Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival [of Passover]. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
Many years ago, I visited with a church member named Nancy. She lived in a nursing home, and it’s been several years now since she died. When she was living, though, I would go to visit and bring communion. I especially enjoyed visiting her in December, because Nancy always had a surprise waiting.
You see, Nancy believed that no nativity should be set up with Jesus in the manger until December 25, or maybe 24. She took this conviction so seriously that every year when the staff set up a nativity in the common areas, Nancy wheeled herself out and carefully snitched the unattended, unattached Baby Jesus to keep him in her room until Christmas. The first time it happened, staff was alarmed by the porcelain kidnapping, but by the time I met her, Nancy had been pilfering the manger for years. Everybody knew that if Jesus wasn’t with Mary and Joseph, he was with Nancy.
What made this so fun for me was that when I visited each December, Nancy would confide her chosen hiding spot for Jesus this year. One year he was tucked inside a pair of socks. Another year he was wrapped in a washcloth. I knew that when I visited Nancy, I would get to see Jesus.
There’s a story in the gospel of John, sandwiched between the raising of Lazarus and the foot washing at the Last Supper, when a group of Greeks (in other words, strangers/newcomers/out-of-towners) decided they want to see Jesus. They went to Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, and asked to see Jesus.
Philip apparently didn’t know what to do with such a request. Instead of bringing the Greeks to see Jesus, he had a conference with Andrew, and together they reported the conversation up the chain of command to Jesus for him to do something about it. If you go read the rest of John 12, you’ll find that the voice of God the Father thundered from heaven, showing God’s glory in Jesus, but I’m afraid that focusing there sort of misses the point.
“Sir, we want to see Jesus.” It is not a complicated request. On the contrary, it’s quite simple. The disciples knew where Jesus could be seen, and the Greeks wanted to see. It’s especially disappointing that Philip couldn’t figure out what to do with these Greeks because all the way back in chapter one, Philip invited Nathanael to follow Jesus with the words: “Come and see!” Was it because these folks were Greeks that Philip was reluctant to let them get close to Jesus? Was it that he’d forgotten how simple it could be to point to Jesus?
Our lives are full of people who want to see Jesus. Oh, they may not always say it as bluntly as the Greeks did, but they say it just the same. The teenager who’s acting out for attention. The widow who’s so tired of being alone. The child who dreads long breaks from school because it means being starved for food– or kindness. The addict who can’t seem to break the habit. The workaholic who can’t shake the feeling that success isn’t as satisfying as he thought it would be. Aren’t they longing for love, for friendship with God, for new life– the very things we see in Jesus Christ?
“We want to see Jesus.” If that is the cry coming from the world, then our reply must not be to kick the request up the chain of command, but rather “Come and see!” Come and see the welcome and attention that the body of Christ shares. Come and see the compassion offered to those who deserve it and especially those who don’t. Come and see that in God, your worth is not in what you do but in who God calls you: child. Come and see forgiveness. Come and see love.
Come and see Jesus.