They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone.” — John 12:21-25 MEV
This little vignette appears immediately after the Palm Sunday parade in the Gospel of John. Some Greek Jewish people wanted to see Jesus — and what does Jesus say?
“Until you die, you’re truly alone.” Wow, nice to meet you, too, Jesus.
But it struck me so forcibly today as I read this: it’s not just that we don’t meet Jesus in a real and meaningful way until we are dead, it’s that we don’t even try to see him until our life is completely ruined and we’re pretty much dead.
We see his picture, sure: what we read in the Bible and hear about him in church. Maybe these Greeks had caught a glimpse of Jesus in the Triumphal Entry; they’d probably heard a lot about him from the excited crowds. But when they wanted to see him for themselves, Jesus says: Sorry, you have to be dead first.
The church says you see him when you physically die, the literal truth I suppose, but the better lesson here is the symbolic one: when your life goes off the rails and you’re left with nothing but misery and hopelessness, you might as well go down into the grave, because there you find Jesus.
A hard lesson for Palm Sunday when we are all shouting hosanna and expecting a triumphant king, but a brilliant lesson for anyone who finds herself dead today. The grave may be the place for grieving — but it becomes the place you see Jesus.
And we know that when we see him, we will be like him (1 John 3:2). And what is he like? He is alive, resurrected, and full of love. I know this from personal experience. If you’re so beat down that you’re willing to sit in the silence of the grave and ask to see Jesus … you come back more alive, and more filled with love, than you could ever have imagined.
We receive the resurrected life of love when we go down and meet Jesus in the grave. Don’t despair if your life seems over — just do the easiest and most natural thing: drop into the grave and meet your true life.