Sir, we wish to see Jesus. This is such a powerful statement. But what, exactly, did they intend by this request?
Is it…we wish to see Jesus, because his reputation precedes him. He’s kind of a celebrity and we want his autograph and a photo op if possible! We want to post this picture on Instagram so that others will know that we’re somebody! We have connections!
Is it…we wish to see Jesus, because we want to have a discussion about the true nature of God, and what the Almighty expects of us. We’ve studied this for a long time and pretty much have this God-thing figured out. We want to see if his views agree with ours. Or is he just another blaspheming heretic that deserves our condemnation and scorn?
Is it…we wish to see Jesus, because our lives are a mess and we hope he will help us to sort things out. We’ve heard he’s in the miracle-making business, and believe he’s our go-to guy. So here’s a list of our demands. If you can hand it to him we would appreciate it very much!
Sir, we wish to see Jesus. Perhaps the moral of our gospel lesson is “Be careful what you ask for.”
After the unnamed Greeks make this request of Philip, and Philip and Andrew relay it to Jesus, Jesus starts talking about suffering and death. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
“The light who shines in the darkness” way back in the first chapter of John, is going to be fully revealed. The Word who became flesh and lived among us, whose glory we have seen, will shine his brightest in the near future.
You wish to see Jesus? Here’s what your asking for: “Very 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.”
“Now, wait a minute Jesus! We just wanted some of that glory you’ve been talking about. An autograph or photo would suffice. A lively debate or a prayer request answered would do nicely. What’s all this talk about death, losing our lives, and hating our lives in this world? We didn’t know WE would be required to serve YOU! We thought YOU would be the one who would serve US! This is not exactly what we had in mind. So…we’re just gonna pretend we didn’t ask to see you, and go enjoy the festival!”
Friends in Christ, our gospel lesson contains a deceptively simple request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” The problem with this request is we attach lots of pre-existing conditions to it regarding what this “seeing” entails.
Some people wish to see Jesus, because they hope it will give them power and influence over others. There are those who hope their faith in Christ will help them to get elected to Congress, or increase their business sales. This Jesus is a political and economic Jesus, that fits nicely on bumperstickers or campaign slogans. This Jesus sees “blessing” as getting ahead financially, even if it’s at the expense of others. This Jesus don’t sound like the Jesus who talks about suffering and service in our gospel lesson.
Some people wish to see Jesus, only if he behaves himself and follows our list of beliefs about him. This Jesus conveniently looks like us and thinks like us. This Jesus is NOT the Jesus of that OTHER church down the street who are a bunch of heretics. This Jesus is kept on a leash and he obeys our every command and expectation. This Jesus don’t sound like the Jesus who talks about suffering and service in our gospel lesson.
Other people wish to see Jesus, as their Sugar Daddy or Fount of Blessing. This Jesus meets all our prayer requests if we have the faith that he will answer them, EVERY SINGLE ONE of them. This Jesus is the miraculous healer, who never lets bad things happen to us. This Jesus is the Lexus-bringer and the Big House Builder. This Jesus don’t sound like the Jesus who talks about suffering and service in our gospel lesson.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. When we say “we wish to see Jesus,” we need to be careful what we’re asking for. If we wish to see Jesus, but don’t think our lives are going to change, we are seriously deluding our selves. If we wish to see Jesus, because we want something from him, we better be prepared to hear what he expects of us!
Our gospel lesson is abundantly clear. Seeing Jesus means that sacrifice and service are going to be required of us. Just like that grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies, we are going to have to die to something before new life can germinate in us! Do you hear me, church?
Our First Lesson promises that God will make a new covenant with us. It’s a covenant that’s not a long list of rules and regulations that are carved stone. It’s a covenant that’s written on our hearts, that changes us from the inside out. Guess what? We do not get to dictate the terms of this heart-changing. We do not get to choose what this new heart will look like.
So, let’s be careful what we ask for. If we truly wish to see Jesus, some changes are going to happen in our lives. We might not like all of these changes. Some of them are going to be painful and difficult. they will requires something of us. Jesus, is not a campaign strategist nor a financial advisor. He is not our Sugar Daddy, who is going to give us every little thing our hearts desire. Jesus is not a strict rule follower who is going to adhere to our expectations of him.
Instead, Jesus is the suffering servant who gave his life for us. He calls us to take up our crosses and follow him. The path we walk is one of dying and rising, dying and rising. It’s stumbling, making mistakes, and being lifted up by the One who does not promise us a Lexus, but does promise us grace upon grace. Again, we do not get to dictate the terms of this grace. It is a gift freely given. The only response from us that is appropriate is a heart filled with gratitude.
Next week is Palm Sunday. I know, it feels like our Lenten journey has flown by so fast! Hopefully, we’ve used this time to “see” Jesus. Hopefully, we’ve let go of our preconceived notions of who Jesus is and how he operates in our world. Hopefully, we’ve allowed him to break apart our cold, stony hearts and replace them with hearts full of love and compassion.
If we haven’t done this, it’s not to late. It’s never too late. The invitation to “see” Jesus, is always there. The offer never expires. So, as we make our way toward Palm Sunday, let us consider the request made in our gospel lesson, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” May this request transform our hearts and our lives. Amen
Copyright ©2018 by David Eck.