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We want to see Jesus

Rev.Harry Currie

Mar 17, 2024

Jeremiah 31:31-34, John 12:20-33

In today’s gospel lesson some Greeks want to see Jesus.

The Greeks come to Philip, Philip comes to Andrew, Andrew with Philip come to Jesus. At least it is good to know that the Presbyterian habit of running every idea through a circuit of committee meetings has some biblical warrant.

       They want to see Jesus. We don’t know why they wanted to see Jesus. Maybe they were just curious. Maybe stories had circulated far and wide about Jesus

Maybe they wanted some words of wisdom. Maybe they wanted to debate him. Possibly they were Jesus enemies, although I think that not very likely.

Maybe they had a favour to ask of Jesus. Maybe they wanted some guidance, a blessing, a healing. Maybe they wanted to drink the waters of acceptance and love. Maybe they were hungry for friendship. Maybe their souls were dried up and parched. Maybe their souls were troubled because of sin or grief, or loss, or injustice.

       Maybe they needed to confess. Maybe they needed forgiveness.

We do not know. What we might know, or maybe not is this.

Why do we want to see Jesus today?


Is there some reason you would wish to see Jesus? Does your faith need a boost? Is there some trouble you are facing? Is there some wisdom you need? Is there some confession you need to make? Or is it to have a sense of joy and fulfilment and meaning you seek?


I know what it is like to want to see Jesus, to see God, to want the Holy Spirit in me.

Like any human my motives are not always one hundred percent pure. I know what it is like to want Jesus to do something for me. I know what it is like to not so much want Jesus, as I want Jesus to do something for me. Take away pain, solve my troubles, soothe my soul, forgive my sin and give me joy.

       But I also know what it like at least for brief moments to truly surrender into Christ, to truly let go of self, to let Jesus inhabit me. …to want to see Jesus so that I can become like Jesus. want to see Jesus so I can love like Jesus. …to want to see Jesus so I can be a place of safety and healing for others. …to want to see Jesus so I have the Holy Spirit filling me with love, faith, joy, peace, patience, compassion and the like.

And I also know what it is like to not want Jesus. To know I have screwed up so badly, that I, like Adam and Eve want to go and hide and cover up my sin, my ego, my failings, my selfishness… Cover them up with fig leaves, or bullshit excuses, or lies I tell myself.


We wish to see Jesus. It speaks to wanting to spiritually grow. It speaks to be wanting to be more than we are.

       It speaks to stripping away all the sin, the crap, the religious, cultural and family baggage.

Or it speaks of need, of lack, or injustice, or pain or insecurity.

       It speaks to wanting to let go of inner hurt and damage.

It speaks to letting go of our false self and finding our true self, our God-self.


But how does one see Jesus?



Once upon a time thousands of years ago there were two men in a city. One was very rich and one was very poor. The Rich man had lots of herds of cattle and lots of flocks of sheep.

The poor man worked as a labourer for the rich man. Basically, the poor man was a slave paying off his debt to the rich man, so he really had nothing much of value.

The only animal he had was a little lamb. The little lamb was a pet to him and his family; and it lived with them and slept with them and ate with them. It was like one of the family.


One day, a traveller came to visit the Rich Man. It was customary as a sign of good hospitality for a guest to prepare a lamb for dinner.

But the Rich Man didn’t want to take one of his many lambs, so the Rich Man sent some of his servants to the Poor Man’s House, and took the little lamb who was the Poor Man’s pet. When the poor man protested, they reminded him that he was a slave of the rich man and didn’t have any rights to property, that any property went to the rich man as part of the debt he owed the rich man.

The Rich Man served the Poor Man’s little lamb for dinner, while the poor man and his family cried at the loss of their little pet lamb.


When King David heard this story, he was incensed. He said to the storyteller, Nathan the prophet: “This rich man deserves to die. What an uncaring beast. Who is this Rich Man, so I can punish him?”


And Nathan said: “You are the Rich Man, O King. You are the one who saw the little lamb Bathsheba. You had her husband Uriah killed and took the little lamb to be your wife.”


It is said that King David got the point. It is said that King David repented and the Lord forgave him and didn’t kill him.

It is said that not only did David feel terrible sorrow for his sin, but that he wrote a whole Psalm about his terrible sin, repenting of his ways.


Have mercy on me, O God,    according to your steadfast love;according to your abundant mercy    blot out my transgressions.2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,    and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,    and my sin is ever before me.4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,    and done what is evil in your sight,

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,    and put a new and right spirit within me.11 Do not cast me away from your presence,    and do not take your holy spirit from me.


I wonder if, when David did his heartfelt confession, he was as close to God as he ever was. That when he confessed and truly saw himself that David saw God.


So, I wonder that if we truly want to see God here and now, one way… is to truly and honestly see one’s self and confess one’s sin.

