The Greeks who come to see Jesus have a bit of a language problem because they don’t speak Aramaic – Jesus’ first language. This is probably why they need to make an approach through the more linguistically flexible Philip. Translation was needed, as it often is, in order to make sense of Jesus’ preaching.
But language is only part of the problem. It is not just because they are Greek that they are likely to have problems understanding what Jesus means when he speaks about the Son of Man being lifted up in glory. (This passage is not the first one when Jesus speaks in this way. See also chapter 3, verse 14). To Greeks, and to us, glory comes from victory. And victory comes from out-playing and over-powering others. Or at least it usually does.
This is not what Jesus means by ‘glory’, and translating his understanding into our own terms is one of the biggest challenges of Christian discipleship. The Son of Man, raised up in glory, is Jesus, suffering and dying on the cross. There’s a translation that Google Translate will struggle to make for you!
Even the church has struggled to get its collective head around this one over the years. How do we bear witness to a glory such as this? Not with pomp and ceremony, that is for sure.
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And 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 earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.