We Wish to See Jesus!
The following sermon was preached by Angela Khabeb, LSTC M.Div. senior, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Tuesday, March 18, 2008.
John 12: 20-36
"Now among those who went up to worship were some Greeks. They came to Philip and said to him 'Sir, we wish to see Jesus!'" Now you may remember that at this time in John's Gospel the Pharisees had already begun to complain to each other about Jesus. In fact, in the preceding passage the Pharisees lamented, "Look how the whole world has gone after him." The Pharisees were basically right. I mean here we see gentiles on their way to worship, seeking Jesus. Now when was the last time you were on the way to worship with this wish in your heart? When was the last time any of us can honestly say, like the Greeks in this story, "We wish to see Jesus?"
Well the Greeks talked to Philip and then Philip went and told Andrew and then they both went and told Jesus. But how does Jesus respond? Jesus doesn't respond directly to their request. Not because he was too busy, not because he didn't care. Jesus' response was "the hour has come for the Son of Man to be Glorified." Jesus recognized that his hour had arrived because of the presence of the Greeks. The very fact that these gentiles were seeking an encounter with the promised Messiah served as an indication that Jesus had reached the final stages of his public ministry. In John's Gospel, Jesus is aware that his public ministry is ending because of this mark of diversity in the faith community. The knowledge of Jesus had spread and Jesus's message had now reached to the Greeks, the "pagans", the gentile dogs! You know its easy for Christians in the West and especially for those of us at seminary to forget that when scripture talks about the Greeks, the pagans, the gentile dogs.....that's us! But take heart my sisters my brothers, because these so called pagans were Jesus's first fruits among the gentiles.
Jesus explains it like this, "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." Christ crucified yields a fruitful community.
(Now this might be a good place for disclaimer. Please know that I take the proclamation of God's word very, very seriously. And I believe that God's word holds grace and power for all of creation. However, I understand that some of us don't believe in the resurrection. It makes sense. After all, we can't explain it, can't intellectualize it, so some of us can't believe it. Now for those of us that think that the resurrection is pure fiction, we may not get much from this sermon. Well, I take that back, there's something you may get..... a stumbling block. Because Paul said "We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Judeans and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, it is Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.")
In this story, Christ crucified serves as the door through which these Greeks entered. Likewise we entered through Jesus' death when we were baptized. In this passage Jesus says, "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor." Yes, where I am, there will my servant be also! Jesus then instructs the crowd, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." Yes, Jesus gives us the promise that, through his crucifixion, all of humanity will be drawn to him. --Jesus is drawing you, Jesus is drawing me, Jesus is drawing us to his crucifixion.
Oh, we wish to see Jesus!.......Do we?
We find ourselves drawn to the cross because when the Savior is lifted up, so is the servant. When the Savior is crucified, so is the servant. Why? Because Jesus said, "where I am, my servant will be also." Jesus is drawing us to the crucifixion. Christ is crucified daily, all around the world. When little girls are denied an education–just because they're little girls—Christ is crucified. And when entire families die from preventable diseases, Christ is crucified. And when babies die of thirst for lack of clean drinking water, Christ is crucified.
And yes Christ is crucified daily even in our midst. When sisters and brothers of our community are forced to the fringes, Christ is crucified. When sisters and brothers in our community have to chose between buying books or buying food, Christ is crucified. And when our sisters and brothers are forgotten, or ignored by the very people who should be their advocates Christ is crucified. And when African Americans feel forced to choose between being Black or being Lutheran, Christ is crucified. Oh yes, Jesus is drawing us. In spite of everything, Jesus is drawing us to where he is. Because Jesus said "Where I am, my servant will be also." Do we really wish to see Jesus? If we really wish to see Jesus, perhaps we'll see Jesus when we look to the crucifixion... even the crucifixion in our own midst.
Our hope is in the cross. Our hope is in the cross of Christ because Christ's cross points us to Christ's resurrection and Christ's resurrection points us to Christ's glorification. Remember Jesus said, "Where I am, my servant will be also." "And when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself." So as Jesus draws us to Christ crucified, Jesus, by extension, draws us to Christ's resurrection. Because Christ is resurrected--so are we. Jesus said, "Where I am, my servant will be also."
Jesus is drawing the crucified places in our world to his resurrection. Jesus is drawing the crucified places in our community to his resurrection. Jesus is drawing the crucified places in our hearts to his resurrection. When Jesus is lifted up in our lives, not just on Sundays, not just during worship, not just during Holy Week, but when we live, like we actually believe that Jesus the Christ is lifted up, we can stand on the promise that if Jesus is lifted up, all people, all nations, all of creation will be drawn to him! Oh yes, Jesus is drawing you, Jesus is drawing me, Jesus is drawing us to his resurrection!
Oh we wish to see Jesus?! Look around. You will!