Why would some Greeks approach Philip to ask to see Jesus? And what are they doing, worshipping at the Jewish feast of Passover?
Philip and Andrew are Greek names, not Jewish. Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee, a town with a Jewish name but just over the border in Gentile territory. Those Greeks may have been proselytes, people who have totally converted to Judaism or “God-fearers”, a step below. The question I have is: Did they ever get to meet Jesus? The text gives no indication that they did. Philip goes on a mission to consult with Andrew and together they go to tell Jesus about the visitors who, it seems, were standing there and waiting to hear whether Jesus would meet with them. Instead Jesus answers Philip and Andrew by saying what we just heard read in today’s Gospel. Nothing more is said about those Greeks. They are forgotten.
What was John’s purpose by including them? First this episode verifies the previous verse (not included here) where the Pharisees claim that the whole world has gone after him (Jesus). Secondly, the whole complex process of their trying to get to Jesus through Philip and Andrew reveals the hesitation with which the later Jewish-Christian community had in welcoming foreign outsiders or Gentiles. Thirdly, it gives the evangelist an opportunity to introduce his on-going theme of “the hour”. Remember in an earlier passage from John’s Gospel when at Cana Mary told Jesus they have no wine and Jesus answered his hour has not yet come? Now Jesus finally announces it has come. And lastly, it introduces John’s alternative to the other Gospels’ agony in the garden scene by having Jesus say: “I am troubled now” but accepting the Father’s will.
Death is the ultimate threat to humanity, the one weapon that tyrants can use to threaten people. John presents Jesus as going freely to his death and overcoming death because of his faithfulness and trust in his Father. Jesus drives out the ruler of the world and all who follow him and promises that he, Jesus, will draw everyone to himself in the reality of the resurrection.
Two questions flow from this account.
- Who are the “Greeks” among us today who want to see Jesus? Could they be those suffering from addiction? Are they immigrants or people who are trying to escape persecution, war, or poverty? Are they those whose life-style or situation that goes contrary to Church teaching?
- Do they meet him either in or through us? Or are they forgotten?
5th Sunday of Lent, B18