The Fifth Sunday in Lent
The Rev. George Pejakovich
John 12:20-33

DURING MY SENIOR YEAR IN SEMINARY, THE DEAN ASKED ME IF I WOULD CONSIDER DOING SOME SUPPLY PREACHING FOR THE NUMEROUS SMALL MISSOURI SYNOD CHURCHES IN THE AREA. THE ELCA AND MISSOURI HAD A MUCH MORE CORDIAL RELATIONSHIP BACK THEN. THEY WERE LOOKING FOR A MATURE SEMINARIAN WHO WAS A BIT ON THE CONSERVATIVE SIDE TO HELP THEM OUT. MY SUPERVISOR AGREED, AS IT WOULD BE GOOD PRACTICE, SO I WENT TO MY FIRST SUPPLY JOB. I DROVE UP TO A LITTLE WHITE CHURCH AS THE SEXTON WAS PULLING ON THE BELL ROPE IN THE NARTHEX. I GOT VESTED IN A HURRY, AND STARTED THE SERVICE. WHEN THE TIME CAME FOR THE SERMON, I CLIMBED INTO THE PULPIT FOR THE FIRST TIME, AND, AS I WAS SETTING MY SERMON ON THE PULPIT, I OBSERVED A BRASS PLAQUE SET RIGHT WHERE THE SERMON WOULD GO. THE PLAQUE PROCLAIMED, “SIR, WE WISH TO SEE JESUS.” I ALMOST LOST ALL MY SELF CONFIDENCE, AS I WONDERED, “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT?” THE AWESOME RESPONSIBILITY OF WHAT I WAS ABOUT TO DO HIT ME HARD, AND, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, THAT PLAQUE IS EVER IN MY MIND’S EYE.

AT THE PASSOVER FESTIVAL, SOME GREEKS CAME TO PHILLIP, WHO HAD A GREEK NAME AND WAS FROM A GREEK CITY IN GALILEE. THE WORD IS HELLENES RATHER THAN GREEKS, WHICH IMPLIES THAT THEY WERE JEWS OF THE DIASPORA WHO LIVED IN A GREEK REGION. THERE IS NO REASON TO SUPPOSE THAT PAGAN ETHNIC GREEKS WOULD BE AT THE PASSOVER. THIS WAS AN EXAMPLE OF FIRST CENTURY NETWORKING. THEY WENT TO PHILLIP BECAUSE HE SPOKE GREEK AND THEY HOPED HE WOULD PROVIDE AN INTRODUCTION TO JESUS. “SIR,” THEY SAID, “WE WISH TO SEE JESUS.” UNSURE ABOUT WHETHER TO BOTHER JESUS, PHILLIP WENT TO HIS BUDDY ANDREW AND ASKED HIM. THE TWO OF THEM FIGURED THIS WAS ABOVE THEIR PAY GRADE, SO THEY WENT TO JESUS TO LET HIM DECIDE FOR HIMSELF. I DON’T KNOW IF THE GREEKS EVER GOT TO SEE JESUS, BECAUSE THE ANSWER HE GAVE PHILLIP AND ANDREW WAS SO UNEXPECTED AND SO AWESOMELY PROFOUND THAT THEY PROBABLY FORGOT ALL ABOUT THE REQUEST. JESUS LET THEM SEE HIM FOR WHO HE TRULY WAS AND IS. HIS DISCOURSE IS THE CLEAR DECLARATION THAT IF YOU WISH TO SEE JESUS THEN THIS IS WHAT YOU WILL AND MUST SEE.

JOHN BEGINS HIS GOSPEL WITH “IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD.” THE SIGNS IN JOHN’S GOSPEL ARE ALL ABOUT OUR SEEING WHO THIS JESUS TRULY IS, AND WHAT IT MEANS TO US WHEN WE DO SEE WHO HE IS. JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE REQUEST OF THE GREEKS IS TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE HOUR HAS COME FOR THE SON OF MAN TO BE GLORIFIED; THE HOUR IS NOT MEANT AS A PRECISE 60 MINUTES, BUT THE CRUCIAL TIME FOR WHICH THE WORLD HAS BEEN WAITING. THE TIME FOR HIS CRUCIFIXION, RESURRECTION, AND ASCENSION HAS COME. IN WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN, THE SON OF MAN WILL BE GLORIFIED, AND IN HIS GLORIFICATION, THE FATHER IN HEAVEN WILL BE GLORIFIED.

