Sunday, 18 March 2018

All Greeks to Me

"Now 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.”" (John 12:20-21)

I wish I knew more about these Greeks. They're the bittest of bit parts, most extra of extras, to the story of Jesus. They wander into view, tell Philip they want to see Jesus.... and then we never hear of them again.

We're not told if they're Greek Gentiles - or if they're Greek Jews. I assume the latter as they're there to worship. But proselytes? Or were they born Jews? We don't get to know. We don't find out if they see Jesus. We don't know whether they hear his speech about himself:

"Very 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

I've visions of them standing across the Temple courts. And Philip goes off and doesn't return for a while. And when he does it's like "Jesus, you know - went a bit prophetic. Oh, is  it the time of the  evening sacrifice already? Must dash."

Because Jesus has, as we have seen, gone off on one. I was remembering, as the snow fell, the good old days when I was at St Mytholmroyd's School for the Daughters of Tax Evaders. The school was at the bottom of the hill. And when it snowed, our geography teacher would ignore the subject at hand to rant about the uselessness of many people's driving.

She hated cars with a passion. And to see a driver failing to get up that hill - or sailing, out of control, down it, warmed her motorphobic heart. She would forget about  the creation of the Polders, the formation of U-shaped  valleys or terminal moraine, and instead tell us how foolish the drivers were.

And Jesus is like that here. Whether the Greeks have been ushered to his presence, or left clutching their novelty soaps in the shape of the High Priest and visitors's guides to the Old City, we're not told.

They wanted to see Jesus? Well in a while they won't. Because he'll be buried. But he uses an analogy so appropriate to this time of year in Judea - after the spring sowing but before the barley harvest. He will be buried like a seed. Because unless a seed is buried it can't be a plant. It can't produce a crop. It can't do the thing that, fundamentally, it is for.

Jesus says this but he knows what it means for him. That resurrection can only come after his burial. And burial.... Well, that's troubling even to Jesus. And so he turns it over to his father and says "glorify your name". And his father replies: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” It's our  job in life, too. When we wonder what we're here for - we're to glorify God's name. The purpose of humanity - is to  glorify God, and to enjoy God forever.  So Jesus is asking his father to confirm him in our common end. But Jesus, as the sole perfect specimen of our  imperfect race, is going to do it perfectly.

How's he going to do it? Well the Greeks - remember them, still over there, wondering if they are going to be ushered into the Messianic presence? They're probably wondering whether it was a good idea, talking to Philip. He smells of fish and he's just left them while he goes off to a theology seminar.

The Greeks wanted to see Jesus. And they will. Jesus said he wanted God's  name to be glorified. And it will  be. God says "I have glorified it" - through everything in creation God's name is glorified. In ever snowflake, star, flower or dung beetle God's name is glorified. Most of all, God's name is glorified in humans made in  God's image. And most supremely in that life lived by the Word of God, who lived only for the glory of his father's name. And now - if they want to see Jesus - all they will have to do is look up.

Because he won't be in the Temple courts where the  wise men and the rabbis  and priests  gather disciples and their own honour. He won't be drawing away to the Galilee countryside to speak secret words to a  select few. He'll be hanging from a cross, nailed up for the world to see. Taking the hate and murderous ambition, selfishness and brutality of men at their worst - and carrying it all to glorify God's name. They won't need to queue - won't need a friend who speaks Greek to put a word in - won't need to take a ticket with a number on it  like they're at a cheese counter. Everyone will see him.

And then - John tells us he went away and hid from them. And so after being lifted on a cross, he will buried like a seed, and then raised to life.

And now everyone can see him - Jew and Greek, women and men. All  can get near to him. All can be with him, because he comes  near to all of us. Everyone can receive his Spirit. You don't need to be introduced by a friend. You don't stand around at a distance. He is in heaven glorified. He walks our streets, asking for help. He is in bread and wine. He is in our friends and neighbours in him. He is the light that shines, and in which we will walk, through the darkness of  the cross, to the darkness of the grave, into God's light forever.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.


  1. Every now and then I think Eileen is a pretty good preacher...., wonder if she's ever pondered becoming a vicar? No small step for an Archdruid....

  2. I'm wondering what happened to that group of Greek tourists who visited the Beaker folk a year or so ago.

    Nothing has been heard from them since, apart from one or two anguished social media messages that there is a strange Woman with a Cricket Bat and Hob Nailed boots who is making them work in a small dark room, making T Lights. They are well fed on gruel and tatties and are allowed some association with their fellows, as long as they don't talk or complain.

    They mentioned something about trafficing, but nobody knows what they mean - the assumption is that they've gone native and are joining with the Beaker folk in the Moot house, where they dance and throw plates on mid-week services.

    This assumption is borne out by some of the blog posts and strange letters to the Parish Magazine which sometimes appear here.


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