Some heathens also went up to the Temple to worship during the festival. They came to Phil, who was from from Fishermans Wharf in Galilee, asking for an appointment with Jesus. Phil went and told Drew, and together they went to ask Jesus.
Jesus said, “It’s time for the authentic human to be recognized. I’m telling you, really, if a seed never falls into the earth and disintegrates, it remains just a seed. But if it disintegrates, it produces fruit. If you love your life, you’ll lose it. If you let go of your life as it is, your horizons will expand forever. If you want to serve me, you have to do what I do. You have to go where I go. If you do this, God won’t let you down.
“I’m troubled. What am I supposed to say? ‘God, keep me from my fate?’ No! I won’t deny the reason I came here in the first place! God, make yourself known!”
Just then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I’ve made myself known, and will do it again.” When people heard it, they thought it was thunder. Some said that an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, “The voice wasn’t for me. It was for you. It’s decision time. The world’s ruler is about to be sent into exile. I’ll be upheld, and everyone will come to me.” (This was how he hinted at the way he expected to die.)
This passage begins and ends with people coming to Jesus. All the wrong people.
It’s the gentiles – the heathen – who approach Phil, the one with the Greek name, to ask for an appointment. They’re not the ones who are supposed to be “in the know” about right religion. But somehow they know that Jesus is the one they should talk to. When Jesus talks about being raised up, it’s not the people who are already on the inside, the “right” people, who are drawn in. It’s everyone else who will come to him. In the very next verse (omitted from the lectionary) the crowds (of insiders) don’t get it. They want to know how Jesus can say he’ll be raised up. This doesn’t fit their expectations of religious protocol.
The people on the outside get it. They come. The people on the inside don’t. They go.
At the center is this saying about the seed, and the paradox of keeping your life and losing it, or losing it to keep it. This is the great truth that the religiously inside so often fail to grasp. It’s not just about Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s about being willing to follow Jesus into death and resurrection. What’s true for him is true for everyone. You can’t move by standing still. You can’t grow by remaining the same. You can’t reach your destiny by refusing to participate in the moments that are meant to define you. You can’t be great by playing it safe. You can’t stand out by staying with the in crowd.
It’s decision time! Will you stay on the inside, comfortably numb and self-assured? Or will you follow Jesus, face your fear, and forever expand your horizons?