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We would see Jesus

March 20, 2012

“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.  They came to Phillip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request.  “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”  John 12:20-21

It seems as if there are a lot of people who would like to see Jesus these days too.  In fact, some of them are seeing him in the oddest places.  This past Sunday our pastor mentioned someone who saw his image on a taco.  Not long ago a man taking pictures of the storms that devastated mid-America was surprised to find that many saw the face of Jesus in the clouds he was photographing.  And just yesterday I heard that a potato chip with an image of Jesus on the cross was for sale on E-bay. 

What am I to make of all this?  Is this a sign of some incipient hunger for Jesus in modern America?  I frankly don’t know.  I could take the position that it is up to us Christians to show Jesus to the world but in my heart I know that, in spite of my best intentions, I am not really good at that task.  Or I could say that you need to go to the Bible to see Jesus.  I’d like to hope I could do that with grace and not scowl and say “You need to stop looking at potato chips and read the Bible.”

So what do we see when we look at Jesus in the Bible?  Oddly enough, a great many sincere and intelligent Christians see some very different things about Jesus.  Frankly I think it is all too easy to have our own positions on the social, religious and political issues of the day and then go to the Bible to find that, lo and behold, Jesus agrees with me.

I am enchanted and enthralled with the story of Jesus in the Bible.  I marvel at his encounters with the poor and sick.  I am touched by the way he values every contact he has with women without needing to get “theological.”  I am amazed at the way he attracted “sinners” who are the very people who despise us, his followers.  I am sobered by his scathing comments about the “religious” people of the day.  It fascinates me how his life seemed to be an unending string of interruptions by people in need and he remained loving.

Yet I have little doubt that I have only the slimmest understanding of who he is and I doubt I will get that much more in any objective sense.  I am confident that the Holy Spirit reveals to us what we need to know about Jesus and, at the same time, mindful that my own human weakness always leaves me prone to reading things into the picture I have of him.

Actually, I do think that the world yearns to see Jesus.  But I also think that, more often than not, they have no clue what they are yearning to see.  I’ve given up worrying whether I model Jesus correctly.  I’ve given up worrying whether, when they go to the Bible, people see the “real” Jesus.  Those things are not my problem; I am just going to keep pointing to him.

If you continue on in the passage I quoted at the start you will see no evidence that Jesus had any private chat with those who would see him.  Instead he used it to proclaim his impending death and to open the door to the Father speaking from heaven.  I suspect neither Phillip nor the Greeks expected that.  Why would it be different with me?

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