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       Sermons | Passionate worship

      This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

      March 21, 2021 | Fifth Sunday in Lent

      Again and Again, We Are Reformed
      John 12:20–33

       I  READ ABOUT PULPITS having a plaque that only the pastor can see. It’s not like communion tables that often have something like “Do This in Remembrance of Me” carved across the front for everyone to read.

      Now, I’ve never seen this, but these plaques are prominent on the preacher’s side of the pulpit. The plaques read:

      “We wish to see Jesus.”

      That is a good reminder for any minister. People don’t come to see me. You don’t connect online to see what I’m up to this week. You come to see Jesus.

      You might see Jesus through the wonderful selection of hymns. You might see Jesus through the prayers. You might see Jesus through the wonderful weekly piano duets. You might see Jesus through the sermon, or through many other ways.

      By whatever means, you want to see Jesus.

      † † †

      THERE IS SO MUCH that hides Jesus from us — the busyness of our lives, the hard work of raising a family, our focus on material goods and prosperity, wading through mountains of email, and all the tasks of life.

      Even the church has a way of hiding Jesus with all its hoopla and clouds of activity. Somehow the holiness vanishes, and the services run the risk of becoming a performance.

      Some Sundays we get it better than others.

      † † †

      IT IS SPRING festival time in Jerusalem. The city streets are filled with tourists and pilgrims. The temple is overflowing with people, from all over the empire, coming to worship and sightsee.

      Some Greeks visiting the city hear about the Galilean rabbi who created a stir, parading into the city like a king after reportedly raising a man from the dead. Someone points to Philip as one of the Galilean’s friends. (Philip is a Greek name and suggests that he spoke their language.) So, they tug on his sleeve and say, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

      Perhaps John is reminding us of Philip in the very early beginnings of this Gospel. In reference to Jesus, Philip says to Nathaniel, “Come and see.” The Greeks come to Philip and they want to see Jesus.

      † † †

      AT THIS MOMENT in John’s Gospel, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem for the last time. Up to this point, it has been revealed to us who Jesus is.

      The Word became flesh, John says, and dwelt among us.

      And as he dwelt among us, Jesus revealed his divinity by turning water into wine, healing the sick, feeding multitudes, walking on water, healing the blind, and finally raising Lazarus from the grave. Death to life, darkness to light, blindness to sight: these are the themes of John’s Gospel.

      Jesus speaks to the spiritual blindness of his own people when he says, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

      † † †

      “WE WISH TO SEE JESUS.” That might be our prayer for the scales to fall from our eyes. To open they eyes of our hearts. For Jesus to redeem us from spiritual blindness. A prayer that we see Jesus as he really is, not as we make him to be.

      † † †

      A PASTOR WAS SHOWING children the sanctuary stained-glass windows and explaining to them the story of Jesus. One 5-year-old stopped and pointed to the crucifix, a cross with the limp and dying Christ hung over it. “Who is that?” the young girl asked.

      The pastor gently said, “Well, that’s Jesus.” She was puzzled. “Jesus?” she questioned.

      “Yes,” I continued. “That’s Jesus when he died.”

      She pondered for a minute. Then she concluded, “No. No, that’s not Jesus. Jesus is a little baby. Jesus is a little baby in a manger.”

      † † †

      OF COURSE, that is an appropriate image of Jesus. But often that is the only Jesus we want to see. A helpless baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

      We don’t want to see the preaching, teaching, traveling Jesus who proclaims, “Go and sin no more.” We don’t look for the Jesus who says the kingdom of God is at hand and we have to get our hearts right through new birth.

      We want to see the “no crying he makes” Jesus instead of Jesus crying out “Watch out you religious hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.” “Watch out religious folks who look clean on the outside but are filled with greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23)

      † † †

      EARLY ON, Philip invites Nathaniel to come and see. It’s an invitation to believe and follow Jesus.

      Nathaniel sees, believes and follows.

      † † †

      TO SEE JESUS is to listen to Jesus. To listen to Jesus is to believe. To believe is to follow. So, to see Jesus is to follow Jesus.

      Follow the Jesus who announces, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus who hangs helplessly on the cross. Jesus dying. Jesus forsaking everything to give life to others.

      To see Jesus is to hear Jesus. To hear the last words that he asked of us, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) To see Jesus is to follow Jesus.

      † † †

      GREEK VISITORS COME to Philip and say, “You have seen Jesus. We long to see him, too.”

      That summarizes the purpose not just of the pastor but of the church. People want to see Jesus.

      † † †

      PERHAPS THERE SHOULD BE a plaque over the door as we leave the sanctuary. A strong reminder that as we go out that people see us as disciples of Jesus. A plaque boldly declaring the desire of their hearts:

      “We want to see Jesus.”

      Can you/will you show them Jesus?

      — Keith Cardwell   


      « ‘We wish to see Jesus.’ That might be our prayer for the scales to fall from our eyes. To open they eyes of our hearts. For Jesus to redeem us from spiritual blindness. A prayer that we see Jesus as he really is, not as we make him to be.»

      SCRIPTURE FOR THE DAY


      ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:


      John 12:20–33
      Holy Bible, New International Version


      Jesus predicts his death
      20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

      23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

      27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

      Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

      30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[a] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

      — This is the Word of the Lord.
      — Thanks be to God.


        

      Footnote:

      a.  John 12:32  The Greek for lifted up also means exalted.


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