“We would like to see Jesus.” This is the request of some Greeks from today’s gospel. (Jn. 12:20-33) “We would like to see” the one who teaches with authority. “We would like to see” the one who is compassionate, who welcomes the sinner, who goes out to meet others, who weeps for his friend who has died. “We would like to see” the one who has come not to judge but to save. “We would like to see” this teacher who says that there is a different way to live. “We would like to see” the one who says “no” to the logic of violence and isolation. “We would like to see” the one who does not live according to the law of reciprocity but rather according to a different law – the law of love.
We all know the law of reciprocity. It is so present, so seemingly uncontested, that we easily take it for granted that it is just the way things are. The law of reciprocity says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! If you do this to me then I can do that to you! It is a law that perpetuates the cycle of violence. It is a law of strict justice/retribution alone. It is a law that leads one into viewing other people solely in terms of being competitors, even adversaries, rather than brothers and sisters. Due to this, it is a law that isolates and breaks people, communities and nations into opposing camps. It is also a law that ultimately binds and enslaves. Jesus never lived according to the law of reciprocity, rather he lived according to the law of love and because of this Jesus is the freest person that has ever walked the face of the earth.
Behind this simple request of these Greeks is a profoundly fundamental yearning and recognition of the human heart – the desire to live differently, to escape the logic of violence and the tyranny of reciprocity. We yearn for this. On our own, we cannot achieve it. “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” We need Jesus because he alone can forgive what needs to be forgiven within ourselves, because he alone can make new of what has been made old through sin. Without Jesus we are left under the law of reciprocity – it is the best we can hope for. With Jesus, we can learn and we can live the law of love and we can gain that freedom that Jesus himself knew. We can be made free!
On the surface it seems that Jesus does not answer the request of the Greeks brought to him via Andrew and Philip. Rather than saying, “Bring them here,” he goes off into a reflection on the Son of Man being glorified. But this reflection is his response! “You want to see me? You want to see the one who lives a different way, the one who does not live according to the logic of violence and the law of reciprocity? You will see this and so much more! Watch what happens on Golgotha, watch what happens within the tomb itself! Watch what happens within “this hour”!
Then he give us God’s answer to that deepest disconnect of the human heart. “You wish to see me because you also want to be free of the law of reciprocity, you also want to overcome the sad logic of violence and isolation. You want to live differently.” “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, in produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
Freedom, a different way to live other than the dictates of reciprocity, is found when a person lets go of self and lives for others … in Christ. This last part is often overlooked. Sadly, even by teachers of Christianity sometimes. Jesus is not proposing a vague philosophy open to any person apart from him. The request of the Greeks was, “We would like to see Jesus.” Jesus – not his teachings, not his ideas but the person. When we die to self and live for others within the reality of Christ’s own sacrifice then the logic of violence and isolation can be overcome. Christ goes on to say, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”
Life can be lived in a different way. The sad logic of violence and isolation is not inevitable. The new law of love is possible!
“We would like to see Jesus.”