Our appointed gospel text for this coming Sunday is one that is set during time of the Passover feast in Jerusalem. It comes right on the heels of Lazarus being raised from the dead, plots to kill Jesus and Lazarus, Mary anointing Jesus in preparation for his own death (which was in a prolepsis in John 11:2) and the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
The text in the [ ] s are not part of the assigned lectionary reading but complete the conversation. I don't know why the folks assembling the RCL (revised common lectionary) opted to omit the last 3 verses.
Might we, like the Greeks, be able to voice and live out our desire to see Jesus this day.
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.
[The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”]
This is an odd exchange. Some Greeks who had come to participate in the Passover fesitval are wishing to see Jesus. They seek out two of Jesus' earliest disciples (see John 1:35-51) and make their desires known. From the text it isn't clear if they ever did get to see Jesus or if the disciples left them waiting somewhere as this exchange occurs.
The answer that Jesus gives isn't how one generally introduces him or herself. No small talk about family or job here. Nothing about hometowns (Nathanael already tried going after Nazareth with Philip to no avail). If the Greeks did meet Jesus it must have been a rather unsettling encounter.
The fact is that Jesus came to unsettle things. Things that have settled out from apathy and religion crafted of human minds and sin both personal and institutional. Jesus came that things might be made right but that requires that other things must yield. The cleansing of the Temple (and the ensuing destruction in 70 AD) are part of that. The call and need for baptism are part of that. Forgiving others and making amends especially when we don't want to or when it is hard are a part of that. Praying "Thy will be done..." is part of that.
We are called to lose our lives, to follow after Jesus and to be like the grain that falls to the ground. Jesus is a beacon that burns furiously bright in our dark world. We are called to follow after that light. In following and in dying there is fruit that comes and life. Jesus' conversational arc might be unusual but the call is clear.
As if this conversation with Jesus and the disciples wasn't odd enough a voice comes from heaven. Jesus calls for his Father's name to be glorified. God answers in the 1st person "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." This voice was audible to 3rd party bystanders. Jesus says the voice spoke for their benefit.
The bottom line is this: Jesus will be lifted up from the earth (on the cross) and all will be drawn to him. That is the connection with the serpent of bronze in John 3:14. That is what happened on Good Friday. That is the testimony we are called to bring to the world.
Many of us like comfortable conversations and safe circumstances. We might prefer to have Jesus contained in the borders of a painting or covers of a book or to certain hours of the week or within certain circles of friends. The reality is that Jesus doesn't always make nice and is certainly no respecter of the borders we would use to hem him in.
God, give us hearts like those of the Greeks who came to seek you. Draw us out of our safety into your goodness. Glorify your name through us. Amen.