The beginning of Passiontide: a reflection on John 12: 20-33.
Today’s Gospel reading contains all the themes which run through the coming 2 weeks, during which time we re-live the suffering (the ‘Passion’) of Jesus. In the reading, there are hints of the forthcoming agony Jesus is to undergo, when Jesus speaks of how he is to be ‘lifted up’ on the cross, and an indication too of his anxiety – but, mingling with this, there is hope, for this is the time when Jesus is to be glorified, and the time when, through his death, he will draw all people to himself. Pain and suffering are balanced by the hope of glory. The good news for all humankind is that through his death Jesus will bring everyone to share in the love of the father, the son and the holy spirit. Jesus’ mission is completed only in death; the grain of wheat has to die before it can bear rich fruit. And this rich fruit is for all nations, Gentiles (that’s us) as well as Jews. Those Greeks who’d come to the festival and asked Philip if they could see Jesus would not have their desire completely satisfied until after the crucifixion and the resurrection.
And one more thought on the grain of wheat. Used elsewhere in the Gospels to describe the kingdom of God in very general terms, here it is used by John explicitly in reference to Jesus Himself. The good news that Jesus proclaims is the good news of Himself – and how He, in His own life, shows us what the kingdom of God looks like. Through His words, His healing and teaching, in fact in every aspect of His life, Jesus is the good news, the image of the invisible God and the one who reveals the kingdom of God to us.