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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We want to see Jesus

Tuesday of Holy Week is the oddest day. The week is rolling by now, yet still Wednesday looms ahead as the final day of Lenten preparation. Today is the penultimate day, a word which I delight in. We are almost there, but not so almost that we are done.

The readings this week are more chronologically oriented. Yesterday (John 12) Jesus rode in on an ass to the accolades of the people. John spells out the fulfillment of Scripture, Zechariah 9:9. We contemporary Christians are less interested in the political aspects of Jesus' work, but clearly Jesus cared. He actually made a very public, through symbol, statement by this act. When He is crucified as the King of the Jews, this donkey parade is one of the reasons for the charges brought against Him. Which raises the question, "Are You the King of the Jews?"

We also heard yesterday about the people's curiousity about Lazarus. Ancient people were no less surprised to hear a dead man was alive again then we are. In fact, the chief priests plot to kill him, too. Evidence of Jesus' powerful ministry must be wiped out, little do they know! One wonders if they did in fact do it. No other mention is made of Lazarus.

As we continue with John 12 today, Jesus' popularity leads to the despairing declaration by the Pharisees, "Look the world has gone after Him." And indeed the "world" is shown to be going after Him in the next verse. Some "Greeks" came to Philip and said, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." What follows does not indicate whether they got to see Him or not. The mention of the Greeks (representing the Gentile world) seems to be a trigger for Jesus. For Jesus, in response to the request declares, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified..." Son of Man is not used in John near as often as in the other Gospels. Its use here signals something to the reader. It is a deep and hugely important word.

When I hear those words I recall my own Madison, aged 2 or 3, making a similar request. "I want to see Jesus," she said, "not bread, eyeballs." In other words, receiving communion was not enough, she wanted a face to face encounter. I do not remember what I told her. I am sure it included, "Don't we all." Whatever I said was sufficient, she is still active in church and has a living faith. But I hope that hunger never goes away.

Sometimes we are tempted to dull the pain by filling our lives with other things. The frustration of wanting to see Jesus and the insufficiency of seeing Him "in and through" can be a burden. We find prayer only increases the longing. It does not calm us but aggitates us more. It sharpens the desire. We want to see Jesus.

Lent is God's gift to provide us the sweet pain of that hunger. Emptied of ourselves, for forty days we "fast and pray" and specially focus our lives in a way that allows us to be more desirous of Jesus. If we lived Lent right, today, we, like the Greeks, can say with increased urgency, "I want to see Jesus."

And the words of Jesus ring true for us as well.
"Now has the hour come..."
"Unless the grain of wheat die it is just a grain of wheat..."
"It is for this hour that I have come..."
"Father, glorify your name..."

It is good to meditate on Jesus' death. His final hours summarize His life, it reveals the heart of God (self-sacrifice). It demonstrates graphically the meaning of love and service. And it gives us a glimpse of that face. It is good to know His heart so when we finally look into His face, His eyes, we will know Whom we encounter.

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