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.
‘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 judgement 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 crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
John’s Gospel gives us a different angle to other gospels, by which to look both at the Jesus of history and the one who meets us here and now, bringing life in abundance and to making us children of light. The gospel writer tells this story so that readers and hearers ‘may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and through believing ..may have life in his name’ (John 20.31).
Today’s passage follows on from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The storm clouds are gathering and Jesus speaks of his death in three ways. First he gives the picture of the seed sown in the ground, dying to bring new life, a harvest of many. It’s a picture drawn from the kingdom parables – the mustard seed and the sower – but now focussed on the act of Jesus dying, his giving of his life for the world God so loves. The death Jesus dies is a real death – and it troubles his soul – but in John’s telling of the story he refuses to ask to be saved from it. Rather this self-giving is his raison d’être. So the second picture is of his death as glorifying God: ‘Father glorify your name.’ This is to be Jesus’ hour – and it will bring glory both to his Father and ultimately to himself. And thirdly John pictures the cross as a lifting up of Jesus – to show him to the world and to draw people (Jew and Gentile) to him.
So in a world where there are many disturbing pictures let reflect on these three pictures of the cross – ‘we wish to see Jesus.’
Prayer Lord Jesus we picture you on the cross – a seed sown in our world and bearing an amazing harvest of grace – a moment of strange glory, for which we praise you. – a sign of eternal love that draws us to yourself. Help us to see you in our world today. Amen.
The Rev’d Terry Hinks is the Minister of Trinity URC, High Wycombe and Cores End URC.