Christian Mythbusters

Christian Mythbusters

Those People

April 13, 2022

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

Today, as the church moves through Holy Week and approaches Easter Sunday, there is a tendency sometimes for Christianity to turn inward. And so, whether you are hearing this on Wednesday in Holy Week or on Easter Sunday, I want to take a moment to talk about how I think the story of Christ’s death and resurrection should not be one that turns us inward. I want to break that myth and explore how this story should expand our views and tear down the barriers we build. 

The Gospel of John shades the story of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection rather differently than the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John doesn’t have a Last Supper narrative with the institution of Communion, instead he has the story of foot washing in the upper room. Whereas in the synoptics, the last meal in the upper room is a Passover dinner, in John’s Gospel the last meal is the night before the Passover. Because in John’s Gospel, Jesus is killed at the same time as the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, drawing a unity between the lamb and Christ who is our Passover lamb sacrificed for us. 

Before the passion and resurrection narratives in John, Jesus is at the Passover festival, and we are told some Greeks came to Philip and wanted to see Jesus. These would have been Jewish Greeks, since they are at the Passover festival, so they are probably Hellenistic Jews, those who had been a part of a tradition in Judaism exemplified by Philo and others that blended Judaism with Greek philosophy.

But oddly enough, Philip doesn’t just take them to see Jesus. Instead, Philip goes and talks to Andrew and then both of them go and talk to Jesus. And rather than Jesus saying anything about the request of the Greeks who Philip and Andrew say want to see him, Jesus answers them by saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

What a bizarre answer. Right? You wonder, what happened to the Greeks? Why does Jesus answer the disciples with this theological explanation, this foreshadowing his coming death on the cross? 

I think a hint of the answer, though, can be found near the end of Jesus theological explanation, where he says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

I wonder if the reason that Andrew and Philip don’t immediately bring these Greeks, these Hellenistic Jews, to see Jesus is because in their eyes these Greeks aren’t the right sort of Jews. These are fancy Greeks who enjoy philosophy and whose Aramaic was likely broken, not good Palestinian Jews like Philip and Andrew and Jesus and the rest of the disciples. 

So, instead of bringing them to Jesus, they hear their request, leave the Greeks were they are, and then go to Jesus to tell him, “Just so you know, Jesus, some of those Jews are here, those strange Hellenistic Jews. And, we don’t know what to do with them.” Because surely, Andrew and Philip think, surely Jesus wouldn’t want to talk with those people.

Jesus gives this theological explanation, this emphasis on his dying like a grain of wheat, to the disciples, to make it clear to them that his choice to do this, his choice to die on the cross, is so that he can draw the whole world to himself… including those people that Andrew and Philip might find suspect. 

The idea of God’s all-encompassing love is threatening to the narrow views of the religious of his time, so threatening that he is going to let the religious kill him, so that he can make it clear that his love for all people—including his love for those people the religious might not like, those people you may not like—his love for those people is what will triumph in the end. 

And all this pushes us, as Christians today, to ask who those people are to us? Who are the people that, if they came up to you, you would not really want to invite them to your church? Who are the people you tend to “other,” to set aside, to want to avoid? Maybe it’s their politics, or their piety. Maybe it’s their documentation status or their social class or even the color of their skin. Who are those people to you? 

Do you know that God is trying to draw those people to himself as well? He is trying to catch you and them in the grip of his love. After all, you know your conception of God is wrong if you’re pretty sure God and Jesus likes the same people you like and hate the people you hate. 

So maybe die to that today, just a little today. Let God’s love rise in you and create in you an expansive love, a love even for those people you would rather avoid. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today.