning to your life?
We thank you for the blessing of yet one more day to live. And we thank you for infusing our days with meaning. May our living and dying bring glory to our Father in Heaven. Through Christ we pray, Amen.