Saturday, March 21, 2015

Seeing Jesus

John 12: 20-33
I am struck this week by the request at the beginning of this passage. Some Greeks approach Philip, whose name is Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic. These “Greeks” may be diaspora Jews, or Gentile Jewish sympathizers, or simply some Greek-speaking tourists who are curious about Jesus. They say, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
Something about the arrival of these “Greeks” triggers Jesus’ speech describing his impending death. Up until now, Jesus has declared that his hour has not yet come. But now, that changes. Now, his hour has come. The end is at hand. Jesus will soon die, and be raised. He never does see the Greeks who come to see him, it seems. He is now totally focused on the immediate future – his death and resurrection.
The Greeks want to see Jesus – so it’s a good time to reflect on the Jesus John has shown us. He was introduced as the Logos, the Word, present from the very beginning, very God of very God.
He turned water into wine.
He challenged Nicodemus to see a relationship with God as the most important thing in his life.
He offered living water to a foreign woman of questionable repute. She in turn introduced him to her community, starting with – “He knows everything there is to know about me!”
He took some bread and some fish and fed thousands of hungry people, claiming, “I am the Bread of Life.”
He healed a blind man, who struggled to prove to others that he was the same old blind man that had sat begging for years. Those who did not want to believe were the truly blind people.
He described himself as the Vine, connected forever to us, the branches.
He described himself as the Good Shepherd, and the Gate to the sheepfold, and the Voice the sheep recognize.
He is the channel of God’s power to raise Lazarus from the dead.
He has drawn the attention of the powerful folks in Jerusalem, who are very unhappy with the things he says and does. We don’t like it when other people upset the status quo, and make changes we don’t approve of.
This is the Jesus the Greeks came to see. Is this the Jesus we help others to see?
Do we help people see the Jesus who cares deeply about all kinds of people, even the people we don’t approve of?
Do we help people see the Jesus who invites the tough questions, the Jesus who accepts differing opinions about himself and his purpose on earth?
Do we help people see the Jesus the shepherd who gathers in the flock of wayward sheep, and leads us into new mission fields?
Do we really believe and act as if the tomb is empty, for both Lazarus and Jesus the Son of God?
This week, in Bible study and at the council meeting, I asked the same question. “How do we help people see Jesus?”
Pray for them. Invite them. Clothe them. Feed them. Visit them. These were common answers to my question. We find them in Matthew 25, when Jesus says that when we do these things to (or for or with) our neighbors, we do them for Jesus, too.
So, now some stories:
… One day last week, Mike and I had dinner at a restaurant. Nothing new there! But the waitress surprised us. We try to learn the names of our servers, and to get to know a bit about them. This night, the server – let’s call her Mary – said, “Thank you for using my name. So many people don’t think of us as human.” As she brought our salads and meal to us, we learned that she has a child, she is attending school and has just over a year of studies to go until she earns her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. While we never talked about Jesus, we showed her Jesus by treating her as a real person, not just part of the service of the restaurant.
… It is hard to figure out who deserves benefits, and who is trying to take advantage of us. I was at lunch a couple of months ago in Ocala. Outside the restaurant doors, a homeless woman was asking for some cash. It costs $8 a night to stay in a homeless shelter, and she didn’t have that much. Could we spare any change for her? I have become jaded by people asking for a handout instead of getting a job, and I said I didn’t have anything to offer her. I could have spared a dollar and not missed it. I definitely did not show her Jesus.
… One of our favorite TV shows is Blue Bloods, a police drama that airs on Friday evening. While the drama is intense, the Christian values of the family members are always evident. Their spiritual values sometimes conflict with the demands of their jobs as police officers, detectives, and attorneys. But in every episode the family is shown gathered around the Sunday dinner table. They take turns saying the table prayer, sometimes short and sweet, sometimes thoughtful. It’s amazing to me that in this time, such a witness to Jesus is made every time.
… Pearl and her young sons noticed a group of homeless men sitting at a picnic table in the park. The men had a plastic tarp spread to keep themselves and their possessions dry. In their affluent neighborhood, homeless people were rare, and the boys had never seen such people before.
The boys wanted to know where the men went at night, what they would receive for Christmas. When the boys learned that they didn’t have houses and they would not get Christmas presents, they decided to buy some things to give them a party. They purchased some personal items, some granola bars, some home-made cards, and some Bibles. They wrapped everything and took the packages to the men, still camped at the park. This family took Jesus to this group of homeless men.  
… What stories do you have to share about helping people see Jesus? When have you helped someone with the Holy Spirit’s guidance or prodding? When have you neglected to show them Jesus – what have you learned from that moment?
Watch this week for opportunities to help those you encounter see Jesus. Visit the sick. Feed the hungry. House the homeless. Clothe the naked. Pray for those in need in any way. Engage in conversation and discuss the challenging issues with open minds and open hearts.
See, really see, the people around you and help them see Jesus. Remember that the tomb is empty, and there is nothing you can’t do with Jesus’ help.

Please pray with me. Jesus, we want to see you, really see you. And we want to help others see you, too. Open our hearts, our minds, and our hearts, so we can show others your love, your forgiveness, and your power. Amen