 It is to be truly and even brutally honest about one’s self, its weaknesses and sins; and tell God about them, tell another human about them, tell yourself about them, and desire to be different.


You know it is one thing to pray and to confess sin from a general level.

       It is not too hard to stand up in a pulpit and say that I have been selfish, that my ego gets in the way sometimes, that I like to eat too much and occasionally I envy those who have lots of money and things.

Most of us can confess to general things.

But what is it like to get really specific. To tell God in great detail about your conflict with a particular person and your negative feelings for them. To tell God about your drinking, or drug problem, the way you made that lady uncomfortable by a suggestive remark, the ways you cheat on income tax, the affair that you had with someone else’s spouse whether it is a real affair, or just one you imagine.

What is it actually like to confess your sin to a person you have harmed intentionally or unintentionally and say you are sorry, and ask for forgiveness?


It seems to me that one real way to see Jesus is to actually talk to Jesus and not just ask for favours, but to treat Jesus as your best friend, your closest confidante and get totally real with Jesus and tell Jesus everything.


I sometimes think that we have been so schooled in a culture of judgement and punishment that we are scared to have these conversations.

Our egos put up all kinds of defenses to total honesty and total vulnerability because we have learned in this world that when we are totally honest, when we confess, when we are vulnerable, we will be in trouble.

People will point fingers and accuse and blame and hurt and punish.

So, we learn to hide, and pretend, and dissemble and prevaricate, and tell half-truths, and put on masks.

How are you? Someone asks. We say we are fine, most of the time, to most people, even when we are not fine.


       The world loves to judge, loves to find us guilty and loves to punish.

       I believe that is what Jesus calls, the ruler of this world.

Judgement, condemnation and punishment.


       We know what it is like to be shamed, to be embarrassed, to be left out, to be shunned, or to be handed out any other number of judgements, condemnations and punishments that people mete on us for crossing lines, or breaking rules, or infringing on someone else’s personal unresolved issue.

       What would it be like if the ruler of this world was driven out and we could confess our sins, and be ourselves and be totally honest and vulnerable without judgement, condemnation and punishment?


       I remember one time watching a Brother Cadfael movie. Brother Cadfael is a monk who solves murder mysteries. There are twenty-three novels by Ellis Peters and several of the books were made into British mystery movies starring Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael.


       One time Brother Cadfael finds a murderer and finds that there is a nun who has incriminating evidence, because she was a witness to the act. The wrinkle is that the nun saw the murder when she was a prostitute several years earlier.

       Brother Cadfael goes to the nun and asks if she will testify. He says that he understands if she feels she cannot testify, because in order to do that she will have to reveal that she was a prostitute in her past life.


       The nun replies that now she has given her heart to God and confessed her sin, she has nothing of which to be ashamed, because she is forgiven and committed to the truth.


       It was in the movies a beautiful example of someone who was not afraid to be themselves and to be totally honest and vulnerable knowing that in God’s eyes she was God’s beloved child. It didn’t matter what others thought.


       Maybe her being a nun, would have made that total honesty and vulnerability easier. Who’s to say?


       But isn’t that freeing. To be yourself, to be totally honest, to know that you have confessed everything to God and it doesn’t matter what others think.


       There are many other ways to see God, but a good way to start is with total honesty and confession.


       We want to see Jesus.


The strange thing in the gospel lesson is that the Greeks want to go and see Jesus. They speak to Philip who speaks to Andrew. Andrew and Philip go to Jesus and tell him that there are Greeks wanting to see him….

       ….and yet Jesus doesn’t answer them about whether he will see the Greeks or not.

       We don’t know if he did or didn’t.


Instead of Jesus letting the disciples know whether he will see the Greeks Jesus launches into a kind of soliloquy which is quite common in the Gospel of John.


       Jesus gives a speech about his upcoming death saying that unless a grain of wheat dies it cannot bear fruit. Jesus also talks about hating your life in order to keep your life. He talks about serving him by following him.

       Jesus says that you have to lose your soul to save it, but then says that his own soul is troubled.

       Jesus talks about glory. Jesus talks about the ruler of this world being driven out. Jesus talks about being lifted up so that he could draw all people to himself.


       Wow Jesus. What does that have to do with Greeks who want to see you?

       And Jesus, to be fair, it is all a little confusing.


Well, I do think that is all has to do with seeing Jesus.


I think that the Greeks are much like us. The issue of seeing Jesus in the physical flesh is not the issue.


       Most of us, if not all of us will never physically see Jesus, or at least the Jesus who walked on earth.


But to see Jesus in the scriptures is not just seeing a person physically. To see Jesus is to understand what Jesus is all about.

