Summary: "Can you help us?”If the question is ever asked of you, where will you go with it? Maybe it won't be direct but cloaked in pain, soaked in questions or the agony of searching for an answer when no answers come.
Scripture: John 12:20-36
(The Message) – “We want to see Jesus. Can you help us?" (v21)
Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers (Newfoundland comedy group) feature a song on one of their albums called “Only 19”. It is the story of a young man who married what he thought was his young bride until they got ready for their first night together. She removed her cork leg, make-up that’s equated to a gallon of paint, followed by false eyebrows and wig to expose a bald head. The song suggests “She was handier 90 than 19 years old.”
Things are not always as they appear. When we get beneath the surface of the exterior sometimes it’s a different story.
Today’s text is a lesson that Jesus is not as he appears. There’s more to Him than the fanfare of waving palm branches followed by fickle people shouting he’s the best thing that ever happened to them. When they got beneath the surface it wasn’t so pretty and they scattered like startled sheep.
The Greeks knew there was more to Jesus than meets the eye. They wanted the complete picture, the whole package, the straight goods. That’s where we pick up the story with our text and their probing question to Philip, “We want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”
If the question is ever asked of you, where will you go with it? Maybe it won’t be direct but cloaked in pain, soaked in questions or the agony of searching for an answer when no answers come.
If you want to answer that question and not run away from the opportunity there are three suggestions I offer, lessons that God impresses on us if we resolve to show them Jesus when they want to see.
“Can you help us?”
1. We can help by leading them to truth
The Greeks (Gentiles) who asked to see Jesus may have already been converted to Judaism. However, they were a people in search of truth. Their quest was to get behind the scenes of the obvious externals and explore the unattractive qualities and controversial side of this radical, unsafe, complicated Jesus.
In any quest for truth it was said, “It is not hard to find the truth; what is hard is not to run away from it once you have it.” (Etienne Gilson) Carol Gustav Jung said, “Our world is so exceedingly rich in delusions that a truth is priceless.” The Greeks’ quest is a trait we would do well to desire.
Their pursuit starts with Philip (a Greek) who didn’t know what to do and so went to Andrew; Andrew, with Philip, immediately went to Jesus. Why Philip didn’t think to simply say “let’s go” is a mystery which we’ll consider in a few moments.
In their pursuit of truth the Greeks were not exploring a philosophy but a person. It is an idea that author and minister, Lisa Bevere speaks of as she reminds us with Scripture that we must move from understanding truth as a “what” and see truth as a “Who” – John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the…truth…”
In the movie, “A Few Good Men” a young military lawyer played by Tom Cruise is prosecuting a case that challenges the orders of a veteran Colonel, played by Jack Nicholson. The courtroom becomes a shouting match to which the young lawyer demands in strong tones, “I want the truth!” The veteran leader shouts back, “you want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”
Uncertain Philip took the Greeks to Andrew and without question Andrew took charge and got them to Jesus. We can imagine the brief opening. “Excuse me, Jesus, these guys asked to see you. Guys, Jesus.” With pleasantries aside, Jesus speaks of many things after the introduction. Jesus knew why they came. He was quite familiar with the Greeks’ quest for truth and exploring the untouchable. To that reality, Jesus unrolls the truth, drawing attention to the fact that many people can’t and won’t be able to handle it; that they will find it repulsive, unacceptable and will run from it.
• Vs 23-26 – his glory was not world conquest but the cross; he explains that as death is the key to life in his act of surrender to the Father so to it is true for us. Death to our own dreams, ambitions, priorities and our way of trying to understand God through human philosophy is the key to our living.
• Vs 27-33 – Jesus shows we become greatest when we learn to completely give up to God’s plan for our lives; that servant-living is the most powerful weapon we have but it doesn’t come easy and it’s not cheap.
• Vs 34-36 – Jesus is clear about His place in God’s great scheme to save humanity. He reveals the stark contrast between life with him and without him.