"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Can we see Jesus?

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“Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12:21)

This innocent request comes from some Greeks in Jerusalem for the festivals. You can imagine them sitting at breakfast and planning their day: “First we’ll look at that Temple place, have spiced lamb kebobs in the market for lunch and then go and see that miracle worker everyone is talking about, what’s his name? Je-something…well, he’s staying under that big tree on the north end of town.” Part of this trip to the big city was to swing by that particular tree to see this particular person, this miracle man from Galilee.

Those gospel words spoken by these seeking Greeks are words that reflect our own journey of faith: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”. Is there anything more appropriate to describe each of our own journeys in life? Everything we do in our lives should ultimately come back to that one focus in seeking…we wish to see Jesus.

That is also rightly the goal of everything the church does and indeed it is the rightful goal of everything that we Christians do. As we go about our lives that request should guide us when we interact with others: can they see Jesus in what we’re doing or saying or thinking? Our constant prayer is that God will make us transparent, so that Christ may become apparent. A bit of an intimidating thought, isn’t it? All our actions and words should present Jesus to those around us; and we should try to see Jesus in the actions and words of everyone we encounter.

We’re not told why these gentiles have come seeking Jesus but they don’t seem to get their wish for Jesus pays little attention to them after they ask. Once Andrew and Philip carry the question to Jesus he responds by heading off in an unexpected direction. The coming of these Greeks was a signpost marking the beginning of the end of earthly ministry. Andrew and Philip come to announce gentile visitors and instead get a discourse from Jesus on his approaching death.

That discourse that comes is not an easy one to hear. You can almost imagine Jesus here, sitting in the shade of a large tree. Andrew and Philip come and say, Rabbi, there are Greeks here to see you. Jesus looks over at the Greeks waiting expectantly and then his eyes lose focus and he stares past everyone into the distance.

Imagine Jesus at that moment, not in the bland words of translation, but as a real person knowing in an instant that the end has begun. Here is someone who knows that his story is going to have a very sad ending: the end of human life, the end of friendship and relationship, the beginning of something new and exciting and yet at the same time deeply terrifying. So Jesus does the best he can – he can not meet these visitors but rather is overcome with awareness of what is coming and tells his friends what he is preparing for. Listen to the words again and hear the sorrow, the sense of loss but also the firm resolve that comes through:

“The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. […] Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? —Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.”

What does it feel like to know you’re coming to the end of your earthly ministry? How would it be to know that you’ve run the race and, independent of whether you’ve run it well or poorly, to know that this is the end?

Saint Augustine said, “It is only in the face of death that man’s self is born”. Only when we face our death can we truly learn who we are. Palliative care physician David Kuhl calls the reality of death the “roar of awakening”, for it puts to rest all other thought and all other perspectives. There is nothing more final in this world: it leaves us without the presence of a loved one, with only photographs and a cold, hard, stone marker. These are nothing compared to the living, breathing reality of life. Death presents itself with a ‘roar of awakening’ that calls us away from our distractions, from email and the television to face our own life in a way that we’re never prepared for. While that moment is terrifying it is, as Augustine said, the starting point of understanding who we are.

As we are faced with the changes and chances of this uncertain life, let us keep those two thoughts foremost in our minds. First, that we are to bring the presence of Christ to those around us; and are to see Christ presented back to us by those same people. God is here with us in Spirit, but also in the hands and faces of those around us. Second, that only faced with the tragedy of life can we truly learn what life is all about. Both thoughts bring great challenge, but with God’s grace also bring great peace in a purpose that transcends event. For in those two points of focus we are able, with Jesus, to stand at each moment of our lives and say, “…for this purpose, I have come to this hour.”

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Written by sameo416

June 17, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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