BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 22, 2020
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
— John 12:20-26, ESV
Americans come to Christ casually. Getting baptized, confirmed, or otherwise joining one of the churches on every corner is virtually a birthright. Even Tom Petty’s main squeeze in Free Falling “Loves Jesus, and America, too.”
We Americans do love Jesus. But do we really know Jesus? Do we really understand Jesus? Do we accept the claims Jesus makes on the lives of those who claim to believe in Him?
In this first passage past the Triumphal Entry into the last Passover, some obscure characters come to Jesus’ disciples to request an audience with the Messiah. “We wish to see Jesus,” they said. Don’t we all? But let us be careful what we wish for.
A Closer Look
Almost nothing is known for certain about these “Greeks” who approached Philip and Andrew. Remember, a million or so people crammed into Jerusalem for the festival, the devout and the demure and the deranged. They could have been committed Hellenistic Jews, curiosity seekers from Alexandria or the Mediterranean, or just a bag of nuts. But I think they should get credit for coming to the Lord in a serious way.
These Greeks obviously knew the two Greek words for “see,” one that refers to sight (ref. 9:25) and the other insight (vs. 21). One can see the light, by looking at sun, moon, or stars; or, one can see the light by gaining an understanding of a complex problem or person, like Jesus.
They chose the latter word. They wanted a lengthy, personal interview. They wanted a deeper dive, a better understanding, some satisfying answers to the four diagnostic questions suggested by the late James M. Boice: Who is Jesus? What did He do? Why did He do it? What does it require of me?
The typical American Christian has not taken the time to seriously ask and seek answers to these questions. Don’t be typical. Do be Christian. But make sure you’ve taken a long second look into what Christ and Christianity is all about. Jesus is about to tell us.
A Critical Hour
As far as we know, Jesus did not meet personally with the Greeks. There was just not enough time. Christ had arrived at the final, desperate “hour” of His earthly life and ministry. Of course He is not speaking of a literal sixty minutes, but of the last few days spent in His incarnate body, which was predestined for a long, slow walk to the cross.
Jesus addresses His farewell address to His current addressees, Philip and Andrew. He was equipping them for the Great Commission, for the taking of the gospel to Jews, Greeks, and all the nations. It is short, precise, and powerful, containing tips for all earth travelers who want to understand Christ and the Christian life.
Christ is fully committed to God’s glory. Everything Jesus ever did was calculated to give God the most glory. This includes being silent for most of His life. Did you ever think about how not saying something can give God the most glory? When Jesus finally spoke up, however, He did so in full allegiance to God, not man. He spoke of the sinfulness of man and the necessity of sovereign grace. This, of course, got Him killed. This was that desperate hour.
Christ’s death results in life. Jesus explained, pre-cross, that He had to die in order for others to live. This is true, as any good doctrine of the atonement or a discussion of double-imputation can prove. Jesus sowed seeds of blood that have yielded a crop of believers going on two thousand years now. And the first full resurrection was His own.
Christ’s life now exists on a higher plane than this present world. Jesus left the earth but is still with us, in Spirit. Therefore, His concerns are overwhelmingly spiritual, not earthly. This is not to say He does not care about Covid, or your electric bill, or your final exam in math class. He does, He is a loving God. But He is mainly concerned about matters of holiness and righteousness. He wants to see those who see Him partaking in worship, discipling the nations, and loving one another.
Christ is rewarded in Heaven. We cannot see Him now, but one day we will crown Him with many crowns. His trophy case will be full, and it is doubtful there will be any golden hammers there for winning “Carpenter of the Year.” Such prizes give a temporary high, but one that does not last higher up.
Do you “wish to see Jesus” in this way, not as some Santa Claus in the sky, but as a real man who really died to prove He really is God, the God who demands complete worship and comprehensive discipleship? See Jesus, then take a second look at the Son of God. Now take an honest look at yourself.
A Call to Discipleship
To understand Christ, you have to absorb the things He said about Himself. To understand Christianity, you have to apply them to yourself. Here is a clarion call to Christian discipleship.
The Christian must be fully committed to God’s glory. Lot’s wife turned back, and she died. Achan took back, and he died. Ananias and Sapphire held back, and they died. God will not settle for half of you, and you cannot know and enjoy God until you are fully committed to His glory. As Westminster informs us, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Christian faith is sacrifice, trust, obedience, and the joy of pleasing God.
The Christian's death results in life. Jesus repeatedly admonished those who would be His disciples to take up their own crosses and follow Him. Paul taught we must die to ourselves to have life in Christ. And it is our many crosses, our many deaths, our many sacrifices, that bear the fruit of other souls coming to Christ as well. Do those closest to you know you are so close to Christ than they can see your cross?
The Christian’s life now exists on a higher plane than this present world. Jesus, James, and John taught us to love God and His kingdom far above any earthly loves. Some of these sayings are cloaked in hyperbole and contrast, but the meaning is clear. If you love anything more than the Lord Jesus Christ, then you don’t love the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Christian is rewarded in Heaven. God has not come to us to give us glory, and He will not accept our works for salvation. But if you are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, you will get an astounding reward: honor. Do you know what it feels like to be honored by your spouse, your children, some school or organization? Imagine what it will be like to be honored by God, when you see Him face to face.
You can wish for an understanding of economics and investments, make a lot of money, and leave it all behind when you die. You can wish for fame, notoriety, and practically nobody will remember you two days after you are gone. Or, you can say, “We wish to see Jesus,” come to Him on His terms based on His word and live for Him in this life, and this flicker of a life will give way to an amazing, unimaginable place of glory and honor. The glory is all God’s, but the honor can be all yours.
Do be careful what you wish for.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org