“Sir, we wish to see Jesus”.
Imagine the simple request echoing along the corridors of church bureaucracy. It is passed from office to ofﬁce, from secretary to secretary. It is left on voice-mails, e-mailed through to headquarters, scribbled on post-it notes to type up later.
They phone the biblical studies departments, but they are busy with the Christology of Q and the pseudonymity of Ephesians. They call the history departments, but they have stopped talking about people and events and now explore the social construction of ﬁctive narratival worlds.
And the Greeks at the feast, then and now, wait patiently with their request: Sir, we wish to see Jesus.
Is there anyone else to see, anything else to ask for? It was so simple a question as to be touchingly naïve, like the young girl at the Salvation Army asking the visiting bishop if he’s saved. Or possibly cloyingly manipulative: in synods, when somebody says people should stop listening to each other and start listening to Jesus, it usually turns out that on this question Jesus and the speaker happen to agree.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be stopped in our tracks. We are, after all, in the middle of Lent of all times, and confronted with the question: what about Jesus? Can we please get to see him? Here’s a bracing question before Holy Week for us, individuals and a church community: to what extent does what we do contribute to an answer? How do we help people to see Jesus?
Having said all that, it’s worth noting that John doesn’t have Jesus hurrying off to meet these enquiring visitors! Instead, John seems to regard their question as a further sign that the hour is coming at which, through his apparently tragic death, Jesus will bear much fruit.
When people ask to see Jesus, it might not be expressed as clearly as “we wish to see Jesus”, it might not even use words at all. Surely the challenge to Christians is to learn to hear that question, however it’s expressed, in the culture of our times?
And when we are answering that request to see Jesus, that’s when we can see the relevance of the passage that we heard from Hebrews, exploring Jesus as the great High Priest. When we first read it, it might seem anything but the place to start looking for a simple answer, but by bringing together Psalm 2 and Psalm110 (both of which were common texts used to point to Jesus) the author portrays Jesus as that strange double combination: a king who is also a priest, the unique Son of God who suffered, wept, and died as a fully human being.
I think the challenge to us now, in this place is to find ways of talking about politics and religion which converge on Jesus, to discover language about divinity and humanity which, instead of competing, complement each other at the point of Jesus; and if we can do that then we’ll find ourselves well on the way to showing Jesus to today’s Greeks at today’s feast.
‘They shall all know me,’ says God through Jeremiah, promising renewal. If that’s true, why are we challenged by the question, “sir, we wish to see Jesus”?