Passion: Of Greeks, Kernels and Voices From Heaven

     There are moments when serving Jesus becomes a bit surreal. I never know where God is going with a thing until I get to the destination. Even when He tells me what’s going to happen, my assumptions about the how are usually turned right on their heads before the proverbial end.

    There is a passage in John Chapter 12 which engenders the God of detailed planning who sometimes seems so random. Jesus had only just ridden through the streets of Jerusalem allowing himself to be hailed as the conquering King of Israel when some “surprise” visitors showed up.

“Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to attend the Passover paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, ‘Sir, we want to meet Jesus.’  Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.” John 12: 20-22

     Philip and Andrew were approached by this group asking for an audience with the Messiah, the King of Israel.

   I can hear Philip and Andrew replying in their most official politician’s voices. “We’ll see what we can do. You wait here and our people will call your people. Please remember the king is very busy. He books his schedule well in advance. You may have to come back a month from next Tuesday.”

    I am sure they felt they were finally getting a handle on the whole following Jesus bit. Jesus was going to be king and they were his men at arms.

     First surprise… Jesus said “sure let them in.”

     Second surprise… Jesus said this, to the group of Greeks, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory.” John 12:23

      Now that was a pretty good start. I can see Philip and Andrew elbowing each other in the corner “Oh yeah! Entering glory sounds good! The master’s on a roll today!”

      I am sure they were probably thinking that Jesus would next ask the Greeks to support his campaign against the Romans,  or to help him win over the Sanhedrin.

     Instead Jesus went on, “The truth is, a kernel of wheat must be planted in the soil. Unless it dies it will be alone—a single seed. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who despise their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:24,25

     If Philip had an overdeveloped sarcasm bone he probably whispered “Way to kill the mood Master.”

    Andrew was probably covering his eyes in dismay. How did they get from King of Israel and routing the Romans to dead wheat? Someone in Jesus’ inner circle must have been thinking “We need to get this guy a good speech writer.”

     We can look at the passage and using hindsight extrapolate what Jesus was saying. What hindsight did the disciples have? Zip…Zero…Zilch. All they knew was once again they were about to leave the land of Israel to go down a rabbit hole into “Wonderland”.

     So Jesus continued, ” All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them. Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from what lies ahead’? But that is the very reason why I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought it glory, and I will do it again.” …Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. The time of judgment for the world has come, when the prince of this world  will be cast out. And when I am lifted up on the cross,  I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12: 27,32

    Like I said…surreal. The disciples had a very definite understanding of who their Messiah was. They were sure Jesus was him. They were also sure that Jesus, Messiah was supposed to make Israel the center of the universe, rout all of her enemies and make the world safe for good people once more. Now he was telling everyone he was about to die. 

    Like the disciples, most times I find God doesn’t make sense. He is an oxymoron wrapped in a conundrum. He takes totally disparate and dissonant chords and blends them into consonant melodies that soothe the soul. In the end His work leaves the whole world gasping for breath at the beauty and impossibility of something only He could create. But in the midst of the creation we are often left biting our nails wondering how any of this nonsense is going to work for any good. 

     How many times did Jesus disciples question the master’s sanity? The things he said, the things he did just didn’t make sense. Yet somehow… somehow he would work it out. The end was always just as it should be, and it almost never made sense.

    My comfort is in the fact that this experience of surrealism in God is common, has been common since time began. The truth is if servants greater than I walked with it and grew then so can I…so can you.

     The next time you are confronted by your confusing mess of “Greeks, kernels and voices from Heaven”  just remember the disciples. Remember most times God doesn’t make sense at the beginning. So hold your peace until you see the end!

Has there ever been a time in your life when God took you  seemingly off course?