Sermon thoughts for the week Sunday 25 March – “Sir, we would like to see Jesus”
John 12:20 – 33 (Sermon preached at Scots College in March 2009. I am not the preacher this week. This is from the archives.)
“Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
So religion is a bit of a pain for you. That’s the general kind of drift of the conversation these days. Why bother with all this chapel stuff? After all this is the 21st century. Who needs it – we’ve got the brains to solve it all – the intelligence to crack every problem. We are the intelligence of this universe – we will get there.
Religion seems a bit archaic to some – possibly even to most of you. The very idea that you should honour someone else – worship an unseen divinity – actually thank a Creator for the gift of life and love, is kind of dated.
Or is it?
I suspect that most of us who play the intellectual doubt game – who scoff at the Bible and its claims – who deride the church and its history, and even disregard the intellectual giants of history who have happily remained believers in this God – are really just ducking and diving.
I suspect that even if I was able to win the arguments thrown up and answer the pretend questions with logic and intellectual accuracy that would satisfy the hungriest of empiricists – that many would still not believe.
Simply because they don’t want to take the risk. There is always a cost.
I don’t believe that people really want to take the risk. They’re not brave enough.
The unnamed Greeks in today’s Gospel reading must have heard something that attracted them to this Jesus. They were probably just Gentiles of the day – perhaps people on a religious quest.
They would have heard of this Messianic person who had ridden into Jerusalem like a King. Even without email, internet, TV and text messages, people actually did communicate in those days – as bizarre as that may seem to you.
The word would have been out. It was news. Not bad news – we specialise in bad news and find it easiest to pass on rumours or criticism. It was good news.
For them it was news of hope in a difficult day – and they came with a serious request to Philip, a follower of Jesus: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
It’s to the followers of Jesus today that one hopes serious enquirers will still go.
The response of Jesus to this request is enigmatic and challenging – it’s the saying – the bible verse – that I’ve seen on many a cenotaph and memorial both in my home country and travelling around New Zealand – you find them in every town.
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. (v24 NRSV)
It’s one of the sayings of Jesus that only those who were raised on the King James Bible would remember as a special saying of Jesus
Verily, verily, I say unto you. Literally – AMEN AMEN.
Jesus starts speaking the kind of language that most modern people want to run from.
Give up things – take risks – die to yourself – and you will find the real growth in your life.
For Jesus, it was a literal death. This is the Easter season – just around the corner we will remember his death and resurrection.
Serving Jesus – he tells these enquirers – requires following him. And a fruitful life, modelled on that of Jesus, is a life for others.
The man for others – that’s what my minister used to pray when I was a teenager. He was a terrible minister – he drank too much, which was a strong incentive for me to not drink. But he got that right – Jesus – the man for others.
Ghandi – a heroic and devout Hindu – admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked him, “Mr. Ghandi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”
Ghandi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
So you want to see Jesus? Would you come knocking on my door and ask the question: “Sir, we want to see Jesus?”
The journey with Jesus is a very meaningful and exciting one – and believe me, his presence makes all the difference along the road of life.
My apologies for his followers. I am one of them – and we don’t always get it right. All the more reason to work at it!
As Easter comes – consider the courage and commitment of a man who would die in your place had you been sentenced to death. Pretty radical, I think.
It is Jesus who says in this same passage – And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
It is too the cross that Christians look at Easter. I trust that you will look in that direction as well – and reflect on this man for others.
I was watching the high jump the other day – and someone said – “Oh it all depends how high the bar is”.
Jesus sets a very high standard. It’s a challenge to us all to follow him. The sacrificial life goes way beyond just service each day – kind acts, hard work for others, earning points because we have notched up service hours.
It’s about a life with a different purpose altogether. Perhaps one of my students in life skills this week was right when he had to answer the question “what is the purpose of life?” In jest he said, “My purpose in life is to find the purpose of life”.
I’m pretty content with the purpose that Christ Jesus has given me. I used to argue and scoff too as a teenager. Until I began to explore – and decided to see for myself – like the Greek enquirers in today’s reading.
Sir, we want to see Jesus – is a great place to start.