We Would See Jesus – March 18,2018

We Would See Jesus

A Sermon by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

John 12:20-33

March 18, 2018

Main Idea:  We would see Jesus.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

When I step up to the pulpit I see written here a phrase from today’s text.  It was probably was put here when the pulpit was first installed, and this phrase can be found on pulpits all over the world, in all sorts of traditions.  It says, “We would see Jesus” which is the King James Version of “We wish to see Jesus”.  This verse is a reminder to me, and to all those who attempt to preach, that our solemn responsibility is to help others see Jesus, hear Jesus, know Jesus, and experience Jesus in the worship service, and in their lives.  We would see Jesus. We wish to see Jesus. We want to see Jesus.  We need to see Jesus.

To see Jesus – this is why we gather, yes? We are a community, that works together and supports each other, but what distinguishes us from a social club is that we are drawn together by the power of God’s love known to us through Jesus.   And so we, as a community, need to experience Jesus, to experience the power of Jesus’ love in our lives.

Our Scripture text for today come just after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It is Jesus’ response to a request from some Greeks who wanted to meet him.  We actually don’t learn if the Greeks get to shake Jesus’ hand, instead Jesus speaks to the disciples and to us about what is to come. He knows that his death is not far off so he shares what his disciples, and we, most need to hear.   The text is full of the Gospel of John’s multiple layers of meaning in which a flea can wade and a camel can drown.  So instead of exegeting this text verse by verse, we are going to jump into it and explore what Jesus has to say to us today, in Vermont, in 2018. What we learn may comfort us.  It will certainly challenge us.   Together we will see Jesus.

So what does Jesus have to say to us today?

Jesus tells us that “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”, to lifted up on the cross and exalted through the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension.   There is no beating around the bush, no easing into this!  The cross approaches and to avoid the cross is to turn our eyes away from Jesus and miss the power of God on the cross.  We don’t like thinking too much about the crucifixion.  It makes us feel guilty and sad and unworthy. But Good Friday is near and we must deal with it. The crucifixion is not about punishment or payment for sin but to reveal something wondrous and mysterious.  Taking pity on our discomfort, Jesus tells us a parable about a grain of wheat.    A seed is a marvelous thing, full of potential life but the only way it becomes more than a dead shell is to die to itself, to break open so that abundant life can blossom. From one little seed can spring forth unlimited fruit.  Jesus can not reveal the power of God’s love without the cross.  We cannot live out God’s love without breaking open our own shells and defenses.

Jesus says “Those who love their life will lose it.” For us to see Jesus we must recognize that those who value only the trappings of life will lose them. Money, status, and power are seductive but they cannot last. Those who are afraid of other people will end up alone.   But those who reject the soul-killing illusions of this world in favor of life lived within the love of God will find abundant life and peace.  We have heard this before but its familiarity does not lessen its profound power and challenge.  It takes faith and commitment to let go of what we possess in order to be received into something far different and better.  But when we can let go that which traps us, then we can see Jesus.

Jesus says “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.”  For us to see Jesus we must see those forces in the world that are arrayed against him, all of which are some form of fear and evil.  Some, of course, are easy to see, such as racism, sexism, addiction, and despair.  But some are so embedded in our culture that we do not notice them. Such as the myth of redemptive violence.  This is survival of the fittest, or peace through strength (in Jesus’ day known as the Pax Romana).  This myth; that order is created by defeating “the other”, lives in our politics, our entertainment, and in the way we raise our children, especially our boys, to be tough. It provides the “fun” of video games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, and of violent movies too numerous to name.  It is the premise behind all arms races and saber rattling, and it gives power to bullies and tyrants.  This particular myth is why the cross was and remains such a scandal.  For surely death on a cross is proof of defeat and humiliation.

But Jesus on the cross defeats all forms of evil and fear because his death and resurrection accomplish the opposite of what his executioners intended.  Instead of silencing him, instead of snuffing out his movement, Jesus’ crucifixion reveals the weakness of violence and the ultimate power of love.  His resurrection and ascension set loose the Holy Spirit throughout the world. He even gives a preview of this in today’s text,  saying, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”(12:32) And we can recognize that today Jesus draws us and others together in love and service.

We want to see Jesus.   Jesus is here among us if we would but recognize him.  When we look around, where do we see him?  In the past week I have seen Jesus in at least two occasions.

Last weekend I saw the movie “A Wrinkle in Time” and we just finished reading the book with Margaret. The author, Madeleine L’Engle, was a devout Episcopalian whose faith in the love of God undergirded everything she wrote.  In the story there is a moment when a 13 year old girl named Meg must confront pure evil in order to save someone she loves. She is able to prevail only because of love. The courage she shows, the fierce commitment she has reveals the spirit of Jesus with her. I don’t want to give away more of the plot but I propose that we read this book as a community because reading it and discussing it together would be a great opportunity to see Jesus.

The second occasion where I have seen Jesus this past week was in the actions of young people leading us away from violence and toward safer communities.   We will have the opportunity to see Jesus again on Saturday with the March for our Lives in Washington DC, Montpelier and around the nation.  Following in the footsteps of Jesus and of Rev. Dr. King, these young people are challenging our society’s assumptions and insisting to be heard.  It is powerful to watch to them stand up to entrenched special interests.  It is breathtaking to hear them speak truth to power, calling out nonsense and political cowardice.  It is heartbreaking that they fear for their very lives.   We may not agree on the details of what needs to be done but we can see Jesus in their determination to work for peace instead of violence.

We want to see Jesus, to know him, and to be known by him. We want his comfort and his guidance.  Jesus comes to us, inviting us, challenging us. Jesus says “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.” (12:26). We are invited to follow Jesus and to act on his behalf.  Now is our opportunity; not when it may be more convenient, not once we finished up our other obligations, not when more folk seem to be coming on board.  Now is the time to see Jesus and to serve him. Let us not only see Jesus for ourselves but let us be the lens through which Jesus can be seen by the world.

Any questions?

Saving God, we would see Jesus so that we might know your grace, so that we might feel your love, so that we might serve you with our whole beings.   As we approach the cross, be with us, give us courage, and empower us to live with hope and gratitude.  Amen.

Hymn # 458 O Jesus, I Have Promised

Notes and Quotes

“We would see Jesus” is written on the pulpit.

The end of J’s public ministry

Text happens after Palm Sunday

Greeks/ Gentiles want to see Jesus – tell Philip – he tells Andrew – they go to J

J answers – The hour has come! –  parable of the Grain of wheat

Those who love their life will lose it

Now my soul is troubled – Garden of Gethsemane? parody of agony

Voice from heaven – (only time in John)

Thunder? Angel?

Now the judgment of the world – Satan is driven out

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) 3rd prediction of lifting up (3:14, 8:28)  – “It is people’s response to this offer that sets limites, not Jesus himself (cf. 12:46-48) (Gail O’Day p. 713)

“The significance of this parable for understanding Jesus’ death lies in the contrast between remaining solitary (“just a single grain”) and “bearing much fruit”… Jesus thus uses the seed parable to show that the salvific power of his death resides in the community that is gathered as a result of it. Verse 24 states metaphorically what v. 32 will state directly and as such is an appropriate response to the Greeks request; one comes to Jesus through his death.” (Gail O’Day, NIB, Vol 9, p. 711)

Verse 25 is key – one of the best attested sayings of Jesus

verse 26 – Jesus and the believer will always remain together.

verse 27 – irony

Atonement – what do we mean?  Gail O’Day *****

“Because ‘seeing’ Jesus means, among other things, opening ourselves to be the lens through which Jesus can be seen.” (Connie Mentor, davidlose.net)