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.”
From the beginning of this gospel reading, we know that Jerusalem was a great city in the Mediterranean world. The celebration of the Passover was also a well-known event in this part of the world and was attended by peoples from the neighbouring regions, including the Greeks, was once the master of world before the Romans.
The Greeks in the beginning of the gospel were not Jews who had migrated to Greece and rerun home to celebrate the Passover, but Gentiles who had learned about the God of Jews. They might spent quite a while in Jerusalem and had heard of the raising of Lazarus (John 12:17). They were keen to meet Jesus and to learn more about him. So they came to Philip asking to be introduced to Jesus.
We have no idea whether they had eventually met Jesus or not, although we know that Philip went to Andrew and together the two went to Jesus. So, Jesus definitely knew about the request of the Greeks. Whether they eventually met or not is not important. What is important was Jesus took the opportunity to prepare his disciples and admirers from afar about what would happen on next Friday. In a sense, Jesus’ answer to the request also prepares us for the coming Good Friday.
Jesus told them “the hour has come”. He came to Jerusalem not to meet his enemies’ hour but the hour to fulfill his Father’s plan. He saw his death on the cross as the door to his resurrection and glory because as a man he would enter heaven in a glorified humanity. Do we know when is the hour to fulfill God’s plan for us?
To help better prepared his disciples and his Gentile admirers, he used the grain of wheat as an example to make his point. A grain of wheat can produce more wheat only after it is buried in the earth and lose its own life. With this example, he reminded us that if we are concerned only about how well we live on earth our lives would be meaningless. On the other hand, if we treat life not for sole purpose of pleasure, it would be eternal because Jesus promises us all a share in the glory which is soon to be his.
Being human like us, Jesus also feels the agony that he soon has to enter. In this troubled hours, Jesus prays to the Father asking for his triumph over death. His prayer is answered by the voice in heaven. However, the crowds did not understand what the voice said. Jesus tries to enlighten them and says the voice is for them not for him. Do we understand what the tiny voice says to us when we are suffering and pray for the cup to be removed?
Finally, Jesus makes known the purpose of his dying on the cross is to end the reign of Satan and to make eternal salvation available to all mankind.
Am I drawn to him on the cross and to his glorious resurrection? Amen.