Was at Craigmillar Park today giving the reflection at the 7.45 Breakfast Service. Here it is.
Holy Week 2012 reflection – Tuesday
The passage we read from John 12 is packed so full of rich theological reflection on the life and mission of Jesus that we could be here all day and only scratch the surface of it. So you will be glad to know that I am only going to mention one point from it, but one that, though it is mentioned less often than many, is a very important observation for people like ourselves.
One of the well known running themes in John is what Jesus calls his ‘hour.’ This hour is the decisive climax of his ministry that leads to his suffering, death and resurrection. In John 2, when his mother asks him to sort out the lack of wine at the wedding in Cana, he says to her, ‘My hour has not yet come.’ Later, as Jesus is facing confrontation in the temple area, the gospel author twice comments that no-one could seize him as his hour had not yet come. Now, Jesus says his hour has come and he unpacks the meaning of this by using the metaphor of the planted wheat seed dying in the ground to produce a great crop. But what is it that causes Jesus to say his hour has come? What happens to make him sure that this is the time?
It is, on the surface, a very simple request from a group of people who want to meet Jesus. The thing is, this is no ordinary group of rural Jewish people or even of the elite classes from Jerusalem. These people are Greeks. We are not told if they are Jews of the diaspora or so called ‘God-fearers’ – non-Jews who were attracted to Jewish faith and life. The implication is that they were the latter. The scenario is that these Greeks come to Philip, a man with a Greek name, asking to see Jesus. Philip goes to Andrew, another man with a Greek name, and the two of them go to tell Jesus. The Greeks then fall out of the narrative altogether, but they have already played their decisive walk-on, walk-off role. They appear out of the blue as if in confirmation of the observation of the Pharisees in the verse immediately prior, ‘Look how the whole world has gone after him.’
The narrative purpose of the Greeks can hardly be overstated: they are a sign of the universal significance of Jesus. Yes, he was a Jewish man of a particular time and he never left a very limited geographical area, but when we read this Gospel with our eyes open we understand that Jesus is God’s man for the world – indeed, God’s Son for the world. Now that the Greeks want to meet him, they also become a sign that this is the time for Jesus to give himself for the world. His hour has very definitely come. The time for global redemption has arrived.
In these Greeks, those of us who follow Jesus and who were not born Jewish can see a reflection of ourselves. He has entranced us as he attracted them. All across the planet people from every tribe and tongue acknowledge him as Lord and although the church in the West is in decline, the world-wide Christian community is growing. It seems after all as if the whole world is going after him.
But the story of the seed reminds us of the cost of salvation for Jews and Greeks alike: the suffering of death before the glory of resurrection. We give thanks to God that his purpose of salvation is global and that we are embraced in it.