John 12: 20 – 26 For Them to See Him, Be Him Sunday, March 21, 2021

For Them to See Him, Be Him

John 12: 20 – 26


(preached March 21, 2021)

A mile down a dirt road, on a misty lake just south of Manassas Virginia, you’ll find a log cabin built in the 1930s as a one-room fishing lodge.  Inside the cabin, in an office looking out over the lake, a woman named Geri sits at her computer.  She’s trawling the Internet for good news.  Geri operates a website known as the Good News Network.  As its name suggests, the website is dedicated to spreading good news.  This week the Network reported that doctors had repaired a man’s spinal cord by using his own stem cells.  Another good news story was about a police officer who brought sandwiches to a man experiencing homelessness.  More and more people are subscribing to the Good News Network.  That says to me that a lot of people are looking for good news.

In our gospel passage for today, from the gospel of John, some Greeks may also be looking for good news.  In Bible times, Greeks were great travelers.  It’s been said that the Greeks were the first tourists, the first people to wander simply for the sake of wandering, to see different people and unfamiliar places.  The Greeks John mentions here are probably tourists from Athens or Corinth, who have traveled to Jerusalem to see the great festival of Passover.

Of all the places the Greeks wanted to visit in Jerusalem, the Temple would have been at the top of the list.  The Temple was a building of breathtaking beauty.  The Greeks would have wanted to see the architectural features of the temple.  They also took an interest in what was happening there.  They might have been in the temple courts on the day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem.  They might have seen what happened when Jesus came upon the moneychangers and temple authorities buying and selling.  The Greeks might have heard the uproar that erupted when Jesus knocked over the tables of the animal dealers, sending cattle and sheep stampeding in all directions.  They might have heard Jesus’ voice, as he shouted, “Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

Such a display of indignation in the Temple would surely have gotten their attention. Who was this man?  When they run into Philip, a man they know to be a follower of Jesus, they ask for an introduction.  “Sir,” they say, “we wish to see Jesus.”  We wish to see this man who has made such a commotion.  We’ve heard about him: how his words have moved so many to turn their lives around.  We heard about the wedding, where people say he turned water into wine.  Truly he is a wonder worker. We’d like to see him.

These Greeks may be acting out of simple curiosity.  They may want to look at Jesus the same way they looked at the structure of the temple.  It’s possible, though, that they’re moved by a deeper desire.  It’s possible they’re longing to hear good news, longing to see the man who brought that good news, so filled with holy power and purpose.

In his life and ministry, Jesus became the way people could know God.  Of course people learned about God from the things he said.  But they learned more powerfully about God from the things he did.  Jesus lived out God’s loving ways: feeding the hungry, helping the blind to see, driving out demons of hatred and fear. In his ministry he didn’t just tell about God.  He showed God’s love in action, so that everyone could see that God is a God of infinite love.  He showed what it looked like to love our neighbor.

When a man suffering from leprosy came to him for healing, he healed the man with a touch of his hand.  When a father pleaded for Jesus to save his dying daughter, Jesus breathed new life into her.

Today in places near and far, many are living out the love of neighbor that we see in Jesus.  We see it in a classroom in Malawi, where a Peace Corps volunteer is giving health education to people living with AIDS.  The volunteer’s name is Judy Summers.  She’s what’s called a non-traditional Peace Corps volunteer.  Judy worked for years as a nurse in the United States; now she’s spending her retirement in a hot, humid village far from home.

Another non-traditional volunteer is Margaret, who joined the Peace Corps at the age of 60.  Before that, she had worked as a schoolteacher in Berkley, California.  After retirement, she taught English in the country of Sri Lanka.  Margaret had to return to the States for a while because arthritis and headaches were slowing her down.  But she signed up again at the age of 79 and worked in Thailand for a while.  She says, “When you retire, what do you do?  You don’t just shut down” (Boston Globe, October 19, 2008, p. A23).

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  His face can be seen in the wrinkled faces of teachers who spend their golden years in hot and dusty classrooms, giving hope of learning and a better life.

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Like those Greeks, many people today are seeking, searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.  You and I, as people who seek to follow in the way of Jesus, can help them.  We can help them see Jesus.  We help them see Jesus when we live out his loving ways in our lives.  To put it another way, to help them to see Jesus, we can, so to speak, be Jesus.  Of course we can’t be Jesus perfectly.  We’re human.  We will always fall short of the fullness of God that we see in him.

But you and I, and others who follow in his ways, are a powerful way for people to see Jesus, here and now.  To help them see him, we can be him.  In what we do, we can show his image and likeness.  In everyday acts of caring and concern, at home or far from home, we can live out God’s loving ways.

We won’t do it perfectly.  We’re human and we’ll fall short of the goodness we see in him.  But if we are willing, God will use us.  Our hands can be his hands, reaching out to the needs of the world.  Our voices can be his voice, speaking out wherever fear has the upper hand.  As living, breathing followers of Jesus, you and I help people see Jesus when we can be Jesus: with our hearts, our hands, and our voices ready to share the good news.






Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Lent 5



“He was Alone” Theodore Paxton

Maria Ferrante, Soprano 

Joyce Carpenter-Henderson, Pianist