top of page
St. John.jpg

Remove All Doubt

John 12:20-33

The Rev. Jon Roberts

17 March


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Beth-sa′ida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him. 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; 32 and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what death he was to die.


The Gentiles Ask To See Jesus by James Tissot, 1886-1894

It is better to remain silent
and be thought a fool
than to open one's mouth
and remove all doubt.[1]

This was the case for one man who did not believe in God. He was incensed over the preparations that went into Easter and the Passover holy days by Christians and demanded there be some accountability. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had none.

The case was brought before the judge and after listening to the long-winded case made by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared, “Case dismissed!” The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The evidence is clear. Christians have Christmas and Easter and Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukah, yet my client and all other atheists have been discriminated with no such holiday!” The judge leaned forward in his chair and said, “Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate his own holiday.” The lawyer pompously replied, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists. Just when might that holiday be, your Honor?” The judge said, “Well, it comes every year on exactly the same date,…April 1st. Since our calendar sets April 1st as ‘April Fools Day’ consider that Psalm 14:1 states, “the fool says in his heart, there is no God.” Thus in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by this verse in the Bible, he is a fool, and April 1st is his holiday! Now have a good day and get out of my courtroom!” [2]

Who is the fool? Consider another psalm, one most popular during Lent, known as Miserere mei, Deus. In it the psalmist calls out, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness. In your great compassion blot out my offenses.”[3] When we have removed all the doubt of our own foolishness to sin, our hearts rest in God’s loving-kindness. A fool is one who either does not believe he sins, or a fool is one who believes there is no way to blot out the wrong he has done. The Christian may sometimes be foolish to sin, but shoud never be the fool who doubts God’s mercy. The atheist is not a doubter. That is an agnostic. The atheist will not be silent as their argument is that there is no God, no moral representative other than the merit of the individual. If given authority, they will use harsh judgement on thew world and show no loving kindness. Our hope rests in the mercy of God. Without that, there is no way to hear God’s voice that comes for your sake and mine to remove all doubt.

The scene this morning is one of the gentiles coming before the disciples asking to see Jesus.[4] Who were they? They were not yet converts to Judaism, but they were preparing. This was not a rare event. The Court of the Gentiles was a prominent place at the Temple mount for those who wanted to receive the covenant of Abraham and become Jews, and it gave them better social status if they did. They also wanted to worship the God of Israel as the Jews, but they had to wait to go through the process of being inspected by the priests first. While there, they heard Jesus had entered a few days prior and people were singing, “Hosanna in the highest”. Yes, this is where the lectionary for our Sunday readings are not placed in chronological order. Palm Sunday is next week but this visit by the Gentiles coming to meet Jesus is a day or two after, and only two or three days before the Jewish holiday of the Passover.

Did they come to see a great high priest, as Paul writes about in his letter to the Hebrews?[5] The holiday being celebrated was that of They come to see if he is the one who can shed light on remove their doubts. They have been fools on both accounts. They have either subscribed to the culture that says there is no such thing as sin, or they have tried to follow laws that make it impossible to be saved from sin. He applied to their common sense, matter of factly like a judge to a plaintiff. One may wonder if they were farmers who grew wheat, or perhaps traveled through wheat fields during their journey. As Jesus did so often, he knew his listeners, what they could relate to, and this time saying, “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.” Timing is everything. You would be foolish to cut down wheat not thresh it as soon as possible. Breaking the bran from the husk was necessary and harsh. Only by doing so, would the seeds be released for new wheat to grow. Since when does wheat bear fruit? Wheat is wheat and fruit is fruit. How foolish to the outsider, but Jesus refers to the Greek word, Karpos, which means not only fruit, but it also means flesh.

Christ himself eludes to the shadow of the cross because it is the means of salvation. Without it there can be no resurrection. Without it there can be no fruit in the form of these gentiles. There can not be the countless witnesses, such as ourselves to follow His voice. Is it better to remain silent and be thought of as a fool, or to speak about the mercy God sent us, through the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and remove all doubt?

[1] Abraham Lincoln
[2] St. John Chrysostom, Delafield, WI, Newsletter, The Pioneer, Jan. 2009.
[3] Ps. 51:1
[4] John 12:20-33
[5] Hebrews 5:5-10

Join the Discussion
The category is members only, sign up to join in
bottom of page