       In Mark’s gospel we have talked about the first half of the gospel, where people are saying who is this. Then we have Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah. Then we have the second half of the gospel which is all about what kind of Christ this is. Then the culmination is that we don’t really see or understand Christ until we see him on the cross.

       And Mark’s gospel is about suffering with Jesus and following Jesus to the cross and taking up a cross with Jesus.


       John’s gospel seems to have a totally different flavour.

In John’s gospel there are big signs that reveal the glory of God and the cross is referred to as Jesus’ glorification.


       But for both Mark and John, you don’t really understand Jesus until you understand the cross.


The Greeks have come to see Jesus in John’s gospel, and whether they physically see him or not is not the point for Jesus. The point is that if you really want to see Jesus you have to see the cross.

       That is where Jesus will be lifted up and draw people to themselves.

       That is where the ruler of the world will be driven out. Personally, I think the ruler of the world is not Satan, but hate and judgement and condemnation and punishment.


It is the cross where we learn what it means to hate our ego, or our psyche, in order to truly love.

       That is where we learn to be a servant.

       That is where Jesus is glorified.

       That is where Jesus dies like a grain of wheat to bear much fruit.

       That is where we see Jesus and meet Jesus and experience Jesus.


       Glory is used all the time in John’s gospel. I must say it is a confusing word and is used in a seemingly confusing way.

       It is a confusing word because the Greek Word doxa originally didn’t mean glory. It meant “to appear, to seem, to think, to accept.”

       In Classical Greek, Doxa was understood more as a belief.

       One of the so-called early Christian heresies was called Docetism, based on the word Doxa.

       The heresy was that Jesus just appeared to be human or seemed to be human but wasn’t really human and didn’t really suffer. It was called Docetism based on the Greek word Doxa meaning: to seem, to appear.


       So how did Doxa come to mean glory? When Jews in Egypt translated what we call the Old Testament into Greek, in a book called the Septuagint, they translated the Hebrew word for glory into Greek using the Greek word Doxa.


       In the Old Testament the Glory of the Lord is when the Lord appeared to humans. When the Hebrews followed the cloud in the wilderness it was believed that God lived in this cloud of glory called a Shekinah. And sometimes that God would come down to earth.

       So, glory, had more of a sense of the presence of the Lord. Of course, the presence of the Lord is glorious.

       So somehow, when the writers translated glory and they looked for a Greek word, and couldn’t find an exact word they used Doxa with an emphasis on the appearance of God.

       The glory of God is in some ways the presence of God, and in the New Testament God is most present and visible on the cross. That is the glory of the cross.

Not glory like winning the Stanley Cup, but glory that God has come to earth and is present in the most real and tangible way.


       God is also present in the signs in John’s gospel which help people see and experience God. God’s glory is revealed. God’s presence is revealed. You can truly see Jesus.



       It is my belief that you really see Jesus, when you see the cross. You really understand Jesus when you see that he died to prove that nothing can separate us from his love. You can kill Jesus and he will still love you.


       And one of the best ways to experience Jesus is to die with him. It is to confess our sin, be totally honest and let Jesus change us to become more like him.


       But there are many ways to see Jesus.


       There is a story about a business man who was frantically rushing through an airport lobby because he was late for a flight. A little boy was walking along with a puzzle that he had just put together. The businessman smacked into the boy and the pieces of the puzzle, along with the boy, went flying everywhere. The man sat down on the floor beside the boy to see if he was okay. He was going to miss his flight. While he was on the floor with the kid he put the pieces back into their proper places and handed the puzzle fully intact back to the child. The little boy smiled with surprise and said, “Hey Mister. Are you Jesus?”

I believe for a moment that man was Jesus, he was the body of Christ to that boy, and the little boy saw Jesus.



Everyone who loves you, everyone who helps you, everyone who gives to the poor, sacrifices for others, is a way to see and experience Jesus.

       When you give to someone, help someone, listen to someone, share with someone, forgive someone, include someone, it is the same as doing it to Jesus, and I believe you see and experience Jesus.


       When you are at the movies or read a book and you are touched with something inspirational, Jesus talks to you and moves you.

       When you enjoy the beauty of nature and go for a walk, he walks with you and talks with you.


       We want to see Jesus.


Well, Jesus is not hidden. He is in scripture. He is in the church. He is in worship. He is wherever love is, wherever compassion is. He is in the anthems and the hymns and the prayers and the person who sits next to you in the pew; Jesus is in the homeless person you see on the street. He is in people being held hostage in Gaza and with children who are being bombed in Gaza.

       How do I know this? My faith tells me that if I look at the story of Jesus and especially the cross and the resurrection, I know what Jesus is about. I see Jesus as he really is. The cross tells me that Jesus is love for all; and the scriptures and the resurrection tell me Jesus is alive and living in people, living wherever there is love, and living wherever there are people in need. Amen.


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