A sermon preached online by Nikolaj Christensen on 21 March 2021.
Let us pray: We wish to see Jesus. Amen.
That of course was what the Greek worshippers asked the apostles in the Gospel reading we heard just now. ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ The simplest request! These Greeks must have felt like outsiders to most of what was going on in Judaea, but they come to the ones they perceive as gatekeepers of Jesus’ circle, and ask: please can we meet the man we have heard about.
And even today Church is often like that too – even online! There are those who seem to know what’s going on, know their way around the worship booklets and the service sheets and the Bible and know the tunes of the hymns, and so on, and then there are some who come with hesitation, wondering if they are going to be welcome or whether they are making a fool of themselves. And you may think of yourself as being in one of those camps.
But the truth is none of us have really got it figured out, and that includes even Jesus’ closest followers. As we heard, Philip and Andrew brought the Greek worshippers’ request to Jesus, but Jesus answered them in what seems like a very sideways manner: ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ What that means is: It’s time for both those who are near and those who are far off to see Jesus in all his glory. And it’s a different kind of glory than any of them expected.
This morning I pray that I can give you a glimpse of Jesus, based on this very candid account of Jesus’ own thinking about his upcoming trial and death – his own struggle with his fate.
Some of you are facing this springtime without dear loved ones, and friends who we have lost sometime in the last year. When we see Jesus in this passage, we see a man who was himself going to die – and knew it. And it shaped his whole life.
Jesus was always full of surprises. Whenever he had got a lot of attention in one place, when lots of people were coming to hear him speak or see him perform miracles, and he could have really capitalised on that, he got up and left to go and pray by himself somewhere, and his followers had to hurry up and search for him. And yet whenever he saw someone in need, he always stopped to help.
Then one day after his popularity had got him deeply unpopular with the leaders at the centre of power, he announced to his friends that he was going to take them to Jerusalem, to the capital, the very place where certain people were plotting to get rid of him once and for all.
He knew that those who were already in power there would not accept his Kingdom. So, when they got to Jerusalem, as we’ll hear next week on Palm Sunday: when Jesus led his followers into the city, he did a sort of parody of a victorious ruler returning triumphantly to his seat of power – sitting on a comically small young donkey. And we see the same kind of dark humour in this passage, where Jesus was talking about being ‘lifted up’ and ‘glorified’ – because he would be lifted up, literally, up on a cross to die. Which wasn’t normally seen as at all glorifying! What’s going on here?
The other way Jesus described his death was as a seed going down into the ground, being buried, having given up his life for his friends. But in the darkness underground a miracle happens to the seed: a new plant grows up much greater and more glorious than what went into the ground.
The one who they hung up to die, and who was then put in the ground, would rise again. Because in the kingdom of God, everything is turned upside down. When you are brought down, you are lifted up. And that’s great news especially if you feel down. Hard times don’t last forever. A new life with Jesus does. And it starts now.
So, come to him today: as we give thanks, as we break bread, as we invite him to fill us with his presence, and as we pray to see his presence in our lives. He is with you. And he is for you.