Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27″Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. 34The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” 35Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
Some Greeks were among those who went up to worship, but there is something not entirely about worship on their minds. They wanted to see. Not only were they in town to worship, they were also in town to see. That’s normally why we travel and go other places: to see. We want to see the sites, take in the scenary, behold things we have never before beheld. We take in all the important things: Famous buildings, a nice park, an historical landmark or two, perhaps a famous person or a show. We go to see. These Greeks were no different even 2,000 years ago. They wanted to see.
The problem is that, as Eugene Peterson has so aptly pointed out, Jesus is no mere tourist attraction. Jesus is not someone you go to see; someone you go to hear; someone you go to meet. And He is about to make that more than clear to those who were within the sound of His voice. It is at this moment that Jesus announces that the time has come for the Son’s glorification. He ignores the request of the Greeks who had come to see Jesus as if he were a carnival show or significant celebrity. He ignores their request, flat out denies them. They never saw Jesus. Then it happens is living color: Jesus tells people the goal he has been working towards his entire life. He tells them what they cannot fail to understand about the Messiah if they expect to truly see the Messiah: You cannot miss His death. If you miss his death, his suffering, his passion, you have missed the entire point of Jesus.
Jesus is not something or someone we go to see as if he were a tourist attraction, a sideshow. You cannot go and look at Jesus and expect, for one minute, to understand Him. Jesus says, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” That’s it. If you want to understand Jesus you have to participate with Jesus. You have to die with Him.
So what shall we say? Shall we say that the church is OK on this count? I think not—and I speak as one who is in the church, one who is charged with the responsibility to instruct the church in these things (in other words, I have a duty to point this out): Too many in the church think Jesus is a mere tourist attraction. They are content to go up to worship and take in a show on the way or even after they get there. There is an entire segment of the church, right now, who is (I know that grammar is rough) convinced that Christianity is a mere spectator sport like a baseball game, or a football game, or an opera. Christianity is OK as long as all I have to do is sit back and watch everyone else do it. Christianity is OK as long as all I have to do is show up and ask for an audience with Jesus so I can see him.
“But don’t you dare ask me to be involved in that sort of Christianity that makes absolute demands on my life! Don’t you dare ask me to make a commitment that involves more than seeing! Don’t you dare ask me to surrender my control of my life. My life belongs to me!” seems to be the calling card of many. We see this becoming more and more the norm in churches all across the Country. Increasingly, this is becoming the character that defines Christians. There is little self-denial, little real sacrifice, little real, absolute surrender to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. More and more it is, and has become, a church full of self-centered, brats who want all the latest gadgets and gizmos and self-help sermons that focus very much on what I want and what I can get out of it. We hear people throwing around terms like ‘relevant’ and ‘practical’ as if somehow the preacher’s job is to improve on what God has delivered to his people once and for all in these last days (see Hebrews 1:1-4). I have been reading Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels. Hybels is surely correct that we need to pray more. But as I read this book I am struck at how often the prayers are merely prayers for the helping of the self. You know, help me through this, help me move this mountain, help me get through this crisis. This is not sacrificial prayer.
This is why, when the Greeks come to see Him, Jesus points to the cross. In other words, “If they want to see me, they will have to look to the cross.” The only place to truly see the Jesus of Scripture is to see Jesus Christ crucified. That is where Jesus points. This is where the Church too must point. This is where Mary pointed when she anointed Him with perfume. This is where the triumphal entry into Jerusalem pointed. This is where the Scripture pointed (16). This is where we must point.
I have been reading another book. It’s a fun book called Perspectives on Election: 5 Views. Each chapter is written by an ‘expert’ of a particular version of election. Then each of the other four authors gives a critique and response to the view. There are two versions of Calvinism, one of Arminianism, one Universalism, and one Open Theism. I just finished reading a chapter on a doctrine called ‘universalism’ which basically believes that in the end everyone, literally, will be saved. Near the end of the chapter, on page 258, I scribbled in the margin, “There’s no cross in this chapter.” Then I read the responses.
The second response was written by a Calvinist named Robert L. Reymond. Reymond wrote this in response to Thomas Talbott’s universalism:
I would insist that Talbott’s index for the measurement of the essense of God’s love, namely, a universal expansiveness that must encompass every single human being, is unscriptural, ineffectual, and inappropriate. Rather, the indices by which we should attempt to measure adequately God’s love (and we are bound to fail) are the extraordinary object of its affection—this sinful world—and the indescribably expensive costliness of God’s bounteous gift to us—the sacrifice of his Son in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Talbott has missed both of these measuring indices in his effort to universalize reconciliation to God” (266, emphasis his).
In short, there is no cross in Talbott’s universalism.
Jesus didn’t ask for a way out. Instead He embraced his calling: For this very reason I came. So notice what he says: ” ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” It is in the cross that all people are drawn to Jesus. So the Pharisees were quite mistaken when they said, “Look, the whole world is going after him.” Jesus says that all people will be drawn to Him at the cross, not on the road up to Jerusalem amidst shouts of ‘Hosanna!’ It is the cross where we find hope and salvation. It is in the death of Jesus that many find life. It is in His crucifixion, his substitionary death, that we are saved from empty, meaningless, death saturated existence.
There must not fail to be a cross in the Church. I don’t care how well the speaker speaks, how friendly the friendlies are, how exceptional the nursery is if there is no cross. If there is no cross, there are simply no Christians.
Soli Deo Gloria!