Lifted Up

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A sermon preached March 18, 2018 at New Creation Church (Anglican) in Hagerstown, MD.

By the Rev. Justin Clemente

In pulpits around the world, it has been a bit of famous tradition to inscribe, in way in which only the person who is preaching can see, five words. Do you know what they are? I’ll give you a hint: they appear in our Gospel reading today. Yes, they are, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” That is, of course, the only good reason to get into a pulpit – to help others see Jesus.

The words were spoken by Greek seekers in the midst of Passover week – in the midst of a sea of Jewish worshippers, they are in Jerusalem, worshipping the God of Israel, and looking for Jesus. They get it – they see a glimpse, in some way, of who he is. And these words, this request, has a strange effect. How does Jesus respond? You’d think he might have said to Philip and Andrew, well…go and get them! Instead he says, “My time has come – the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What is the connect? Why does he say this? Up until now, it has not been his time. What’s happening?

I love the moments in the Gospels when Jesus seems to be avoiding the question or the conversation a given person wants to have with him. Time after time, what’s he’s doing is getting to the heart of the matter. Jesus answer to request to “see” him is given in verse 32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Wright says, “In other words, if the Greeks want to see him, want to benefit fully from what he’s been sent into the world to do, his proper response is to carry on and complete the work the Father has given him. Only by this strange vocation will the non-Jewish world, the world of ‘Greeks’, come to gain the truest and deepest access to him that God intended. They wouldn’t just ‘see’ him, as they’d asked; they would ‘come to’ him, in the sense of being drawn by the powerful love of God, drawn into fellowship and new life.”

St. Athanasius once said that Jesus had to die on the cross because “crucifixion is the only way to die with your arms open.” Friends, as we hear the request of the Greeks met with Jesus’ words, time rushes forward – the time of the cross is upon Jesus and upon us. The day of salvation is near. So let us press in and press on as Holy Week and Good Friday draw near that we might fully embrace and be embraced by, the cross our Savior has borne, the seed which was planted firmly in the dirt of the earth, so that the tried and true wood of the cross might be forever lifted high that all might know him. Amen.

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