Bible reading: John 12:20-33 “Sir we would like to see Jesus”
Today is census day and there has been a campaign to discourage people to identify as Christians – Christianity has got a bad name from many people – however, when people are asked about Jesus, people are attracted to Him. Isn’t it sad that for many Christianity puts people off Jesus?
At theological college we have a little inscription on the pulpit in chapel saying “sir, we would see Jesus” the quote from the greeks at the beginning of today’s reading. It was a reminder to every preacher that the purpose that they are in the pulpit is to introduce the hearer to Jesus.
However, it seems like for Jesus this causes some sort of existential crisis – he is told of the men looking for him but we don’t, here, see Jesus going out to meet them. Instead, he shares with his disciples that the hour has come – a sort of code phrase in John’s gospel that points us, the readers to the proximity of the cross and resurrection. Jesus then, explains in more detail what will happen to him to his incredulous and confused disciples. Like a grain of wheat falling to the ground – his death will bring life. He then describes being ‘lifted up’ and glorified. These are both phrases that can mean celebrated but – Jesus here is referring to being lifted up on a cross. That is why, when talking about being ‘glorified’ he is troubled. He knew the pain and suffering that awaited him.
However, he also knew the promise – the voice from heaven emphasising this again “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again” – this time for those listening in response to Jesus’ prayer “Father Glorify your name”.
It is possible that Jesus these Greeks wanted to elevate him – Greeks were great thinkers and philosophers of the ancient world and they may have wanted to make Jesus the great teacher and Jesus, feeling tempting pull to that easier road needed to refocus himself. It is possible too that, knowing the messianic promises from Abraham through the prophets, Jesus knew that the gospel was for all people and that people from Greece coming to Him pointed to his full mission – to die and rise again to create a new people, with a new heart and God’s Spirit poured out upon them.
Whichever way it is, for Jesus to be properly glorified he must first suffer death – why? Because our separation from God through sin requires it – We, like the Greeks, need to see Jesus – not simply to be our teacher but our Saviour. We need him to be lifted up. If you are feeling far from God today, come and gaze at the cross where we see hope, forgiveness, new life burst into life through death – the seed, fallen to the ground.
But Jesus here says too that whoever serves and follows him, they too must follow where he is (elsewhere he says pick up their cross and follow him). This is all about where our focus is – Jesus could have taken the easy way – he could have been just a great teacher – he could have been famous and heralded by his peers or greek audiences or whatever – but he kept in view the promises the Father made to him. We too need to follow Jesus in this – to take the route of people-pleasing, or conform to the cultural pressures around us – what the media tells us we need to be – but be faithful to what God calls us to be because he has, through Jesus promised us eternal life and though us, dying to self, we bear fruit for Him. As we follow Jesus so we help others to see Jesus. Whatever people put in the census, our role is to help people see Jesus. May we do that today.
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ, His Son
And now let the weak say, I am strong
Let the poor say, I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us
Gracious Father, you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN