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We Want to See Jesus

We Want to See Jesus

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I’m going to sing this prayer. If you know it, feel free to join in…


Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus,to reach out and touch him, and say that we love him. Open our ears, Lord, and help us to listen. Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus. Amen


I can’t read this passage without hearing that song in my head. It is one of the praise choruses I grew up singing in church and it still moves me deeply because, at the end of the day, Jesus is the reason I am here.


Jesus is the reason I haven’t given up on Christianity. Jesus is the one I am still trying to understand and know and follow because I believe that Jesus shows us how to save the world.


When we read about these two Greeks who say to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” there is something in their request that echoes deep within my soul. And I wonder if there isn’t a similar longing within each of you?


You might think you’re here for the community or out of curiosity or because of some inexplicable longing you can’t quite put into words. If we were to go around and ask why you are here, (which we won’t, so don’t worry) Jesus might be the last thing some of you would say.


After all, his name and image have been co-opted throughout the ages by so many people who do not seem to understand him at all; people who have done so much damage in the name of Jesus that frankly it’s a miracle some of you are even here at all.


And yet, beneath that desire for community, that desire for connection, that desire for something you maybe can’t quite put your finger on, I think there might still be a “wish to see Jesus,” a desire to understand Jesus, a longing to connect to Jesus.


Am I right? Good, because Jesus is here, here in this scripture, here among us, working even now within us. And I believe that Jesus still wants to be seen; seen for who he really is, seen for what he is really about. The question before us today, the question this scripture has the power to answer, is what does Jesus want us to see? But to understand what is here in these verses, first we have to set the scene.


So let me just say that our gospel reading picks up today right after the triumphal procession into Jerusalem that we will celebrate next week on Palm Sunday, (which isn’t confusing at all).


Up until this point in the story, Jesus has done a lot of amazing things while still trying to maintain a fairly low profile. Up until now he has stated repeatedly: “My hour has not yet come. (John 2 & 7).


However, thanks to the resurrection of Lazarus and his little parade into Jerusalem, word about Jesus is spreading rapidly. So rapidly that it is not just Jews who are taking an interest, but now even the gentiles - represented by these two Greeks - now even the gentiles want to know more.


It would appear that the cat is out of the bag. The horse has left the barn. Jesus hour has finally come, which is why the religious leaders in Jesus community are, understandably, starting to freak out. People are so fascinated and drawn to Jesus that they realize he may well have the power to ignite a revolution - an uprising against Rome -  and it is up to them to stop it.


Remember a few weeks ago when Republicans were losing their minds over a conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift was working for the Pentagon and was going to use her power to sway the election by getting her “fake” boyfriend to join her in endorsing Biden at the end of the Super Bowl which they had somehow rigged?


Yeah.


Well, I’m not saying that Taylor Swift has the same level of power and influence over people that Jesus had. Though, I’m not, not saying that either. Seriously, that girl is on fire.


All I’m really saying is that the Jewish leaders were as afraid of Jesus as the Republicans are of Taylor, and for good reason. They believed an armed revolt would be disastrous for their people. What is so tragic about this story is that they haven’t been able to see that Jesus believes that too.


Jesus has no intention of using his power and influence to lead a rebellion. All along he has preached nothing but a gospel of love for our neighbor and our enemy. All along he has proclaimed nothing but a gospel of peace.


But they didn’t understand him back then any more then most of us understand him right now. The only peace they believed in, the only peace Rome believed in, the only peace any empire has ever believed in, is a temporary peace maintained through violence and force. And messiah or not, the Jewish leaders didn’t believe that Jesus could extract that sort of peace out of Rome.


So they don’t want to see Jesus lifted up and glorified. They want to see him brought down and humiliated. They want to quash any hope of rebellion before it can even begin. Little do they know that Jesus wants that too.


All throughout the gospel he has been waiting and now the hour has come for him to be glorified, just not in a way anyone would ever have imagined. The time has come for Jesus to be lifted up not in triumph but on a cross, for the grain to fall, for the seed to be buried - not so that Jesus can finally take charge but so that all the world can finally see Jesus for who he really is, finally understand what Jesus is really about.


Friends, when we hear that word, “glorified,” it sounds high and mighty, so powerful as to be untouchable. Even with the benefit of hindsight, if you were to ask me what he meant by that word before I’d had a chance to really dig into this passage, I would have assumed he was referring to his resurrection.


I would have read this as Jesus saying come at me and do your worst and then watch me defeat sin and death and be glorified in the end.



But in their book,“Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers,” Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, point out that there is a specific point in the gospel of John when Jesus turns to his disciples and says now - “Now is the son of man glorified and in him God is glorified.”


Does anyone know when it is? It is the moment in chapter 13, in the midst of the last supper, when Judas leaves to betray him. 


