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. [John 12: 20-22]
The season that began what seems like “just yesterday” on Ash Wednesday has brought us already to this Tuesday in Holy Week – to the time author Nora Gallagher writes of as “the hinge between Lent and Easter … between the guilt and shame, the inertia and fear that bind us to the past and leave us in despair and the love that lures us toward hope.”
“The love that lures us toward hope.” That is the love of God so great that it triumphs over death … a love that continues to “lure us toward hope” these 20 centuries after the death of the One who came to show us how to “walk in love, as Christ loved us”.
Was it that love — that hope — that lured the “Greeks” who approached Philip in Jerusalem with the plea, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”?
A brief historical “contextual” note: when John says “some Greeks”, he doesn’t mean folks who hang out in Athens and are related to Zorba. To the 1st century hearers of the Gospel “Greeks” meant “non-Jews” – foreigners – Gentiles.
No wonder Philip had to go check with Andrew first … did you notice that in the text? “They came to Philip — who went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.” As one of the commentaries reads: “… evidently being dubious how they might be received.” No automatic welcome for these guys: these Greeks who wanted to see Jesus.
But see him they do. Crossing all sorts of boundaries — breaking a whole list of deeply ingrained cultural rules — Jesus teaches them the same way he has been teaching his disciples all along. Did he think about the words of the prophet Isaiah also appointed for today? “It is not enough for you to do my bidding, to restore the tribes of Leah, Rachel, and Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
So a question for us on this Tuesday in Holy Week in the Year of Our Lord 2021 is this: If the church is indeed the Body of Christ here on earth, how good a job are we doing with those who come to us as they did to Philip saying, “Please, we want to see Jesus?”
For that is our agenda. It is an agenda as old as Isaiah and Andrew, of Jesus and the Gentiles. It is the agenda of a Lord whose love lures us toward hope – of the one who yearns to draw all people to himself – of the Jesus who took time, in the last days before his crucifixion, to reach out to those Greeks who came to him — not sure if they’d be welcome.
It is the Gospel Agenda and it is begging to be fulfilled – and we are the Body of Christ who have been charged with fulfilling it in our generation … this Holy Week and always.