A32 SEEING JESUS
St. John 12.vv.20-32
~ Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus". Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains 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. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say - 'Father, save me from this hour?'. No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name". Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and I will glorify it again". The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him". Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself". ~
"Sir, we would like to see Jesus" - wouldn't we all?
This was fairly easy, for Philip and Andrew could presumably go round the corner and tell Jesus who no doubt was perfectly willing to talk to Greeks or to anyone. What happened, we wonder, to those Greeks? Like so many characters who flit in and out of the Gospel pages, they naturally fade quickly into obscurity because the interest for the Gospel writers is centred upon the figure of Jesus.
We could take this out of context in the twentieth century - imagine a tug at the sleeve and, "Excuse me, I'd like to see Jesus". What are we to do or say, for since the Ascension there is a big difficulty here! Jesus' contemporaries had some advantages with Jesus nearby in person, but they did not know as much about Jesus as we do from records in the new Testament, from theology, from Christian experience of 2,000 years. They may not have known all this, but they must have seen something very extraordinary in this man - it showed.
For his contemporaries it showed in his behaviour - a caring, brave character of utter integrity; in his powers of leadership, drawing others to himself and retaining their loyalty. It showed in his speech. "Never man spake like this man", said his friends and enemies. It showed in his knowledge and insights, "Where does he get all these things (knowledge)?". His mighty works of healing impressed those who witnessed them, "We never saw anything like this before!". The compassion of Jesus, his common touch, his championship of the outcast, the lonely, those who were despised and rejected marked him out as someone very special. Many tributes were paid to him from unexpected sources. The rich young ruler addressed him as "Good Master", several Pharisees accorded him the title "Rabbi" and a Roman Centurion at the Cross described him as "God's Son".
For our contemporaries (again a tug at the sleeve, "I would like to see him now!"), what are we going to do or say about Jesus? Truly we could produce the Gospels but they are not a biography, only fleeting glimpses. We could show pictures of stained glass representations, but how inadequate these would be to portray him. We could point to the saints whose lives Jesus transformed or to modern men and women whose lives reflect a Christ-likeness.
But the awful and terrifying truth is this, that if they want to see the reflection of Christ, they look at us! What a frightful responsibility we bear. It is from us who dare to call ourselves Christians that the world learns about Jesus. Have we really been "changed into his likeness from glory to glory?". Can we say, "I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me?". Do we show the compassion, sincerity and love of Christ - in short, are we letting the world see him albeit in a somewhat distorting mirror, for that is how Jesus is or is not shown to the world.