“Sir, we would see Jesus.” It was some Greeks who first said this line. Probably they said it in Greek, too, which is why they approached a disciple who had a Greek name and who had grown up in a town, Bethsaida, that had a mixed population of Jews and Greeks. Maybe these seekers didn’t speak Aramaic and so needed to find the one disciple they knew could interpret for them. It is not clear whether these Greek-speaking people were Jewish converts or Gentiles who had come to Jerusalem to take in the Passover sights and sounds. But whoever they were, they had heard of Jesus and wanted a formal introduction.
“That hardly made them unique at that precise moment, however. Jesus was rumored to have recently raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. The man had been moldering in a tomb for four days already when this rabbi from Nazareth reportedly called him out of that grave. Indeed, John’s gospel presents the New Testament’s single most understated account of the Triumphal Entry. John has abridged and streamlined this story, leaving out most of what you can find in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. T his entry was an important event to be sure, but in John the recent raising of Lazarus looms much larger, including for these Greek strangers. They simply must see the man who could do what Jesus recently did.
So they make their request to Philip, who in turn pulls his brother Andrew into the action as well. The two of them then go to Jesus and ask him, “Lord, do you have a minute? Some Greek tourists want your autograph or something.” But it is just here where the story makes an odd turn.”1
“I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to myself.” I googled “people lifted up,” and I got 24 million results; the most common picture, believe it or not, was of Joe Paterno being carried off the field in victory. Apparently, Joe Pa got carried around a lot; I’m sure his players were happy he was relatively tiny, compared to them. It was no surprise that Google gave me these images; “the Greek verb hypsoun means both “exalted” and (more literally) “lifted up.””2
But, of course, Jesus was not expecting to be carried off in victory. Jesus knew what kind of death He was to die, to be nailed to a cross and hoisted up thereon, and He was not particularly happy about it. He wasn’t up for entertaining random Greek tourists, even if their motives were pure. His hour had come; it was time for Him to go from being the famous traveling rabbi who raises people from the dead to being dead Himself. It was prep time for a peculiar exaltation, the pre-game of the strangest kind of victory ever seen.
“Sir, we would see Jesus.” Well, request denied. It’s a little startling to think that Jesus, of all people, would turn away people who just wanted to meet Him, maybe ask Him a question, maybe just lay eyes on the Man who could raise the dead with a word. We don’t like people like that; we want our famous people to be shiny and clean, we want them to smile at us just like we smile at them. Those Greeks asked to see Jesus, and all they got was lousy Philip.
You ever feel like that? Did you come here to see Jesus just to find that Jesus wasn’t available, and the front men a little lacking? Have you ever tried to show anyone Jesus, just to find yourself lacking? You’re not alone. It’s not easy to respond to “Sir, we would see Jesus.” I’ve talked about Fr. Phillips Brooks before, he wrote “O little town of Bethlehem,” built Trinity Copley Square (which is an architecturally important masterpiece in stone), and also happened to inhabit the same house Doan lived in while her father was in seminary. Brooks was one of America’s masters of preaching, he is a Saint in the Episcopal Church, and do you know what is carved into his pulpit at Trinity Copley Square? “Sir, we would see Jesus.” If showing people Jesus wasn’t easy for Brooks, it’s not going to be easy for us.
As we move toward Holy Week, we will hear and see and smell and touch and taste all manner of things, all in an effort to see Jesus, to experience Jesus. Those Greeks were on to something, but what they didn’t know was that if they had just waited a couple of days, they would have seen Jesus, all right. They would have seen Him lifted up for all to see, claiming for Himself the strangest victory ever seen, bloodied and breathing His last on the Cross. If you want to see Jesus, then walk with us to that Cross. If you want to show others Jesus, live a life worthy of that Cross; then remember that Jesus Himself is indeed risen, risen and waiting to help you show the whole world His face.
1Scott Hoezee, This Week