Lent 5

Taking after my parents, I’ve always like cartoons, especially the one-panel types found in the New Yorker. The Far Side has to be the best collection by a single author; my favorite Far Side cartoon shows a women in a housedress named Alice walking down a wooded path, pushing a vacuum cleaner in front of her while the animals watch from the woods. The caption says “The woods were dark and foreboding, and Alice sensed that sinister eyes were watching her every step. Worst of all, she knew that Nature abhorred a vacuum.”

Another great cartoonist is Tim Whyatt, who’s short bio begins by saying that he “lives on a remote island about 10,000 miles off the coast of New Jersey called Australia.” My favorite cartoon of his shows a woman greeting two Jehovah’s Witnesses at her door; they politely ask “Have you found Jesus?”, and all the while Jesus is making a lame attempt at hiding behind the woman’s curtains.

Jesus didn’t make it a practice to hide, behind curtains or anywhere else, while He was in the midst of His earthly ministry. He needed rest and time to pray like everyone else, and so He did make it a practice to walk off alone, if only for a short time. Otherwise it seems like people had a surprising level of access to Jesus. Sometimes this was more of a problem for others than for Jesus; only a few days or so before the incident we heard about today, Jesus was in Bethany, stopping to see His friends Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, His last trip there, and a “great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus…But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.” (John 12:9-11)

Tradition tells us that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus went with Jesus up to Jerusalem, Lazarus no doubt having to wear a hoodie the entire time. They all set up camp to prepare for the Passover, when some Greeks, some gentiles, approached Philip and made their now famous request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Now, these were real Greeks, not Greek-speaking Jews, but remember that at the time there were, all around the world, God-fearing people, people who, despite not being at all Jewish, knew and worshiped the one true God. The Ethiopian eunuch springs to mind as such a person, riding in his chariot reading the prophets, and he couldn’t have been any less Jewish. The Greeks who wish to see Jesus fall into this camp.

And remember that this request didn’t come out of the blue. Jesus had just ridden into Jerusalem and the people sang and bowed down and laid palms and their own clothing on the path so that even the donkey He rode in on didn’t have to touch the ground. Perhaps these Greeks knew of or even witness this triumphal entry, and so there they were, wishing to see the Man who so many deemed the Messiah.1

They didn’t seem to make it in to see Jesus, who was a bit occupied at the time. The time had come for Him to walk steadily to the cross, to submit Himself to it, but who would be comfortable with such a thing? “Now is my soul troubled,” He said, but then to strengthen Him, a voice from heaven; the rabbis called the audible voice of God bath-qol (the daughter of a voice), but even the daughter of God’s voice sounded like thunder.2

We don’t know if the Greeks understood that voice or if they ever got an audience with Jesus, but they experienced Him just the same. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” is not a request that goes unmet, not by Jesus anyway, but sometimes we need to wait for Him, to trust that even though it can be difficult to see Him now, that our wish to see Him won’t go ultimately unfulfilled. It’s for us this Lent to remember that in the end, Jesus is not hiding, not behind the curtains or anywhere else. It’s for us follow Him, with patient expectation, wherever He leads us; it’s for us to see Him in each other and in the manifold blessings of His love; and it’s for us to show Him to everyone who comes to us saying “We wish to see Jesus.

1 Robertson’s Word Pictures, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/robertsons-word-pictures/john/john-12-20.html


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