SO YOU WANT TO SEE JESUS!
The Rev. Dr. Russell Rowland
March 18, 2018
TOURISTS IN JERUSALEM, LONG AGO:
“Excuse me, Sir, but we’re from Greece,
Visiting your lovely city for the Passover…
And we were just wondering if Jesus
Might have a moment for us.
We’ve heard such wonderful things.”
DID HE LIVE UP TO THEIR EXPECTATIONS?
Did he even see them? We aren’t told.
Their request leads into his last public discourse,
About the meaning of his imminent death.
THE GREEK TOURISTS
Vanish from the story, never to reappear.
Perhaps they became disciples,
Perhaps they hurried off to catch the bus to Damascus.
SO YOU WANT TO SEE JESUS!
Not your chiropractor or therapist,
Not your spouse or significant other.
It’s Jesus in particular you want to see.
WELL, THERE HE IS, IN CHAPTER 12.
Does he look different from thousands of other pilgrims?
Does it mean something to you
That when you see him, you see God more clearly?
AMONG HIS WORDS ON THIS OCCASION,
Are there some you’d care to write on a postcard
And mail home?—like, “Unless a grain of wheat
Falls to the earth and dies, it remains a single grain;
But if it dies it bears much fruit.”
IF YOU WANT TO SEE JESUS,
Look fast, because in a little while you’ll have to walk,
With a cloth over your nose and mouth,
To the barren knoll where executions take place.
Tourists don’t usually go there.
HE WON’T BE A PRETTY SIGHT BY THEN,
But his death should attract a crowd:
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
Will draw all people to myself.”
Look quickly—because, if you blink, the cross will be empty.
JOHN SAYS HE WROTE ALL THIS
So that you may have life, in Jesus’ name.
If you see him, you may suddenly “get a life.”
Better not see Jesus, if you don’t want a life,
Or think the one you already have is just fine, thanks.
YOUR REQUEST INVOLVES THIS RISK:
If you see him, you will love him.
If you love him, you may decide to follow him--
To a soup kitchen or a refugee camp,
To a picket line—or onto a cross all your own.
THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS SAYS
That Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered.”
Are you sure that’s something you want on your resume?
OKAY—YOU STILL WANT TO SEE JESUS.
Only today it’s two thousand years
After the events the gospel talks about.
And you live halfway around the globe.
WELL, YOU MAY BE IN LUCK.
We have the conviction in our hearts
That, when Christ is in us, and us in him,
We are able to become Christ to one another.
Not always. Not perfectly.
BUT WE HAVE AGREED TO THIS CALLING.
I am to become Christ to you.
You are to become Christ to me.
The “tie that binds” us
Is the same unconditional, non-discriminating love
That he himself showed for others.
WE DESCRIBE THIS LOVE VARIOUS WAYS.
It keeps no score of injuries, but requires
Forgiveness to the point of numerical absurdity.
It means going that “second mile.”
It means “doing no wrong” to others.
WHEN PAUL REFERS TO “THE CHURCH,”
He never refers to budgets, buildings, or programs.
The phrase he uses most often is one another.
To him, one another is what church is about.
If that’s what we’re about, we will see Jesus.
AND THERE’S ANOTHER OPTION,
For our inner tourist.
If we want to see him, we have to seek out the poor.
IN HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY, JESUS SPENT
The bulk of his time with the downtrodden:
The ritually unclean whom others shunned,
The lepers whom everyone excluded,
The sinners who were scapegoats of all,
The women, the children, the foreigners, the enemy.
HE GAVE US REASON TO BELIEVE
That this would continue to be true;
That whatever we do for their modern counterparts,
We do for him.
THEREFORE, DON’T SEEK HIM
Among the have-mores, the tax-exempt,
Or the ephemeral celebrities du jour.
Never look in places where the living is easy!
TO SEE JESUS TODAY, GO TO AN AA MEETING,
Keep the donations going to the local food pantry,
The thrift shop, the Pastor’s discretionary fund.
Care about the opioid-dependent and the immigrants.
These are his kind of places and priorities.
Is a bit different than seeing a visiting politician,
Or a gorgeous sunset.
If you see him, he has the potential to change you forever.
Your best friends may no longer know you.
HOLY WEEK APPROACHES.
You want to see Jesus? So be it!
You’ll see him mounted on a donkey,
At a table with his friends in an upper room,
On the brutal splintered cross…
And, finally—what shall we say about finally?
We will learn not to look for the living among the dead!
AS FOR THOSE GREEK TOURISTS,
Who wanted to go everywhere and see everything--
Since John doesn’t finish their story, let us try.
Let’s pretend they traveled to England next.
AT ONE STOP ON THEIR TOUR,
The guide informed them, “This is where the barons
Forced King John to sign the Magna Carta.”
One of the Greeks asked, “When did this happen?”
“1215,” answered the guide.
The tourist looked at his watch and said,
“Darn! Missed it by a half an hour!”
IF THAT’S HOW SHARP THEY WERE,
They probably missed Jesus too!
But you don’t have to.