Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sir, We Want To See Jesus

"Sir, we want to see Jesus."

A reading form the Gospel of John

The crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from death continued to testify. This was [also] why the crowd went to meet him, because they heard that he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after him."

Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like 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."

"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."

"Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

Unless the Grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, 
it remains just a grain of wheat

The fame of Jesus had spread. Today Greek visitors to Jerusalem approach Philip: “Sir, we would [like to] see Jesus.”

The Greeks may have been fascinated with Jesus, especially since he has just raised Lazarus from the dead. We can imagine them saying, “You’re casting your pearls before swine. These people of Palestine are going to turn on you and put you to death. Our ancestors killed Socrates 400 years ago and we have regretted it ever since. Come to Athens!”

But Jesus declares: “Now is the Hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Then he begins a botany lesson: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it remains just a grain of wheat.”

In addressing the Greeks he chose to use the universal image of the life and death of a seed. The grain of wheat is no good if it is simply kept safe and dry, sealed in a container on a shelf. Only when seeds die and break open do the seeds give way to a transfigured life and live again! Seeds, though alive, are destined to die so as to live again!

Can you imagine hoarding a harvest? It would become infested with bugs and mice and begin to rot. Seeds were meant to die in order to give life - be it by being ground so as to become bread or by being planted in order to produce fruit for another harvest.

Then Jesus says: (John 12.25) “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

What does John mean by hating our life here?

In Matthew’s account Jesus says: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

(Matthew 10.39); “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Matt 16.24-25).

Mark records the words: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it (Mark 8.35).

St. Luke says it this way: “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it. Luke 17.33)

We cannot hoard our lives or our treasures. We may try to remain safe. But Jesus never called us to be safe. In fact, truly following Christ – not merely wearing an artificial Christian mask – but truly dying to self can be dangerous business.

And even if we were to preserve our lives through plastic surgery and whatever technology can offer, we will die anyway.

Hoarding of our time, talents, and treasure is another false security. We know that we will die. We also know that we have to let go of our security (and false securities). But we want to hold on.

When we clutch at our identity and hold to our power, wealth, possessions, and fame—real or imagined—we are really denying that we are dying. But if we willingly accept the fact that we will die, we will die to self, and rise to a newness of life!

Grasping and clutching and hoarding prevents us from living life to the full, it keeps us from living life abundantly; holding tightly to life is a sure way to lose one’s life.

Sure, we may stay safe and avoid the cross, and we may exist and live to a ripe old age, but we will have never truly lived! But only by our willingness to let go of one way of life can there be hope for another way of life. Falling to earth and dying is what gives and brings life!

So what does dying to self look like? It might be something as simple as helping your loved ones by cleaning the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink and doing the laundry. Others of you have the difficult task of caring for a loved one or a spouse or a brother or sister who is dependent upon you for assistance. This is certainly a dying to self.

But let’s be honest; we do not readily accept our cross.

It happened with Jesus. He said, “My heart is troubled.”

Like Jesus, our soul may be troubled, but only by our willingness to let go of one way of life can there be hope for another way of life.

God awaits our choice—we can step out in faith or remain as we are. It is not an easy choice.

Many of us live life with a fearful grasping for control. Jesus had a choice to be delivered from his Passion and Death or to go through with it. He declares, "I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” 

His Hour had come! And even though he knew it would come, and he had often spoke of it, he speaks of his soul being troubled as he considers what his Hour means. He is in agony, and yet this is his mission!

A cross is a cross. Dying on a cross was a criminal’s death!

Yet Jesus agrees to conquer death through the Cross. Jesus humbly obeys out of love for the Father and love for each one of us, and prepares to cast out the devil, and crucify all disobedience, deceit, lies, and cruelty.

Jesus has heard the Father’s voice three times: at his Baptism, at his Transfiguration, and now here as he chooses to embrace His Hour and go forth with his mission.

He isn't focused on wealth, power, pleasure, or fame – He is focused on the cross.

The Hour of Jesus’ Passion has begun. He is in agony, but he surrenders to the will of the Father. Jesus accepts His Cross and is at peace to be lifted up, for by being lifted up he will lift all of us up. The Hour of Christ becomes our Hour when we too can rise to new life!

He will be crowned with thorns and led to Golgotha, outside Jerusalem, And die, nailed to a cross. Yet His death will reveal God’s glory and victory. The cross seems like death, but it will be his glorification, the defeat of the Evil one and the drawing together of Jesus' community. 

This is our hope! Believers can claim the defeat of Satan at the cross, and they can break free of his hold through union with Christ and as members of his holy Church.

The Greeks said, “We would see Jesus.” Do we truly desire to see Jesus?

Seeing Jesus comes at a cost. We must die to our selfish ways. And it may even cost us our lives. We come to see Jesus and his glorious kingdom as we walk his path, a journey that ends not at the Cross, but in the glory of being lifted up in resurrection.

May we be like a humble grain of wheat, dropped in the earth, allowing ourselves to die, shedding our outer shell so as to give way to a new way of life. 

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