If someone came up to you and spoke those words, what would you show them?
Jesus feeding the poor? Jesus healing the sick? Jesus eating with outcasts?
These things are all certainly true to Jesus’ ministry, but if we want them to see all the fullness of the glory of God in Jesus, hopefully, our answer is the cross.
Before reading on, it’s well worth going back to read the whole of John chapter 1, making notes of who Jesus is, and what he has come to do. He is life (v4), he is the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness didn’t overcome it (v5), he gave the right to become children of God to all who receive him (v12), He is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us - we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (v14). He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (v29), the Son of God (v34), the Messiah (v41), the one who Moses in the Law, and the prophets wrote about (v45). Perhaps the best summation is that the purpose of Jesus' incarnation was to make known the very character of God (v18). Jesus himself says, if anyone has seen me, they have seen the Father (14:9).
These are the themes that are coming to a climax now in our reading.
We see Jesus wrestling with this vocation in today’s reading and the cost of obedience. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life”. “What should I say?” “Father, save me from this hour”? That would mean renouncing his mission, and Jesus chooses instead the way of self-sacrifice and obedience to God’s will: “Father, glorify your name”.
In our culture, glory is to be sought for ourselves (“you can be like God”) and is associated with words like fame, adoration, beauty, money, success, approval, winning. These self-seeking ambitions are the work of darkness, but the glory of God is found in the costly, self-sacrificing, forgiving, redeeming and reconciling love - the power of God that overcomes all tyranny, evil and death. The glory of God revealed on the cross is the light that overcomes the darkness (John 1:5). In John’s gospel, Jesus’ death is not referred to as his crucifixion, but his “glorification”. It is when Jesus is “lifted up,” that he will “draw all people” (including the Greeks/non-Jews) to himself. His death on the cross is his coronation as king and the fullest expression of the love of God. It is through his death and resurrection that the "ruler of this world be cast out" (v31). It is therefore the cross that we must proclaim.
This theology is inherently practical and relevant. We live in a world that is facing the spectre of death in a way most of us have never encountered. The numbers touted on the news are staggering (though maybe not so much for those in the world for whom each day is a battle against death through poverty, injustice and violence). The reality of death is in our daily news feeds in a way not experienced in a generation. This can produce much fear. The good news of Jesus is that through his own death, Jesus defeats death. On Good Friday we can confront the reality of death, and violence, injustice and evil face on, but with the hope that death doesn’t get the last world. It no longer rules over us. Death has been swallowed up in victory, so with Paul we can rejoice, death, where is your victory, where is your sting?!
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus”
As we love our neighbours this week by ensuring they have food, dropping off their medications, and keeping them from loneliness and isolation (or perhaps in the majority of cases, loving our neighbours by maintaining physical distancing and not selfishly pursuing our own ambitions and leaving our bubbles!), let’s make Jesus known fully, and show his full glory, not holding back the good news of the cross, and Jesus’ victory over death. As Philip experienced, sometimes people come to us and say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”, but like Philip, we also need to be prepared to go to neighbours and say, “We have found him… Come and see” (John 1:45-46). How might we creatively do that amidst our physical distancing? Perhaps a small way is to incorporate the cross if you participate in the window Easter Egg Hunt promoted by our Prime Minister. Here are some examples to download.
The invitation for all people at the end of today’s reading is to respond to Jesus in faith and to become the children of God (1:12) sons and daughters of light (12:36).