When I was a young associate pastor in St. Petersburg, Florida, at a large Missouri Synod church out in the western part of the city by the beaches, I got to know an older ELCA pastor who was at the historic church downtown. His name was Priit Rebane; I had the greatest respect for Priit; he was soft-spoken, theologically astute, and seemed to be full of pastoral wisdom. At one of our meetings, he told about coming out of the seminary, ready for ordination. He had learned all the theories about the virgin birth, about the resurrection and whether it happened or not, the various criticisms of scripture. A young theological hot shot, he was headed out into the parish ready to unleash all his learning on some unsuspecting parish. His mother sat him down and told him, “Priit, just tell them about Jesus.”
In the gospel lesson for Tuesday of Holy Week, some curious Greeks come looking for Jesus. Jesus is transparent about who he is and what is coming. The questions and answers of the dialogue don’t provide much new information. We’ve seen all this elsewhere; we know the story. This encounter is less about having the right answers from Jesus than about seeing Jesus as he makes his way gently, persistently toward the cross. All the dialogue invites us to see Jesus.
In our bones, in our souls, to the depth of our being, we understand that what’s happening this week is at the center not only of the Christian faith, but of our own lives with God and of our life together as a community of faith. We want to see Jesus.
But what what are we looking for? It’s not enough to say that he was a good man, a good teacher, a miracle worker, an example to follow or even the victim of politics and oppression.
We are invited in today’s gospel to see the glorification of Jesus, the culmination of his whole ministry, the work that he came to do. We are invited to see Jesus lifted up as king of the universe.
Most importantly, we are invited to see the enthronement of Jesus on the cross. We are invited to see that in his death life came to us, that his crucifixion removed the barrier of sin and brokenness that stood before a loving God and a fallen humanity.
We are invited this week to see Jesus in the humble foot-washing and eucharistic meal of Maundy Thursday, in the trial, death, and burial of Good Friday, and finally, in the triumphant resurrection of Holy Saturday.
Carry those images in your mind and in your heart. They are icons of God’s love.