Lectionary Year B
April 9, 2000
John 12:20-33

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge


Jesus addresses peoples’ misunderstandings, without correcting them, and actually expanding their visions. God, also, addresses Jesus’ misunderstanding/impatience, not judgmentally, rather to assure him and to broaden his view. The proverbial center of “theological gravity” comes in God’s glory, a large part of which in this text, occurs in the death and rising of Jesus, both predicted, explained and figuratively alluded to in this passage. The major concerns thereafter, include the images Jesus uses to address his death and resurrection. Next, given the context of this pericope, an important element is in the various objectors to Jesus’ ministry and mission. Many are offended by it, take exception to it and work against it. Yet, here, he never condemns them, instead he seems to maintain including them in dialogue.


20 Now there were certain Hellenists among those going up (to Jerusalem) to worship at the festival (of Passover); 21 now they came to Phillip who was from Bethsaida of Galilee and requested of him saying; “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew, Andrew and Philip (then) went and told Jesus. 23 However, Jesus responded to them saying; “The hour has come for he Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly I say to you, unless a seed of wheat falls to the ground and dies, (then) it alone remains; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 All who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life (lived) in this world into life everlasting will protect it. 26 Whoever (would) serve me, will (certainly) follow me, and wherever I am there also my servant will be; (and) whoever should serve me the Father shall (certainly) honor. 27 “Now my soul is troubled. So, what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? (No) because of this I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven; “I have glorified it and I shall again glorify it.” 29 Then the crowd standing (there) and hearing (the voice) said (that it was) thunder (coming), (but) others said, “an angel has spoken to him”. 30 (Yet) Jesus answered and said, “That voice has come for your sake not for mine. 31 Now is the judgement of this world, now (too) the ruler of this world shall be driven out; 32 and when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people unto myself.” 33 This he said indicating by what sort of death he would certainly die.


Recently, on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition”, Margot Adler interviewed novelist and media critic Jon Katz and Jesse Daily, one of the two young men profiled in Katz’ book, Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode The Internet Out of Idaho. Daily described high school alienation as a “river of pain”, where the rewarded kids played football, etc. Computer practitioners were called “freaks” and were reputed to be “dangerous”. Katz describes Daily as to “appear to be broke, disconnected, depressed, looked hunched and pale and was really struggling to find a place for himself in the world . . .” Katz then encouraged Daily to move on from Idaho, to expand his horizons, to go to a good college, to apply for a job via the Internet, to live anywhere, find an apartment, learn how to travel the El in Chicago, how to tie a tie to wear to a job interview, to get pizza from on line, etc. Daily feels for other intelligent and/or computer literate adolescents, longing to free them to develop interests in broader fields in which to communicate, to take more social responsibility, to become more happy. Margot Adler concludes that Katz’ book presents “the message of a vision of the Internet rarely seen in the media.” It can serve as “a substitute school, Library, parent, a Yellow Brick Road someone can travel to transform their future”. Life more fulfilling and more free, like Jesse Daily found seems similar to, or, at least, a semblance of the life Jesus seems to promise in the Gospels, and, as today’s text tells us, dies for and, furthermore, willingly does so.

For most people being put to death would mean humiliation. Paradoxically here it seems to mean that for Jesus it was glory because he was being obedient to follow the path the Father had sent him to follow.

We might compare Philip and Andrew in this story with the way Philip and Andrew responded in last week's story of the Feeding of the 5000: Philip was asked last week by Jesus to come up with an answer of how to feed the people. He was asked because he was from Bethsaida and would have known what resources were available. All he can do is stammer and say there is no way we can feed this many people. This week he is asked by the Greeks to see Jesus. He is asked because (perhaps) he has a Greek name and should have been able to fulfill the request. Instead of taking them to Jesus he takes them to Andrew. On the other hand, last week Andrew responded to Jesus by bringing forward the young boy with the loaves and fishes. This week Andrew responds by bringing the Greeks to Jesus. The comparison is that Philip never seems to be able to get the job done but Andrew is always bringing someone to Jesus. Andrew represents one part of "quintessential evangelism": showing people to Jesus and bringing people to Jesus.

Jesus uses synmbolism with the story of the grain of wheat. The wheat must "die" before it can grow into a plentiful harvest. In the same way, Jesus must die before his disciples will be able to go out and give life to many. The grain of wheat has to have its hard exterior broken under the temperature and pressure of the earth before it can give out new life. We, as sinful people, must have our hard exteriors broken before we can grow into new life in Christ. [(JA) allegorical response? consequences if so or if not?]

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