Christ Centered Resources

Sir, we wish to see Jesus

Rev. Ed Searcy

John 12:20-32
University Hill United Church : Sun, April 9, 2000
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus”. Some Greeks (how many we don’t know, two or three ... twenty or thirty?) ask Philip for an audience with Jesus. It is an unexpected request. Only fellow Jews have been taking any notice of Jesus. This is the first inkling that the world beyond the religious community is drawn to him. So Philip tells Andrew: “Some Greeks wish to see Jesus”. They go together to tell their Rabbi. It seems such a small incident. This is all that we hear of these curious Greeks. We do not see them again. There is no record of any meeting with Jesus. They exit, stage left, disappearing into the wings as suddenly as they have appeared. But do not be fooled. Just as in life, so here, an event that appears to be insignificant can be the crux on which everything turns. These Greeks come knocking at a critical moment. Tension is mounting. Everything is moving towards the climactic conclusion of Jesus’ life. These are the pages which you can not stop turning ... even though the clock says that it is two in the morning and you have to be in class at eight a.m. The Greeks come to see Jesus on Palm Sunday. They hear the crowds chanting “Hosanna” and witness the humbly regal procession of the new King of Israel through Jerusalem’s crowded streets. They learn of the testimony that has everyone talking: the news that Jesus has raised a man who was dead and buried back to life. It is causing the religious leadership fits: “Look”, they say, “the world has gone after him!” (John 12:19). Jesus does not promise a spiritualised life after death ... he actually delivers it here and now. The religious professionals are rightly worried about one with this kind of life giving power. So, even as his popularity with the masses grows, the subterranean plots to kill both Jesus and the ‘dead man walking’ named Lazarus gain momentum. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”. Who knows why these Greeks ask to see him. Maybe they are curious, interested to learn more about their multi- cultural community, wondering about this strange new religious phenomenon among their Jewish neighbours. Or perhaps they hope to receive some of this ‘eternal life’ that Jesus has to offer. Certainly they are the dream of every church with its share of Philips and Andrews and Marys and Marthas waiting at the door on Sunday morning. Imagine if, instead of asking: “Excuse me, but where can I hang up my coat?”, some visitors were to receive the order of service from your hand and say:“Ma’am, we wish to see Jesus”. It is likely that you would do as Philip did ... hurry over to Andrew - I mean, Trenor or Audrey - and ask the Worship Co-ordinator for advice: “We have some guests who have come looking for Jesus! What should we do?”. Perhaps together you would think to leave a note on the pulpit with their simple request: “Sir, we would see Jesus”. Bringing people to Jesus is not a new task. Strangers have been asking to meet him for a long time. If only Jesus would be more accommodating. If only he would invite these curious Greeks in and greet them graciously. But he doesn’t. Jesus answers their request by sending a message second-hand through Philip and Andrew. What an odd message it is: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Nothing here about making arrangements for a polite visit. Instead, a simple request from non-Jews for a personal audience signals that Jesus’ hour has come. Time after time Jesus steps back at critical moments in his ministry and declares to anyone who will listen: “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). But now, when the Greeks come seeking Jesus, the hour arrives. It has all been leading to this - to the death of this very Jewish Messiah on behalf of the whole world: Jews and Greeks. But not only Jesus’ hour has come. The world’s hour for decision has arrived as well. Jesus prescribes a difficult path: “Truly, 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. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour” (John 12:24-26). In other words: “If you want to see me then follow me ... live a life and die a death that God will glorify”. The world teaches the Greeks to believe that glory comes to those who win at the lottery or in the stock market. Glory is heaped upon those who play in the big leagues, who win the trophies and the medals and the Oscars. The world says if you want glory then win ... win the competition for a promotion, win the fight to be number one, win the war of attrition ... win at all costs. But life-giver Jesus, Jesus who can raise the dead, says to the Greeks: “If you want to be glorified by God then be prepared to lose. If you would see me then stop playing the world’s game by the world’s rules. If you wish to follow me then let go of your reach for the top. If you hope to live an eternal life then die to the way of the world.” Jesus means it when he says that his hour has come. He knows that by challenging the world’s ways he is losing his life. Yet he trusts that his dying is glorified by God because it is the pathway to life. “What should I say”, ponders Jesus, “- ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour” (John 12:27-28). One wonders what Philip and Andrew will say to those curious Greeks. It is a wondering filled with urgency. We wonder what to say to neighbours who wish to see Jesus if we would only make the introductions for them. How does one explain Jesus’ odd invitation to worldly wise Greeks? Can they ever hear the life-giving wisdom which lies within such apparent foolishness? How can it be that the lifting up of Jesus on a cross will finally “draw all unto himself” (John 12:32) when his way of life comes through an act of death? These are the questions of every Andrew and Philip, every Mary and Martha who find themselves face to face with a neighbour or a colleague or an in-law or a child who says: “I wish to see Jesus”. Earlier this week, fretting about telling you what Jesus has in mind for those who would see him, I sent out a distress signal to those in our congregation who are linked by computer to our email list. Along with the request for help I sent a copy of the covenant renewal vows which you will be invited to make with God in a few minutes: “I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you; exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed Triune God, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.” In a world of self-sufficiency these vows are a hard sell. Imagine posting them on a sign out on the street or as an ad in the local newspaper or on our web-site on the Internet by way of an invitation to join University Hill Congregation. The thought of voluntarily letting go of control over one’s own life is blatantly out of step with a culture which carefully schools us in the methods of maintaining control over our own destiny. No wonder the church is inevitably tempted to soft- soap the message ... to cut corners ... to hedge the truth ... to make the decision to follow Jesus a less radical step, a more rational choice. Then, just when I am seriously in danger of being led into this very temptation, I receive a brief note. It comes as an answer to my email call for help. Having read the vows we will make in giving our lives to God she says: “I love this. I plan on cutting it out and taping it into my Bible. It is so freeing. There is no worry in these lines. No planning. Total freedom. Why don’t we bite? I don’t know.” Look at what has happened. The Greeks appear to disappear, never to be seen again. But they do not leave. They are still centre stage. We are those Greeks. We come, hoping for a glimpse of Jesus ... praying that we might find the life-giving Messiah who works his wonders on the dead and dying like us. Once here we discover that there is no way to see Christ except by following him on his cross walk. It is not only Jesus’ hour that has come. Our hour has come as well. This is the hour to choose between the world’s way of life that leads to death and Christ’s way of death that leads to life. Here and now, at this font, is the time and place to recall that we have pledged to turn away from the paths of consumption, acquisition and control that cannot deliver on their false promise of life eternal. Here we solemnly swear to walk the disciplined, sacrificial, suffering path of Christ that so mysteriously and surprisingly leads to the richest and most bountiful of lives ... a life that is glorified by God.