John 12:20-36, NIV 2011 (https://my.bible.com/bible/111/JHN.12.20-36)
'Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their 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 honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” 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. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’ ? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. '
Years ago, I served at a church where the person preaching the message was a trial attorney and elder of the church. Early on, I realized how powerful that was. Each week, I was challenged to see Jesus as someone rather than something. The goal of preaching was twofold: Proclaim Jesus and walk people through the Bible. Prior to my taking over the pulpit, he told me that he and the other man who shared the pulpit before me taped the phrase, “We’d see Jesus” to the pulpit to remind them of their purpose. At the same time, I was working on my degree in Theology. I was taking a class designed to help me improve as a preacher. I was learning how to better understand the role of the Bible in forming my worldview (thoughts of God, myself, the world around me, etc.) and proclaiming the work of Jesus. As I was letting those influences shape me, I remember one phrase the professor said when the sermon just wouldn’t seem to come. He said in those moments all we can do is “brag on Jesus”. Over the years, I have found that in most cases, bragging on Jesus sufficiently proclaims him.
However, to brag on Jesus, we must see Him.
When these Greeks approached the disciples saying they wanted to see Jesus, it was likely John’s way of building on 12:19, when the Pharisees had argued, “Look how the whole world has gone after him!” The world had come to see Jesus and He essentially tells them to wait and they’ll see him soon enough–they and the rest of the world.
Jesus’ death will be the only way that people who search for him will truly find Him. The story of the kernel dying to bring life to many new seeds, brings home the point. It is in his death, that people will truly “see him”. The challenge of seeing Jesus’ death for what it is means that we are willing to see ourselves as we are.
It means to accept that:
we are not as we should be.
we are not able to correct it on our own.
we are in desperate need.
God loves us beyond ourselves.
God has made this known through Jesus’ death.
Jesus tells the crowd listening that when he is lifted up from the earth he will draw all people to himself. When he suffers death on the cross, all the earth will see him. When we speak of his death for the forgiveness of sins, everyone will see him. When we testify to the power of that forgiveness and the promise we have because of his resurrection, then people will see him. While we might speak of his miracles as evidence of his authority, we must eventually point to the cross to speak of his work. While we hold to his teachings and the other Scriptures as reasoning for the way we live our lives, eventually we must point to the Cross to speak of the life we have. While we might attempt to live out the call of Jesus in our lives so others might catch a glimpse of him, it is only when we point to the Cross that they will be able to see Him.
If we are to answer the question of the “Greeks” today, then we must be willing to say daily in our lives, “We’d like to see Jesus”.
Go in Peace!