“ There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?’ Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, ‘Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. ‘Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.’” (John 12:20-23 MSG)
Those words were said when Jesus had just ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey as people waved palm branches and shouted out to him, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”, just days before he was crucified.
OK, here’s my thoughts when I read those verses: There were some people (Greeks) who had more than likely just been converted to Jewish faith because they had been hearing about Jesus and his miracles and teachings. They must have witnessed and experienced the celebration and honoring of this man, with no idea that he was being glorified. (12:16) They wanted to meet him, so they went to Philip, because they had a commonality since he was a former Greek himself until he became Jesus’ disciple. They thought, “Hey, he’s got connections with Jesus.” and asked Philip if he would take them to meet Jesus. So Philip and Andrew went to ask Jesus if that was OK and Jesus replied, “Sorry guys, times up.”.
Talk about disappointment, feeling rejected, or worried that it’s too late to experience being up close and personal with Jesus. They probably had recently heard about the One, true God, Who created the heavens and earth and converted their lives to worship Him. They heard about this man Jesus and wanted to see him face to face. What if they had been going through struggles in their lives, in relationships, health or simply feeling empty in their souls and had great hope that this guy, Jesus would heal them of their inner struggles. Maybe they wanted to feel his hand on their shoulder or a pat on the back, or a firm, yet tender, hand shake from this man who made the blind see and the lame walk and spoke of hope and joy in the Kingdom to come.
But what a balloon pop and deflation when they saw Jesus in their eyes’ view as Philip asked him if he’d go talk with them and Jesus shaking his head no saying, “It’s too late. Time’s up.”
Although that was just for a moment in history and Jesus knew they will have the opportunity to see him again face to face soon, at that time those people didn’t know that and it must have been sad, disappointing, or even heart-breaking. Maybe that emptiness in their hearts wasn’t truly filled yet. It was a feeling as if there was a hole in their hearts.
Little did they know that like a seed of wheat buried in the ground to die, in- order to produce a crop, Jesus (The Seed – Galatians 3:16) had to die in-order to produce and give us Life and Fruit.
So, it really wasn’t too late – it was actually what was just the beginning – to be able to be healed by his blood, transformed and brought into a personal relationship with Christ as their Savior. For a lifetime. Not just a five minute interaction. (Although I know I’d be disappointed too if I were them and didn’t get to meet Jesus in person like they wanted to – and even harder because they got SO close! So I get it. But maybe that’s part of the ache – that longing to see him ASAP – that keeps us going. The desire HE puts in our hearts to be with Him.)
Like those who were disappointed when they couldn’t see Jesus face to face, I’ve felt pain at times when it seemed like he was a distance away from me and he turned me down. Those times when Jesus has said to me, “Not now, but later”. How long is later? How long will that wait be? Just like refinement, waiting can hurt too. It can be a hollow feeling.
Even though it may seem strange, Lenten season is to reflect on the hole, or hollowness, in our souls when we sin and are far away from God. When we “give up” something it’s to cause us to sacrifice ourselves while examining our hearts and its motives. Camealy writes:
There’s hollow space left behind when you give something up- a hole aching to be filled. YET, here, in his painful, holey place – this is where the healing begins. The renewal comes through the wringing of the soul, through the pulling and dragging out of the ugly – through the sacrifice.
Jesus – we await the time to see you face to face. Until then, continue to fill our hearts when we have holes in it with your Truth, grace and love.