Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn
Isaiah 49.1-7; John 12.20-36
The once sunny sky must have become cloudy. Someone thought that they heard thunder. They were listening to Jesus teaching. This is what Jesus was spending his time doing; he could never stop it, never stop teaching the people. After all he was a natural.
When he was twelve years old, and in this very temple, he was found with the teachers. His parents were searching for him; they’d lost him among the group of their friends with whom they were travelling, and returning to Jerusalem there they found him, seated with the teachers, teaching. St Luke tells us about the reaction of everyone to what he was saying
'All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished.' (Luke 2.47-48a)
What a difference a few years make. Now, when Jesus is teaching in the Temple, it’s not amazement, astonishment that’s the reaction of those who teach but anger, when they hear him they want to kill him.
But not all of them, of course, not Joseph of Arimathea, not Nicodemus, not Gamaliel. They were teachers, they were leaders of the Pharisees, they were secret supporters of Jesus but were they also those who some years earlier had been seated discussing the finer points of some texts when a young lad had wandered up to them, sat down, listened and then asked that most insightful question? Is that where their discipleship began? Did they become students of this teacher at that moment of revelation, were they those who were amazed and had they been looking out for his return from that moment onward?
They’d seen him 'carted off' by his relieved but angry parents who were amazed to find him in such company, the gentle mother and the father with carpenter's hands, but had they been looking out for their teacher, until now?
People came from all over to listen to Jesus. John tells us in today’s Gospel reading that some Greeks came along, found Philip who found Andrew and together they found Jesus, teaching, and they too were spellbound by what he had to say.
And then there was a thunderclap. Those threatening clouds were gathering and one caused the sun to disappear for a moment and the early spring heat and the early spring light disappeared with it. There was a clap of thunder, just one.
'The crowd standing there heard it.' (John 12.29)
They thought that it was God speaking because God had a habit of speaking out of thunder clouds or at least that had been Moses' experience. And the teacher teaches.
But all was not right with Jesus. He was doing what he loved doing, teaching, in the temple, the place where it all began, but something was not right. In fact that thunder clap was part of the cloud that had gathered for him, in him.
'Now my soul is troubled.' (John 12.27)
We’ve lived in this Cathedral for the whole of Lent with a cloud hanging over us, the cloud which the artist, Susie MacMurray, created and called 'Doubt'.
It’s hung here as a reminder of our own clouds, of doubt and unknowing, but also of trouble and depression, the black dog day cloud that can be all too real for people, every day, for a season, for a time. We’ve been recognising that such clouds are part of our reality and that life isn’t always lived out in sunshine.
Jesus could teach, eloquently, beautifully, life-changingly about the light and the dark as the cloud hovered but there was an internal cloud that had bubbled up.
‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”?' (John 12.27)
We shall hear him pray that prayer again, in the dark, in the garden when we gather on Maundy Thursday but for now he answers his own prayer
'No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.' (John 12.27-28a)
and he carries on teaching as the rumble of divine affirmation sounds around them. But the clouds won't disperse that easily and, sometimes, neither will ours.
you know what a troubled soul feels like.
Rumble your affirmation
into my own troubles
and teach me to see the light
through the darkness.