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Tweeting the Gospel?

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sermon for the second Sunday after Epiphany

That’s a very strange response to an introduction.

St Philip comes up to Jesus and says, “Lord, Andrew says there are some Greeks outside who would like to see you.”

And Jesus does not say, “bring them in, please Philip.” He does not say, “do you know what they want?” Nor does He say, “tell them to go away.” Rather He starts talking about His impending crucifixion. It all seems a bit like answering the doorbell by saying, “I’m going to die, shortly!”

How might the Greeks react?


In order to understand why Our Lord responds in such a peculiar fashion, we have to look at who these Greeks are. Jerusalem is a very cosmopolitan place in which many people from all over the Roman Empire come for various reasons. We have already witnessed Our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey which has clearly raised up interest among the crowds gathering for the Passover. It is very probable that these Greeks are either converts to Judaism or that they are considering the possibility of becoming Jews. In seeing Jesus arrive into Jerusalem in such a fashion, they clearly want to know Who He is and why this has happened.

And they are Greeks. This means that they are not just Gentiles by birth but they are people renowned for their thinking. They are interested in what Jesus has to say and intend to weigh Him up by His words and teaching.

That should make a lot of sense to us. In a General Election, we are faced with a number of candidates to choose from. Surely, it makes sense to make an informed choice based on what the candidates produce in their speeches and in their campaign literature. It becomes a matter, then, of choosing the candidate whose policies we like the best or, in most cases, the policies we dislike the least.

This is how people approach their religion, too. They try to find the religion that best suits them and go for that. We see many people today taking little bits from one religion and little bits from another. Why? Because they choose the bits that suit their own spirituality as they understand it.


There are fewer and fewer practising Christians in the West and, yet, still Christmas, Easter, St Valentine’s Day and Halloween are still popular festivals. Non-Christians still enjoy Nativity plays, Easter Egg hunts, and nice cosy messages of love. Many reject the Christian Faith and they do so because it does not meet with their spirituality or their worldview. They have their own spirituality and their mind is made up.

In making up their minds, they have begun a process that hardens their hearts. Our Lord quotes the prophet Isaiah and tells those around him that God “hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”

Just as God has ordained that things fall when we drop them, and that electricity flows when we switch on the plug, so this hardening of the heart is a consequence of the unbeliever’s choice which follows the pattern that God has set. Once the heart is hardened, then the voice of God will sound only like a rumble of thunder.


The Greeks think that Jesus will give them words of wisdom which they can take away with them to do with what they will. They want a soundbite – a tweet! Something to make them feel warm and fuzzy. The only thing that He will give them is the Cross and the sign of Jonah. The Greeks want wisdom and Jesus will only show them His agony, dangling on an instrument of torture.

Our Lord’s teaching is bound up in His actions and cannot be separated. Christmas Day, Easter Day, St Valentine’s Day, Halloween, all have any meaning because of the Cross. The Cross is the centre of Christian teaching and, if we diminish its importance, then we diminish Our Lord, and we diminish His Resurrection.

And yet, if we embrace the Cross fully, truly and humbly in full recognition of Our Lord’s love for us, then we will hear the voice of God speaking to us and His Word will be of infinitely greater worth and comfort than any warm, fuzzy, inspirational message found in a tweet.

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