“We would like to see Jesus” isn’t this something we would love to hear from people, yes? Something that when uttered by our friends and family, neighbours, colleagues, would make us happy, surely?
I ask this question though. What would we say? Would we stumble over our words? Humming and “rrr” ing? Would we suffocate them with as much information as possible? Might we try to beat the Guinness book of records for the most number of christian cliches mentioned in 10 minutes without taking a breath? Would you describe what it’s like to go to church? Or tell them how good the worship was? Maybe mention the quality of teaching and good the children’s work? Would you talk about all the great friends and how lovely everyone is? You might think the thing that would swing it would be the quality of the after service fellowship?
Would that be answering their request? Would that be showing them Jesus?
Who’s asking anyway?
But who’s asking anyway. The people in this encounter were Gentiles and so not part of the people of God but it does state they had some knowledge. Some knowledge of God but also interested in Jesus. Going from the more general, if you like, to the more specific fascination with this bloke and enquiring about faith in this Jesus fella.
We can so easily think that the world is not spiritual. That people are not interested. The world is more concerned with material stuff but I think that is a mistake. To look at it from a christian perspective, if we believe that God created us to have communion with Him then there is a desire in all of us, the whole of humankind, to seek Him out. Like the idea of having a God shaped hole in us. Something that drives us to know more, feel that there is more to life than what we physically perceive.
And I have always loved this quote, “It’s not that people have stopped believing in God it’s just they now will believe in anything” There is the truth of this spirituality still there in everyone, it just takes shape in sometimes very different ways. So be encouraged that there are still people who will ask. Those that sometimes we least expect would ask “ We would like to see Jesus”
So when they do ask, how do we answer that request?
Ask someone who knows
It is always a good idea, when faced with something we might struggle to answer, is to ask someone who knows the answer. True? But we don’t often do that? We are more likely to stumble, mumble or just plain waffle an answer that is not really much of an answer really. It is often because we do not like to be seen as ignorant about any given subject.
I learnt very quickly as an apprentice that to get on I needed to ask. There is a tendency to expect to know everything straight a way but that just can’t be true if you’re anything like me. So my primary reaction to thinking “I don’t know about this” was to go to someone who did and say…well I used to flatter them actually. “Oh you fount of all that is knowing please enlighten this unworthy pleb with your bountiful wisdom” Ok it wasn’t quite like that but I would get the answer I required and began to grow in my understanding of what I was doing.
From these verses we see that Philip was the one who was asked, he didn’t answer he went to Andrew. Andrew didn;t answer either but they both went to the one who the others wanted to see, Jesus. They went to Jesus.
What would we do? Well I refer the right honourable ladies and gentlemen to the earlier conversation and what we tend to say when someone asks about Jesus. What is wrong with that? I think we know. And really the place to go to help explain something to someone is to go to the source! To Jesus.
There are two strands to asking the one who knows here. The first is for us to know who Jesus is in scripture. The very question that Jesus asked His disciples? “WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?” was answered by Peter from scripture.
Matthew 16:13-20- 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
SON OF MAN was the phrase used in this and our scripture for today. And it denotes, I think a few interesting points. The first being its connection with Daniel’s description of Son of God – Daniel 7:13-14. The Son of man can also refer to Jesus’ shared humanity with us.
The statements that Jesus goes on to say from this reading from John He, quite openly confirms He’s going to die, going to give himself and in recognition of this giving God will honour and those who follow and give themselves but in that they will give glory to God not hold tightly to their lives.
And in the final verses here 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” We are able to tell that seeing Jesus is seeing the cross and empty tomb. That all “including these gentiles” will know He saves us from our sins. This is the Gospel but it isn’t all of it.
The second strand to answering this is to communicate how we go to the one who knows. What I mean by that is Philip and Andrew went to Jesus. They had a relationship with Him and could go to Him and ask. This is different to answering via scripture. We might feel safe with quoting scripture. Don’t please get me wrong here, scripture is good, scripture is important, the problem with going straight to scripture is very few know their bibles, at all. So going straight to quoting scripture misses that point and therefore can miss what is being initially asked. The gentiles asked “we would like to see Jesus” not “we’d like to see the scripture that confirms who Jesus is, really” “We’d like to trawl through every verse and chapter, so we can make an informed decision either way”. What Jesus means for us is the first and best initial step to show who Jesus is to people who will ask “to see Jesus”.
I had a pretty sketchy relationship with religion. A very antagonistic one to be truthful. My perceptions were no different to a lot of others then and definitely the same attitudes that many people have now. My coming to faith hinged not first learning about scripture, but on several relationships and interactions with individuals. Their communication of what Jesus meant to them and the relationship they had with Him drew me in to a point at which hearing the word of God made my accepting of Jesus as my lord and saviour a real and meaningful event. I came to faith through hearing the word of God see Romans 10:14 but the witness of God’s work in individuals opened my heart to accept what scripture said about Jesus.
