Seeing Jesus and Being Seen by Him
JOHN 12: 9-19
Jesus isn’t the only person in this story. Who saw Jesus that day?
- Jews (v9 “all the people” who flocked to see him were Jews according to the original Greek)
- Lazarus (v9 people came to see Him and Lazarus too who had been raised form the dead).
- Those who saw Lazarus raised from the dead (v17 “Many in the crowd”)
There would also have been Greeks (later, v20 we hear that Greeks had come to Jerusalem for the Passover), inquisitive traders etc who just happened to be there at the time, disciples, people of faith, people of none, people who worship many gods.
Imagine something like the Godiva procession, Allesley festival parade, Godiva Awakes etc. There are people who come deliberately because they have a particular interest and there’s the others who are curious.
What do they come to see?
A bit of context. Jerusalem and all the land we call Israel & Palestine was then part of the Roman Empire. Although the Romans had their own beliefs, they generally let the people in the provinces practice their own religion and as long as they didn’t stir it up too much that was OK. It suited the Romans to let the Pharisees take charge of the Jews which they carried out with religious fervour. They created many rules and regulations which ran contrary to God but which gave the Pharisees power, status and importance in the Jewish community. Jesus exposed their hypocrisy and challenged their commitment to God on a regular basis. This made Him very unpopular with the Jewish authorities and when his following started to increase, they felt very threatened and looked for ways to be rid of Jesus.
Jerusalem was the centre of the Jewish world and for Jesus to calmly enter the city, by a main thoroughfare was bound to cause more than a stir.
Of course He knew that he was entering the hornets’ nest and it would lead to His death as prophesied. He had told the disciples enough times but they didn’t get it.
So, here we are. This wasn’t just some bloke trotting down the street. This was JESUS. For the last 3 years or so He had been making His way through the countryside teaching, healing, forgiving, empowering people with the Spirit and praising God. He had built up a large following. Don’t forget the thousands that followed him all the way round the lake to hear His word & had to be fed loaves & fish. Think of the crowds around the house when the only way a sick man could meet Him was to get lowered in through the roof.
And now Jesus was making a rare and very public visit into Jerusalem and all of a sudden it seemed like three years’ worth of followers all appeared in one place at one time to welcome Him
So, given that there is such a vast number of people along the way, what do you think they SAW?
The disciples and those closest to Him would have seen their Lord coming to town in Peace, although they might not have known why. Riding a donkey is the sign of coming in peace; riding in on horseback would have been associated with warfare- what you would expect of an invading force or a triumphal procession. Jesus coming in on a donkey may well have confused many of His followers
What were they to make of this?
Many Jews saw Him as their saviour and acknowledged Jesus as the fulfilment of prophesy, a prophesy which heralded a king sent to save the people.
Problem was, they misinterpreted the prophesies – they expected Him to trash the Romans and set Himself on a throne to rule over them, free them from oppression…and here He was, coming in peace. They didn’t see Him at all really, but some kind of heroic liberator, freedom fighter, people’s hero.
They don’t see Jesus, they see a captain of war
Others were curious, wanted maybe to be entertained by a miracle, wanted to see Lazarus as living proof of this man’s power, missing the point about love, forgiveness and faith. What they wanted to see was a show, a performance they could relate to their grandchildren “I was there when…..”
They don’t see Jesus, they see an entertainer
There are those on the edge, dipping a toe in the water “who is this man? I must know more” They would perhaps see Jesus as an enigma, superhero and unknown quantity and be curious. If they found out who He was, would the mystery be solved, the spell broken?
They don’t see Jesus, they see a mystery man
And there are those in the shadows, you can only just see the tops of their heads as they nod wisely, muttering under their breath about blasphemy. These are the Pharisees. Never a good word about Jesus. In total denial of His being the son of God and constantly looking for ways to do away with Him, Jesus Son of God. They are also planning to kill Lazarus (v10) as they saw him as the reason why so many tuned to follow Jesus. They are threatened, paranoid of losing power. What they see is a threat, a challenge to the status quo
Let’s not forget the Romans. There would have been a few Roman citizens among all of these people, but what about the Roman authorities? Well actually I don’t think they would have been particularly bothered. Some officials may have noticed something going on but as long as it didn’t disturb the peace they didn’t really care. Remember in a few days’ time the Pharisees will ask Pilate, the Roman Governor, to have Jesus put to death but he (Pilate) can find no Roman law that has been broken and cannot find Jesus guilty of anything.
The Romans don’t see Jesus, they see a mild local disturbance
Jerusalem would have been bursting at the seams as many Jews would have come for the Passover. Some people in the crowd would have been bystanders, passers-by who just happened to be there & got caught up in the excitement. Have you ever been in a place where a crowd is forming nearby and you just have to go and see what it’s all about? And when you get there you still aren’t completely sure what’s going on but the crowd are so fired up with joy and emotion that you get swept along and start to cheer and shout with the rest.
And then the focus of the excitement comes into view and all of a sudden it’s absolute mayhem- jumping singing shouting falling over…wild…hysterical…
And this is what happens isn’t it? The focus of attention – Jesus- is in danger of almost becoming secondary to the occasion itself.
The people along the roadside when Jesus comes to town are you and me. They are us in a different time. Go see the Godiva Festival parade, go to a gig, watch Coventry City play.
All types of people all there for the same thing though all seeing it differently.
So, how does that relate to us in this world, this city, this church?
I’d hazard a guess that at some time in our life we will have experienced some or all these ways of seeing Jesus and probably more;
- Captain of war
- Mystery man
- Mild disturbance
These are not what He is. Try adding:
…and above all SON OF GOD
There’s a whole spectrum of ways that Jesus is perceived by us and we all will find ourselves at different points along that line. Sometimes this depends on what life has thrown at you- it is challenging to keep your faith when so many bad things are happening. It is also difficult to keep focused on Jesus when all around you are doing the opposite.
Look at the crowd on that day when Jesus came to town. Now compare them with the crowd in front of Pilate when he asked what he should do with Jesus.
They cried “crucify Him!” I often wonder how many people attended both events and got swept away by the MOMENT, carried away by the raw emotions of each occasion.
This is US! This is what WE do. Politicians, football managers, best friends at school…In one moment, out the next. The list goes on.
But for all that, Jesus will never ever lose His love for us. You can call for His resignation but He will still manage the team, you can de-friend Him on Facebook but you will still be on His “friends” list.
Unlike many of those in the crowd that day, Jesus does not have some superficial impression of us, you, me which is based on our reported deeds; neither does He come into our lives JUST WHEN we do something dramatic or unusual. He is there when we need Him and also when we think we don’t.
He doesn’t SEE us with eyes alone but is completely in touch and aware of our hearts, our feelings, thoughts and motives and can SEE parts of us we didn’t even know about. Parts we can’t hide, And regardless of all this, He still loves us, loves what he SEES.
While we often see things on the surface and easily cast judgement, Jesus sees deep deep into us, never judging, always loving.
In a while there will be a Palm Sunday procession. Try to imagine being part of the original procession and ask yourselves: “how do I see Jesus?” “Do I see Him like any of these other people?”
Sermon: Andy Littlewood 29 March 2015