Year B 5th Sunday Lent: John 12,20-33

12:20   Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.

12:21   These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee,

and put this request to him, 'Sir, we should like to see Jesus.'

12:22   Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.

12:23   Jesus replied to them: Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.

12:24   In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies,

it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.

12:25   Anyone who loves his life loses it;

anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

12:26   Whoever serves me, must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am.

            If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.

12:27   Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour?

But it is for this very reason that I have come to this hour.

12:28   Father, glorify your name! A voice came from heaven,

'I have glorified it, and I will again glorify it.'

12:29 The crowd standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder;

others said, 'It was an angel speaking to him.'

12:30   Jesus answered, 'It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.

12:31   'Now sentence is being passed on this world;

now the prince of this world is to be driven out.

12:32   And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.'

12:33   By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.


Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Foreshadowing of Jesus’ own resurrection (11:1-44). After that, Lazarus’ sister, Mary, had embalmed Jesus’ feet ‘for the day of my burial’ as Jesus himself took it to be (12:1-8). Then he was welcomed by the crowd in Jerusalem as their king (12:12-19). Again the foreshadowing of Jesus’ kingship after the resurrection. At that very moment Greek people want to see Jesus. His fame has reached the pagans! Foreshadowing...


The Greek people approach Philip to see Jesus. Philip asks the help of Andrew. These two names are full of meaning. First of all, Philip and Andrew are the only two among Jesus’ disciples who bear a Greek name! Is that the reason why the Greeks are asking them for help?

But there is more: the Greeks ask to ‘see’ Jesus, not to ‘speak’ or for example to ‘ask questions’ or ‘to hear his teaching’. If they want to ‘see’ Jesus, they have chosen the right men.


In the very beginning of John’s Gospel John the Baptist had pointed to Jesus with the words, ‘Look, the Lamb of God.’ Andrew and another disciple had followed Jesus. Jesus had asked them, ‘What is your desire?’ They had answered, ‘Lord, where do you remain?’ Jesus had invited them, ‘Come and see!’ And Andrew had seen. His conclusion was, ‘This man is the Messiah’ (1:35-41). And now the Greek visitors ask him, exactly him, to see Jesus. So that they too come to the conclusion, ‘He is the Messiah!’?

And Philip? The day after his meeting with Andrew and the other disciple Jesus had invited Philip to be with him. And Philip invited Nathanael, ‘We have found the one of whom the Scriptures speak, Jesus of Nazareth.’ Nathanael had answered, ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ And what did Philip answer? ‘Come and see!’ (1:43-46). The same words Jesus spoke to Andrew and his mate. Conclusion: Andrew and Philip are the disciples of ‘Come and see!’

John is does not tell if the Greeks actually saw Jesus. That is not necessary keeping in mind what the result was of Andrew’s and Philips’ seeing. Instead of that John reveals us the spirituality, the belief of Jesus: that the mystery of suffering and humiliation is inextricably connected with resurrection and new life, just as he saw it in the mystery that fullness of life-giving food is preceded by the burial and death of the grain.

Picture Meditation

We are standing in the entrance portal of the church of Trédrez, Brittany, France, a couple of miles south of Lannion. Jesus is welcoming us above the door, reminding us of his words ‘I am the door’ (John 10:7). He has the globe in his hands: sign that he is the king of the universe. He is surrounded by his twelve apostles. They are looking up to him full of reverence and admiration. Except two of them. They are looking at me, pointing at Jesus. These two are, of all people,... Andrew (on the left) and Philip (on the right).

The artist places me at the spot of the Greeks in John’s Gospel, who wanted to ‘see’ Jesus. Here Andrew and Philip invite me: ‘See!’. What do I want to ‘see’? What is my desire?

And if I might stand in Andrew’s and Philip’s place, pointing at Jesus full of enthusiasm, what did Jesus do to me that I can be that enthusiastic about?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