We want to see Jesus!
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 honour 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. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:20-43 ESV)
We want to see Jesus!
We can imagine crowds and calls and jostling and ‘down in front!’ and peering heads and standing on tip-toes, maybe climbing trees or looking out of windows or getting up on rooftops if you want to see the celebrity pass by. Children on shoulders would get in the way. Palm leaves waved likewise – better put them on the ground. Sitting on a donkey doesn’t really help. It’s not the same as riding a horse or being on the back of a chariot – a donkey doesn’t give you much elevation. Who is Jesus? Did you hear what he’s just done? Raised Lazarus! Yes! I heard he was dead 4 days! Really?! Wow! No way! Are you sure? I saw it. My neighbour’s uncle told me. What’s going on?! We want to see Jesus!
Such is the setting of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The palm branches have associations with liberation – dealing with oppressors – no wonder the Jewish authorities are nervous – history tells us that the Romans brought in extra guards at the three temple festival times and the Passover was the biggie because the Passover itself is a story of liberation – of rescue – of God dealing with false gods and wicked kings – and who’s to say that someone won’t make a leap and cry for liberation from Caesar and Rome?
But afterwards some Greeks – Gentiles – come to Philip who is from the north, from the more cosmopolitan part of the country – think of Galilee as more like New York and Jerusalem more like the Mid-west – and Philip checks with Andrew and they go to Jesus and we have no account of whether the Greeks saw Jesus
then – that’s not John’s interest in writing this account. No, John want us to hear what the triumphal process means – what entering Jerusalem means which houses both the temple and the palace and what it means that Gentiles also want to see Jesus who has all the associations of a Jewish rabbi, a prophet, the Messiah (of course that’s someone for the Jews) but there’s also this idea that he is the Saviour of the world – and whirling around him is God because Jesus is talking about being God’s Son, and doing the works of his Father, and implying and saying outright blasphemous things by equating him and God! We want to see Jesus!
Jesus puts his appearing in Jerusalem into perspective – the hour has come – he is where he needs to be – a king among his people heading towards his coronation battling everything that enslaves all his people and he talks about glory – God’s glory – in terms of death and new life – the seed goes into the ground and the new life comes forth. He talks about what you love most – our lives – and losing them to have them. He talks about glory which the world regards as you have glory when you are being served but for Jesus it is when you serve. And this is what the Father – again there’s that personal link with God – will honour.
We want to see Jesus. The student is nervous before the exam; so are the bride and groom before the wedding; the athlete before the event; the expectant mother before the birth. There comes a point when it is you and you alone going through it – and we find Jesus troubled in this week – there are tough times to come. Who wants pain and suffering? No one! And yet Jesus doesn’t flinch from the pathway but the steps are heavy and God says, ‘I know’. Thunder? For whom? The revolution is coming – the ruler will be cast down and the Son of Man lifted up and the people are confused. It will take an empty tomb and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to get the words straight that God is rescuing his people and bringing them out of the darkness and into the light.
But the greatest mystery of all – and philosophically and theologically it is the hardest thing to get our heads around – is why people prefer the darkness. Why in a good world can sin exist and it not be God’s fault and why is it that humanity never learns about sinfulness, fear, power, corruption? Why do we all think, yes, those are problems but I can handle them? Why are we so blind to our sin? Our brokenness? Our selfishness? Our rebellion? Our stubbornness? It is like each person is a sin addict – we can’t – and won’t give it up.
Believing in Jesus is mysterious because it has the essential quality of gift about it. However God is not stingy with his gifts and through his Word the message goes out – as it does today – that Jesus died and rose again – he is the King and Messiah and Lord – for forgiveness of sins. Ours. Yours. Mine. All people’s. Jews and Gentiles and any other category of people you want to use. Most people in the UK know this – know about it – like a piece of history – but still they push it away and say, ‘Not for me’ – or secretly they say ‘Not for me yet’. They know they could ‘step across’ and believe but they resist and reject because they don’t want to change – to be beholden – to be a beggar of grace. These can be good people according to the world – kind – neighbourly – but they want to live on their terms and not with Jesus. These can be rogues and those only out for themselves. These can be people who believe that Jesus can’t forgive sins because the god or gods they follow say that forgiveness is a lie and you must show your repentance first.
Back then many people kept Jesus at bay – didn’t believe because of the social consequences – the lack of glory – the ridicule they’d receive. Today people keep Jesus at bay often because of pride – I don’t really need Jesus – I don’t need to go to church – I’m good enough. Why cut oneself off from the light – from the bread of life – from the resurrection and the life? Because people think they know best! Welcome to the darkness!
We want to see Jesus!
But you can only see him where he reveals himself – lifted up on a cross – through water in Baptism – in and with bread and wine in Holy Communion – and through his Word which gives us the Jesus we need not the one in our own image.
We want to see Jesus! Look down and around.
- John 12:20 - 43