John 12:20-33: 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.
“Sir, we would see Jesus!” These words from the 12th Chapter of John’s Gospel have started many a sermon that I have preached. Imagine then, my shock when, dealing with a text from John 12 for this sermon, that the first commentary I read pointed out that there was no evidence that the visitors ever saw Jesus. And further, that wasn’t the point. To see or hear Jesus, in John’s terminology was to come to believe in Jesus. So now the whole thing is flipped. These Greek visitors to Passover, might actually be telling the disciples they already believe in Jesus. Now John’s Gospel is dramatically different from the other three Gospels. For example, in John, the moment that turns the Pharisees and others to getting rid of Jesus, was Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. The story of Lazarus is not even found in Matthew, Mark or Luke. So what do we make of these differences? Do we ignore them and stick to the well-crafted version of faith that discourages questions? Or do we engage the questions that these differences in Scripture can raise for us? While I have always believed that God is unchanging, as I have witnessed more and more cultural and social change, it is apparent that we grow, shrink, get it right, get it wrong. Some more things from John’s Gospel to dwell with. While the first part of Chapter 12 tells the story of Mary anointing Jesus feet, given that we know that this Mary and her connection to Martha and Lazarus is only in John’s Gospel, who is it that anoints in the other Gospels? John’s Gospel focuses on Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, rather than putting emphasis on the institution of the Eucharist. John’s Gospel in fact has Jesus ministry lasting longer than the versions in the other Gospels (hint – count the Passovers in each Gospel). All of these things ask us to ask questions, which takes us deeper into the Scriptures where we will find new insights and revelations.
The Rev. Canon Keith Nethery