“We Wish to See Jesus”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 12: 20-33
March 18, 2018
“They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” – John 12:21 i
Where were you on February 16th? Did you hop a plane and go to China? I didn’t. They were celebrating the Chinese New Year but that has nothing to do with me. I don’t even know why it’s held on the sixteenth of February. Me going to China makes about as much sense as these Gentiles trekking to Jerusalem for Passover. I mean, really. Do these Greeks even know what Passover commemorates? I suppose they could have been “Greeks considering Judaism.” The text is silent on that point. The one thing we know is that they wished to see Jesus.
I have preached in a number of pulpits. As a preacher, you stand facing the congregation and the congregation never sees what’s behind the pulpit. But the preacher does and on two of those pulpits were inscribed words that only the preacher could see. Lest the preacher forget, the words reminded her of her duty. “We would see Jesus.”
The gentiles that came to Jerusalem, those who have gathered here today, and the preacher all want to see Jesus. The woman who has lost a child, the man whose marriage teeters in the balance, the young woman who is taught to fit the ideal image of womanhood and feels trapped. Oh, how we all want to see Jesus.
Notice first that these gentiles knew what they were doing. Suppose I’m right and they had little interest or investment in Passover. But they knew Jesus did. Jesus would be in Jerusalem for this commemoration and they wanted to see Jesus. We don’t know how they heard about Jesus. We do not know if they had some urgent need that only a miracle could fulfill. Maybe they had come because the Roman pantheon, the myriad gods of their religion, seemed no more moral than the most immoral among us. Something had them searching. Remember, too, there were many who thought the end was near – John the Baptist being one of them. The world knew suppression of those who resisted Rome, knew of the brutal consequences of questioning Roman hegemony.
Samuel, our youngest son, had me watch Jeremy Rifkin’s documentary, The Third Industrial Revolution.1 It is a sobering look at climate change, the economy, and the future to which we all must walk lest we all perish. I do not mean to suggest that it is all doom and gloom. It isn’t. But it is the new world that our children are entering. The changes our children will see will be staggering and require those who have enough moral discernment to insure that our humanity is not lost in Artificial Intelligence. Oh how they need to see Jesus. But they express little interest in things religious. God seems irrelevant and science all knowing. This is not their fault. It is ours. We have made religion a pabulum that has little bite. We are not marching forth with banners unfurled and challenging the way of the world with the way of God. Forgive this younger generation if they think God is quant. God is. They have heard no voice from heaven. No blinding vision has come their way. No miracle has been provided. It will be hard work bringing them back to the church, to faith. I have no easy remedy. But I do know this, unless the church begins to speak about the environmental crises before us, unless we develop a credible theology to answer the questions of contemporary life, we will fail to bring Jesus to them.
These Greeks who came wishing to see Jesus knew where and when to look. Jesus walked among them.
Not so for us. Oh, there are those who have had visions of Jesus. There may even be someone here today who can testify to such a vision. But visions are rare. We see a startling phenomenon and the first thing we do is try to make it a rational experience. This is the time in which we live. It can no more be changed than we can go back in time. So we, too, wish to see Jesus but don’t know when or where to look.
I have a suggestion. It is not easy or quick. It will demand all of our hearts, minds, and souls. If we would see Jesus, we must be the vision we seek. So many already are. Look next to you. The person seated near you is a reflection of the Jesus you seek. So many of you have shown compassion to those in need. Some have come here today because God has moved in a powerful way in their life. Someone touched me with the love of Jesus. Someone comforted me when darkness covered me. Someone spoke truth to power and sought justice for those with no voice. Someone had the courage to stand and proclaim the right of every human being to know love and to be loved. There are times when acts of kindness require courage and as a church, you have shown it.
Jesus said the kingdom of God has come near. My friends, it has not left. It is as near as our willingness to live it and when we do, those who seek will have found. Let us pray…
i John 12:20-33
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “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. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that 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 standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.