Excerpted from the NC Council of Churches Lenten Guide, “Journey to Justice”
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 Greeks had a simple yet audacious request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (v. 21). This request comes from a place of need, of wanting connection, of needing reassurance. The Greeks wanted to encounter Jesus. It seems that they were tired of hearing about this radical, controversial person, and wanted to be in his presence.
I wish to see Jesus too. When the day-to-day of this world chips away at my ability to focus on God, it seems easier to go search for Jesus wherever he is rather than finding him in my own life. When I wish to see Jesus, I wish to see the Hope and kin-dom work that can only be of Christ, holy and sanctified, void of human manipulation or capitalistic gain. I wish to see Jesus often, actually.
It is a bold demand to ask to see Jesus. The Greeks hoped to see Jesus face to face but our request comes from a need of his presence, nothing less. However, seeing Jesus can entail looking inward at the most painful seasons of our lives and society—times that require healing, redemption, and resurrection. It can mean seeing Jesus not only in God’s presence across the globe, but also in our own life and daily experience.
Perhaps the Greeks had the expectation that if they saw Jesus they would gain understanding and feel whole after the experience. Yet, Jesus’ response to their request, and sometimes our requests, was frightening and demanding.
Jesus responds to the Greeks’ request with grim, even macabre imagery. The Greeks’ request, full of encounter, promise, connection is met with death. Jesus talks about dying to one’s self by using the imagery of a seed. We understand that in order for a seed to blossom, it must first die, or stop being a seed. Then he says, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (v. 25). We wish to see Jesus in order to gain more, not to experience loss. This is a difficult response for us to hear.
Yet, from this passage, we learn that Jesus would never ask of us what he would not also do. The passage leads into Jesus predicting his submission to death. Even now, knowing the full story of death and resurrection, I can still read this passage and panic. I have to die to myself in order to live?
Lent reminds us that death is not the most powerful part of our experience because death leads to new life, new ways of living, and new understandings. We learn in this passage that through Christ we have daily-resurrection. When we request Jesus, we can see that Jesus has already been with us and will stay with us as we journey.
Prayer: Great, Gracious, and Living God—
Help us see your presence in our lives—
Help us trust you and see your love in our day to day.
We give thanks for your hope and the life that only you can bring.
May we be renewed by your peace. Amen.