Do you want to see Jesus? Do you really want to? Well then it’s very likely that it’ll cost you your life—at least the life you’ve always imagined. In our gospel reading today, Phillip and Andrew approach Jesus on the heels of his death with a request. Some Greeks who were in town for the Passover Feast are interested in seeing him. I’ve always been fascinated by Jesus’s answer. It seems as if he doesn’t even acknowledge the request—like he completely skirts the issue and ignores the Greeks and their desire to see him. He doesn’t say, “Yes, send them unto me” or “No, I cannot right now.” Instead his answer seems rather cryptic.
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Maybe Jesus apparently ignored them because their interest in getting a sneak peek at him wasn’t so much a desire to get to know him and what he was about but a desire to say they’d see him. That they’d seen this popular rabbi everyone in the world was talking about and looking for and wanting to get a piece of, this rabbi that the authorities wanted to get rid of. Maybe they wanted to see for themselves just what “all the fuss was about.”
But Jesus wouldn’t be treated like a piece of meat or some kind of freak show or circus clown act. He was not some tourist destination or attraction or trap. He wasn’t on display, there to entertain and sign autographs like celebrities or characters at Disney World.
The more and more I thought about it this week, the more I thought that he did grant their request—just not in that moment or in the way that they or anyone else expected. I have a sneaking, though unconfirmed suspicion, that they did end up seeing him. Maybe, just maybe, they saw him put to death on the cross—crushed yet high and lifted up. If so, they had a lot more to think or gossip about – a story to consider. Perhaps in the end they believed he turned out to be nothing at all but a common and cursed criminal. I don’t know.
Perhaps we’ve desired to see Jesus and have even prayed fervently to see him. I believe the Lord will grant our requests. But we must remember that God doesn’t always allow us to choose the vantage points from which we see him. We don’t always call the shots of when and where we’ll see him, aside from creation. And his presence and the mystery of creation is enough to keep us perpetually awestruck. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes, “Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush aflame with God, But only those who see take off their shoes.”
Truth be told, if God gave us a sneak peek into how he would grant our request to see him, to see Jesus, many of us might just respond like the rich young ruler and walk away quite downcast and down trodden.