Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very 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. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
27 ‘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. 28Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Translation: But there were some Greeks out of those who were going up to worship at the festival. Then, they came to Philip from Bethsaida in Galilee, and they were asking him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. But Jesus answered them saying, "The hour has come in order that the son of man might be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat does fall into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. The ones loving their life will destroy it, and the ones hating their life in this world will guard it into life eternal. If someone might serve me, they must follow me, and where I am, there my servant will be. If someone might serve me, the father will honor that one.
Now my life has been thrown into confusion, and what might I say? 'Father, save me out of this hour?' But for this I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.'" Then a voice came out of heaven, "I glorified, and I will glorify anew." Then the crowd, the ones standing and hearing, said, "Thunder has happened." Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "The voice has not happened for me, but for you. Now is a separation of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be completely thrown out. And I, if I might be lifted up out of earth, I will draw all to myself." But he said this indicating what sort of death he was about to die.
Background and situation: Jesus has just been anointed (12: 1-11) for his burial, then enters Jerusalem for the final time (12:12-13). The crowd witnesses to Jesus and goes to meet him (12:17-18). The pharisees express impotence at being able to counter Jesus' popular appeal: "You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!" (12:19).
The more I read the fourth gospel, the more I think of it together with the gospel of Mark. In fact, the fourth gospel often seems to me to be a commentary or complement of Mark. They sound the same themes, though come at them from a vastly different direction.
For Mark, the son of man is a victim beset by trial and tribulation who, paradoxically, rules from the cross--this man, the crucified, is the son of God!
In one sense, the fourth gospel could not be more different. Rather than a victim, Jesus is in control throughout. Yet, even then, the "glory" of Jesus is in "the hour," which, as in Mark, refers not to Jesus' resurrection, but his crucifixion.
The appearance of the Greeks:
But there were some Greeks out of those who were going up to worship at the festival.
Some argue that these "Greeks" were actually Greek-speaking Jews. This is unlikely. Cyril of Alexandria, commenting on this verse c. AD 425, said, "Such persons (the Greeks) seeing that some of the Jews' customs did not greatly differ from their own, as far as related to the manner of sacrifice, and the belief in a One First Cause...came up with them to worship."
The Greeks who came to see Jesus were believers in monotheism, in other words, and conducted their own sacrifices in a manner similar to that of the Jews. They therefore saw some affinity between themselves and Jews, but they were not Jews themselves, nor were they proselytes. Not being either Jews or proselytes, they would have been excluded from worship participation in the Temple and from participation in festivals.
Then, they came to Philip from Bethsaida in Galilee, and they were asking him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
The Greeks do not go to the temple. Instead, they go to Philip and ask to see Jesus. They do not go to the place from which they know they will be excluded. They go to Jesus who has "other sheep who do not belong to this fold," and who has said, "I must bring them also (10:16)."
This is the first time in the fourth gospel that people who are not Jews come to Jesus. They go to Philip, who, like Andrew, had a Greek name.
The fourth gospel refers to Philip three times. He is identified as "from Bethsaida in Galilee" on two occasions, once in 1:44, the other here. The fourth gospel wants to make sure its readers know that Philip is a Galilean.
In all three references, he is also associated with Andrew. (In chapter one, Bethsaida is also named the "city of Andrew and Peter." It is interesting that Andrew is named first. The fourth gospel, again like Mark, tends to take a dim view of Peter.) Andrew is the first disciple in the fourth gospel, and he is the one who goes to recruit his soon-to-be-more-famous brother, Simon (Peter).
If we may extrapolate a bit, Andrew is the one who reaches out in the direction of Jews (his brother Simon), while Philip is here associated with people coming to Jesus who are not Jews. Greeks were not welcome in the temple, but they are welcome, with Jews, in the new community of Jesus.
The grain of wheat:
But Jesus answered them saying, "The hour has come in order that the son of man might be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat does fall into the ground and die, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
The approach of non-Jews looking for Jesus triggers The Hour. The moment is at hand!
Then follows a "double amen" saying, a signal of special pronouncement: The seed, that which carries the entire plant in potential, must first die in order to unleash the power of that potential to produce "much fruit."
The saying recalls Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians 35: "...as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body."
While these two verses are similar, there does seem to be less of a connection between the seed and the "body" in Paul than in the fourth gospel. The seed is "sown," says Paul, then God gives it a body. In the fourth gospel, however, the "fall" of the seed into the ground, its dying, and its bearing fruit are all part of a process.
"This world" vs. "life eternal":
The ones loving their life will destroy it, and the ones hating their life in this world will guard it into life eternal. If someone might serve me, they must follow me, and where I am, there my servant will be. If someone might serve me, the father will honor that one.
The telling phrase is "in this world." We commonly take "this world" to be the real world, but that is because our spiritual consciousness is limited.
Life "in this world" is provisional and contingent. "Life eternal" stands in sharp contrast to "in this world." "Life eternal" is living in a new dimension of life--the really real, as opposed to the fake life which presumes to be real "in this world."
The rest of the saying is reminiscent of Mark 8:35: "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Some form of this saying also appears in Matthew and Luke, but Mark is the primary source.)
This is yet another case where the fourth gospel and Mark articulate the same message, though, again, they come to it through vastly different routes. Mark has the saying as part of his suffering son of man sayings while the fourth gospel has it in the context of Jesus announcement of the "hour" of his "glory."
Now my life has been thrown into confusion, and what might I say? 'Father, save me out of this hour?' But for this I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came out of heaven, "I glorified, and I will glorify anew."
