‘Sir, We would like to see Jesus’

Posted on 06 January 2014
The motto text for 2104 chosen by Stephen was John 12:21.

In his address, based on the text, he said:

In the early days of my ministry, when pulpits were fashionable, I sometimes discovered that, pinned to the lectern, were the words of our motto text for 2014: ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’. This was a gentle reminder to the preacher that when the people of God gather they do not want scholarship to be paraded or captivating stories to be retold but they want (or should be encouraged to want) to spend time getting to know Jesus better and to spend time with him.

This was true of those ‘Greeks’ who made the first request of Philip. Here were a group of people who had learnt enough about Jewish monotheism to have taken it seriously enough to attend the Passover in Jerusalem as pilgrims rather that mere sightseers. They had also heard enough about Jesus to want to spend some time with him to get to know him better. Their example is one that sets a challenge before us all: and one that demands of me that I strive to my utmost (assisted by your prayers) to help you all to do so: like Philip and Andrew of old.

But if we are to get to know Jesus better, what will this mean for us? The request of the Greeks might appear to have been ignored by Jesus. However, we are told Jesus ‘replied’ (23). What he said in the following verses, therefore, helps answer our question. He says three things:

to know Jesus, is to know him as ‘the Son of Man’(23). This was his favourite self-designation. The phrase has its origin in Daniel 7:13,14. There the prophet foresaw Jesus and describes him in language that identifies him with God himself, though distinguished from the ‘Ancient of Days’. To know Jesus better will mean we come to appreciate him, not simply as a theological confession, but personally and inwardly as the incarnate Son of God!

• to know Jesus better is to know him ‘glorified’. There is something rather odd about John’s Gospel. Careful study reveals that John identifies Jesus’ glorification with his death. Jesus’ himself, does that here. Thus, in verse 24 he explains that to be ‘glorified’ requires his fruit-beaing death. If we are to know Jesus better, we will need to know more profoundly than before our need and his remarkable self-offering of himself for us.

• to know Jesus better will be seen in the character of our lifestyle (25, 26a). In his Gospel John shows little interest in lists of ‘do’s’ and ‘do not’s’, little is achieved by an outward change of life: an inner transformation is required. This is accomplished by a single-minded (and necessarily painful) renunciation of all that entangles our willing following of Jesus. Yet if we have come to know him as ‘our’ ‘Son of Man’ ‘glorified’ for us, then obedience is a small matter!

• to know Jesus and to live for him, means we will enjoy intimacy with Jesus and know the Father’s delight in us (26b). The pilgrim path is beset with setbacks, disappointments and sorrows but it is also (often) accompanied by a deeper, sometimes inexpressible, mutual intimacy experienced under the benevolent eye of the Lord of the universe.

We sometimes speak of making New Year Resolutions. Here is the sublimest of all resolutions: ‘we would like to see Jesus’. Here, too, is the personal challenge to take the steps (and, in my case, especially) to assist one another. There can be no greater privilege and no greater reward!

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