John’s gospel, read most these final days of Lent and into Easter, says that Jesus went regularly to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feasts. In this gospel, Jesus says that the feasts are signs that say who he is and what he does.
For example, in Jerusalem Jesus heals a paralyzed man at the pool at Bethsaida on a Sabbath feast (Chapter 5); The Son does not rest from giving life as the Father never rests from giving life. At the Passover (Chapter 6), Jesus teaches he is the true Bread from heaven, the manna that feeds multitudes. On the Feast of Tabernacles (chapter 7-9) he reveals himself as the light of the world and living water. On the Feast of the Dedication, which celebrates the rededication of the temple after its desecration Jesus claims to be the true temple, dwelling among us and making God’s glory known.
The feasts are signs that what Jesus says and does is from God. On the feasts he claims “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” But listeners in Jerusalem seem blind to the signs and accuse him of blasphemy. They try to stone him and have him arrested. Jerusalem rejects him. In today’s gospel, Jesus has to leave the place and go to a place across the Jordan where John baptized. “Many there began to believe in him.”
Now , God gives a new sign. Not a temple, or its feasts or it worship, but One who is lifted up on a cross. John’s gospel, more than the others, finds glorious signs in the sufferings of Jesus. Realists that we are, we find it hard to believe suffering reveals God’s glory and power. We find it hard to see soldiers falling to the ground in the garden before him, Pilate shrinking before him on the judgment seat, Jesus speaking so calmly from the cross. We find it hard to see glory in suffering.
We find it hard to see anything but absurdity in the pandemic we’re experiencing today. But John’s gospel says “Look for the signs.” If we believe God is with us, there are signs of glory and a promise of resurrection.
Lead me on, O Lord,
through your holy signs, to Show me the glory I don’t see,
and through the One lifted up, let me come to you. Amen.