Gospel Reflection Lent 5B
March 25, 2012
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 honor. “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 judgment 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.
Reading the Gospel of John, I sometimes feel like I’m in front of the TV with someone else who has the remote and is continually switching channels. Just then I think I know what’s going on – CLICK! – we’re onto something else. “Some Greeks” approach Philip. All we know is that they were “among those who went up to worship at the festival”. Were they from the Jewish diaspora living in Greece? Were they looking for wisdom teachers and thought Jesus might be interesting? Were they tourists who had been in the outer courts of the Temple when Jesus went on his rampage? What were they hoping for? John leaves their motives a mystery. Why did they want to see Jesus? It’s a perfect set-up for a great conversion story, or perhaps another revealing conversation as with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
The Greeks disappear from the screen and Jesus begins what seems to be a totally different program. “Now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He talks about grain dying so it can bear fruit. He talks about being “lifted up” – code for crucifixion. He enters what, in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke is the anguished struggle with himself and God in the Garden of Gethsemane. If the mysterious Greeks are still there, seeing Jesus as they requested, I suspect they are seeing a Jesus they did not expect. What did they make of what they heard? Did they stay around or did all that talk of crucifixion and dying send them quickly on their way? Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps it’s not a different program. Perhaps Jesus is showing the Greeks what it means if they really want to SEE him - to see far more than the wise teacher, compassionate healer, raiser of the dead and challenger of the status quo that he also is.
We’re moving so quickly through Lent, and soon we’ll be faced with what we cannot escape, no matter how much we prefer to keep our focus on other aspects of Jesus. Jesus is going to be arrested, tortured, put through a mockery of legal process and, with heavy iron nails through his wrists and ankles, hung from rough-hewn wood and left to die. The mysterious Greeks asked to see Jesus. That is what they will also see if they stick around. That is something we must also allow ourselves to see as well as the rest. This is how God loves the world – including us – fully, completely, nothing held back. This is what we, too, must go through with Jesus, or the Resurrected Christ will not make sense. Dying precedes resurrection. We have to go through one to get to the other. Do we truly wish to see Jesus, or do we only want the parts of him that are comfortable and comprehensible? We don’t know what the Greeks chose. What will we choose?