Summary: Life is full of complicated issues and questions. Until you "see Jesus" life and God will never make sense.
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus."
Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ’Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."
The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
From time to time I get an invitation to visit a different church to be their guest preacher. Whenever I preach in a church I haven’t been to before, I am always anxious to stand behind the pulpit to get a feel for it. I want to stand there and look out at the still empty pews and imagine how I will be making eye contact with the people. I want to hold the pulpit to see how it feels. Most of all, however, I want to sneak a peek inside the pulpit – just to see what’s back there.
A lot of you have never looked behind the pulpit, but there are a couple of shelves in most pulpits, and you often find unusual sorts of odds and ends back there.
Let me see, I sometimes have hay fever, so I have a box of Kleenex back here. A couple of hymnbooks. A Bible. Well, as pulpits go, this one is rather tame.
I can remember preaching in one church and inside the back of the pulpit was a fire extinguisher. One can only wonder what kind of fire and brimstone preaching would make it necessary to have a fire extinguisher behind the pulpit.
I can remember visiting another church and finding, of all things, a telephone. Throughout the sermon my mind kept wondering, “What do I do if it rings? Stop preaching and answer it? Ignore it?”
Behind the pulpit in the chapel at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA, there is a small sign. It is a brass plate with an inscription, quoting the New Testament lesson for today.
“Sir, we would see Jesus.”
Of course, seminaries have changed a great deal in the past few decades since that chapel was built, and the last time I was there, someone had scotched taped an appendix to that quote, so that the sign now read, “Sir, or madam, we would see Jesus.”
The reason someone put that sign behind the pulpit in the first place is to encourage the new preachers being trained at the seminary not to proclaim themselves, but to proclaim Jesus Christ. Every sermon ought to enable people to see Jesus more clearly.
As a minister, I am the first to admit that sometimes I am not able to do this. No minister is able to perfectly proclaim Jesus ALL of the time. We’re all human. Sometimes the sermons we preach simply seem to cloud the issue, rather than to clarify Jesus – to obscure rather than to proclaim Jesus.
I have a friend who, in her early years of ministry, did volunteer work as a chaplain at a nursing home. One day she was invited to conduct a Sunday morning service at the nursing home – an invitation which she accepted gladly. She threw herself into the task with all of her energy. She thought very highly of the people who lived at the nursing home and she wanted to deliver – not just a sermon – but a great sermon. So she worked and worked on it, filled the trash can with rejected thoughts, until finally she had IT.
The only trouble with IT is that it was the kind of sermon that only a recent graduate of the seminary would understand. It had lots of references to Greek and Hebrew in which the thighbone of Justification is connected to the hipbone of ecclesiology.