A panda bear escapes from the zoo and is forced to live on his own. It turns out that he really enjoys eating in nice restaurants, but of course being a panda with no job and no money he is unable to pay his bill. Being, also, an exceptionally intelligent panda he devises a scheme that lets him eat in any restaurant he wishes.
One day he decides to try a particularly nice restaurant but when he asks the maître d’ for a table he’s told, “I’ve hear about you. You’re the panda that never pays for his meal. We won’t seat you here.” So, the panda leaves the restaurant and sits on a bench across the street from the restaurant and contemplates his empty tummy.
Some while later the panda sees the maître d’ leave the restaurant. The panda goes back and asks the assistant maître d’ for a table, and is seated by the assistant who has never heard about the panda’s tricks. The panda has a wonderful meal. The panda orders appetizers, soup, salad, a big scrumptious meal (vegetarian, of course), and a whopping desert. The panda is in a gluttonous zone.
Just as he finishes desert the panda is approached by the maître d’ who has returned to discover the assistant maître d’s mistake. When the maître d’ demands payment the panda pulls a gun, shoots the maître d’ and starts to leave. The assistant maître d’ stops the panda and asks, “Where do you think you are going?”
“I’m leaving.” “You can’t leave!” “Sure I can.” “No you can’t!”
At which point the panda produces the encyclopedia volume “P”, opens it and tells the assistant, “Read this.”
The assistant maître d’ reads aloud: “Panda, an animal indigenous to China that eats shoots and leaves.”
Who knew that being a maître d’ is such a dangerous profession? Maître d’s are in the hospitality business, but they also need to protect the interests of their employers. That includes making sure a patron pays, but it also includes making sure a patron is given hospitality. The chaos of ancient Jerusalem at Passover made hospitality challenging.
The scene for our gospel reading happens immediately after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with the waving of palms that we will recreate next Sunday. There are some Greeks in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. What is meant here is that there were some Greek-speaking Jews from outside the holy land to celebrate the Passover.
Needless to say, Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey with people celebrating his arrival created quite a stir. Everyone must have noticed the commotion. Jesus’ riding into the city on a donkey would be known by everyone, including the Romans, that it is kings who ride into their capital city on donkeys. Jesus is declaring himself as king and these Jews from out-of-town want to meet him.
They made inquiries about how a contact might be made. They were pointed to Phillip. What happens is told very tersely. We should note that even before Lazarus was raised from the dead, there was a price on Jesus’ head. There must have been some kind of vetting process that happened between Phillip and Andrew before these “Greeks” were allowed in Jesus’ presence.
Phillip and Andrew were not clear how they should proceed so they asked Jesus. We may assume from Jesus’ response that there was a concern about an assassination attempt by the “Greeks.” Though Phillip and Andrew were concerned for Jesus’ life, Jesus didn’t share their concern. Jesus tells them that it is time for him to die or in other words, “to be glorified.”
A seemingly dead seed bears much fruit when it goes to the ground. And so it will be with Jesus. After he is placed in the ground, Jesus will bear much fruit. The better life to aspire to is the life after this one. Holy honor will come to one who serves Christ.
Jesus is trying to give Andrew and Phillip eternal lessons, one more time. Jesus knows his time on this earth is short. His disciples are still not clear on what Jesus is about, but Jesus hasn’t given up on them. Jesus could ask to be spared from what will soon happen to him. But he knows that that is why he came to the world. His demise is part of his mission.
Jesus asks that God’s name will be glorified. There was a response to that request. God reaffirms Jesus’ wish. The nearby crowd heard the noise, but couldn’t make out what it was they heard. Was it thunder? Was it an angel?
Since the crowd wonders out loud what they heard, Jesus seems to answer their questions. The voice wasn’t to reassure Jesus. It was for them. Jesus entered Jerusalem not as a Jewish king, but as the king of the world. (And he didn’t even have to be on the bow of the Titanic.) But it was Tiberius who was king of the world and Tiberius wasn’t accustomed to giving up power. Somebody would have to go and Jesus was the one.
When Jesus is lifted up from the earth, Jesus will draw the whole world to himself. The world will not go to Tiberius. The world will go to their savior, Jesus. When Jesus is lifted high on the cross, the world will become reconciled.
It is on the cross that Jesus confronts the ruler of this world and it’s not Tiberius. The ruler of evil is vanquished on the cross. Jesus dies triumphant.
Jeremiah, in our Old Testament reading today, talks about a new covenant that God will make with God’s people. The old Law of Moses will no longer be necessary. The rabbis and Pharisees will no longer be necessary. Jesus came so that our relationship with God may be more intimate, more immanent. We know God because we know Jesus. It though this relationship that God writes the law of love on our hearts. Jesus’ incarnation joins us with God.
According to John, Jesus takes his throne on the cross and judges the world. What Jesus is judging is a world that embodies domination, violence, and death. This is the world that is represented by the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, these things didn’t die when Jesus died. They didn’t die when the Roman Empire died. They continued and we still see them today. When those things die, Jesus’ kingdom will come.
Whenever anyone uses power over another, there will be judgment. Whenever anyone harms another person, there will be judgment. Whenever anyone dies, there will be judgment. Jesus went to the cross without a fight. Jesus died on the cross to expose the ugliness of the world. We, as Jesus’ followers, are called to expose the ugliness of the world so that the world can be redeemed.
Jesus embodied good news for all people. Even some Greeks wanted to meet him. The Greeks asked Phillip and Andrew if they could meet Jesus. Yet Phillip and Andrew didn’t know what to do with the request. They sound like they were Episcopalians, not very good maître d’s. There are probably people in our community that would like to meet Jesus. Would they recognize any of us as his disciples and ask for an invitation to meet Jesus?
Text: John 12:20–33