(3/21) Jeremiah 31:31-34 • Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16 • Hebrews 5:5-10 • John 12:20-33
Kind of an odd beginning to this week's gospel. Knee-deep in John, the thickest material ever on the life of Jesus, and already past the parade of palms into Jerusalem, it suddenly turns to what seems to be trivial detail on who said what to whom. Turns out that the writer is trying to describe the context for the deep insight coming next. For it to make sense, the reader must first understand the back story.
The background involves some 'Greeks' who had come to the Passover Festival. While they may have been Greek Jews, the wording suggests that they were non-Jewish by birth. Possibly, they were interested or somehow starting to identify as members of the Jewish faith. The problem was that they wanted to see Jesus at the festival; temple worship had admission criteria which they might not have fit.
Another complication might have been language. The Greeks spoke in Koine Greek – the universal language of the Roman Empire; the Aramaic language (closely related to Hebrew) might have been more common in Jerusalem. They chose to approach Phillip, a disciple with a Greek name from Bethsaida, a region with many Greeks in the surrounding area. The scripture does not say whether they knew him or had sought out information about those close to Jesus and found out that a few were from Bethsaida. Phillip then turns to Andrew, another disciple from his hometown (John 1:44), to talk about what to do. They go together to tell Jesus what's happened.
When Jesus hears their report, he puts the pieces together. It's an epiphany for him to see how his death, which he knew was coming soon, was timed for success, as it were. How the good news was already beginning to spread; what was needed for it to blossom; all of this he recognized in a flash of insight. Verses 23-26 say it all.
Here, and on a decidedly more mundane note, I'd like to go back to the opening verses for the reading. The side story, the description of the very human processes of reaching out to others and making the connections necessary to meet a goal, are the world most of us live in, most of the time. And, after all, without them, we would not have the amazing epiphanic moment reported here.
The wise among us pay attention to the side stories. They notice who is talking to whom and where people are from. They think about the context behind what is unfolding in front of them. They strive to be respectful of the ways people are already connected, joining in cooperative, rather than destructive, ways. They treat these details as, well, holy.
The holiness of everyday life can easily be forgotten in the busyness and business of our world. The Greeks had a goal. They thought through the best way to approach it. One person listened to them, and, considering what to do, involved another. Together they approached their leader to think it through. What an ordinary story!
An ordinary day includes many human interactions. They often clump together in trios of three: the Greeks, their spokesperson, and Phillip; Phillip, Andrew, and Jesus. Seeing how the trios operate can be useful. For instance, when Phillip told Andrew about the Greeks, they decided they needed to include Jesus in the conversation. In other trios, one person can be left out, or blamed, or complained about, by the other two. In well-balanced clumps, all three persons are in good contact with one another. Noticing these human clumps and how they are operating in one's life can make a difference. Once a person starts becoming aware of how they are working, then one has more choices on how to manage oneself in them. Along the way, the everyday becomes the holy, and maybe, vice versa too.
Morning: What are some of the clumps or trios in my life? How balanced are they?
Evening: What happened when I connected with others today?
Psalm 119:15 I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.