JESUS’ METAPHOR OF A GAIN OF WHEAT DYING TO BEAR MUCH FRUIT INTIMATELY CONNECTS THE SEEING OF WHO JESUS IS WITH THE NECESSITY OF BECOMING HIS DISCIPLE. SEEING JESUS TRULY IS THE LIFE CHANGING EVENT, WHERE ALL THAT WENT BEFORE IS REJECTED FOR THE NEED TO SERVE JESUS; AND SERVING JESUS MEANS TO FOLLOW WHERE HE LEADS. THOSE WHO SERVE JESUS WILL BE HONORED BY THE FATHER, BECAUSE IN SERVING JESUS WE BECOME THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD. THE POWERS OF THIS WORLD ALWAYS WANT TO SEE JESUS AS OTHER THAN WHO HE TRULY IS. FIRST THEY WANT TO DENY THAT HE WAS EVEN REAL, BUT WAS A FICTION OF THE EARLY CHURCH. THEN, IF THEY MUST AFFIRM HIS REALITY, IT IS THAT OF A GREAT TEACHER, OR MORALIST, OR REVOLUTIONARY. TO SEE JESUS AS THE WORD OF GOD MADE FLESH CHANGES EVERYTHING, BECAUSE HIS PRESENCE PLACES THE WORLD INTO JUDGMENT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD; A JUDGMENT THAT THE WORLD WILL ALWAYS REJECT, AND WHICH HIS FOLLOWERS WILL REAFFIRM AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL THE LAST DAY.

THIS JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD WILL BE CONFIRMED WHEN HE IS LIFTED UP; AND WHEN HE IS LIFTED UP HE WILL DRAW THE EYES OF ALL PEOPLE TO HIMSELF. AS JOHN RECORDS, HE SAID THIS TO SHOW WHAT KIND OF DEATH HE WAS TO DIE, AND WHAT THAT DEATH WILL MEAN TO THE WORLD. THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES REJECTED HIM AND SAID WE HAVE NO KING BUT CAESAR. THE ROMANS MOCKED HIM WITH A PERVERSE CORONATION CEREMONY. PILATE PLACED A PLAQUE OVER HIS CROSS WHICH READ, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS.” AS HE HUNG ON THE CROSS FOR ALL EYES TO SEE, THE CRITICAL QUESTION REMAINED, AND REMAINS FOR THE WORLD, “WHO IS THIS JESUS?”

“SIR, WE WISH TO SEE JESUS;” A SIMPLE REQUEST, BUT ONE FRAUGHT WITH LIFE CHANGING SIGNIFICANCE. DO WE WANT TO SEE WHO WE THINK HE IS, OR WHO HE REALLY IS? AS WE CONSIDER THIS ON THE LAST SUNDAY OF OUR LENTEN OBSERVANCE, KNOWING IN ADVANCE THE EVENTS OF HOLY WEEK TO COME, AND FACING THE GREAT SORROW OF THE DAY OF CRUCIFIXION, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN PREPARES US FOR WHAT LIES BEYOND THE CROSS. THE CHRIST OF GOD WILL BE LIFTED UP AGAIN, AND THE DISCIPLES WILL COME FACE TO FACE WITH THE REALITY OF THE WORD MADE FLESH, AND THEY WILL COME TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE GLORY OF GOD IS REVEALED IN THE CROSS OF HIS SON.

DO YOU WISH TO SEE JESUS? THEN THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO SEE HIM, AS LORD AND GOD OVER ALL CREATION. THIS IS THE ONE WHO CALLS US TO SERVE HIM, TO FEED HIS SHEEP, TO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS OF GOD, TO BAPTIZE ALL PEOPLES, TO LEAD ALL OTHERS TO THE ONE WHO WAS LIFTED UP IN THE SIGHT OF ALL PEOPLE. DO WE WISH TO SEE JESUS? THEN THIS IS THE WAY WE WILL AND MUST ALWAYS SEE HIM, THE WORD MADE FLESH AND THE SOURCE OF ETERNAL SALVATION FOR ALL WHO OBEY HIM. SINCE I SAW THAT PLAQUE SO LONG AGO, THIS IS THE ONLY JESUS I KNOW, AND TO WHOM I WILL ALWAYS POINT.
AMEN

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