Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
“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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
It’s all a little confusing.
- Seeds falling into the dark earth, germinate and break through the soil to the light and air as new plants.
- God speaks, and most the people who hear it explain it away as thunder.
- The eternal Messiah turns out to be the mere mortal Son of Man, who is going to die.
- He speaks of gathering gloom but nevertheless encourages his followers to keep moving forward while there is enough light to see the way.
It is quite confusing. Something like those Zen Koans that defy logical thinking and pause the rational mind just long enough for truth and realization to break through.
Yet when I drop all the expectations I am continually projecting onto God, when I abandon what Thomas Keating calls, “my programs for happiness”, I realise that Jesus is speaking quite plainly about plain things.
Death and life are a natural cycle through which the propogation of species occurs. There is no place for selfishness in the natural order. Little seeds packed with genetic coding cannot hold out for their own devised destiny or reward, but in the surrender of their very identity and existence they become the origin of new and verdant life. The caterpillar spins its own tomb and emerges as another being fecund with eggs to propagate life. The master dies and the disciples are thrust into being conduits of the truth he taught.
And yes, sometimes I mistake God’s voice for thunder and vice versa. That’s all right. God will speak again just as surely as cumulus nimbus forms on a summer afternoon. Just maybe, lightning will strike twice.
If my messiah were not the mere mortal, son of man he would not be able to relate to my existence, my fears and my horror about my own death. This mortal Jesus, may not be the one who delivers the political liberation expected by Israel, nor does he perform according to my whimsical prayer demands. But I will tell you what he does in his own mortal life: he sets me free by showing how to be completely human and as that human how to open completely to the divine.
It is a husk breaking, skin shedding, thunderous and dim mystery, I’ll tell you.
Sometimes all my Greek philosophy and general sophistry is of little use. It doesn’t get me to meet Jesus.
But when I close my eyes and still my mind from all its reasoning and overthinking, I notice that I can see dimly in the dark. Just enough light to take another step closer to his divine heart.
He who hides from all my argumentation, is the very one who shines a torch in the dark labyrinth of my prayer.