Today, there are some Greeks who want to meet Jesus. We know nothing about them except that they want to see Jesus. Still John makes a point of them, so there must be something to these Greeks. But before we go down this rabbit hole, let’s take a closer look at the setting of this story, which will require us to consider the events leading up to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and that day itself.
Days before this, Jesus raised his friend Lazarus, not only from the dead, but from the grave. This was no resuscitation of an unconscious person; this was the revival of a cold, dead corpse. This startling act creates a crisis for the religious authorities who fear Jesus is mesmerizing people and causing them to follow him as pilgrims gather in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. As a result Jesus and Lazarus are wanted men; the chief priests want Lazarus dead – again, and they are looking for any opportunity to discredit Jesus.
Then, just hours before our present story, crowds pour into the streets to watch and cheer Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This spectacle leads the Pharisees to say to each other, “You see, you can do nothing. Look the world has gone after him!” With these words still ringing in our ears, these mysterious Greeks come to Philip and ask to see Jesus.
You may ask, what’s the big deal? Well the big deal is the word “Greeks.” It can refer to gentile God-fearers; those non-Jewish people who worship or follow the God of Israel. As “gentile” refers to anyone who is not Jewish, gentile implies the rest of the world. Thus the statement, “the world has gone after him,” reflects the sense of peril and loss of control that the religious authorities feel right now.
But for Jesus, the Greeks or the world coming to him marks a prophetic fulfillment. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and Zechariah all prophesy that the nations – that is the gentiles – will follow the Lord and will be the Lord’s people. And in particular the prophets testify that the people of the nations will go to Jerusalem and join themselves to the Lord.
Thus, what the authorities are witnessing is alarming because they know the prophets and they know what they are witnessing looks more like the fulfillment of prophecy than it does the fulfillment their plan. But for Jesus this sign is a cue – a marker that indicates his time has come to be glorified.
The problem is that all those who have flooded the streets with their cloaks, palms and hosannas have – like the authorities – a different expectation for the fulfillment of prophecy, and both are at odds with Jesus’ expectation. So Jesus begins to describe what is about to happen as his glorification, it sounds strange to everyone’s ears because Jesus describes it with metaphor and imagery.
When you and I think of glorification we are more likely to think of the triumphal parade we have just witnessed rather than what we now know is coming – the Passion: Jesus’ redemptive suffering, crucifixion, and death. For this reason Jesus describes another type of glorification where a grain of wheat must fall into the earth and die so that it can bear much fruit – both grains of wheat and even bread.
With respect to the grain of wheat dying, when we baptize someone, the priest uses a very similar metaphor saying, “In [Baptism] we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.” In living out our baptismal covenant – by dying to ourselves and being reborn to everlasting life – we too become fruitful stalks of wheat glorifying Jesus by bringing forth new stalks of wheat – new disciples – until all the world knows his sacred name.
As for bread, at every Eucharist we consume the body of Christ, the bread of Heaven. This is the fruit of new grains of wheat that have fallen into the earth to become bread for the world. This bread of life must be broken and consumed by believers so that the whole world may be drawn to God.
In contrast to fruitful wheat, those who love their life – those who cannot loosen the grip of their self-love – will lose everything; whereas those who are willing to let the husk of their ambitions fall away like a seed in the ground will, like Jesus, be honored and have eternal life with Jesus in the presence of God.
Still, because Jesus is also human, his soul is troubled because he knows this hour is bringing him closer to the consequence of his obedience – he must endure his Passion. Like any human, Jesus would like to be spared the suffering that awaits him, but he also knows this is why he became flesh – he came into the world so that all who believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life. He understands that his Passion is necessary for him to become the bread of life – the bread of heaven – so that all the world may be drawn to him.
How often do we reconcile ourselves to our Baptismal covenant and Jesus’ call for us to let our grain fall into the earth so that we can the fruits necessary to draw the whole world to Christ? Sometimes we are inclined to gather our grain to ourselves and neglect others. This is why we need to receive the Eucharist on a regular basis, this is why we need to recall our baptismal promise at intervals throughout the year, this is why we need to be reminded of Jesus’ hour so that we can recall that we are an essential part of Jesus’ mission to reconcile the entire world to God.
May the bread and wine we consume today remind us of the awesome claim that Jesus placed on us at our Baptism, and may it also give us strength to loosen the grip the world and our self-love have upon us so that our fruits may draw the whole world to God.
 John 12:19
 BCP, p. 306