John 12 is a curious passage that I have struggled with this week. It begins simply, but then leads us into deeper things.
There are some Greeks in town, probably converts to the Jewish faith, attracted to monotheism and the Passover that celebrates the Exodus. Their request is a simple on: they want to see Jesus.
Preachers often see this written inside pulpits, offered as a message that hopefully reflects the desires of the congregation. I have seen these words in many pulpits and have been humbled and challenged by them. It’s what I believe people want from Church every Sunday.
Why did the Greeks ask this question? Were they just curious? Did they have questions? Did they have some need? Some lack in their lives they sense Jesus may meet?
I wonder how many people in the community want the same – they want to see Jesus. Behind attack, resistance, protests, criticisms, they want to see Jesus.
Jesus is as attractive, powerful and life-changing today. Through the Spirit, as when he walked on earth, Jesus speaks to empty, lost and suffering lives.
We pray for the time and maybe it will be this Easter when people will come in from the community to our church and say, ‘We want to see Jesus.’
Maybe with your support, the film The Passion of the Christ will draw them and you will invite your neighbours, whether you have seen the film or not. Perhaps people will come who are curious about the differences between Christianity and Islam. Maybe people make the mistake of comparing Jesus and Mohammed instead of Jesus Christ and Allah, where the deeper contrast lies.
Maybe you yourself are like the Greeks? You want a deeper experience of the Lord. You really want to ‘see’ the Lord in a deeper way. Perhaps the demands on you have dried up your soul this past week. You want more of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life. Maybe you are having trouble praying right now, and want to see Jesus in a fresh way.
The best way to see Jesus anew is by worshiping him today.
The Greeks in verse 21 speak to Philip, who fetches his brother Andrew from the Gentile populated area of Bethsaida. They work as a family as they consider what to do in verse 22. They go to Jesus and tell him about the foreigners who want to see him. What do you do when someone wants to know more about Jesus?
As our times become more desperate they move closer to revival. What will you say to someone who wants to meet Jesus?
I once had a phone call from a woman who urgently wanted to see me. When she arrived, she asked, ‘How do I become a Christian?’ What a wonderful moment. I shared a little of the Gospel from Acts 16, where the desperate Philippian jailer screamed out to Paul and Silas, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’
I asked her to pray after me, ‘Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. I have ignored and disobeyed you. But I believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead. I praise you for your love for me and I give you my heart, soul and mind.’
It is so easy to ‘see’ Christ through faith.
Then she went through that awkward phase of coming into a church of people she did not know, but she wanted to see Jesus, and she met him. So too with these Greeks.
They asked about Jesus, and were very courteous about it. They had manners, things we always welcome when we come across them in our times. I experience this the other day on the bus, although it did not help my ageing complex. A young girl stood up to give me her seat. It was so kind of her, but it was in the front two seats facing each other where there is the picture of the frail bent over person with the walking stick.
But manners like the Greeks showed are always especially welcome when they want to know about Jesus.
A man with psychiatric problems rang from the community on Wednesday and asked me to pray for him. He was so impress, he asked me to pray for another family in crisis that he knew. In some way he wanted to see and meet Jesus.
So in this Scripture Jesus helps them and the disciples discover what goes with really seeing him. Jesus’ response is unexpected. Instead of saying, ‘Usher them in and we will have a chat,’ he responds amazingly, to both the disciples and the Greeks.
He detects some signal from his Sovereign Father in their approach. The Greeks were being used in ways they did not know by a Sovereign God to signal to Jesus that his final hour was at hand. And you are used like those Greeks as well.
You will seldom know in this life all the ways that God has used you for good, or how you have encouraged others who never told you, or how your example in worship and service encouraged others to want to see Jesus.
You will seldom know how you created a Christian memory in your now adult children who may not now believe.
The Father uses the Greeks to speak to Jesus, who says in verse 23, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’
We’ve seen a lot about glory in recent days. Athletes, shooters, players in all their glory at the Olympics being honoured with medals on the dais. The national anthems blared out from our brief Advance Australia Fair, to the South African Anthem that had athletes looking around for seats.
These moments of glory will last all their lives, but Jesus speaks of a different type of glory, that that arrived through his death and suffering.
He gives a mini-lesson from the creation. As a seed opens and dies in the ground it produces many others. Many a seed I have panted has just stayed in the ground, but Jesus speaks of a wonderful harvest. He says it is like his imminent atoning death. It will produce fruit in changed lives.
But in verse 25 it says it will only produce fruit in the lives of people who are prepared to deny themselves, in effect to ‘hate this life’ for Jesus’ sake.
That means to so love Jesus that by comparison it seems like you hate this life. Jesus spells out what this means in verse 26. It means to following Jesus and going wherever he is. His followers will bask in his glory, as did the spectators and supporters at the Commonwealth Games who gave flags, handshakes and hugs to athletes in their glory.
Some of you deserve the glory of gold. The way you have coped with grief and loss. The way you suffer with pain and sickness. The way you live every day to its maximum, and come through everything with faith and hope.
That’s the glory that matters far more than a dais celebration, and the Father honours you, as verse 26 shows.
As the Lord says, in these things, his humanity is evident. He speaks of his emotion at all that is ahead. He feels the pain of separation from friends and sees the physical pain ahead. Friends, like Jesus, tell the Father about it. Don’t hold back.
In the end, Jesus says in verse 28, ‘Father, glorify your name.’ That is the ultimate prayer. Are you able to pray it? Lord, bring glory for yourself through what I am suffering. That is the ultimate prayer.
Bring glory to yourself through pain, success, work, retirement, through children, grandchildren, marriage or singleness.
Make that your prayer in all you do – Father glorify your name. It is the highest level of prayer.
If you can do that, you are growing in and like Christ.
Then came the heavenly voice of encouragement. It sounded like thunder or an angel to the crowds, but it was the Father’s encouragement. In verse 28 is says, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’
For many of us, God sometimes seems silent when we wish he would speak. But when we don’t hear his voice, we have the Scriptures. We have small groups where God often speaks. We have prayer: glorify your name. We have people we can trust.
God’s voice may not always come directly like here, but often comes through other means.
Then Jesus is clear that Judgment is about to begin. The world’s judgment on Him, through Pilate, Caiaphas, Judas and Peter. And His on the world. What people do to him shows that sin is the major problem he needs to deal with through the Cross.
So where are you today in this Scripture? A searcher, enquirer, or seeker?
Are you someone who people come to find about Jesus, or your church, or why you believe and give?
Are you someone who is encouraged to see Jesus’ humanity? When your own has been so evident this week? Is your prayer life deepening so you can say, ‘Father glorify your name?’
Have you been helped to see Jesus more clearly today – through the Lord’s Supper, the music, the words, the prayers?
We can see him because he is drawing all people to himself.
By George Robert Iles