Reflection by Revd Joy Boyce on ‘Seeing and Glory’ in John Chapter 12

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus”

There is a great variation of meaning in how we use the word ”see”.  We use it to mean ‘I understand’, or to indicate connection between facts, or indicate a revelation, an epiphany. 

Perhaps the Greeks who asked this question simply wanted to clap eyes on Jesus, the celebrity preacher that year in Jerusalem for Passover. 

And yet, can I be so sure it was mere cult of celebrity  causing them to seek out Philip and  request to see Jesus?  Was there the whiff of the divine?

Greeks had a reputation as seekers after truth, inquisitive, travelling the ancient world in search of new ideas.  These Greeks wanting to see Him helps Jesus to realise that the crucial time has arrived.   He acknowledges the universality of His Mission, and also, as He says, that the Son of Man would be glorified.

To His Jewish listeners the term ‘the Son of Man’ might have been familiar. The phrase was drawn from a verse in the book of Daniel, referring to a figure sent by God to rule the world; a new power in the world replacing savagery with a new and gentle humanity. Although most Jewish scholars think this usage was a development within Christianity, it is possible that some of Jesus’ onlookers would have understood him to be referring to this hope when He said that ‘the Son of Man’ was about to be glorified. Some may even have seen that proclamation as a fulfilment of their hopes for a military liberator.   

By glorified Jesus means something very different, he means crucifixion and resurrection.    

There is to be no conquest by the armies of God.  Jesus sees the conquest of the Cross and death.

So He uses the image of a grain of wheat, reminding them of other seed parables He used when teaching them. 

A grain of wheat must fall into the earth and be buried.  Its husk, its outer body, must die, be broken open for the inner life to spring forth.  Only if it dies will it bear much fruit. 

This is how Jesus sees His own forthcoming death. 

It would be easy to avoid it – choose the path to human glory, following some in the crowd to revolution. 

But He knows His grain of wheat is unfruitful if it remains preserved as a wheat grain.  Only when buried as if in the tomb does it go on to bear much fruit.  It is only when buried in the tomb that He can spring forth to resurrected life.   

It was only by the early martyrs’ deaths that the Church grew, by the self-sacrifice of disciples that the Word is carried throughout the world. 

And He tells them more than this – that only by spending life in self-sacrifice and service do we retain life; whoever serves Him must follow Him, be where He is.

This is not easy for Christ – John gives an insight into His human emotions  – ‘my soul is troubled’  –  He is wholly human and divine.   


The Greeks who ask to “see Jesus” were perhaps not expecting all this death talk.   

Did they truly know what they were asking for?   Do we know what we ask for in wanting to see and know Him?  

As disciples, we follow Him on His journey through Holy Week without fully understanding all this journey entails.

Holy Week is a school for learning how to die. 

Death is the window through which we “see” Jesus, encompassing all the various meanings given to that word “see” at the beginning of this meditation.   

We need to look through the window in order to truly “see” Him.  Dying is not the end but the means, a way of transforming who we are.  The work of dying is difficult and painful – in His words it is soul troubling.

Do you want to see Jesus?

Look for the places where your life is most guarded, insulated and isolated, fearful, angry. 

Those are places of blindness, places that need to die, each one a grain of wheat containing much fruit.

Let them fall on the earth and die and you will see Jesus. 


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