S-1488 Palm S/3B 3/29/2015 Hymns: (O) #161; (S) #160; L.S. #308; #309; #315; (C) #162
Texts: Zechariah 9:9-12; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
Theme: “We want to see Jesus” (John 12:12-26) 20-21
Question: “How well do you see?”
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text for Palm Sunday is from John: “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’” (12:20-21).
People of the Cross, you who have been purchased with the crimson blood of the Savior, thanks be to our Creator God who gave us eyes to see. The eyes are a part of the body that are most remarkable. They see color and detail. They can sense depth and distance. The eye is a creative miracle of the creative Miracle Worker. But sometimes we need more than our natural eyes to help us see more clearly.
Whenever I go out deer hunting, I use binoculars to help me see farther and better. With age, I have needed glasses to help me see better. Many of us use either glasses or contact lenses to help us see better.
Now, I am going to ask you to help me demonstrate my point. I will not impose on those of you wearing contact lenses, but will ask any of you who are wearing glasses to kindly remove them for a few moments... How well do you see without the aid of your glasses? Probably not well. You wear glasses or contacts to see better and more clearly.
In today’s Gospel we meet some Greeks who have come to Jerusalem during Passion Week to celebrate and observe the Passover. These devout and God-fearing Greeks had a request for Philip, “Sir, We have a great desire to see Jesus.” Jesus was the object of their desire.
The questions we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help answer are these: 1. Why did they ask Philip and 2. Why did they want to see Jesus?
1. Perhaps they approached Philip because he was from Bethsaida, which bordered their own Gentile towns; and because Philip was not a Hebrew name. Maybe he even spoke Greek. Philip then asked Andrew to help him and together they took the inquiry of these Gentiles to Jesus. And,
2. More than likely these God-fearing Greeks had heard many reports about Jesus, including the recent news that He had raised Lazarus of Bethany (John 11) from the dead. Like the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 and the Gentile centurion Cornelius of Caesarea of Acts 10, these Gentiles trusted in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and wanted to be near Him and know Him better. They had heard of the God who had done mighty things, and now right there before them is that Man who was bringing the Messianic age to fruition. PAUSE.
We don’t know much about these God-fearing Greeks, they probably attended synagogue worship in their home towns and regularly traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate festivals. But when they came to worship at the temple, they could only go up to the court of the Gentiles. There was a wall separating Gentile worshipers from the rest of the temple area & they could not go past it.
Despite this restriction, these God-fearing Greeks had a desire to see Jesus. The apostle John presents Philip as a person like us—down to earth, not highly educated, neither did he come from a high class society. Remember, it was Philip who said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” He, too, wanted to see better.
What was Jesus’ response? Jesus mildly rebuked Philip, saying, “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been with you for a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit was at work in Philip, a simple, ordinary man who is used to further the kingdom. He was chosen by Jesus to be one of His disciple. The Savior of mankind delights in His children and equips them for the work in His church to share the great news so that others might see Him and know Him better.
In His divine wisdom Jesus deliberately chose Philip. This act gives hope to you and me. Philip was certainly a common man, but the Lord Jesus Christ chose him as His apostle. In mercy and grace, God delights to do great things with ordinary people. He chooses the nobodies of the world and makes them somebodies. We ourselves were nobodies, but God chose us, and being baptized in His name we become somebodies special—His own treasured possessions. PAUSE.
What a blessing it is for us to be brought here by the Holy Spirit, to see with eyes of faith what these Greeks saw. They saw the Savior of mankind in person. They had a desire to behold Him who is the heaven-sent Savior. They wanted to know that they have a place at the table with Father Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and so do we.
Yet, many times our eyes don’t see the majesty of the Divine Son of God. We don’t see because we choose not to see like Paul the Apostle. Remember he was a Hebrew scholar. He read and knew the Old Testament well, but wouldn’t accept the truth that this Man—Jesus, is the Messiah.
With fervor Paul went out on a mission not to save people, but to enslave them into the rules of man. He didn’t go out to share the love of Jesus, but to silence Him. On this mission Jesus met and opened his eyes by removing the scales that hindered him to see clearly. Once the scales were removed this man, became one of the greatest missionary and preachers the world has even known. We have 13 Epistles (letters) penned through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by his hand in the Bible telling us of the great doctrines of salvation, justification, sanctification, adoption into the family of faith, the story of redemption, and glorious resurrection all through Christ’s mighty power.
Read his Epistles and you will see Jesus more clearly, more wonderfully and more amazingly, because the Lord in mercy removed the scales from his eyes. Like Paul, we too have had our eyes opened. In the waters of Baptism we died to sin and received new life. In Baptism we who were enemies of God became friends of God. We who were blind now can see and can see so clearly! We confess that without Jesus there is no life and there is no resurrection.
We hear this and our bodies ache with longing, a possibility too good to be true. We’re hungry. We’re thirsty. We long for the bread of life—bread that truly satisfies. To see him. To see Him face to face. The intimacy of the encounter—as our gaze meets His and we are drawn into those refreshing waters, our eyes swimming in His. We long for the embrace of God, our participation in the eternal love of the Father, Son, and Spirit. We long for the Son of Man to come in all His glory.
By the grace of God, we are richly blessed like the Greeks of old who see Jesus. We see Him too. We see Him in His Word, and in His simple Means-water, bread and wine. Oh, we see Him, not with glasses, contact lenses, or binoculars, but by grace through faith worked in us through the Holy Spirit.
The God-fearing Greek had a desire to see Jesus and so do we. But did you know that Jesus has a desire to see you? Indeed He does! He saw us in our sins. He saw us as people heading to hell without Him. He saw us wallowing in the mire of sin without a chance to get out of it. He saw us destined to spend eternity without any hope of freedom and slaves in the clutches of the devil.
Yes, He saw us as we are—poor, miserable, outcasts sinners without an opportunity to live in peace and joy with Him. So He did more. He came to earth as a humble man, lived the perfect life as He constantly looked to the love of the Father to sustain Him. He permitted the powers of His day to beat Him, bruise Him and bludgeon Him. He permitted the power hungry to drag Him, defile Him, and degrade Him. He permitted the solider to smite Him, strike Him and spit upon Him. He permitted them to place a crown of thorns on His head and crucify Him to death on a Roman cross. He did all of this so that we can see His love for you more clearly.
But He still did more, on the third day He rose again to make sure that you and I, poor miserable sinners will rise again from death to life. Just like the Greeks saw Him, just like the disciples saw Him after the resurrection, just like the women saw the tomb empty and saw Him in person, so do we today. We see Him here in His Word and in His Sacrament.
Thanks be to God, that the One who created our eyes has opened them up for us to see. And we have seen who this Jesus is! In the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, w e leave here and share what we have seen and heard so that others might see Him and believe. Join me in thanking the Lord for opening our eyes to see Him now and always. Amen.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA