(for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 22, 2015)
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. (John 12:20-33, NRSV).
The passage above makes me wonder: Who is the ‘them’ Jesus is addressing as he explains his coming ‘glorification’? Is it just Phillip and Andrew or is it the worshipping Greeks from Bethsaida?
I like to think it is the Greek visitors who are Jesus’ audience. If so, Jesus’ pointing to his coming passion is in answer to their question: ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Jesus’ answer offers them the sought after glimpse of the Christ.
And such a sighting of Jesus is sorely needed. Confusion and bafflement are not far from any with an interest in Jesus at this stage. How will they make sense of the cross and the grave?
Perhaps they can’t – at least not just yet. Jesus is, once again, preparing his hearers for what is to come – offering no more than a way to re-imagine the devastating events that will soon unfold. Jesus’ suffering and death will be like a grain of wheat, dying in order to produce. His words are a pointer and a call to those who would follow.
They are a glimpse of the generous and sacrificial heart of God.
Jesus is, however, far from detached. There will be real pain, suffering and death. He is far too human – too much like us – to go to the cross untroubled. He willingly confesses to prayers for salvation from the fast approaching hour. His will be a very real passion.
But it will remain infused with the hope and purpose of God. Indeed, as the voice from heaven indicates, Jesus’ suffering will become a path to glory.
His will be a lifting up to draw people to God.