“Sir, We Wish to See Jesus”
A Sermon on John 12:20-33 for the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year B; preached March 22, 2015, by the Rev. Matthew Emery, Senior Minister
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Some Greeks came and said this to Philip, that disciple of Jesus, himself with a Greek name. Philip tells Andrew. They were from the same city, after all; maybe they’d even known each other since childhood. Together, Philip and Andrew, they tell Jesus. ‘There are some Greeks here, rabbi, and they said “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”’
We wish to see Jesus. I wonder just what these visitors, these Greeks, thought it was they wanted to view when they made that plea to Philip. Did they seek healing, like so many sojourners and souls before them? Had they heard, somehow, about the signs Jesus had performed—water turned into wine, a multitudes fed from mere loaves and fishes, a man born blind healed, Lazarus raised from the dead—and were hopeful for the dispensing of some miracle to them? Were they simply captivated by the star power, like the innumerable hands that wait hours on line to catch a glimpse, and maybe shake a hand, of a Bill Clinton or a Justin Bieber or a Maya Angelou?
Sir, we wish to see Jesus.
Seeing Jesus—truly seeing Jesus—it would turn out, is not such a straightforward thing. Seeing Jesus isn’t just about getting your picture poster signed by his black Sharpie® marker. Seeing Jesus isn’t even like seeing the physician, showing up for your appointment, letting Jesus give you a quick check-over while making a few notes on your chart, and sending you on your way with a prescription renewal.
Seeing Jesus—truly seeing Jesus—must mean nothing less than seeing him in the glory of his cross and his resurrection.
Jesus waits until these Greeks show up, looking to see him, to decide that his “hour has come” because—as another preacher has so well put it—“Jesus knows that the arrival of these Greeks … means trouble. He knows that the community will have to do its usual thing in the face of all such disruption and uncertainty and find scapegoats, so that business as usual can be restored by a bit of good, old-fashioned bloodletting. Jesus has worked out that it’s going to be him who gets scapegoated: ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’”
But it’s not simply that these Greeks, these outsiders, provide the spark that ignites the flame. Jesus waits until these Greeks show up because—like it or not—the whole world needs to be watching. The whole world needs to see just what sort of system we, the world, operate under. You see, “in John’s Gospel the judgment of this world, and the triumph of God, begins when the truth about things is revealed in what happens to Jesus, in his rejection and scapegoating. Jesus is the light who has come into the world … [the light in which] all our darkness is shown for what it is.” And it’s in the crucifixion that the truth of our world is revealed, the truth that we live in a world in which self-professed ‘Godly’ people would put none other than Jesus himself to death.
That’s the glory of the cross, the glory of truth—of honest, nothing-held-back truth about the brokenness of our world.
Seeing Jesus—truly seeing Jesus—means seeing him in his glory, in this glory, the glory of the cross that reveals the deep dark truth about our world.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” those Greeks said. Would we? Do we wish to see Jesus?
Well, I can’t speak for you, but I—for one—do. I wish to see Jesus, and to see him in the glory of his cross. Because, you see, just as much as that cross, that glory, tells the truth about the brokenness of our world, it also tells the truth about the depths of God’s love for that world and all that dwells therein—which includes you and me.
The same preacher I referenced earlier puts this so well too: “All this poisonous stuff makes the world go round—this satanic parade that blights our world affairs, our politics, our family and community life, even the life of our Churches. It’s all this that Jesus shows up, and in showing it up its overcome: ‘Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.’ At the same time, Jesus reveals his new, poised, inclusive, compassionate and confident version of religious humanity: ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ Jesus reveals the truth about the way the world works in his death, but in so doing he reveals a new world in which all people, not just those we like and approve of, receive their proper welcome from God.”
Sir, we wish to see Jesus.
Come, my friends, my sisters and brothers, as over these next couple of weeks we see the real Jesus in the fullness of his glory. Come as we see one who will sacrifice himself in order for the world to see the way it really is. Come as we follow the one who allows the world to do its worst so that God can do God’s best. Come as we are embraced by the one who was rejected. Come as we meet, in the shadows, the God of light, and, in the sorrows, the God of glory. Come as we are made alive by the one we put to death.
Come, and ask to see Jesus… but be prepared to follow where his cross will lead him, and will lead us.
Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto God, now and forever. Amen.
 Scott Cowdell, “Some Gays Come to Jesus”, sermon for the fifth Sunday in Lent, in Lectionary Homiletics 26:2 (February – March 2015), 59.