The Gospel we read today is full of interesting points for meditation. Jesus predicts the Passion, which, as we approach Holy Week, prepares us to celebrate the mysteries of our redemption. We are given a glimpse of the intimacy of the conversation between God the Father and God the Son as our Lord prays aloud even while addressing the crowds. But we might pause to consider how this Gospel passage begins with Greeks who have come to worship in Jerusalem for the Passover and their request to see Jesus. 

The twelfth chapter of John’s Gospel begins with the account of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with a costly perfumed oil. It then recounts the triumphant entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Though we will hear this story next Sunday, it gives a particular context for our meditation today. For the Greeks have been drawn to ask to meet Jesus because of what they see from the crowds greeting Him with palm branches. Historically, we see that Jews and Greeks lived in close proximity in the region of Palestine. It would not have been unusual for some of the Greeks to be attracted to or curious about the worship of the Jewish people, who prayed not to statues but to a God they could not see. The fidelity of the Jewish people to right worship and to the covenant with God was inspirational. Though the Greeks did not share faith with the Jews, they wanted to be with them in some way in worship. And so Greeks approach Jerusalem for Passover. There, they see large crowds of Jewish people welcoming a man who comes riding on a donkey. The people cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and wave palm branches in greeting, while laying their cloaks on the ground before him. The excitement of the crowd, the honor they bestow on Jesus, and the intensity of that day must have stayed with the Greeks in a special way. Just as the way the Jews worshipped was an inspiration for the Gentiles to seek the one true God, so the crowds impel them to seek Jesus, the Incarnate God.

St. Proclus of Constantinople praises the crowds with these words:

“[The crowds] caused the Pharisees to turn away. They loathed the high priests. They lifted up in song their voices befitting to God. They caused creation to rejoice. They sanctified the air. They shook the dead beforehand. They opened heaven. They planted paradise. They stirred up the dead to the same zeal. For that reason some of the Greeks at that time were urged on toward zeal for God, because of this utterance befitting to God…Behold the preaching of the crowd, and how they moved the Greeks to conversion.”

St. Proclus reminds us that there is a tremendous witness given by faithful communities, both by their regularity and fidelity to worship, and by their external manifestations of faith. For our Christian communities, this is a good reminder. Through our worship, we not only give God our faith, thanks, and praise. We also bear witness in the world to the value of a life lived in Christ and that testimony attracts people to seek the face of Jesus. Next week, our focus on Palm Sunday and entrance into Holy Week will let us see the witness value of worship and the counter-witness of sin. For we will join with the crowds of people who enthusiastically welcomed the Lord, while also seeing ourselves reflected in those who cried out “Crucify him!” As a Church, the family of God, the community of believers, this Gospel invites us to reflect on the quality of our witness. Does the way we worship show non-believers that we serve a personal God whose power and glory transcends our human categories? Does our individual response to this same God invite curiosity and faith from the world? Can we be identified as people capable of showing others the way to Jesus? “Behold the preaching of the crowd.” May our preaching be a sign and witness that raises the hearts and minds of all to cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David!”