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.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

John 12:20-33

Pastor Marc's sermon on the 5th Sunday in Lent (March 22, 2015) on Luke 2:22-40. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


They came...and said “we wish to see Jesus.” 

Today, in the gospel according to John, we’re hearing the start of Jesus’ final conversation with the world. He’s in Jerusalem for the last time. The religious and political authorities know he’s there. There’s a sense in the air that things are finally going to happen. And then some Greeks come to Jesus’ disciples and ask if they could see him.

Now, we actually have no idea who, or where, these Greeks come from. 2000 years ago, there wasn’t just one nation called “Greece.” Being Greek was much bigger than that. Individual cities like Sparta and Athens had founded colonies all around the Mediterranean Sea, from Egypt and Turkey, all the way to Morocco and Spain. And after Alexander the Great bulldozed through the Middle East, building an empire that stretched from Europe to India, the Grecian culture spread everywhere. And if anyone was anyone, they called themselves Greek. They spoke Greek, wrote in Greek, gave their kids Greek names and did all they could to be Greek. Being Greek was so pervasive that by the time of Jesus even the Old Testament that they used was a Greek translation of the original Hebrew. Being Greek was a big part of Jesus’ world - and, for some, that was a problem. Some couldn’t see how being Greek and being Jewish was compatible. The cultures were just too different. So these Greeks coming to see Jesus - even if they believe in God - they’re on the outside. They’re part of “the other.” They’re not suppose to know God or really get God or even call themselves part of God’s family. 

But it’s these outsiders - who are coming to Jesus. 

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal had an article about a set of identical twins. This, of course, peaked my interest since I’m an identical twin - which some here saw last week when my twin came up from North Carolina for a short visit. So this article was all about how one set of twins no longer follows the religious tradition they were raised in. Their parents are baptist, incredibly faithful, and they’ve been attending the same church for years. But, for these twins, that faith tradition just wasn’t what God had in mind for them. A visit to a Catholic church when they were 12 changed them. So, after deep soul searching and prayer, one eventually left for seminary to become a Roman Catholic priest. And the other took a similar, if slightly different, path. He’s currently a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. Now, where they both ended up isn’t typical - but their journey out of the tradition they grew up in - that journey is typical. In fact, more than half of people will change their religious affiliation at least once before the age 50. Some will go back to the faith they grew up in but most don’t. At least 44% of all adults are no longer a part of the faith tradition they were raised in. The story of faith today isn’t just about who is leaving and becoming agnostic, atheist - one of the n - o - n - e - s - nones. The story of faith today involves movement and switch. Even here at Christ Lutheran Church, our pews are filled with folks who were once baptist, non-denominational, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, or Atheist. We’re a church filled with folks who don’t fit the stereotype of what a Lutheran is or was. And I’m glad for that because I’m not one of those either. As a Hispanic with a Jewish last name - there’s very little Scandinavian or German about me except for the amount of furniture from Ikea that’s in my house. If I wasn’t up here today, here with all of you, there’s nothing from my looks and background to make someone say “oh yeah, Marc - he’s totally Lutheran.” I’m an “other” - a non-standard Lutheran who has found a place here at Christ  - just like the countless other non-standard Lutherans here too. It’s to this place that God has brought all of us to see Jesus - to see him right here, whether we’ve been Lutherans our entire lives or not. 

And this is just what God does. God breaks down the barriers between us and them, between those who we expect to be in the “in group” and those who are always on the out. God is going to break down our barriers - breakdown our expectations - and show us what a resurrected world looks like; a world where being an other or outsider is no longer an opportunity to be shunned, rejected, or oppressed by others. Being Jewish or Greek, being black or white, being Lutheran or Catholic, being hispanic or not - Jesus doesn’t destroy those identities; instead, he’s putting an end to letting our identities overcome his. Because, when Jesus is lifted up, he draws all people - everyone - to him.     

This drawing into Jesus is more than just drawing people to a destination. Jesus isn’t talking about heaven or about what happens after our life on earth is done. Jesus isn’t just predicting his own death - predicting Good Friday. No, he’s pointing to something more. Jesus in the gospel according to John is always pointing to what comes after his death. After the Cross, after the Tomb, after His Resurrection, and Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. And after the Ascension comes now - what we’re doing right now - trying to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. John’s Jesus is inviting the Greeks - the outsiders and the disciples - onto a journey of what life is like when he’s no longer walking with them like he use to. He’s telling them what it looks like to follow him. To follow Jesus is to be like Jesus - to do the works he did, feed the faithful, love the stranger, heal the sick, and share with everyone who Jesus is. To follow Jesus is to follow Jesus’ story - a story that continually breaks through barriers of who we say is in and who we say is out. Jesus’ promise to the Greeks is not that they will somehow become better at being followers of God than the people of Israel. Jesus’ promise is that by following Jesus our desire to “other” each other - to split ourselves into camps of them and us - that will be undone. As Jesus draws everyone to himself, so should we do our part to not let our own actions, fears, biases, and prejudices, keep people away from him. And where prejudice seems to be winning, we’re called to struggle against it and tear that barrier down.

When the Greeks came to see Jesus, they found themselves face to face with Philip. And they looked at him and said, “we want to see Jesus.” Now, Philip could have said no. He could have pushed them aside. But Philip doesn’t. Instead, he hesitates. He’s not sure of what to do - so he goes to a disciple he knows - a disciple who’s been following Jesus ever since John the Baptist proclaimed, way back in chapter 1, that this Jesus is the Lamb of God. Philip goes to Andrew who then immediately goes to Jesus. Now I believe Andrew gets it. He’s seen Jesus break down barriers and walls. Because Andrew, like Philip, is a Greek. Andrew is a Greek name. So he’s knows what it’s like to be treated as an outsider, as someone who doesn’t belong - and it’s this kind of outsider who’s now hanging with the Messiah. Andrew is the other - but Jesus has a hold on him anyways. So Andrew, he just steps out of the way and they go and bring Jesus. That’s his story. And that’s our story too. May we, like Andrew, see the other, see the others already here, and step away from our own biases so that we can just get out of the way - and bring Jesus.