Littlewell
Christ Centered Church Resource Site

Sir, we wish to see Jesus

John 12:20-32
Sun, April 9, 2000
Rev. Ed Searcy
"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.