Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

22 March 2015

Read today’s Gospel Reading: John 12.20-33

This is Passion Sunday, when our thoughts turn towards Jesus’ suffering and death for us and for our salvation on the cross. Jesus is preparing his disciples for the grim reality of his crucifixion, but also showing what this would achieve. It would be ‘the judgment of this world’, and it would result in ‘the ruler of this world’ being ‘driven out.’ The result would be that God would be glorified, and all people would be drawn to him, through Jesus, lifted up on the cross. This was the moment of crisis not only for Jesus, but for all of his contemporaries – and for the whole world. It was the turning point of history – and it remains the turning point for those who find forgiveness and new life in Him today.

Often when I go to preach on this reading I take with me a bag of wheat grain, and give everyone present some to take home and plant in the garden. It doesn’t seem much, a grain of wheat – it is small, dried up, and, to look at, quite unpromising. But when sown in the field, when the sun and the rain get to work on it, and the soft earth gives its nourishment, the seed grow and grows, and produces a harvest.

Jesus said, ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a simple grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’

Our Lord here illustrates a great Scriptural truth by a very familiar fact in nature. That fact is, that in plants and seeds life comes by death. The seed must be put into the ground, must rot, decay and die, if we want it to bear fruit and produce a crop. If we refuse to bury the seed, and will keep it without sowing it, we shall never reap any harvest.

We have died and have been buried with Christ in baptism. Let us be glad and rejoice. We died with Christ. We rose again with him. We now live by faith in him, in company with others. Rejoice and be Glad. Death is the way to spiritual life and glory. We died and rose again with Christ. Let us live in that resurrected life as Friends in Christ.

Today’s Gospel Reading: John 12.20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘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 judgement 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.