This is one of the more perplexing passages in John’s gospel (though that can probably said about most of John’s gospel). It begins with a convoluted setup: some Greeks come to Philip saying that they wish to see Jesus, Philip tells Andrew, and then the two disciples go tell Jesus together. After this circuitous opening, Jesus doesn’t ask what they want or tell the disciples to bring these Greeks to him, but launches into a seemingly irrelevant discourse about the culmination of his mission on earth: “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” We might imagine Philip and Andrew looking at each other, thinking “We didn’t ask for the monologue Jesus, we just wanted to know if you were up for some visitors.” Yet Jesus’ response is not a non sequitur; it is, unequivocally, an answer to the Greeks who wish to see him. Jesus makes it clear that those who wish to “see” him must behold him in his glory, and Jesus is glorified through his suffering and death. He makes this clear a few verses later when he says, “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” Jesus’ life, in other words, has lead to his death; this is how it was meant to be from the beginning. The Greeks who asked to see Jesus did not understand what they were asking; they did not realize that in order to experience Jesus in this life, we must experience the glorified Jesus in his death.
We are often loath to experience Jesus in terms of his glory. We appreciate Jesus for his teachings and his care for those in need, and we leave the questions of his death on the back burner. One of the popular ways to make a political point on Facebook and in other social media is to remind people of everything that Jesus did to buck the establishment and herald God’s reign in his earthly ministry. Rarely, however, do these mention Jesus’ death, which was the reason for Jesus’ earthly ministry in the first place. We probably choose not to mention the death of Jesus because it is uncomfortable; we don’t like to think about death, and we particularly do not like to think about the death of our Lord. And yet, the death of Jesus and all that it entails remains the central mystery of our faith. It isn’t something that we can skip or ignore in the journey of our faith. As we prepare to enter Holy Week in just a few days, I hope that we can linger on the death of Jesus. I hope that we can get to a place where we can experience God’s glory through the death of his Son. I hope that we can truly see Jesus.