Sermon March 21, 2020

“We Would See Jesus”

John 12:20-33

 

Have you ever wondered what Jesus looks like? Nowhere in the Bible are we given Jesus’ description. Was he tall, or short? Did he have long hair or short hair? Was he a powerful man whose muscles had been strengthened by years of carpentry work with his father, or was he a more scholarly type, and Joseph always had to go and find him to help, because he kept sneaking off to visit the local rabbi and talk about God? Or maybe he liked people so much that he spent a lot of time hanging out with his friends. After all, what we do know about Jesus shows him always around people and having a close association with his disciples.

 

After Jesus resurrection, the scriptures tell us that Jesus appeared to his disciples and they often did not recognize who he was. Have you ever wondered why that was so? His own disciples would be standing right next to him and not know him. What was Jesus’ appearance like at that moment? Was he able to appear as an old man or otherwise shift his physical appearance in some manner?

 

My mom once told of seeing Jesus in her dreams. She suffered from an undiagnosed Hepatitis C infection that destroyed her liver. She had to have a liver transplant or not survive, and before the operation in a dream she saw Jesus seated on a white throne in a distance and he turned to her and waved as if to say not yet. From that point she received a transplant, startled the doctors by recovering so quickly, and lived without her liver ever failing her. You must know that I do not discount my Mom’s dreams. Now according to my Mom Jesus has long chestnut brown hair and blue eyes.

 

When we get to heaven how will we know who Jesus is? Of course, there is the obvious answer. It is found in the riddle: What is the only thing in heaven that is manmade? The answer: the scars in Jesus hands and feet and side. We will know Jesus by the nail scars in his hands.

 

If you want to see Jesus and know Jesus, he is to be found by looking toward the scars. This is really the basic message for today. Jesus true nature and person is revealed in the event of the cross and in its meaning for our lives today.

 

Let us consider our text. Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the Pharisees said, “You see that you can do nothing, Look, the world has gone after him!” Everybody saw Jesus and followed him. In our text today we read that, some individuals who were Greek came seeking Jesus as well. It is as if even the Gentile world, where idolatry was common and human philosophy was highly regarded, was now too wanting to know Jesus. They came seeking an interview, but when Jesus heard of their presence and desire, he began sharing a most unusual discourse.

 

Not paying much attention to the request the Greeks made of him, Jesus seems to use their query as a sign –a sign that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What hour was Jesus speaking about? Do you remember reading in chapter 2 of John’s gospel as Mary called upon Jesus to help at the wedding feast because they were out of wine. Before Jesus changed the water into wine, he said to Mary, “O woman what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” The significance in that statement is found here in chapter 12 where Jesus says now the hour has come. The hour Jesus was speaking about was the moment for the revelation of God’s work. Now the time had come when indeed Jesus would make himself fully known, and that indeed the world might see him. However, this revelation would not come through some type of kingly coronation. Many expected the messiah to be crowned king. Here Jesus begins once more relating the concept of his impending death. God’s revelation and salvation would be reveled through the cross. The purpose of Jesus life was to culminate in the cross, and his life would become something even more for our world; than just being one person in one place.

 

Our scriptures in a climatic pause before the cross, and the completion of God’s work, are filled with images and descriptions of what was to come. “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.”

 

And again, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

 

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

 

It is completely evident what Jesus was talking about here. All these statements are speaking about his impending death and resurrection, and the fact that God was going to use the cross as the means of bringing humanity before him. No human being can hope to come before the holy presence of God trusting in their own strength, goodness, or righteousness. Jesus reminds us of our need to receive what God has done through him.

 

This text is just the basic Gospel message. Do you want to see Jesus? Do you want to know Jesus and have eternal life? Then you must look to the cross. You must look to the nail scars in the hands and feet of Christ, and accept the gift of forgiveness that God has given to the world through his death. You do not have to completely understand it. No one probably does, but in faith you must receive it. Jesus died so that forgiveness of sin would be available to you, and through a prayer of faith God gives you this gift.

 

“Around Good Friday 1373, an English woman laid in bed, stricken by the plague, and facing what she thought would be her own death. She did not die but came to be known to us as Julian of Norwich, one of the greatest of all English Christian mystics. For comfort they placed before her eyes a crucifix. In these moments Julian received a series of visions of Jesus, which she wrote down in a book entitled “Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.” The Eighth Revelation, the heart of the book, concerns the Passion and the Cross, focusing on Jesus’ pain and suffering. “Is any pain like this?” she wondered, “… Of all pains that lead to salvation this is the most pain, to see thy Love suffer. …

 

In this community of pain, forged by the suffering of Jesus, Julian articulated one of her great theological insights: “Here saw I a great ONEING betwixt Christ and us: for when He was in pain, we were in pain.” To Julian, the Cross was about the complete unity of God with us and us with God; and not only us as humans, but as she relates from the vision, the ONEING of “all creatures that suffer pain, suffer with Him … and the firmament, the earth, failed in sorrow” and the planets, all the elements, and even the stars despaired at Christ’s dying. The cosmic circle of grief, emanating from Jesus’ Passion, reveals that Jesus not only suffered for us; but he suffered with us — his death occurred for the sake of “Kinship and Love” with all this was, is, and will be.” (Diana Butler Bass, “Good Friday: Being With Jesus at the Cross,” Patheos.com, April 6, 2012)

 

In Julian’s dying state as a result of the Black Death, she didn’t find herself separated from God, but rather in the cross and in her pain, she found that God was not on the outside of her life watching, but God participates in our suffering and leads us to salvation and life. God is love and life for us even in the suffering.

 

When we are able to look to the cross, this is the beginning of knowing Jesus better.

 

Secondly, Jesus reminds his listeners that not only are they to look toward the work of the cross that God does, but they likewise must follow him. To see Jesus, we must follow in his footsteps.

 

Jesus said, “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 honor.”

 

To be present with Christ, to experience eternal life when this earthly life is over, we must follow Christ. The question is not so much what will you give up on a day-to-day basis, but what will you live for? We find life when we find that the Spirit of Christ is living through us.

 

One strong example of this might be found in the story of a Vietnamese evangelist Dihn Trung . In 1995, he was arrested and beaten by the police. Then they threw him in jail. His crime? Preaching the Gospel of Christ.

 

    While in jail, Trung began preaching to the other inmates. Finally, after six months, outside pressure from Christians around the world forced the Vietnamese government to release Trung. BUT HE REFUSED HIS RELEASE. So many men in the prison were coming to Christ that Trung decided to stay there and serve out his full sentence. As he said, “I don’t care about my own life. The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me–to tell people the good news about God’s grace.” (story from web sources)

 

Another example may be John Wesley on his 85th Birthday once said: “I have only to say: My remnant of days I spend to his praise, who died the whole world to redeem; be they many or few, my days are his due, and they all are devoted to him.”

 

Now we here may never be imprisoned for declaring that salvation comes in the name of Christ. We may never start a revival or reformation that changes the religious landscape of our world. We may never be martyred for our faith, but God is always calling us toward some higher purpose. As we accept the sacrifice that Christ made for our sakes, contemplate its meaning for our lives, and as we willing allow our lives to be used by God, I believe we will not need to wonder what Jesus is like, or what he looks like, because without a doubt we will find Christ alive within ourselves and those whose lives we touch, and then we indeed shall see Jesus. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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