"Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21).
In John's gospel, Jesus has become so popular that everyone wants to see him. Even some Greeks who happen to be in town for a festival want to see him. They've heard the stories, now they want to see the real thing. In the flesh. Person to person. Face to face.
Well don't we all.
Just before these Greeks come along, it certainly seems like everyone wants to see Jesus. "Look, the whole world has gone after him," the pharisees wonder, just before these Greeks step forward (John 12: 19). It must certainly have seemed like it.
Some people think these Greeks represent the Gentiles who will also turn to Jesus. Of course, since they're in town for the festival, it's just as likely that they're Jews from Greece. They could also, just as easily, be tourists who happen to be in the right place at the right time. You can just hear them, can't you? "Oh, look, there's that Jesus everyone's talking about. Let's go see." They could be anyone from anywhere.
Isn't that really the point? Jesus is for everyone. Jesus is visible, right there on the street. Jesus is real.
We talk a lot in church about "seeing Christ in friend and stranger." We try to remind people to be Christ-like in their living and encourage people to follow the example of Jesus with action, not just talk.
But in the end, that's still just talk. We could look back and see that all that preaching has often been just talk, but we could also see it today in those whose claims to be a Christian don’t match their behaviour. To follow Jesus means to do Jesus, to live Jesus, to do the best are able to live out the nature of God that is in us.
So we try to do better than talk. We point at the stories of Jesus and say "look, just like that - Jesus doesn't just talk, Jesus lives what he preaches about. See?" And wouldn't it be great if we could point at the real thing, as it's happening, and say "look - that's what Jesus is talking about. Right there." Then we'd be, literally, face to face with Jesus.
I’ve talked about this before. A lot, even, and I think - I hope - that many people do. And there’s been more than talk, we’ve tried to engage it practically, whenever we can but also with some special events to highlight it. Like a few years ago, our church did a “Faces of Jesus” project where we invited people to bring in 10” x 10” pictures of how they saw Jesus in the world, people they know, historical figures, art, events and we created a wall of “what does Jesus look like to you?” to inspire us. For three years now, we’ve promoted Angels Among Us in November, a time in which we encourage people to see and do random acts of kindness, to be like “angels.” Or Jesus.
There are more, and many people are being just as proactive and engaging. Look around you. This week, though, I’m reminded about the specific context of that “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” verse and what happens next.
In John’s gospel, this isn’t a moment for Jesus to say “come and see, then” like he did to the first disciples to follow him (John 1:39). This is the moment at which Jesus knows his ministry is done and the next part of his journey is to death.
So, do look around you for Jesus. See Jesus in the kind, loving and compassionate. See Jesus in the strong and those with much to share. But take a hard look around and see Jesus also in those who struggle. See Jesus in those who risk and give all that they have just to be alive. See Jesus in those who grieve. The journey to wholeness, to the new life that Jesus brings, includes all these things.