I’m one of those Greeks. I come from Thessalonica. I work in the port there. Mostly just labouring, loading and unloading ships that ply the Mediterranean. It pays the bills. Just. And occasionally I get the chance to work on a boat and visit some interesting places.
I love learning about the different cultures around the place; and I’m quite quick at picking up enough of a language to get by. We Greeks have lots of gods, of course, but I’m very interested in this Jewish idea that there’s just one god. There’s quite a Jewish community back home in Thessalonica and I get into good discussions with them. A God-fearer they call me – that’s their title for people interested in their ideas but who don’t look like they are going to go the whole hog and actually join up. I guess a hog is the last word I should use for that.
Anyway, I’d managed to get one of these working trips to Palestine this time. I’d heard rumours of Jesus – as soon as I arrived on this boat in Caesarea. Wow – what an amazing port Caesarea is! I had wondered what a port would look like that was named after the great Caesar himself. It’s certainly a lot better than where I work back home. And the city itself is pretty amazing also.
I stayed the first night in a cheap pub and it was there I started overhearing people talking about this prophet from Galilee.
I heard that he’d gone down to Judea, to Jerusalem, for Passover. That’s what I wanted to do.
It took me a couple of days to walk to Jerusalem.
The first morning I was here I went straight to the temple. I was so looking forward to seeing it – even worshiping in it. From a distance it just looks incredible. The stone is this stunning golden colour and then there’s all the actual gold and bronze. But when I went to go in there’s this notice at the gate in Greek and Latin warning non-Jews like me that we can only go into the outer courtyard – on pain of death!
So there I was, in this temple courtyard, but with this huge wall in front of me. And apparently there’s even further divisions beyond that wall. Something like four more walls – so there’s no way to get to actually see that Jewish single God.
I was really frustrated and disillusioned. The good bit, that day, was that I saw a big commotion and from a distance saw someone riding into the city on a donkey. Everyone down there was singing and the cops were having a panic attack worried that a riot might start any minute.
From time to time after that I saw the crowds. And managed to stand on the edge of them. It was Jesus alright – that Galilean religious rebel. I caught bits of what Jesus was saying; and the bits I heard of what he was saying intrigued me
But I could never get close to him – I guess being an outsider didn’t help – I dress differently. My Aramaic isn’t that good – and whenever I open my mouth everyone can immediately hear my Greek accent.
Over the days I got a better idea about who was who. I met up with some of his groupies who seemed to know him better. One guy I met was called Philip – that was a great start. Philip is obviously a Greek name. I switched to Greek – he knew a bit, but he was actually from Bethsaida up in Galilee
I asked Philip in the most polite Aramaic I could manage: “Sir, I wish to see Jesus.”
But it didn’t really get me very far. Maybe Philip didn’t really have the clout in the organisation that I thought he had. I didn’t get much further.
Philip went off to Andrew. I thought that might get somewhere. I had found out that Andrew is at least a blood relative of the inner circle – he’s Peter’s brother. Peter functions a bit like Jesus’ right hand man, although I gather Peter is also a bit of a loose canon.
Philip and Andrew went off to see Jesus themselves. But, believe it or not, they never really got back to me.
I wonder if that’s the end of it? I want to see Jesus. I really want to discuss some of this stuff with him.
I’ve been back and forth to the temple area all week. I was there when the uproar happened that everyone is talking about. Apparently Jesus took a whip of cords and started overturning the money changers tables. I saw the temple police heading off to where a massive crowd was gathering. Suddenly I saw a flock of doves flying off North. There were lambs and sheep and cattle running around loose. I saw a couple of children who had been bowled over and were sitting there crying. I heard later that Jesus had let all the animals free. The temple police must have got the crowd under control – but Jesus was still at large. So obviously they didn’t arrest him – I wonder if they are frightened of all the people who think he’s special.
I don’t know what to think. The poor people being ripped off. The way people are excluded in the temple.
To be honest with you, I’m a bit upset that Jesus’ followers treat Jesus a bit like that temple. There seems to be different layers around Jesus, just like around the temple.
I cannot seem to get to God either by temple or by Jesus.
So here I am, still standing at the back of the crowd, trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus, trying to hear Jesus speak.
I’ve heard the rumours that he brought a friend of his back from the dead in Bethany. I’ve heard the rumours about the way he accepts everyone equally. I can understand how that’s frightening for the authorities who want to keep control; who want to keep layers, and walls, and segregation – who want to be clear who is in and who is out. It’s neat and tidy if you know who is with God and who is against God.
Even Jesus’ followers seem to keep on dividing people up and putting others down.
So here I am, still at the back of the crowd, hoping to hear Jesus speaking of celebration and new life, fullness of life.
But all I hear him talking about is about death; about a grain of wheat needing to fall into the ground and die; about our needing to lose the life we have;
about serving; and now he’s saying that his soul is troubled.
I want to see Jesus but he keeps being hidden from me. There must be a way that Jesus can be there for everyone. Surely God can find a way to lift Jesus up for me and for all the world to be able to see him…
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.
21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.
28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
- Tuesday in Holy Week
- Wednesday in Holy Week
- Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent
- Saturday in Easter week
- St James of Jerusalem, Brother of the Lord