We Would See Jesus

(Webster’s, John 12:21b)

Jackson Snyder

 

PREVIEW Prayers and Devotions: 365 Daily Meditations  John Paul II

PREVIEW Crossing the Threshold of Hope  John Paul II

 

PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION:
  --Karol Wotyla, March 25, 1983

Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,  Grant that all of us may love You more,

As in ourselves we live the mysteries of Your life again,

From the conception and birth Up to the cross and resurrection.

Be with us through these mysteries, Be with us in the Holy Spirit.

Help us to change the direction of the increasing threats and misfortunes of the world today!

Lift man up again!  Protect the nations and peoples! 

O Lord Jesus Christ,  Show how more powerful -- In man and in the world –

Is the work of Your Redemption!

 

HYMN: “We Would See Jesus”  UMH 256

LESSONS:  Isaiah 49:1-11 NJB, PSALM 71 (UMH 794)

GOSPEL: John 12:20.  Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.   21.  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”   22.  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus.   23.  And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.   24.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.   25.  He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.   26.  If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him. ...   35.  “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.   36.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

 

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We’re Off to See the Pope

   Have you ever heard someone say, “Why, it’s harder to get an appointment with so-and-so than the Pope.”  If that were the case, old so-and-so really doesn’t want to be seen very badly or he’s occupied with other people and your appointment’s way down the list.  For it’s almost impossible to get a personal appointment with the Pope: he’s a busy man and his health is failing; however, despite his physical condition, this Pope is still a VIP in the course of human events, and many will not give up trying to see him.

   It was reported in the Boston Globe that a butcher, a carpenter and a housepainter boarded a jet for Rome to see the Pope.  They didn’t have an appointment, but it’s not like they hadn’t tried for one.  They’d petitioned the Archbishop of Boston, the Conference on Catholic Bishops and the papal representatives in DC, but to no avail.  So, the butcher, the carpenter and the housepainter jetted to Italy to try their luck.

   It’s not that their cause isn’t important.  They’re only three of (alleged) thousands who were molested as children by Catholic priests.  There’s would be the first attempt of public individuals to discuss this grave matter with the Pope.  History would be made, and publicity generated, if they were to succeed.  ¿And what would these men say?  The carpenter would say, “Pope, your people need help!”  The painter would say, “Pope, you owe me an apology.”

   But what might the Pope do for them now?   So many years have passed since the crime, and (as far as we know) John Paul II never molested anybody.  It’s like trying to blame Harry Truman for the Korean War.  John Paul II had already expressed his condolences to the world in the words,

{clear throat} ''To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern.  The harm done by some priests to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame.'' 

   These declarations were not made for the sake of religious politics; I believe the Bishop of Rome is deeply grieved about what’s been exposed on his watch, enough so as to be in constant prayer for, and “solidarity” with, the victims; in supplication for the healing of the church and for those who’ve turned away from Jesus on account of the scandal.  Yet if the Head of the Roman Catholic Church actually met with one such victim, how would he then stem the tide of the thousands more with just or unjust causes who would then demand an audience (or an autograph)?  Such exposure would be more successful in killing him off than the assassin’s bullets of 1981.

   These fellows who jet off to embarrass the Pope won’t be seeing him.  But as long as they try, they’ll continue to reinforce seeing themselves as victimsmolestees – searching vainly for someone to blame.  And now, with their identities and complaints revealed to the national news syndicate, their families, friends, employers -- the whole world -- will always see them as victims, too.  This in fact makes them double victims – victims of others and now victims of themselves.

 

A Strange Little Story

   John 12:20 – 22 has a strange little story.  There are “Greeks” who want to see Jesus; we’re not told why.  They’re called “Greeks” because they or their ancestors had at one time practiced Judaism, but they’d taken up the popular Greek culture, language and pagan religion.  These “Greeks” are like some of the young people of South Korea: they’re still Korean, though they learn English in school, wear western-style clothing, eat at burger joints and look to America for their entertainment.  “Hip” Korean youth have lost something of their cultural identity.  They don’t like Americans much, but they emulate them and want to be seen like them. 

   The same goes for these Greek imitators:  They came to Jerusalem at feast-time despite the fact that they’d abandoned their heritage and their Law.  History tells us that such “Greeks” were allowed into the holy Temple even though they no longer lived like Yahweh commanded.  There was great disputation about this practice.  (In fact, Paul was accused of this very thing in Acts 24:6.  Even Herod and his crew of occultists had direct access to the Temple – his father had built it.)  Of course, many Temple rulers encouraged Greeks to enter because they had money to spend and these rulers had money to gain.  But the faithful priests and pious people hated this hypocritical practice enough to act violently against it.  There were riots around the place of worship -- and some Greeks were murdered.

   So, attending the feast was a way for some to claim the benefits of religion while not practicing the disciplines of religion.  It’s like joining the church to get a cheap cemetery plot.  It’s like coming to church twice a year, thinking you can play “the Christmas card” with St. Pete so he’ll let you in where you don’t belong.  Only the holy may enter the holy place.  The profane, scoffer and ol’ lazy bones are to remain outside, where there’ll be weeping and teeth-gnashing (Matthew 8:12).

  Perhaps the excitement of danger also enticed “Greeks” to the Temple.  Maybe they came to get stoned!  But now that they’d arrived, they take in the sites, including that Nazarene celebrity.  Do they want to see him in order to receive the words of life, or just to get an autograph?   “We would see Jesus,” is all they demand.

 

Philip the Greek

   These fellows come to Philip to make an appointment.  Philip’s approachable because he is a re-converted Greek.  (That’s why the Scripture points out that he’s from Bethsaida.)  Philip had discovered his Hebrew roots through Jesus’ call.  Philip was smart, and he was “hip.”  (Phil – hip means “lover of a horse” – “hip” means “horse.”  Phil was definitely hip.)  He tells these guys to wait and finds Andrew to tell him.  Andrew has more pull with Jesus than Phil, I suppose. 

    “Andrew,” like “Philip,” is also a Greek name.  “Andrew” means “a man.”  I wondered why the parents of Simon and Andrew gave one brother a Hebrew name and the other a Greek.  But the Hebrew counterpart of Andrew is “Adam,” which also means “a man.”  Maybe Andrew decided to get hip and change his name from Adam to the more fashionable Andrew.  Many of our ancestors changed to American names when they came over on the boat, causing us to lose our heritage, for better or worse.  Who are we?  With whom do we identify?  Our culture sees to it that we don’t know anymore.  But we do trust Jesus’ promise that we might become children of Yahweh, no matter our origins.

    Anyway, Philip picks up Andrew and they go to see Jesus to tell him what these fancy fellows want.  Now this is what’s peculiar – Jesus pays no attention to them.  He doesn’t even see them.  His mind is consumed with far graver matters than a few tourists who may only want to ogle or complain about the injustices of their childhoods. 

   Jesus is thinking about his glorification, when all, living and dead, past, present and future, would see and recognize the Father in him.  He came to bring peace to some, war to others.  He came to unify and divide.  He came to love and accept all.  He knew the course of the world because he had had a hand in setting it.  He knows the fate of those who are to follow him.  And he knows that, before any glorification, he must first die wretchedly.  It’s at this point that Jesus utters one of the most paradoxical statements of all time:

(John 12:25,26)  “I’m sorry to say that He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life will keep it eternally.  If any one serves me, he must follow me, {even to death}; for where I am, there shall my servant be, and the Father will honor him.” 

   Do you want to see Yahshua ben Yahweh?  Just call his secretary and just try to make an appointment!  If you can’t see him in person, you’ll get no better glimpse than in this passage, all weighed down and bent over with the perplexities of life, shaking with the contradictions of his death, burdened with the sins of his people, and concerned to the utmost for his followers.  Do you really want to see Jesus?  Follow him wherever he leads whether you can see him or not.  If you do, you’ll see the Father on the day you are honored.

 

Karol Wojtyla

   On May 18th of 1920, Karol Joseph Wojtyla (Voy-tee-wah) was born in Poland to an army officer and a schoolteacher. Karol was an athletic youth and an excellent student.  He was appointed president of his school charitable society.  His ambition was to become a professional stage actor.  He wrote stories, prayers and poetry.

