Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” is, I have been told, a notice fixed to the pulpit of one of our churches. Let’s not get side-tracked by the gender or location of preachers but accept that this is both a relevant and demanding request. Through how many of my sermons have people been able to see, to meet Jesus? How often do you leave worship feeling that you now know Jesus better?
The Greek visitors in the temple court of the Gentiles may have witnessed the “Palm Sunday” triumphal entry of Jesus with the Passover pilgrims and they were curious to know more. This incident was transformative for Jesus as it demonstrated that his mission was not only to his often inward-looking, restrictive fellow Jews but made real their ancient mission to be a light to all peoples.
Today’s enquirers cannot meet Jesus physically (and may be put off by some of the GHPs – ghastly holy pictures – still seen in some places) but they can meet us. If people want to meet Jesus are they not entitled to form their assessment from their experience of his followers? How do our lives reveal to others what Jesus is like? (I rather wish this was to be published anonymously.)
Over 90 years ago Nicholas Berdyaev* wrote, “There is no longer any room in the world for a merely external form of Christianity… The world is entering upon a period of catastrophe and crisis when we are being forced to take sides, and in which a higher and more intense kind of spiritual life will be demanded from Christians.” (Freedom and the Spirit). Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
*Born in Kyiv, taught in Moscow, exiled in France
When I survey the wondrous Cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride,
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.