This is the fourth gospel's version of the synoptics' Gethsemene. Jesus' life--psyche--has been "troubled." The word is tetaraktai, meaning "agitated, inward commotion, thrown up in the air." Jesus is discombobulated.
Jesus' torment does not last for long, however. In the very next sentence, he rejects asking the Father to "save" him from "this hour." Instead, he affirms "the hour" as his whole purpose. His death on the cross will glorify God.
How so? It will affirm the death of Jesus, the Word of God, for the love of the world. The self-giving love of God will be revealed as the heart of the cosmos and the crucial and strange power that lies behind all of life.
The voice from heaven likewise recalls the voice from heaven that attended Jesus' baptism and his transfiguration--Mark 1:11 and Mark 9:7. The difference, of course, is in what the voice says and to whom it speaks.
In Mark, the voice speaks of "beloved son." Here in the fourth gospel, the subject is glorification. In Mark, at the baptism of Jesus, the voice from heaven speaks to Jesus alone. In the fourth gospel, the voice makes a public statement intended for all to hear.
Then the crowd, the ones standing and hearing, said, "Thunder has happened." Others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
The crowd is identified as "the ones standing and hearing," a posture of strength, readiness, and apperception. Some identify the voice as "thunder," which would be a natural phenomenon. Others identify it as coming from an "angel," a heavenly phenomenon.
It is not quite so neat as that, however. There is not an earthly reality here, and a heavenly one somewhere else. Rather, for the fourth gospel, the present world of space and time is suffused with spiritual reality. "Thunder" is the emergence of the spiritual in space and time. "Angel" is the presence of a heavenly messenger within earthly reality.
Jesus answered and said, "The voice has not happened for me, but for you. Now is a separation of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be completely thrown out. And I, if I might be lifted up out of earth, I will draw all to myself." But he said this indicating what sort of death he was about to die.
Jesus makes it clear that he had need of no voice to tell him anything and that the voice was for the benefit of the people, a typically Johannine point of view.
He goes on to announce the krisis--the separation, the sundering, the judgment--of "this world." (Compare krisis to our word, "crisis," which is derived from it.) The "ruler" of this world will be ekplethesetai exo--literally: "thrown out outside." The fourth gospel wants to make clear that the "ruler of this world" will be completely gone.
The "lifting up": This is the third and final "lifting up" passage in the fourth gospel. (The others are 3: 14 and 8:28.) As has been mentioned in previous posts, the fourth gospel has a three-fold "lifting up" where Mark, on the other hand, has three-fold "suffering." (Again, the point is similar, but the way of getting there is different.) The fourth gospel recalls Isaiah 52:13: "See my servant shall prosper and be lifted up, and glorified greatly."
Moreover, this "lifting up" will be the final semainon, the final "sign." To this point in the fourth gospel, there have been, by N.T. Wright's formulation, seven "signs" in the fourth gospel--the first at the wedding at Cana, and the last being the raising of Lazarus. Seven is the number associated with completion and wholeness, what Eugene Peterson calls "God's number." Thus, in the seven signs so far in the fourth gospel, we have a "complete" view of Christ.
The eighth sign will be the "lifting up." The number eight is associated with "the eighth day" after the seven days of creation--the day of "new creation," in other words, which Jesus will manifest in his "lifting up."
The "lifting up" of Jesus promises to "draw all" to himself, which is one of the more striking universalistic passages in all the four gospels. The word elkuso has the sense of drawing, or even dragging. The image recalls something like a spiritual magnet. Jesus will draw all--panta.
The death and birth of the ego:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat does fall into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. The ones loving their life will destroy it, and the ones hating their life in this world will guard it into life eternal. If someone might serve me, they must follow me, and where I am, there my servant will be.
Psychologically, the passage is an encouragement to develop an autonomous and independent sense of Self. The present life, "in this world," with its dependencies and history, must die and be reborn. This is the krisis of every life. In Jungian terms, this is called "individuation," which means psychological integration and the development of the autonomous Self.
This is, incidentally, what Dietrich Bonhoeffer was getting at when he talked of "a world come of age." What he meant was that, in a "world come of age," people would become adults, which means gladly accepting and gladly taking responsibility for their own life, without recourse to or dominance by any other authority. (I blanch when people say we ought to have a "child-like faith." No we should not. We should have an adult faith, one that takes responsibility for itself.)
Individuation means awareness of the demands of one's impulses and instincts in light of the demands of one's conscience and moral learning. To put it another way, it means navigating between the scylla of the id, and the charybdis of the superego in order to form the ego. It negotiates internal processes in light of outward reality.
This is a serious process, and, for most people, a life-long endeavor. Jung thought individuation wasn't even possible before the age of 35. (Thomas Acquinas said 50, but then he died at 49, so what did he know?) Nevertheless, difficult though it may be, we have a partner in the endeavor of reaching our own adulthood. That partner is Jesus. Jesus himself had the Father for his guide, and we have Jesus.
In verse 26, Jesus says "opou ego eimi ekei kai ho diakonos ho emos estai." Note the ego eimi, which is the divine name of God in Greek and is oft-used by Jesus throughout the fourth gospel--"Where I am, there my servant will be."
The "I am" is present tense. It recalls the title of one of Paul Tillich's books, the "eternal now." Jesus is always present and promises that we will be drawn to the mystical reality of "eternal life." We are supported and led by his mystical presence as we travel toward the goal of true and mature adulthood.
Image: Yellow Christ, Paul Gaugain