Seeing Jesus based on a reflection by Karoline Lewis (Professor and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota)

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Do we really? Do we actually want to see Jesus? Or do we pretend, feign interest, when in fact, seeing Jesus just might cause a kind of discomfort we’d rather not experience.

Karoline is rather amazed by these Greeks. She gets get that in John they represent the world. The world that God loves. The world that God saves. The world that rejects a presence of God that just might cause a rather cataclysmic theological event.

But at the same time, these Greeks represent us. And they ask what we should ask. As it turns out, this verse is carved into pulpits around the world. Why? Because preachers need this reminder. Sermons should never be simply information about Jesus. They should enable the seeing of Jesus. The experiencing of Jesus.

The request of the Greeks is critical for our time. They ask to see. They don’t request proof. They just want to see. They get what “come and see” is all about — an invitation to be. An invitation to abide. An invitation to relationship.

But, how often do we ask to see, but have already decided what is worth seeing — and what isn’t. Much of what is happening now, in leadership, in our churches, in the way we interact with each other, we see only to judge, to maintain our own self-righteousness, not to get to know, to learn, or to understand the other. A word of wisdom –  leadership does not mean leading an attack!

I think that much of what is wrong with religion, with Christianity, with church and its varied traditions, is the conviction that we need to justify, prove, or validate the presence of God, the need for God, the certainty of God. This becomes packaged in pious rules, rather than embodying, giving witness to, the fact that God’s presence might actually matter for making sense of the world.

And so, instead of wishing to see Jesus at work, Jesus in our midst, we seek to control Jesus rather than remaining open to the Spirit. We set up boundaries for God’s activity rather than expecting God’s surprises. We insist that we can decide what is and what isn’t of God and so restrict God’s revelation to our own ideas. And when we come up short, rather than realizing our misguided assumptions about God, we try harder to execute our plans.

When it doesn’t go our way, when we find ourselves faced with our own fixed expectations of God, we quickly back-peddle, hoping to avoid the discomfort of recognizing our own need for forgiveness.

The request of the Greeks is an open-ended wish. They want to see, as it seems, absent of predetermined outcomes or preconceived ideas, at least according to the text. And the result is that Jesus speaks the truth that is his very self. The truth we never want to see. The truth we wish we could un-see. The truth about God and that is God and the truth about ourselves. The hour has come.

Karoline Lewis