And if you step into the pulpit at St. John the Divine, there is a brass plaque affixed to the wood of the pulpit. This brass plaque cannot be seen by those sitting in the congregation, and the plaque is only visible to the preacher. And inscribed upon this plaque are these words: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Two thousand years ago in Jerusalem, some Greek foreigners come up to the Apostle Philip. And these Greeks, these Gentiles, approach Philip with this request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
When word reaches Jesus that some Greek foreigners wish to see him, Jesus replies: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
And when Jesus refers to the hour that has come for him to be glorified, Jesus is referring to the hour when he is lifted up from the earth to draw all people to himself. When Jesus says that the hour has come for him to be glorified, Jesus is referring to being lifted up from the earth – on the Cross.
Sir, we wish to see Jesus. And if you really wish to see Jesus – you see Jesus on the Cross.
I have heard people say that they aren’t really into church – because they can see God anywhere. I have heard people say that they can see God in spectacular sunsets and in rainbows that stretch across the sky. I have heard people say that they can see God when they are on camping trips in the Texas hill country or on Sunday mornings on the golf course, enjoying the woods. Yet as beautiful and as good as those experiences are, if you really want to see Jesus, you need to be looking directly – at a cross.
Inscribed upon a plaque in the pulpit of the Church of St. John the Divine are the words: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” And if you really wish to see Jesus – you see Jesus on the Cross.
Because Jesus is not about a God of rainbows and butterflies and long walks on the beach. Jesus is about a God who gets down into the mayhem and muck and mess of life.
Next Sunday is Palm Sunday.
Beginning with Palm Sunday, we will all walk through the poignant and painful events of Holy Week. And if you really wish to see Jesus, you won’t just show up for the flowers and the smiles and the brightness of Easter. If you really wish to see Jesus, you will have the guts to experience the darkness on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. If you really wish to see Jesus, you will have the courage and the guts to see him – on a Cross.
Part of my job as a bishop – is that I am a pastor to the pastors. And in this last week, I have spoken on the phone to two clergy persons who are grieving. One clergy person just lost her husband, in a sad and sudden death. Another clergy person is young, and his brother died in a biking accident while on Spring Break vacation with his young family.
As I spoke with both of these priests on the phone this last week, They do not need a God whom they can see on the golf course or in a sunset on the beach.
In their own moments of personal crucifixion, they need a God who completely relates to suffering, and loss, and death. For we wish to see Jesus – who is on the cross.
You and I: we are all preachers. And each morning when we wake up, we step into the pulpit of life. Each and every morning, you and I step into a pulpit that has a brass plaque on it that says: Sir, we wish to see Jesus.
And as preachers, you and I both show people a Jesus who understands pain and suffering and death. As preachers, we show people a Jesus who was bullied and spit upon and whose friends left him for dead. As preachers, we show people a Jesus who makes friends with the marginalized, the lost, and the friendless. You and I show people a Jesus who is not all rainbows and butterflies and sunsets. As preachers, we show people a Jesus – on the Cross.
My friends, the world is sick and tired of the rat race that is fueled by perfection and success and greatness. And the hour has come – for Jesus to be glorified. The hour has come – for Jesus to be lifted up from the earth, drawing all people into his saving embrace. The hour has come – to see Jesus on the Cross. The hour has come – for you to respond to the request:
Sir, we wish to see Jesus.