Summary: There is seeing, then there is SEEING; there is knowing, then there is KNOWING. How do people see and know Jesus?
Sermon for II Christmas Yr B, 5/01/2003
Based on Jn 1:10, 18
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, Alberta
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Well, here we are, celebrating our last day of “The Twelve Days Of Christmas.” On this day, we hear again those marvellous words from the prologue of John’s Gospel. Today I invite you to ponder with me the words in verses 10 and 18 in particular: “He (i.e., the Word-Jesus) was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” For those of us who have read and studied and preached sermons on the Fourth Gospel; we not only learn that it is quite unique and different from the other three; we also realise that there are different levels of meaning packed into John’s Gospel. Thus, in our encounter with this marvellous text, there is seeing and there is seeing; there is knowing and there is knowing.
Here I’m reminded, first of all of that old cartoon I used to love watching as a kid on television, “Mr. McGoo.” I remember how things were so easily misunderstood by Mr. McGoo due to the way he looked at the world with his impaired vision. For example, he would say, “Excuse me Ma’am” when walking into a tree. He would do things like trip on cracks in the sidewalk, or walk on thin air because he didn’t know or see that he was stepping off a cliff. He thought he knew and saw the world correctly and would at times become rather surprised, even indignant when others suggested to him that his seeing and knowing was incorrect and quite distorted.
In today’s gospel, John is telling us that this is what happened to Jesus, the Eternal Word, Very God; who came into the world; who even created the world; yet the world failed to see and know him. Is this not one of the most sobering ironies of John’s Gospel? How can this be? How can people fail to see and know the Very One who created them and their world? There is indeed seeing, then there is seeing; there is knowing, then there is knowing.
Some of you may remember the tale of Sir Launfal and his search for the Holy Grail.
In his prime Sir Launfal set off from his splendid castle to seek the Holy Grail. He was scarcely a stone’s throw from the castle gate when a beggar craved alms, and Sir Launfal—bound upon his noble quest—impatiently flung the man a piece of gold. Then on and on and on, for ever searching in distant lands, growing old and feeble with the passing years, and returning at last a defeated man.
Back again from his travels, whom should he find at the castle gate but a beggar? Sir Launfal having learned much, sat down with the wretch, shared with him a crust of bread, and filled the beggar’s cup with water from a spring close by… and then the miracle, for the beggar was Christ, and the cup was the Holy Grail itself. Said the vision:
The Holy Supper is kept indeed
In whotso we share with another’s need.
Not what we give but what we share-
For the gift without the giver is bare.
Thus did Sir Launfal find the Holy Grail. 1
In both the cartoon “Mr McGoo” and the tale of Sir Launfal, we learn of our own human blindness in this world. We all look at the world in a certain way, which will have its blind spots. We may think and believe that what we see and what we know is right and true and correct—yet, John confronts us all with the fact that the world, even though they saw Jesus, did not know him. We can live most of our lives, as did Sir Launfal, without seeing and knowing Christ. How can that be?
Well, it comes down to what value we give to how we see and how we know Jesus. For example, we can approach Jesus from a purely scientific and rational worldview. We can examine his birth, life, teachings and death from an analytical viewpoint, as if we were putting them all under the microscope. All of this may give us a lot of detailed information about Jesus. We can then draw our conclusions based on “the objective scientific facts” that we are able to verify and accept. Yet, do we really see and know Jesus if we approach him only from a pure, scientific worldview? The information about him may enlighten us and help us in many respects—however, I do not think that we completely see and know Jesus only from this sort of approach.