20-21 There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”
22-23 Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.
John 12:20-26 (The Message)
This is the first half of Sunday’s gospel. Once again, we have Jesus acting in a way that we would consider unusual. The Greeks are in Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of Passover. It is likely that they were gentiles who had converted to Judaism.
Before we get to that however, the Greeks approach Philip. Why did they go to him? Was it because he was from Galilee where many gentiles resided? Was it because Philip was a Greek name and they felt more comfortable approaching someone more like themselves?
Philip didn’t go talk to Jesus about the Greeks. Instead he went to Andrew, who also had a Greek name and who was also from Galilee. Why didn’t Andrew go to Jesus? We don’t really know why.
Now comes the even more curious part. They told Jesus and he doesn’t seem to respond. After verse 23, we don’t hear any more about the two Greeks. Was that rude of Jesus? Couldn’t he have at least spent a few minutes with them? Jesus’ answer was cryptic. “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” I’m sure that’s not the answer the disciples or the Greeks were looking for. For that matter, Jesus was talking to Peter and Andrew and totally ignored the Greeks. And yet, Jesus’ words were an answer, for if the Greeks wanted to see Jesus, they would just have to look to the One who would be lifted up on the cross.
Most scholars believe that the Greeks were symbolic of the gentiles or non-Jews in general. Jesus’ ministry was largely to the Jewish people. Gentiles coming to Jesus meant it was that much closer to his time of suffering and crucifixion.
Lent is nearing its end. With the Greeks, we come forward to see Jesus lifted up on the cross. Jesus is drawing the whole world to himself. With the Greeks, we too wish to see Jesus. To do so, we must look up to where Jesus has been lifted up on the cross to draw all people to God. Christ’s death is the “hour” of salvation.