By Jane Williams
A Reading from the Gospel of John 12:20-26
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very 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. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”
The brief, vivid mission statement of Canterbury Cathedral is “to show people Jesus,” based on this passage from John’s Gospel. It is so simple, and yet so all-encompassing: this is what we do, as disciples, we show people Jesus.
The end of yesterday’s passage from John sees the religious leaders angrily deferring their action against Jesus because of the adulation he is attracting from the crowds. The leaders mutter to each other, “the world has gone after him” (v. 19). And here in verse 20, the group of Greeks who seek out Philip instantly fulfill what the religious leaders had thought was a sarcastic, hyperbolic comment. “The world,” represented by this group of Gentiles, wishes to see Jesus.
Jesus understands that this is another signal of his impending death. The Greeks have presumably heard about the raising of Lazarus, the mighty miracle which has provoked the authorities to a crescendo of fear and hatred. Jesus’ great life-giving act is hastening his own death. The train of thought is complex, as Jesus articulates why he must die. At the moment, Jesus is the “single grain” (v. 24), seen only in his own being and acts. But that is not who Jesus most fundamentally is: at the core of his being, the source from which all his actions spring, Jesus is the Son of the Father. He comes to draw us into that reality, too, so that as we follow him, we too can call God our Father, and be with Jesus where he is, in the presence of the Father. Jesus is willing to let go of his earthly life, allow it to be dead and buried, so that the strange resurrection fruit can spring up to nourish the whole world.
Dr. Jane Williams is McDonald Professor in Christian Theology at St Mellitus College. She is also an editor, a sought-after public speaker, and is involved in promoting theological education in the Anglican Communion. She is the author of a number of books, including The Art of Advent (SPCK, 2018).
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. David’s (Radnor) Church, Wayne, Pa.
The Diocese of Baringo (Anglican Church of Kenya)