That is when Jesus is glorified. 


He is glorified when Judas leaves to betray him and he lets Judas go. 


He is glorified in that moment when the whole diabolical machinery of empire is set into motion against him and he chooses the way of self-sacrifice over self-protection.


He is glorified in that moment when he is most wrongfully vilified because it is in that moment that we begin to see “the full extent of his love” (Claiborne and Hartgrove  p.68). 


He is glorified in that moment because it is in that moment that we begin to see just how far Jesus will go to show every last person on earth – those who have followed him and those who have plotted against him, those who would do anything to save him and those who would do anything to destroy him - show us what God’s love really looks like, even and especially in the face of human evil.


For in Jesus we see, how God keeps covenant with us even when we break our covenant with God. In Jesus we see that nothing - not even our worst sins - can separate us from the love of God at work in Jesus.


Claiborne and Hargrove write: “The Son of man is glorified when he keeps on loving (even) the one who is forsaking him.  The full extent of Jesus’ love is washing (not just Peter’s feet, or John’s feet, but the feet of ) Judas, serving (Judas) dinner, and then going to the cross (not just for you, or me, his mother or the disciple he loved but) for him (for Judas, for the one who did him wrong)” (p. 68). 


Friends, I don’t believe that Jesus died to save us from God’s wrath - as if God is the problem that plagues humanity. I believe that Jesus died to save us from our own. He died to show us that there is another way to respond to all the hurt and pain and fear and betrayal in this world.


“By absorbing into himself the worst that humanity could do to a child of God” and then refusing to hit back…Jesus showed us not only how to break the cycle of violence and retribution we are caught up in, but that we as human beings can break the cycle (Barbra Brown Taylor).


Jesus didn’t die so that God could forgive us for the wrongs we do, so much as to liberate us from the wrongs we do every time we try to get even or get out ahead. Jesus embodies the love of a God who has forgiven us already and shows us that even as humans we can embody that kind of love too.


Like a grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies in order that more and more wheat might grow, his glory is made manifest in the lives of everyone who sees this, who sees him for who he is, who sees the forgiveness and love he was capable of and then finds it within themselves to live and love this way too.


“This,” says Barbara Brown Taylor, “is a very different understanding of Jesus’ death than the one most of us were taught, which was that Jesus died to atone for our sins. (But that is not what we actually see here). According to John,” she writes, “Jesus died to fill the world with wheat, with so many sons and daughters of God that no one would ever want for bread again.1”


Jesus died that a new community might spring forth in his name. And as members of that community, his glory is now ours to claim and spread and share.  In a world where power is still more about what you can do to others than about what you can do for them, we are called as Christians to walk in a new way: to take up the towel rather than the sword, to kneel at one another’s feet and ask what more we can do, to love our enemies no matter the cost, and allow ourselves to be broken open and poured out for the sake of the world, till all are fed, all are safe, all are well.


I don’t see that sort of Jesus embodied enough in the rhetoric and behavior of a lot of people who claim to be Christian nowadays, but friends, I am so grateful to be here amongst you because I see so much of Jesus here.


I see Jesus in every check you write for Haiti.


I see Jesus in Peter Kakos who is fasting, praying, writing, demonstrating, and risking arrest to call attention to the least of these in Gaza.


I see Jesus in Craig - and everyone here who has helped him - as he spent years working on a book to help us learn how to live in peace with one another.


I see Jesus in so many of you - in Andy and Laura and Des and Nancy and Rachel and Manny- just to name a few - who are sacrificing your time and energy to care and advocate for family who cannot care for themselves.


I see Jesus in Grace and Deb and Peg and Ginny and Jeanne and Cathe and Joanne and Jay and Linda, in Sharon, -again, just to name a few - in so many of you who are unafraid to draw close to those who are suffering, take their hand, help them up, and hold them close.


I see Jesus in those of you who are building connections and community - Bill and Jenna and Patti and Jeff - everyone who is showing up for Bible study or book group or even here for worship, because I see how you are all working to deepen and expand your knowledge of this faith that you might use it for good in this world.


I see Jesus in all the people of this church who do the unsung, behind the scenes work that makes everything else possible. You embody the servant heart of Jesus, and I am grateful.  Honestly, I see Jesus everywhere I look in this room and I simply want to close by saying that we live in a world that is desperate to see the Jesus, I see in you. We live amongst people who would be here right now if they knew there were Christians like you in the world; people who need to see more Christians like you in the world.


So hear me when I say, the hour has come. The time is now. For the love of God, go forth today my friends, and let them see Jesus in you. Amen.


  1. From God in Pain, Teaching Sermons on Suffering, Barbara Brown Taylor, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1998, Ronald Allen, editor https://atriversedge.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/unless-a-grain-falls/

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