We Would Like to See Jesus

by | Mar 21, 2021 | Sermons

We Would Like to See Jesus

The journey to the cross is almost complete. The passage from John’s gospel today is the last public appearance of Jesus before the cruicifixion. A group of Greek’s are in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, having heard of Jesus they approach a disciple and say, “We would like to see Jesus.”

Today we ask the question, what does it mean to say, we would like to see Jesus? 

Scripture: John 12: 20-33

Thank you to Taryn Frybort, Brian MacInnes, Rob Lenters, Janet Leadbeater and Diana Carr for participating in today’s service. 

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Children’s Story

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We Wouild Like to See Jesus

We would like to see Jesus.

What does it mean to see Jesus? What are we asking when we vocalize that question?

There is a Jewish proverb, “Before every person there marches an angel proclaiming, ‘Behold, the image of God.’” How we see God is reflected by how we see ourselves. One of the things Jesus asks us to do is to love God and love ourselves. We read in Genesis that we are created in the image of God. Learning how to love ourselves becomes central to the question of how we love God and then is reflected back with how we love our neighbour.

The society we live in has a slightly different take on things. Richard Rohr describes our shared cultural meaning this way, “It is all about winning. Then, once we win, it becomes all about consuming. I can discern no other underlying philosophy in the practical order of American life today. Of itself, such a worldview cannot feed the soul very well or very long, much less provide meaning and encouragement, or engender love or community.” (Richard Rohr)

How do we move from this concept of winning and consuming, to loving and sustaining one another in love?

In the gospel passage we read from John this morning Jesus is in Jerusalem. The joy of the lectionary is it jumps around in time, for Jesus in our reading the events of Holy Week are already in motion. This is the last public appearance of Jesus before he his hung on the cross. The next time he is seen he will be branded a criminal and crucified.

While teaching in Jerusalem, a group of Greeks approach the disciple Philip and say, “We would like to see Jesus.”

We know what they mean through this question. They would like an opportunity to hear Jesus teach, to ask him questions, to learn from him. For us today, we can’t travel to the Jerusalem and ask a disciple to see Jesus. Today, we need to see Jesus in other ways.

The phrase, ‘We would like to see Jesus’ is carved on many pulpits in the world. A reminder to the preacher, that the people desire to hear Jesus speak. An important reminder for the vocation I find myself in. However, there are other ways to see Jesus.

But are we prepared to see Jesus? Are our hearts and minds ready to meet him? Or are we stuck in that mode of consuming and winning? Do we view Jesus as something that needs to be consumed? Another box checked, to be able to say I’m a faithful Christian because I attend church weekly, but my actions demonstrate that I’m closed to caring and loving other people. Is my definition of loving myself about consuming and winning rather than about understanding how to love myself as a child of God, created in the image of God?

Alicia Myers writes, “For John’s Gospel, therefore, it’s not enough just to come to Jesus or “want to see” him; we must have our ears unclogged and our vision corrected by the trauma that is Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. As Jesus explains, we cannot avoid darkness and death, but instead, must trust that God will bring about life.” (Alicia Myers)

This is where we meet the central truth that John is conveying with his gospel, as Charles Campbell writes, “John is not concerned with the forgiveness of individual sins. Nor does he proclaim a form of substitutionary atonement, through which Jesus takes on the divine punishment that human beings deserve, in order to relive us of our condemnation and guilt. Rather, in John 12:20-33 Jesus’ crucifixion judges ‘the world’ and drives out the ‘ruler of the world’. (Bartlett, D. and Taylor B., ed. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 2. P. 145).

What is meant by ‘ruler of the world’, is the systems of control that humanity establishes which are contrary to God’s love. We can think of a variety of systems that exist within our world that are oppressive and harmful to people.

  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Heterosexism
  • Consumerism
  • The myth of redemptive violence

Each of these and more is a system of control that would limit how God’s love is displayed and shared with creation. The life Jesus leads, his response to the system is exactly why he ends up on the cross. In our world, under the system of redemptive violence we would fight and wage war. Jesus says no to this notion, rejects the violence which he understands to be central to the system. The Pax Romana, the peace of Rome is built on the fear of violence from the Roman army.

When Jesus dies on the cross, it is a rejection of the systems that brought him there. Jesus exposes the systems for what they are, corrupt and self-serving. Jesus demonstrates that these systems aren’t life affirming, but life ending. They are the way of death. In order to exposes these systems of oppression, Jesus is arrested on trumped up charges, he is beaten and abused. Jonathan Abernathy writes, “John’s crucified Jesus is not the nude spectacle that we noted in Matthew and Mark. He is not stripped, the clothes for which die are cast are not the regal ceremonial dress that he continues to wear in these final moments but his original clothes. Jesus not only suffered appalling physical pain, but, he suffered it at the hands of others. Starkly, Jesus was abused.” (Jonathan Abernathy) Not just physical, mental and emotional abuse, Abernathy indicates sexual abuse as well.

When we consider what Jesus came to change, to overthrow systems of oppression and abuse. That Jesus desired to usher in an era of love based on God’s unflinching love for us. Knowing that the system of power abused Jesus, how does it change the nature of the question, we would like to see Jesus?

Society wants to win, and it wants to win at any cost. Jesus says no to this, his life, his teaching, the abuse he suffered and his public death exposes the corruption found within the system and names it false.

If we would like to see Jesus, then we need to look for him in the right places. Jesus isn’t found within systems of oppression. Jesus isn’t found with corruption, consumerism, or self-serving action. In John, Jesus is less concerned with your salvation than with the world’s salvation. For God so loved the world!

In John’s gospel, we are invited to expand our understanding of why Jesus came. Of what it means to love. To love God, to love ourselves and how the love of these first two, held in tension allows us to love the world. That love, as demonstrated by Jesus, should oppose systems of oppression and harm. It should defeat regimes that are corrupt and invite us into a new way of living. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

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