We Would See Jesus
A lot happens in John 12, but the bit I have been meditating on is 12:21b. The translation I have memorized is KJV: "Sir, we would see Jesus"—we wish, we want to see Jesus.
As I write this, I am hip-deep in Lent, a time of penitence and reflection, a time to fast.
I am amazed continually at the absolute muck being dredged up in my own life. Oh hey, thing I thought or did 15 years ago that I just realized needs to be repented of, how's it going? Hey, you skipped two meals, and you're a foul person to be around, this is great!
Nobody said sanctification was going to be fun. It's dreadful. At times it feels like parts of you are being tied off with dental floss and left to dully pulse themselves to death before they rot and shrivel and fall off. This is not what I have in mind when I think about sanctification. This is not the cross I would have chosen. And yet I want to see Jesus.
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
Just before Advent, I wrote about ways God is with us. It's still true.
But that was Advent, with light and birth and hope on the horizon. This is Lent, and so I think about the Man of Sorrows, about the death that has to come before the life, the pain that precedes the relief, the (sorry) brokenness that precedes restoration.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
I consider the fact that I was raised in the faith, and never left it, and STILL managed to wind up bargaining with God for how little I could get away with and still be a Christian, sort of.
I think about why no one wants to suffer. Why would we? IT HURTS. You look at suffering and say "no, thanks, I'm good." But we rarely get to choose how we suffer. The cross we end up bearing is not the one we think we'd be good at, the one we could deal with. My idea of what constitutes suffering has also shifted significantly over time and hopefully will continue to do so. I was raised to think about what I could "give up" for God—how I could identify myself publicly as a Christian by dressing, speaking, or acting differently than others, in a way that often brought ridicule. What I realize now was wrong about this approach was that it focused on our sacrifice rather than Christ's sacrifice. Does personal piety still matter? Of course. Is it to be focused on incessantly, to the point of driving us to despair? Nope.
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
What I hadn't realized is that if you repeatedly reject suffering, in favor of a life of relatively uncomplicated ease, you are not going to see Jesus to the same extent. Will he still be present in word and sacrament? Obviously. Can you harden your heart and blind your eyes against conviction even while receiving word and sacrament? Yes. One of the questions I hear a lot, from believers and unbelievers alike, is "why does God allow suffering?"
I am beginning to think it is a mark of just how much he loves us because it is in this suffering we get to see him reveal himself.
Looking straight at the Christ revealed to us in Scripture can be difficult - my biggest issue with artistic portrayals of him is that none of them look like this.
Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
He suffered to a degree none of us ever will: sinless, made to bear the sins of all humanity, ripping holes in the very fabric of time and reality as we know it.
But having suffered this, having risen again in triumph over sin, separation, and death, there is nothing we can suffer that he hasn't, and in this, I have found a great deal of comfort.
Fix your eyes not on the suffering you are experiencing, but on the Man of Sorrows, who laid his life down for you.
Would you see Jesus? You may well have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but he is most certainly there with you. The day we will be able to see him with our own eyes and touch the hem of his garment with our own hands cannot come soon enough for me.