   During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Karol worked in the stone quarries.  His occupation gained him the work permit he needed to avoid deportation or imprisonment. Karol became active in the Christian underground, helping Jews escape the Nazis at great personal peril.  He began to consider life-long service to Jesus.  He secretly studied for the priesthood.  Karol Wojtyla (Voy-tee-wah) was ordained right after the war and consecrated a bishop in 1958.  During the post-war era, Poland became a communist dictatorship under the murderous eye of Joseph Stalin.  Father Karol took a public stand against both communism and its government officials, yet was protected from prison by ministering angels.  In 1967, Pope Paul made him a cardinal.  On October 16, 1978, at age of 58, Karol Wojtyla was elected first non-Italian pope in 500 years.  He took the name John Paul II.  In 1981, he suffered several gunshot wounds in an assassination attempt.  Two years later, at Christmastime, John Paul II went to the prison and personally forgave the man who tried desperately to kill him.

   In 1982, when he was sixty-two, he gave a speech in Great Britain that referred to our Gospel text today. 

“The man of today looks at you and repeats what the Greek visitors said to the Apostle Philip: ‘We wish to see Jesus.’  Yes, in you the world wishes to see Jesus.  Many know what you do and admire and value you for it.  But your true greatness comes from what you are.  Perhaps what you are is less well known and understood.  In fact, what you are can be understood only in the light of the ‘newness of life’ revealed by Christ Resurrected, for only in him are you a ‘new creation.’”

   Twenty years later, July 23, 2002, at eighty-two years of age, fragile from Parkinson’s disease and a stroke, John Paul II traveled to Toronto, where 200,000 young people waited to meet him.  It’s a marvel that this elderly man, so conservative, so seemingly out of step with the times, so decrepit, so un-hip, could find his greatest following among the youth of the world.  Why do you suppose this is?  We find part of the reason in his speech I just read to you.  When young people look at John Paul II, they don’t see an old man.  They see young (Karl Voi-tee-wah) Karol Wojtyla.  And when they look at the young (Karl Voi-tee-wah) Karol Wojtyla, they see the young martyr, Yahshua Notzrim.  These young people came from all over the world to see Jesus in his “vicar” -- and if you viewed his appearance in Toronto on television last year, you know this gigantic mass of young people weren’t disappointed.  And when I looked at him in 1978, half a lifetime ago, I would see the same person I see now -- “I would see Jesus.”

 

Deja Vu

   To those young, fashionable Greeks, Jesus was a living legend, a rebel hero, a celebrity.  Why then did Jesus refuse to even acknowledge Philip’s request?  Jesus gives us the answer to this question the very next time he talks to Philip.  See

John 14:8,9.  Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and we’ll be satisfied."  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you don’t know me, Philip?  He who’s seen me has seen the Father!  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

Philip wanted to see Father Yahweh, but Yahweh couldn’t be seen, for Philip wasn’t yet equipped with the kind of sensory input device that could register the greatness of the Almighty.  However, Yahweh was to be seen in the person of his Son, who is “the image of the invisible Yahweh” (Colossians 1:15).  And Jesus strongly corrects his disciple Philip, not for his inability to see the unseeable, but because he couldn’t recognize the Father-life in the Son.

   What follows is actually quite remarkable.  Jesus won’t see the Greeks because, if they hadn’t already seen Jesus in Philip, then how would they ever be able to see Yahweh in Jesus, especially in the context of Jesus’ burning question, “Have I been with you all this time and you still don’t know me?”  If Philip couldn’t see Jesus right, how could these strangers? 

 

You’re the Only Jesus, Huh?

   My friend, some GREEKS around here are looking for churches, and they always find one, because a church is so easily recognized, they all look alike and they’re everywhere.  Others are looking for dynamic evangelist celebrities and they find them, too.  But most aren’t looking for a church or an evangelist; they “would see Jesus,” whether they know it or not.  They won’t be able to name him, because somebody changed his name when they brought him over here on the boat.  But when these local Greeks do see him, will they know him, whether they can name him or not?  Pray to your Father in heaven that when they see you, they’ll recognize him, and he’ll meet them face-to-face when they meet you.

 

   The same year that John Paul II gave the speech I read a moment ago, a popular song was released, illustrating his words, “in you the world wishes to see Jesus.”  I close with the (modified) lyrics to that song.

If not in you, I wonder where they’ll see the One who gives his care?

If not from you, how will they find the One who lives to heal the blind?

You're the only Jesus some folks will ever see,

And you're the only words of life that some will ever read.

So let Him shine and let Him show through you; you’ve got to let them know,

For you're the only Jesus some folks will ever see.

 

, August 6, 2003