I watch a lot of detective programs: Law & Order, CIS, NCIS, reruns of Rockford Files, Columbo, Walker–Texas Ranger, and others. My wife, Gloria, is much better in figuring out ahead of time “Whodunit.” I enjoy watching the clues unfold.
One of the common things I see is that often a detective will go into a place with a picture and ask, “Has anyone seen this person?” Usually the answer is “NO” until the detective gets a little tough with the persons he is questioning.
And in our society we have often seen pictures of missing children on milk cartons and posters hung in strategic places.”If you have seen this person, please immediately call 555-5555!
And many times people go to particular movies not so much because they are interested in the storyline, but because a favorite actor or actress is in it. Tell me it is a Jimmy Stewart or John Wayne movie and I’m ready to watch it!
In our scripture passage we find ourselves in Jerusalem during the time of Passover. As was the custom, pilgrims came from all over to be in this City of God to worship as they recall the Miracle of the Passover—when God delivered the Children of Israel from Egyptian Slavery. There had been an interesting development in this particular Passover. On the first day of the week, a crowd had gathered, not at the Temple, but at the Eastern Gate of the City. A multitude of people were seen coming down from the Mount of Olives singing and waving Palm branches as they paid homage to an itinerant Rabbi that had gained much attention in the previous 3 years. And Jesus had entered the city riding on a donkey’s colt causing the people to recognize him as much more than just a Rabbi– they saw Him as the Son of David, the Messiah. The whole city had been caught up in the excitement of His presence.
While most had come to celebrate the Passover, there were hundreds who had come just to see Jesus. And among those were certain Greeks—Gentile Believers. These Greeks voiced their reason for coming when they were able to connect with Philip, one of The Twelve. They quickly stated their intentions: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” (John 12: 21).
• WHY DID THEY COME TO JERUSALEM FOR THE PASSOVER?
- Passover was an annual event that involved remembering and giving Thanks to God for His Mighty Hand of Deliverance. God had given the Jewish people specific instructions as to what they were to do in their celebrations:
• There was the Passover Lamb that was slain and roasted. It had to be eaten in the home and was not to be eaten by foreigners—only by the Israelites and their slaves and those who had converted to Judaism and were circumcised.
• There were the bitter herbs that were to be eaten, reminding them of the harsh treatment they had received from the Egyptians.
• There was the unleavened bread to be shared, signifying their rapid departure as God lead them out of Egypt.
• There were the stories to be told of the first Passover so that each generation would know and remember how great our God is.
• And since the time of King David hundreds of years before this, Jerusalem had been the designated City in which to worship God. It was not only the capital city, it was the city where the Temple was located. While there were synagogues in the villages were Jews came together to study God’s Word, It was at the Temple where sacrifices were made. So there was something extra-special about coming to Jerusalem to the Temple.
• And I’m sure there were many who were in Jerusalem because of the Passover who came for other reasons than to worship. Merchants came with their merchandise to sell to the pilgrims. Roman Soldiers were there in abundance to maintain order and prevent any riots. And I’m sure that many came in order to connect with relatives or friends they hadn’t seen for a long time.
In Carthage, MO every year in August there is a Vietnamese gathering at the Catholic grounds just across the street from our Nazarene Church and District Office. And while the event is under the guise of a Religious event, I’ve seen that many are there just to connect with the crowds and find friends or family. There are booths set up allow the street selling food and drinks. And a lot of things that are going on have nothing to do with religion!
I suspect that same could have been said of the thousands who happened to be in Jerusalem during the celebration of the Passover.
• But, what about you? Why are you here in church today? I hope you came because you have a deep longing in your heart to worship God. But I know that people attend church for many different reasons. Some come because of their need to connect socially. Some come because it is a custom, a habit that they formed over the years. Some come because they want their children to learn about God. Some come to see what others are wearing—or to show off their own stylish clothes. Some come because they want to be entertained. Some come because it gives them business contacts or leads. And I’m sure there are many other reasons people attend. And most of those reasons are valid—that is, unless those are primary reasons for attending.
