SEEING JESUS: What we discover when we earnestly seek Jesus
Bible reading: John 12: 20-33
- Whom would you most like to meet from the past?
- What makes you choose that person?
- What questions would you ask him or her?
A survey of male prisoners were asked that question and many of them answered, “My Dad”
While on holiday years ago, I went to see the star of The Avengers, Patrick Macnee, come to open a new building complex
- My curiosity was satisfied… but my expectations were somewhat dashed!
- Patrick was trying hard to appear interested but was clearly bored with the whole business!
But being curious to see Jesus is in a different league altogether…
- Most people are very curious…situations intrigue them
- Curiosity can be a powerful motivator when we ask: What happens if?
- Curiosity can also be meddling and even deteriorate into gossip
Be careful if you find yourself desperate to hear the latest news and justify it by saying “It helps me to pray more effectively”
- Cats can be very curious…one lady tore up floorboards to rescue her pussy! Curiosity literally ‘almost killed the cat’!
- Travel agents tempt people to take holidays to ‘faraway places with strange-sounding names’ by stirring their curiosity
SO IT IS NOT SURPRISING WHEN WE FIND SOME JEWISH (?) GREEKS approaching Philip with a request: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” (they were certainly curious… Who wouldn’t be?)
- It is significant that they were Greeks …come to celebrate the Passover
- The word ‘Greek’ does not necessarily mean that they were from Greece…they may have been ‘non-Jews’
- But I suspect that they were literally from Greece…and Jews
- There is no reason to believe that their intentions were anything but honourable
The Greeks were renowned for a desire to “know”… to find out
REMEMBER WHEN PAUL VISITED ATHENS some years later and saw an altar to an ‘unknown god’ (Acts 17)
“Now what you worship as something unknown, I am going to proclaim to you” (verse 23)
- So perhaps the visitors were simply curious to find out if this teacher could point them to another ‘god’
- Maybe they were on a pilgrimage seeking Jehovah’s Chosen One
- Maybe they were collecting material for a story!
BUT JESUS’ REPLY IS INSTRUCTIVE
- As is often the case with Jesus, He seems to ignore the question and give an answer to a different question!
- Jesus sees beyond the superficial…He knew what was deep within their hearts
- Just as He knows what is within ours.
HE KNOWS ALL ABOUT YOU…
- Your inner longings…and fears…and hopes…and dreams… and disappointments
- The things you are struggling with
- The things that are precious to you
AND SO WITH THESE GREEKS
First, Jesus speaks about Himself in verses 23 and 24
- His glorification; His sacrificial death
- The mystery of how life will spring from death
SO WHEN THE GREEKS WANTED TO “SEE” JESUS they needed to understand five things (see verses 25 and 26):
1. Seeing Jesus is like seeing no-one else
YOU CAN’T REMAIN UNMOVED… even when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and he stepped forward, the soldiers fell to the ground!
- The common people said that they had never met a man who spoke like Jesus did
2. It involves a life-changing commitment
EVEN IF YOU SAY NO TO JESUS, IT’S A LIFE-CHANGING DECISION
- You reject the way to eternal life
- And you accept the broad way that leads only to death
3. Priorities are turned on their heads
- Things that were once so important fade away
- Things that were unimportant become essential
Key events in our life make us re-evaluate our priorities
4. We start to gain an eternal perspective
A LOT OF MODERN THINKING is closely concerned with this life
- But Jesus tells us that although this life is important, only He can give life purpose now and give us hope beyond the grave
5. It is the commencement of a journey that involves service and ultimate honour bestowed by God the Father
PETER ONCE SAID TO JESUS THAT THEY HAD GIVEN UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM
- Jesus promised that such sacrifice brings an eternal reward
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.”
SO THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CASUAL ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS CHRIST
- There’s a price to be paid (we turn our backs on the world) and a prize to be won (the assurance of God’s constant love)
SO JESUS SAYS: The man who loves his life will lose it
- It’s a paradox! Someone has written:
‘The call of Jesus is revolutionary. If we implemented it, we would change the world in a few months’
Someone else has calculated that if each of us brought one person to Christ every year, the world would be evangelised in a single generation.
JESUS GOES ON TO SAY:
While the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life
A. W. Tozer reflects Jesus’ words when he writes:
‘Let a man set his heart on doing the will of God and he is instantly free. If we understand our first and sole duty to consist of loving God supremely and loving everyone, even our enemies, for God’s dear sake, then we can enjoy every spiritual tranquillity under every circumstance.’
Jesus does not mean that we hate life itself
DO PEOPLE GET THIS IMPRESSION OF US? A miserable lot of spoilsports!
Or that we hate ourselves
WE HATE SIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES…but God loves us, so we must not despise what God has called ‘good’. We may feel dissatisfied with ourselves but should not despise our shortcomings. God has forgiven us, so we must learn to forgive ourselves and one another
Jesus enjoyed life…he visited homes, laughed and cried, went to parties, took long walks, chatted to every type of person
WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL NOT TO BECOME A LITTLE COMMUNE
- Perceived as a bunch of narrow-minded religious people who lock themselves away, beavering away, immune from the realities of life
He used illustrations from nature…birds, fish, farming
IN OTHER WORDS He spoke to people in ways that they would understand
No-one is impressed by religious jargon or irrelevant illustrations
He used humour to make serious points…the house upon sand, a camel through the eye of a needle, a man waking his friend in the middle of the night
WE HAVE A SERIOUS MESSAGE BUT THE GOSPEL IS PRIMARILY GOOD NEWS!
