In I Corinthians today, we have themes of wisdom and power. "Jews demand a sign"--a sign of power, that is. "Greeks desire wisdom"--a proof well argued by "the debater of this age." God's power and wisdom are so high above human power and wisdom that it's difficult to relate them. In contrast, "We proclaim Christ crucified." How does giving up all agency to the government, to Pilate, demonstrate power? I preached about the Palm Sunday scene where the disciples sat Jesus on the donkey; Jesus was passive, showing not even enough power to get on the colt himself. Indeed by the end of the week, Jesus will have given up freedom by being arrested, resistance, by remaining silent in the face of his accusers, and life itself by dying on the cross. At the beginning of the week his disciples sat him on the donkey. At the end of the week they laid him in the tomb. There was no sign of power, and no logic to explain it. By doing this, Christ became "wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." God showed the wisdom of love on Good Friday by allowing Jesus to die on the cross. God showed the ultimate sign of power on Easter morning by raising Christ from the dead.
The passage from the Gospel today has also has some inverted axes. We think of Christ dying on the cross like that seed that falls in the ground, but John has so much that is pointing up. If the seed dies (looking down into the ground) it bears much fruit (lifting you gaze up, into the tree). "Among those who went up to worship." were the Greeks. The Son of Man must be glorified lifted up. The image has to do with the reputation of a name increasing, being lifted up, but also with Jesus being lifted up on a cross. Our gaze has been lifted up to the cross. I think of those silhouette pictures of the cross. Then, we lift our gaze even higher, to the skies where a voice comes from a thunder cloud. Just like in Corinthians, we think of abdication as weakness, but it is God's power to save. We think of the cross as humility, but it is glory. We think of dying as descent, but God raises, Jesus. Crucified on the tree, we foolish, weak Christians look up to that tree and see much fruit from the love of God.