David Kolander

I Would Like to See Jesus, Too, I Think…

by David Kolander on March 17th, 2024
John 12:20-33

In a moment I’m going to ask you to think about something to yourself for just five or six seconds. It’s been said many times, but many times it’s very true that you really have to be very careful about what you wish for. How many times haven’t we said. “If only I could have this,” or “If only I could do that” — and then when we got the “this” we wanted to get, or when we did the “that” we wanted to do, we realize it’s not all that great. And — maybe much worse — it ended up causing us all kinds of problems and worries we never could have imagined we would ever have a problem with or a worry about. Maybe just think really briefly for a few seconds right now about something in your life where the Lord has taught you a very important lesson about being very careful about what you wished for, because you now know the rest of the story…  If you did think about something in those few seconds, hopefully what we’ll now talk about will be helpful for you.

Those people who were talking to the disciple Philip in our Lesson had a wish to do something very special —  something very wonderful, actually. They came up to Philip and said, “We would like to see Jesus.” But from what Jesus went on to say, we would have to say that once they saw him, it could easily have made them think they should have been much more careful about what they had wished for, because some of what they saw and  heard was not pretty at all. In fact, it was pretty ugly. More about that in a moment.

What about you? Do you want to see Jesus, like those people who are called “Greeks” wanted to see Jesus? I assume, since all of us are believers in Jesus, we would of course say, “Yes, I would like to see Jesus, too.” But when we think more deeply about the fact that what they saw and heard when they saw Jesus is the exact same thing we see and hear when we see Jesus, maybe our reaction isn’t all that bold and confident. Maybe it’s even filled with some doubt about what all this is all about. Maybe, once we know the rest of the story, we find ourselves saying, “I Would Like to See Jesus, Too, I Think…” Let’s think about that by seeing Jesus the way he wants to be seen in these words from John chapter 12.

So, first of all, what is it with these people called “Greeks,” who came to worship, we are told “at the festival?” This festival was the week of the Jewish Passover festival about this same time of year we’re in right now, and this Passover festival happens to be the last true Passover festival, because this is the week that Jesus died, the last week of his life on earth. In a few days he would be dead. Now, when these people are called Greeks, it just means they were not Jews, and that reminds us that there were people from many other nations and cultures and races who had come to believe in the true God of Israel and also were allowed to participate to some degree in the Jewish festivals. Maybe you remember that fifty days later at the Pentecost Festival, we are told that people had gathered from all over the world to worship the true God – the day they heard the disciples miraculously speak to them in all those foreign languages.

Somehow these Greeks knew one of Jesus’ disciples named Philip, who, these words tell us, was from a town called Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, up north in the land of Israel, located quite close to communities that were Greek — or Gentile — communities. So maybe that is how they came to be in contact with the Lord Jesus, whom Philip followed, since Jesus had performed so many miracles and gave so many sermons up there in the nearby city of Capernaum and on the Sea of Galilee itself, of course. But regardless of whether that is correct or not, they knew enough about Philip to know that he could maybe get them what they wished for: “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” What is kind of interesting is that Philip first talked to his brother Andrew – another disciple – about it, and then they both went to tell Jesus. Maybe Philip wanted to make sure it was okay to bother Jesus. Or maybe he thought he better check to see if Jesus needed to rest, because what Jesus had just finished was his ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey on Palm Sunday — the special day we will celebrate next week.

Again, whatever is the case on that or not, the fact is that what Jesus said has to make you and me think twice about whether we really want to see Jesus the way he is — or not. Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Other times before this Jesus had said, “It is not yet my time,” but now – and this has to make us gulp – it was. It was his time. That has to make us sit up and think about it, because the way Jesus says he is going to be glorified and praised and honored is by him dying – and… by us dying. He talked about a little kernel of wheat – a seed – and he said that unless that seed went into the ground and there died, there was no chance for there to be a great harvest. That’s the way seeds work. That’s how we get food to eat. Seeds die in the ground and produce many seeds. 

But before saying what that meant for him – and we all know very well what that meant for him – he goes on right away to say what that means for you and for me. Verse 25: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” The way we die the way Jesus wants us to die, if we want to see him and serve him and follow him, is to “hate” our life in this world. He is not talking about not loving the blessings God gives us in this world. He is talking about not loving – about hating – the things of this world that the devil does whatever he can to get us to think only about the things in this world – and not about the eternal world to come. The seed of all the sinful ways we think in our heart about the things of this world has to die. We have to bury it in the ground of the earth, so that the seed of our dying to sin can produce something meaningful in a life of serving and following Jesus. 

But isn’t that what may have us saying, “I would like to see Jesus, too, I think…?” The devil tries to get us to think, “You have got to be kidding. You mean I have to let people think I am some odd, weird person because I believe there is such a thing as sin, and there is such a person as the holy God, and there is such a thing as guilt that has to be paid for by someone, and that that someone is a person who couldn’t even keep people from putting him on a cross for things he didn’t even do? You mean I have to believe what this God says in this book called the Bible, not only when he tells me what seems like unbelievable things about himself, but also when he tells me I need to do things that don’t seem remotely reasonable like caring about others more than myself and forgiving others for things they have done against me, which really, really hurt?

What really, really hurts, brothers and sisters, and what, at the very same time, really, really helps, is to next hear Jesus say, “My soul is troubled, and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name!” Jesus, when I said I wanted to see you, I didn’t want to see you troubled and sad and wondering if you should ask your Father to save you from having to do all this, but I just can’t take my eyes off of you as you say that, because you didn’t take your eyes off of why you had been sent to this world. You went through those horrible troubles, as someone who in no way deserved to endure them, so that you could help me make sense of all the troubles I go through, which I so much deserve to endure. They may not make any earthly sense to me, Jesus, but they make eternal sense to me, because all my troubles are just plain because this world in which I live is a world of trouble and sin, of which every single one of us is guilty – and your Father in heaven – my Father in heaven – has placed on you the guilt of my sins. I really do so much want to see you Jesus, because when I see loving, holy, perfect you, I see how my God sees me because of you. And the voice that came from heaven that day from God above was God’s own exclamation point of approval, when he hears you and me say from the bottom of our hearts, “We would like to see Jesus, too.” “Yes, you may, my child – and yes, you have!”

You know, we’re not told any more about those Greeks who asked about seeing Jesus in the first place. But we can thank God that Jesus used this opportunity during the last week of his life – when he knew very well what lay ahead, both in his gruesome death and in his glorious resurrection – to let us know we never have to worry about being careful about what we ask for, when we ask to see Jesus say what he says and do what he does in his Word. As Jesus said at the end, “The prince of this world – Satan — will be driven out,” so there’s no reason to love the world. And, as Jesus said at the end, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”  There is a great world to come in heaven, which lets me enjoy this world in a great way right now. So, I would like to see, Jesus, too – not I think, but I know. I would like to see Jesus, I know, because I know the rest of the story – for him… and for me. And I don’t need five or six seconds to think about that; but maybe I can take five or six seconds to think about some of the ways I can thank him… God bless you, as you do so. Amen.

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