Road trips with the family. Love ’em or hate ’em. When the drive in the car gets long and boring, the kids may start bickering: “MOOOOMMMM!!! He’s looking out my window!” And then comes the whiny, persistent question the person behind the wheel hates: “Are we there yet?”
I can imagine Jesus’ disciples wondering something similar. Come on, Lord. How much longer do we have to wait for you to get down to business? When are you bringing the kingdom you keep talking about? Are we there yet?
Time and again in John’s gospel, we’re told that Jesus’ hour hasn’t come. His opponents can’t kill him, can’t arrest him — because it’s not yet time.
But when is the time? The answer may not be what we’d expect:
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:20-23, NRSV)
It’s the Passover in Jerusalem. Pilgrims have come to the city from all over the empire to celebrate. Among them are “some Greeks” — possibly Gentile seekers drawn to Jewish belief and practice, or else Greek-speaking Jews. They want an appointment to speak with Jesus, and approach Philip.
Why Philip? Who knows. It may be because Philip has a Greek-sounding name and hails from Bethsaida, in which there would have been other Greek-speaking Jews. Confused, Philip seeks out Andrew (from the same hometown), and together they approach Jesus.
Jesus nods, checks the calendar app on his iPhone, and says, “Let’s see. I’m full up this afternoon, but have an opening for tomorrow morning. Have them meet me in the Court of the Gentiles at 9 AM sharp.”
Well, not exactly.
That response would make sense, but it’s not what Jesus says. Instead, he announces, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He doesn’t seem to bother sending an answer to the Greeks, and they simply disappear from the story.
I’m reminded that the idea of an evangelistic mission to the Gentiles was not invented by the apostle Paul: it was part of the divine plan all along. Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus told his opponents, “You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come” (7:34). Some thought he meant that he was leaving Judea to go teach the Greek-speaking people in outlying lands (vs. 35).
But Jesus doesn’t have to go anywhere. The hour has come because the Messiah’s mission is coming to fruition. The peoples of the world are coming to him. He doesn’t even need to speak directly to them, because they are about to be eyewitnesses to God’s glory in what happens next.
It just won’t be the kind of glory anyone anticipates.