• Those Greeks that were there that day may or may not have been Jewish converts. But they had a reason to be there. They had heard about Jesus and they came with every intention of seeing Him!
• Did you come today for the primary purpose of seeing Jesus?
• HOW COULD THESE GREEKS BE SURE THEY WOULD SEE JESUS?
• They came expecting. From the Gospels we know that in those 3 years of Jesus’ public ministry, the multitudes had learned to expect Jesus to be at the various Religious Festivals. They knew He preached the Kingdom of God was at hand. They had come to expect Him to be in the Temple compound teaching His followers and all who would listen. They knew about his brushes with the Temple authorities. And they had heard about the healing miracles he had performed at the Pool of Bethesda and areas around the Temple. He had been there previously, so they had every reason to expect he would be there again—this time at the Festival of the Passover.
It is said of the early Nazarenes that they came to church fully expecting Jesus to be there and to see lives being changed and people being set free from sin. And they were not disappointed.
Is that the reason you came to church this morning?
• They came intentionally. In the 1st century world there were lots of things that kept people busy. The shepherds had to keep watch over their flocks, protecting them from wild animals, keeping them from straying off into dangerous places, seeing they had cool water and green grass to drink and eat, shearing the wool, doctoring the injuries. The manual chores for every household included going to the community well to draw water, preparing the meals, cleaning the house, spinning the wool, making the clothes, buying the necessities from the area merchants. Many lived on the bare necessities and on a day by day existence. To take time to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem put a huge strain on their daily lives. So, if they were going to go to Jerusalem for the religious celebration, it involved much planning and preparation. They didn’t just accidentally show up at the Temple. They were there because they intentionally decided to be there.
I’ve talked to people over the years who have given me all kinds of reasons for why they can’t be in church. “It’s the only day my family and I can relax or play together!” “I have so much work to do—I just can’t afford to take the time.”
I was raised on a farm and I learned early on the urgency in the fall of getting the soybeans harvested and the other crops gathered before the weather turned bad. But my dad always stopped the farm work on Sunday morning and went to church. It was intentional. It was a priority. It was the right thing to do!
• They came focused. These Greeks came looking for one person. They didn’t focus on the corruption of the city leaders. They didn’t spend time commenting on the appropriateness—or inappropriateness of the dress others were wearing. They didn’t get hung up on the style of music that was being sung. They didn’t get sidetracked by the carnival-like atmosphere or the glitter of the merchandise in the roadside booths. They were looking for one thing—one person only. “Sir, we would like to see Jesus!”
Where are your eyes focused this morning? I just believe if we would come to church and focus our attention on Jesus, we would not be disappointed.
• They came aggressively. I don’t see any indication that these Greeks came and found a seat and just waited to see what they would see. No, they took the first step. They sought out Jesus’ disciples. They cornered Philip—the one disciple who had a Greek sounding name with which they could identify. And they said in essence— “Show us Jesus!”
• THEY WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED.
• The Scripture tells us that when the Greeks made their request to Philip, Philip grabbed Andrew and the two of them told Jesus that these Greeks were asking to see him. In that context Jesus stated that His time to be glorified had come. And he talked about seeds dying before they could give life. And, then in John 12: 26 Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Then In verse 28 we read, “…Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified [my Name], and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; other said an angel had spoken to him.’”
• Those Greeks who asked to see Jesus must have been ecstatic. Their expectations, their intentionality, their focus, their aggressive search, had paid off. They saw Jesus and witnessed the voice of God.
I pray that we can all take note of those Greeks that morning. I pray that everyone who comes to worship service will not be disappointed. My desire is that in all that we do one thing will be accomplished—that we lift up Jesus for you to see.
Jesus said in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
What drew you to church today?
I pray that the Spirit of God will draw you to the foot of the Cross today and that you will see the Love of God revealed in the eternal sacrifice of Jesus—who went to the Cross, taking our sins upon Himself, so that we could be forgiven.