5th Sunday in Lent – B LSB #’s 437, 570, 560
Text – John 12:20-21
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, & asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
HAVE YOU SEEN JESUS?
How many of you have spoken to someone on the phone, formed a mental picture of what they look like, & then met them in person? It’s fairly common that they don’t look anything like you’d expected. Such is the story from the Gospel lesson today. Some Greeks who came to Jerusalem for celebrating the Passover asked if they could see Jesus.
I think the answer they received wasn’t anything like they had expected. The reply of Jesus does not seem to fit the request: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” How is that an answer to, “We wish to see Jesus?” As usual, there’s a lot of depth behind Jesus’ answer.
Have you seen Jesus? Have you ever looked for Him? People who’ve been to the Holy Land normally bring back an impressive sense of the ancient history. You walk the same paths that Jesus took almost 2000 years ago. That aspect makes an impression on most anyone who visits there. But is that the same thing as seeing Jesus?
I’ve heard people remark that they’d like to meet Jesus & just talk with Him. They believe that would be a special experience. Others would like to have been there while Jesus performed one of His miracles. They feel that would’ve been a highlight of their lives.
The congregation where I grew up puts on a Living Nativity walk in early December, & some of the comments from guests have stated that coming back to reality at the end of the tour was a rude awakening. The walk was, for them, so real that it’s like they were there the very
night Jesus was born. They did not want that feeling to end. Apparently, those are not the
experiences Jesus was talking about, because His answer to the Greeks has nothing to do with a personal meeting of Jesus. He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
At the wedding in Cana, recorded 10 chapters earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’” (John 2:3-4 ESV) In John chapter 12, that hour has arrived. So what hour is Messiah talking about?
The context for today’s Gospel reading is Holy Week. The Jewish families would be selecting the perfect lamb to be sacrificed for them at Passover, only a few days away. Palm Sunday has come & gone, & the evening before that, Jesus was anointed by Mary, the sister of the man whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
It’s as if her anointing had marked Jesus as the perfect lamb who would be sacrificed to take away the sins of the world. Biblically speaking, thousands of years of history & prophecy were all coming together. The path from creation to flood, from Egypt to Sinai, from Bethlehem to Calvary, that path was drawing to a close. That hour had come.
And Jesus continues by talking about the kernel of wheat that must fall to the ground & die. Because when it dies it produces many more seeds. Jesus is that kernel of wheat. His death will bring life to many, just as a seed planted in the ground produces many times its number. The hour for Jesus’ death had arrived.
Then He explains how we go about seeing Jesus. The man who loves his life in this world will destroy it, but the man who hates his life in this world, will keep it for eternal life. That’s the answer to the Greeks. It is also the answer to you & to me.
Have you seen Jesus? If not, it’s because you love life in this world, too much. This world is your god & not Jesus Christ. This world is where your treasure is, & not in heaven. Whoever would serve Christ must follow Him, & our Father in heaven will honor those who serve their Savior. Those will be honored with seeing Jesus. And the Jesus they will see, is the Jesus on the cross, suffering & dying for their sins.
And, since we are no better than our Master, we too will suffer in this life. But through that suffering God will draw us closer to our Savior & we will see Him for what He truly is – the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. PAUSE
In Christ’s life here on earth, His heart was troubled as the Gospel reading stated. But in suffering He took His eyes off of Himself & His problems to focus them upon His Father in heaven. In last Sunday’s OT lesson, the Israelites were in the wilderness complaining against God, so they were disciplined with poisonous snakes.
God’s provision for their healing was a bronze serpent hanging on a pole. The Israelites were to look at that serpent on the pole in order to live, which meant taking their eyes off the problems & struggles of this life. It meant losing their life & all the treasures of this world, because those treasures will chain & enslave you to the poisonous attitudes of sin.
In last week’s Gospel reading, John wrote that just as the serpent was lifted up on a pole in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. At the end of today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus says that when He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself. He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die. I believe He also said this in order to show us how to see Jesus.
Now is the hour, the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified by His death. It’s on the cross that you will see Jesus. For ultimately, it’s on the cross that He displayed His love for us. It’s on the cross, hanging naked for all the world to see, that His unmistakable love for you is most clear. It’s there that He who knew no sin, became sin for you & for me.
Consequently, if you want to see Jesus, you must see Him as He was on the cross. You
must see Him being crucified in your place. You must see the scars in His hands, His feet & His side; for in that vision you will see the full power of the Gospel. Here’s an example.
A young girl was suffering from terminal cancer. She had little time left & what she did have was destined to be humiliating & painful. The effects of the cancer were visible to the eyes of all who saw her – that is, to all who dared to look. She was a sight only to be pitied. But those circumstances did not take away her joy for life or the beautiful smile she wore each day.
One day, however, the pastor was visiting & noticed that she wasn’t in her usual cheerful mood. Thinking it was due to the intense pain he shrugged it off, until he saw her tears forming. “What’s the matter?” he asked. The young girl sighed, “Soon, in heaven, I’m going to have a new body.”
The pastor replied, “That’s right, but that’s happy news. Why are you crying?” “I’m going to have a new body when I get to heaven, but Jesus will always have the scars.” PAUSE
What profound insight. How is it that a small cancer-ridden child can recognize the Gospel & its essential truth, while we often remain unmoved & uncomforted in our pain? The certain answer is that our sinful nature blinds us to the love that Christ has for us. It’s a love that would cause God to be crucified even for ungrateful people like we often are.
The answer to our ingratitude are the means of grace God provided for the nurturing of our faith. It was by faith that a young girl dying of cancer had seen the scars in the hands & the feet of her Savior. It was by faith that she saw the side of her Lord, which had been pierced with a spear. It was by faith that she knew & believed that those scars were intended for her.
Have you seen Jesus? May your heavenly Father grant you such a faith. Amen.
Just as I am, without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me & that thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come. Amen. LSB 570:1.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet