Lent 5, April 2, 2006
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
WHEN YOU LOOK AT JESUS, WHAT DO YOU SEE?
A nursery rhyme goes something like this: Pussy cat, Pussy cat where
All the way to London, but instead of seeing the Queen in all her royal regalia, this poor kitty cat sees only a mouse. Basically, this feline missed what it went to London to see.
When it comes to looking at Jesus, what do we see? Here are a few possibilities. We might see Jesus as miracle worker, and then wonder why we don't see miracles in our own life. We might see Jesus as a teacher and try to hear what he teaches and try to follow his teachings. We might see Jesus as the best example of how to live and attempt to emulate his life. We might see him as the Savior who gives us eternal life. Or, we might see him as all of these things, and perhaps even more!
But how does Jesus want you to view him? These words from the story of the narrative of the life of Jesus written by his follower, John, tells us rather precisely how Jesus wants to be seen and a lot more about him.
As the story begins, some Greeks, that is, people from the country of Greece, come to Philip and request of him that he get them an interview with Jesus. These Greeks were not Jews, but at Jesus' time many persons respected the Jewish religion and even came to the city of Jerusalem in Palestine to observe at least, if they could not participate in, this great festival called Passover.
Since Jesus is creating quite a big stir among all the people in Jerusalem, these Greeks want to learn more about him. Perhaps even become followers of him, maybe even become believers.
They approach Philip from the province of Galilee a very Greek oriented area of Palestine, and Philip is a Greek name as is the other disciple of Jesus, a companion of Philip, Andrew. These two tell Jesus about the Greeks. No doubt the Greeks were right there when Jesus gives them this "interview." They were able to "view" what he was saying to them.
Jesus says that the time has come for the Son of Man (that's Jesus) to be glorified. Now we have a lot of trouble with the word, glory. We sing: "Glory be to Jesus," but what do we mean? What does glory mean?
Simply put, it's this. Glory mean to see the true nature of the being, what he is about, what he really is. The time has come, Jesus says, for me to be shown for what I am, what I am about.
Then he seems to talk about planting seeds. If you want more beans, you have to plant bean seeds. By dying, the seed that is, you get many more. Yes, we can understand that. That has been our experience, too.
Then he talks about a man loving his life and hating his life. What does that mean and how does it fit in with Jesus' glory? First, the meaning of these words. The person who is fond of his life, the person who wants to live for himself, always getting his way and advantage, this person will destroy it.
Why is that? Because there is no way that you and I are smart enough, can compute all the factors of our lives and end up on top of things, much less be on top of things as we go through life itself. The only way a person and this speaks to Jesus himself also and his actions can have life is by giving it up.
If this is the case, then to understand the glory of Jesus, we shall have to see it in his dying. There in the cross we see his glory. He is dying to give many life. He is being lifted up on the cross, so that we can live.
That seems altogether strange. How can a person going to an ignominious death on a cross give life?
Because what destroys our life as well as our truly living is God's judgment of the world, of our lives. There is no one here that can say, "I have lived my life until this moment without doing wrong." The wrong does not live there like a piece of wet paper on the sidewalk.
It is a corrosive acid which destroys us. Guilt can haunt us and ruin days and weeks of our lives. Wrongs done to us by others, particularly when we were young, can eat through all kinds of our brain's wiring and give us wrong connections and distorted perceptions.
Evil, whether done to us or by us, causes us to believe that we can escape from its consequences by either ignoring it (self-delusion) or attempting to excuse our evil by blaming others (again self-delusion) until, as God points out, life becomes a lie, and truth has left its place in us.
The judgment of this world is seen when Jesus is lifted up on the cross and takes the punishment that God gives for sin upon himself and dies.
It is then that the prince of this world loses all power and is driven out. The devil can no longer accuse us of sin because sin has been paid for. He no longer can put us on the scale and measure us not good enough for heaven and just right for eternal punishment, because that punishment has been paid for.
It is there on the cross that we see Jesus' glory. He is about giving life to us, who without him are dead in trespasses and sins. He is unchaining us from the devil by melting the chains through the heat of anger and punishment given to Jesus by God. He reveals his true nature. Not a condemning God, but a God who has compassion beyond anything you and I have ever felt. The cross is God's great act of compassion toward.
God moves toward us in the only way he can, by removing our sins from us. He removes sin through the cross-the suffering and death of his Son for us. Jesus is asking his Father, now also our Father, to glorify his name. Show them what you are about, Father. Jesus knows his Father has sent him-to die on the cross. Jesus does not want to be saved from the cross-a thought that totally transcends our way of behavior. We would escape all suffering, all blame, all taking of others burdens, if we could. Jesus wants to show us the nature of the heart of God his Father. It is always a heart of mercy, of kindness toward us who by our very nature cannot but do that which is evil.
If this is how we are to view Jesus, as revealing the heart of God to us, then we should keep that in mind as we live and move in this world.
Being forgiving, carrying the burdens of others, giving others life through our living lives that are filled with mercy and forgiveness.
Jesus draws all of us to him on the cross. For there we must decide whether we will find ourselves able to live only by trusting him, or that we reject his glory and thus must seek to reveal ourselves as better than we are.
Today we are talking about seeing Jesus. We do not see him if we do not see the cross. We do not see him if our attitude is one of trying to be good enough for him to love us. We are blind to the glory of God if our response to Jesus is trying to keep the 10 Commandments. In God's Law there is no life, only death.
We will not see God either then. We will have created our own images of God as somehow forgiving, but not taking us as we are, but only if we behave ourselves.
We will not see Jesus at all if we do not see that we must give us all pretense of being able to muck our way through life. We will have seen not Jesus but someone else if we will not at least know we are in this world to give life to others by serving them.
Let's review this a little.
Jesus' cross attracts all people and either it is accepted as God's glory or dismissed as a worthless myth.
Pilgrim, pilgrim, where have you been?
Walter W. Harms, retired pastor