The Fifth Sunday in Lent
18 March 2018 at Saint Peter and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
Jeremiah 31, 31-34 + Psalm 51 + Hebrews 5, 7-9 + John 12, 20-33
It is not just the Greeks who want to see Jesus. This whole world wants to see Jesus, but like many at the time, when Jesus doesn’t look, act, or talk the way they want, they keep on looking. Last week I read a little story about a blind man who had set up a table to sell some things in a busy and crowded airport. Someone rushing by bumped into the table and everything fell to the floor as the one rushing to a plane kept on going. The blind man got on the floor and began feeling around for his things. Another traveler came on the scene, looked at his watch and rolled his eyes knowing that if he stopped, he might miss his flight. But he stopped anyway, and he helped the blind man pick up everything from the floor and arrange it back up on the table. With that, the traveler went on his way probably missing his flight. The blind man called out after him: “Hey, are you Jesus?” In my own reflection on this passage of John’s Gospel, I can’t get past those opening verses about the Greeks wanting to see Jesus. In terms of the scriptures, that part is a set-up for the later verses when Jesus confronts the reality of his death and cries out to the Father for help. It is the lowest point in the life of Jesus. He has hit bottom, and he knows that everything for him is coming to an end; a bad end. He uses images from a prophet to stir up his hope, but the truth is, there is none. Hope is finished, because now it is time to realize what hope had imagined.
So here come those Greeks who look for Philip. Why Philip? Because he has a Greek name and probably speaks Greek. For John writing this Gospel, Philip is an apostle, he is the church, he’s not a gate keeper, protecting Jesus, but rather one who leads people to and introduces them to Jesus. This ought to be an important lesson to us, members of the Apostolic Church about what we are and what we must do. We have no idea about how it goes for those Greeks nor what they see or hear when they come to Jesus, but it can’t be what they expected. They came to see a wonder-worker, and a prophet mighty in deed. What they saw and heard was a man who had hit bottom, talking about his death, and praying to God. John says the whole crowd heard thunder, but Jesus heard a voice that reassured him promising that he would draw everyone to himself; a promise that his life was not in vain.
This world is still wanting to see Jesus. What this world gets is just you and me, a people sometimes in a big hurry bumping into things and ignoring the messes we make and the trouble we cause others. I want to see Jesus too, but all I see is you, and the truth is, most of the time that’s enough, because in your brokenness, your weakness, and even in your sinfulness, there is suffering that reminds me of that man on the cross. I would assume, since you are here in this church, that you want to see Jesus too, and all you get is me and those people sitting around you. We are a broken people who face things from time to time we would rather not, and we cry out, “Save me from this” only to discover that we can and always do make it through because there is a promise here; a promise that the Father will honor those who serve.
That crowd thought an angel was speaking to Jesus. We know it to be the voice of God who speaks to us again and again through the words of Holy Scripture. The message is clear and simple for those who want to see Jesus. Look for one who serves others and is obedient to the Will of the Father. Look for one who suffers and sacrifices for others, and when we begin to look like that, others will begin to see Jesus.