20Now 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.
27“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.28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35Jesus 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. 36While 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.
Close your eyes for a moment…be still and quiet.
While your eyes were closed, what did you ‘see’? You might say, “Are you crazy? I didn’t see anything. You told me to close my eyes!” Some of you may say, “I saw my son,” or “I saw my mother,” or “I saw my sister whose husband just passed away.” One of the most important lessons we learn in life is summed up in a quote from the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
I am struck by this Holy Week passage, particularly how it begins and how it ends. The Passover festival begins and we find some Greeks who are coming to the festival seeking Jesus. They approach Philip and say, “Sir, we wish to SEE Jesus.” The word used here for “the Greeks” is different than what the Gospels usually use for Gentiles. This leads some scholars to believe these are Hellenistic Jews, not Gentiles. They are coming to the Passover and have probably heard of Jesus. Just like any good tourist, they wish to see the sights and Jesus is a main draw. Whether it was simple curiosity or a sincere search for truth, we don’t really know. All we know is they wish to see Jesus. As Philip and Andrew tell Jesus of the Greeks’ curiosity, Jesus begins to share really odd things. He talks of dying seeds, a life that will be lost, a troubled soul, and the lifting up of the Son of Man after death. In the midst of it all a thunderous voice of God is heard by all, but only the readers of John are given insight to what the voice says. After all of this cryptic language, Jesus says, “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.” Then the passage ends with Jesus departing and hiding himself from them.
They wish to see, but Jesus hides himself.
This past Palm Sunday in Kansas City, Kansas, an admitted racist and anti-Semite (one who admits hatred for Jews) was charged with the murder of three people – a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center, and a woman from a Jewish assisted living center. The Jewish Community Center and Retirement Community was named Village Shalom – which in Hebrew means “peace”. Hatred, racism, murder, all things born in the darkness found their way into the light of day through a disturbed man. The man who committed these atrocious acts was blinded by darkness. And the disturbing irony of the power of darkness? The three people who were murdered at the Jewish Center…they were all Christians.
The disturbing and disastrous power of darkness. Mark Twain once said, “One cannot depend on the eyes, when one’s imagination is out of focus.”
This Holy Week, we are once again challenged to live in the tension between darkness and light. Jesus, the light of the world, confronts the ultimate powers of darkness during Holy Week…misguided perceptions, preconceived notions, cultural powers, sin, and death. Holy Week brings to the surface the universal conflict between darkness and light, blindness and sight, unbelief and belief.
So where do we fit in all this? Like the Greeks, many of us continually seek Jesus. We want to be close. We want to see and be a part. Then, Jesus starts talking about death and sacrifice and other things that disturb…and we are not really sure what to make of “that” Jesus. Where is the Jesus who blessed the children? Where is the Jesus who fed 5,000? Where is the Jesus who said “give me your burdens”?
I’m not so sure about this Holy Week Jesus who speaks of death, sacrifice, humility, and suffering.
If we are honest, we will see ourselves in the Greeks who seek Jesus. We are seekers, but the Jesus we seek during Holy Week is untamable and uncontrollable. This Son of Man challenges our beliefs, our worldview, our bigotry, our selfishness, our self-righteousness, and our lack of commitment. This Son of Man calls us to die to the darkness and walk in the light. If we assume too much and refuse to see the darkness in us, we may find that Jesus is hidden to us.
That’s what the text says, “he departed and hid from them.” Live in the darkness and you will not see. Turn away from the light and Christ will be hidden from you.
Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes…”
Walk in the light…that the darkness may not overcome you. If there ever was a week to reflect on the power of darkness in our lives, it is this week.