There’s a difference between being serious and grim!
And Jesus focused upon life experiences…the need for love and friendship…and issues such as disappointment, crime, money, joy, decisions, bewilderment, hope, kindness…
I FEAR THAT TOO OFTEN WE ARE NOT SCRATCHING WHERE PEOPLE ITCH…we need to be aware of the questions that people are asking and their hopes & desires… or our message is in danger of being seen as irrelevant
AND JESUS REMINDED HIS FOLLOWERS that they were precious to God
- Some of you may not feel of much worth
- Perhaps you even wonder if life has been or is worthwhile
Well, if you are willing to ‘see Jesus as He really is’, your life becomes eminently worthwhile…for we are part of His plan and purpose for the world
MANY PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE FOR APPROVAL and affirmation
- Some young women allow themselves to be exploited for fear of rejection if they don’t consent
- Other people behave outrageously to draw attention to themselves
- And in each case the message is the same: “we need to be valued and feel that our lives count for something”
It is dangerous to trivialise the person of Jesus Christ…
- Years ago an RE scheme for children suggested that they investigate the wood used for the crucifixion!
- And more recently, doctors discussed the medical condition from which Jesus died on the Cross
HOW SAD THAT JESUS HAS BECOME AN INTELLECTUAL PLAYTHING
In verses 27-28 we find that Jesus does not ask of us anything that He is not willing to do Himself
- His heart is troubled at the prospect of bearing the sins of the world in His body on the Cross
- But He was determined that whatever happened He would not turn back
WHAT AN EXAMPLE!
- Following Jesus will involve sacrifice of selfish ambition as we lay our lives at His feet
- But He lifts us up and tells us that every sacrifice we make on this earth will be more than compensated for in heaven
AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT…
“Father, glorify your name” (said Jesus)
Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him
God is always ready to answer our cry
- How convenient to explain away the intervention of God in the world
- To deny the authority of Christ and His divinity
It seems that some people will say anything…believe anything… other than accept that Christ is the human embodiment of God
Jesus has been described as a political revolutionary, a magician who married Mark Magdalene, a Galilean charismatic, a rabbi, a peasant cynic, a Pharisee, a hippie and the leader of the sacred mushroom cult!
- One scholar has explained the resurrection of Jesus as mistaken identity…that it was his brother, James, instead
- Moslems claim that it was Judas on the Cross because God would not allow the perfect Jesus to die in such a way (NOTE!)
Anything but admit that Jesus is who He patently is!
What we find in Jesus Christ is ‘what it says on the label’
AND SEEING JESUS AS HE REALLY IS means accepting the truth of what He says
Sometimes what He says is very challenging: see verses 30-33:
- Judgement has already begun and it begins with the church
- There is a real and active devil and he is our enemy…the deceiver, the liar, the accuser, the one whose purpose is to turn our victory in Christ into defeat
- This ‘pretender to the throne’ will be defeated…we have the absolute assurance from God that we are ‘clothed’ in the righteousness of Christ
Jesus himself needed to die so that all men and women will be ‘drawn unto Him’…He was not dragged to the Cross kicking and screaming…he could have called 10,000 angels
People will be drawn to Him but there is a difference between idle curiosity and commitment…even the devil knows about the Cross… mere verbal assent is not enough…’You must be born anew (again)’
Christianity is not a spectator sport
- Our lives must demonstrate that we are light and salt
LITTLE WONDER THE CROWD WAS SCEPTICAL
- They knew the law but not the One who is the fulfilment of the law (v 34)
We may have been brought up in the church…have Christian parents…know every song in the book…quote Bible verses… and obey church conventions like second nature
- But if we rely on these things and fail to know Him who has loved us and washed us from sin, we are like the crowd who said ‘We have heard from the law…so how can you say…?’
Jesus is not a subject for academic study or learning facts about … as if He were Julius Caesar or Winston Churchill!
We need a personal encounter with Him
There is a real challenge for those who work with children or youth to ensure that the focus is as much on developing a relationship with Christ as learning facts about the Bible or discussing issues
SO JESUS CONCLUDES BY TELLING THE CROWD 4 MORE THINGS (verses 35, 36):
1. He will not always be bodily present
- · More blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe
2. He offers light rather than darkness
3. Each person must put his or her personal trust in the light
4. Trusting in the light results in us becoming sons (inheritors) of light
AND FINALLY… Jesus hid himself from them (v 36)
- · He did not come to be a celebrity or ‘super star’
- · He came in humility
- · He walked in humility
- · He died in humility
JESUS IS HIDDEN FROM THE WORLD TODAY…except that He has left a group of people to be his ambassadors… you and me
- · When people say “I want proof about Jesus Christ”, we can only humbly say ‘I am living proof of His transforming and sustaining power’
- · So like the Samaritan woman at the well, we can declare to others that we have not only seen Jesus…but we have seen the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour of the world
- · And invite others to come and see Him for themselves…which most people don’t want to do
“Sir, we would see Jesus”
May we, like Philip and Andrew, be used to introduce people to the Saviour and let them see Him for who He really is
And if you haven’t ‘met’ Jesus Christ yourself, the time to do so is right now