Going to the one who knows is just as much about us relating our personal relationship with Jesus than it is preaching the word of God.
Seeing Jesus is seeing us
In a very meaningful sense, not just spiritually but physically, seeing the church is meant to be an experience of seeing Jesus – later in John in chapter 17 Jesus says this as he prays for the church “I ask not only on behalf of these (that’s the disciples), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word (that’s us), that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
Also in 1 Cor 12 Paul says this Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Cor 12:12)
And v27 You are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor 12:27)
The Church represents Christ, not only as the credible evangelist of his life and teachings but also as a sign of his living presence and his permanent presence among his people. The Church confesses him in faith, speaks about him in teachings, celebrates him in worship, imitates him in our attitudes and interactions, calls upon him in prayer, desires to share his compassion, seeks his will, and loves him and one another, with a pure love (John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”)
Wow! See us see Jesus? The church is there so that others might see Jesus. Not just in our actions, what we do, but in our interactions, in our relationships. Paul and many of the New Testament writers are at pains to reiterate the importance of the Church being unlike the outside world. Not denying it’s problems and difficulties, but dealing with them in grace and with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Our relationships are to be forgiving, we are to live in servanthood and willing to grow in becoming more like Christ as we represent His body on earth.
And growing more like Christ is about each and every one of us as well. When people see us they will need to see Jesus. Our difference will be a sign to them of Jesus making a difference, “seeing him”, in our lives.
Now I know you are thinking this is all a bit daunting. Am I wrong? Well I think exactly the same as you. I can’t do that. They’ll never see Jesus in me. I’m too selfish, unforgiving (you may add whichever faults apply to you – but I bet it’s not as long as mine).
But I want to ask a question of you. Can you think of a person who was part of your coming to faith? Someone who you had a relationship with who was instrumental in your early faith journey and accepting Jesus as your lord and saviour. Well… Do you think they were perfect? If they are still with us you might be able to ask them whether they feel they are a good representation of Jesus and I bet I know what the answer will be. I’m sure you do as well.
We perceive that we are too bad, not good enough, but that is wrong on two counts. First the best way the enemy can stop you from showing people Jesus is by convincing you of that very fact. You are not up to it. Secondly, what you think of yourself is never ever the same as what the other person does. Their view can be bad, and we may have experienced those people, but most of the time it’s good. Trust me, if you are open, honest, respectful and loving in your relationships they will think very highly of you and therefore see Jesus in you. Oh and actually I’ve thought of a third… God has constituted the church to represent Jesus and He knows more than anyone that we are not perfect. So does God make mistakes? At times we might think so but Nah He doesn’t.
What to do about it
Whether it is verbalised just as these gentiles did in their request to Philip. Whether the exact same words are used. Or whether or not they even verbalise it at all, doesn’t really matter. People will see Jesus in us, as church and as individuals.
What they see is sometimes clouded by their misconceptions of Christianity and their experience of Church, or a church in particular. That can’t be helped but the godly spark is in all of us, placed there by a loving creative God who desires a relationship with us all. That spark is fanned into the flame of faith by their ongoing relationships with individuals and the church. Those can change the possibility of the Holy Spirit working on them.
As I mentioned before my faith journey involved many people, NO church at all. That may be the exception. My vehement rejection of this thing called christinaity, I thought, was total and unswering. However I was soon to realise it wasn’t, that God was bigger. I won’t go into full details but I was not even a fan let alone a follower. More and more the interactions I had, with Chritians that knew me or did not, and would probably feel their inadequacy as much as you do (actually I know that is true of many of them) the Holy Spirit began to work in me.
One event shows this in change in me was when a friend of mine, and remember I would never ever ever say I was a believer at the time, was arguing that the bible said “Do unto others as they do unto you”. Say that quickly and it could make sense, but it’s not true is it. Well something was changing in me because I respectfully (that was unusual for then) said “you’re wrong, the bible actually says do to others how you wish them to do to you”. Now we haven’t got time to reminisce about the whole conversation but just to say I have no idea where I had heard or read that verse but I knew that my attitude is changing towards the church, chritians and Jesus.
Apart from believing that God is working in everyone, just at differing degrees, the starting point is that the Holy Spirit is working in us so that we are able to show people Jesus. In individuals and the Church. It’s not the case that we must be perfect but that we must be willing. Willing to do what? Willing to grow in our relationship with Jesus and spend time with Him. Willing to be friends with people. Willing to share their lives, good or bad. Willing to talk about “who Jesus is to you and why it matters”. Willing as a group of christians to share our lives in serving each other and continuing our worship of our saviour in our lives together.
And this may be the most important, off grid, crazy idea, but it might be an idea to pray? Pray for them, pray for the church? Pray for ourselves? We might then see Jesus in and for ourselves… I know… mad eh!