We Wish to See Jesus: John 12:20-33

John 12:20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 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.

“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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler 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 indicate the kind of death he was to die.


Imagine you can see God with your own eyes. What do you picture?

Do you see a white bearded old man? Do you see a stern judge? Someone who is surrounded by gleaming white with golden trumpets, halos and harps? Is God distant, behind a closed gate?

Now think about Jesus. What do you see? “Eight-pound, six-ounce, newborn infant Jesus, who doesn’t even know a word yet—little infant, so cuddly but still omnipotent”?

Perhaps you picture a pastel painting of a fair-skinned man looking gently at children and lambs surrounding him? Is he meek? Or is he strong and manly, overturning the money changers’ tables in the temple? Is he a crucifix hanging on a wall?

What do you picture?

Do you see him performing miracles? Someone who makes you successful if you believe — who gives you what you want, or who wouldn’t give you the time of day? Do you see nothing but a bunch of dusty, old, irrelevant stories that have no bearing on the real world?

We all have our own ideas about God and about Jesus. Our ideas may be true, or they may be something we made up to create our own God in the image we want or think we deserve — good or bad.

Our ideas may come from Sunday School coloring books or from what we hear in church sermons. They might come from the people we hang out with or from the latest memes going around on social media. They can even come from pop culture. Movies, TV shows, books and music. (For anyone who caught it, yes, there was a movie reference a few paragraphs up.)

It’s natural to wonder. To imagine.

There was a popular rock song on the radio in the ‘90s that painted an incredible picture of God. I don’t think the writer and the singer were trying to make a Christian song about faith. They were likely looking through a lens of skepticism and doubt — perhaps even mocking religion; I don’t know. Either way, the result is beautiful and honest. Take a listen to the lyrics:

If God had a name, what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

If God had a face, what would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in Jesus and the Saints
And all the prophets?

And yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good.

Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?

(Osbourne, Joan, “One of Us.” Relish, Mercury Records, 1995)

That’s it, right there. I wonder whether they knew what an incredible reflection they were making on God with their song. I’m pretty sure they weren’t trying to get at the heart of today’s Gospel reading — but they did.

This Gospel reading opens strangely. It seems to randomly mention “some Greeks” who wish to see Jesus. They may be Gentiles but are probably Jews who have traveled here to Jerusalem for the Passover. We don’t know for sure, and we’ll never hear another word about them. All we know is that they wish to see Jesus.

At this point in the Gospel story, we are jumping in late in the time of Jesus preaching, teaching and performing miracles. In fact, just one chapter back in the Gospel of John, Jesus has just raised his friend Lazarus from the dead — not only a miracle, but a prophesied sign of the coming Messiah.

By now, a lot of people are excited, and word is getting around. After hearing about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, the crowds are flocking in to see the one who might be the Messiah, the Anointed One. They gather along the roadside waving palm branches and hailing him as the King while he rides into Jerusalem — and then this story happens.

All these people who have come from as far away as Greece, and maybe farther, have come looking for the Messiah they have envisioned for so long. They want to see with their own eyes.

What do they see? Is Jesus the Messiah they have imagined?

The fact is that many Jews of the time, probably in this crowd, have not been picturing a pacifist surrounded by baby lambs and smiling children. They have been picturing a real king — someone strong who would drive out the Roman and Syrian soldiers occupying their homeland. Someone who would right the past wrongs against them, strike down their enemies and establish an enduring earthly kingdom with them and their God at the center.

Not everyone in the crowd has such a triumphant image in mind. Who knows? Some of the people who wish to see Jesus just want to see him perform some neat tricks or to hear him says some nutty things. Yeah, some just want to see some good entertainment.

They all wish to see Jesus, but they are not going to find him performing tricks or making speeches. They are not going to see him leading a parade or an army. Not this week.

All along, Jesus has been inviting people to come and see. But now, at the end of his public ministry, he says the hour has come for him to be glorified. We’re moving past “come and see” into something that will change us forever.

In the next few days — for the people in this story; in a couple weeks for us in our modern church calendar — Jesus is going to be betrayed, arrested, put on trial, beaten and crucified.

Just a slob like one of us.


Do you remember that you were made in God’s own image? That’s what we are told in scripture. We talk about it here in church often. If you want to see what God looks like, look in the mirror. Look at the people sitting next to you. That’s one way you can know for sure God loves you.

But when you and I were made in the image of God, the picture wasn’t supposed to include things like selfishness, jealousy or resentment. The picture wasn’t supposed to be one of unhealthy relationships, loneliness, alcohol and drug addiction, being married to our careers or worshiping money.

It wasn’t supposed to include all the stuff that tears us down, spoils all the goodness with which we were made, and devalues the life we were given.

We shouldn’t want that kind of junk in our lives, and yet we keep going back to it. That isn’t life — not the true life God intends for us. It isn’t the life that was made to be in God’s own image. It’s a picture that has become faded, stained, worn, torn and moldy. A picture of death.

So, Jesus comes to us in all our crud and muck — joins us in our messy lives. God, in person, intentionally remade into OUR image. A guy who faces temptation, loss, loneliness, frustration, hunger, incarceration, pain and death.

Just a slob like one of us.

And that is why, if we wish to see Jesus, we must look for him in a place where the crowd there doesn’t expect to find him. Yes, he will be glorified later on when he is lifted up to Heaven. Before that, yes, he will be lifted up out of death’s grave. But before that even, he must be lifted up on a cross to die.

If we wish to see Jesus, this is where we find him.

This is where he draws us to himself, up on the cross. He gathers in all the brokenness, the messes we have become. He gathers these stained pictures, these busted lives that have become something other than the good, living image of God.

If you wish to see Jesus, come to the cross. Bring the unhealthy stuff you keep holding onto, the stuff that devalues life. Devalues who you were made to be. It isn’t life, and it isn’t the real and beautiful you that God made. So, bring it. Bring it to the cross and let it die.

Because Jesus goes down to the grave and he takes the stains, the brokenness and the junk with him. And when he is resurrected, so are you — the REAL you. You are reborn, made once again in God’s own image, the very picture of life and all that is good. You are made beautiful once again. You are made worthy.

And this time, child of God, it can’t be undone. You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Amen.

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