Preached FCCW March 18, 2018
The time for the festival of Passover was approaching, and as was typical on the eve of such an important holy day, Jerusalem was swarming with people.
Many in the crowds that filled the streets were faithful Jews who had made the pilgrimage to worship at the city’s great Temple.
Many, but not all.
There were some Greeks there, too.
Now, “Greek” was a rather loose term at that time for anyone who was not Jewish.
Greek or Hellenistic culture shaped the civilized world at that time.
It was a culture that lifted up philosophy and reason as the keys to understanding life.
So, “Greek” was a label that marked these visitors to Jerusalem not only as foreigners, but also as outsiders to the faith.
Today we might call them “unchurched.”
Or, we might describe them as “spiritual seekers.”
These particular Greeks, that John mentions, came seeking for something, which actually turned out to be a someone.
They sought out a disciple of Jesus named Philip – with a request.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Now, in John’s gospel, seeing usually means more than what we do with our eyes.
It often indicates the perception of our hearts.
There are stories of Jesus restoring sight to blind people, but the point of the stories is not just that Jesus healed their physical eyesight, but that their eyes were opened to see Jesus for who he is.
They “get” who Jesus is and what his mission is about.
On the other hand, people who have perfectly good eyesight are sometimes referred to as being blind, because they misinterpret who Jesus is.
In John’s metaphorical language, these Greeks wanted something more than a glimpse of Jesus.
They wanted to know him.
So, Philip obliges them. He goes and gets Andrew and together they go to find Jesus.
When “seekers” walk through the doors of churches today, is our first impulse to direct them to Jesus?
What do we “see” in a newcomer?
Do we see someone who we can help to know Jesus better?
Or, do we see a potential pledging unit?
Do we see a possible candidate to fill an open slot on a committee?
In other words, do we “see” a visitor as someone we can serve by guiding them to a deeper relationship with Jesus?
Or do we only see how they might serve the needs of the church?
The church experience of my own youth felt more like a system of religious obligations to be met, than meeting and developing a living relationship to, a loving God.
For the life of me, I couldn’t understand what people got out of going to church.
The answers to life’s questions seemed to me to be more easily found outside of church, than inside of it.
When I finally arrived at the doors of a Church (by choice), it wasn’t because I needed something to do on Sunday mornings.
It was because I began to suspect that maybe there was more to life – that there were deeper answers – than what the world had shown me.
I went looking for a church that could help me to see – help me to get to know – Jesus.
The church that I eventually called home for many years, was one that helped me do just that.
The question that churches should ask themselves if they want to evaluate their ministries has little to do with statistics, but it has everything to do with whether or not spiritual seekers see Jesus embodied in the life of the church.
That’s the bottom line. Are we leading people to know Jesus?
Ours is an incarnational faith.
It is grounded in the belief that a transcendent God took on flesh to be known by the world in the life of a man named Jesus.
But it also is grounded in the faith that the resurrected Jesus continues to be incarnated in men and women who make up the Church.
When Greeks came wanting to see Jesus, he told his disciples that the time was coming when he would be known best through those who would follow him.
He said, “whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there my servant will be also.”
Jesus foresaw that his dying would not be an ending, but a new beginning.
Just as a single grain of wheat is finite while it is alive, but brings an abundant harvest of growth and new life by falling to the earth and dying, so his death on the cross would draw all people to him.
He foretold that the way people would come to know him would be through his Church.
Want to know where Jesus can be found? He said that he would be where his servants were.
When we baptize children, as we have baptized Addison this morning, essentially what we are doing is hearing the promises of the parents to help their child to see Jesus, to know about Jesus, so that someday they can make a decision of their own accord about whether to commit themselves to following him
And in response, the church promises to provide an environment where Jesus can be seen. Where Jesus can be known.
Not as people who have arrived and hold all the answers. But as fellow pilgrims on the way, always seeking Jesus, always pursuing a clearer vision of him and a deeper relationship with him.
Always lending a hand to others helping each other to find him – the way Philip and Andrew did.
Baptisms are always a good time to be reminded of our ongoing need to see Jesus, because baptism is by definition a “visible sign of God’s invisible grace” made known to us in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
And Lent is the perfect season for reflection on where and how we need to be seeking Jesus more diligently in our own lives, so that Jesus may be lifted up and visible in you and me, so that others will desire to know him for themselves.
Copyright 2018 Raymond Medeiros