Do these Greek pilgrims find what they were looking for? John doesn’t answer that question. All we know is that they want to see Jesus and that their coming marked the turning point on the way to the cross.
People like them keep coming: spiritually sensitive people searching for something they can’t define; broken people longing to be made whole; skeptical people who have been abused by versions of Christianity that have nothing in common with the way of Jesus; idealistic people drawn to something larger than narrow self-interest. They’re like Bono singing, “I still haven't found what I’m looking for.”
No one expects Jesus to respond by saying that like a seed that dies in order to bring forth fruit, only those who lose their lives will find them. They don’t expect him to say, “Whoever serves me must follow me.”
The disturbing truth is that seeing Jesus means seeing him on the cross. Finding Jesus means finding him at the place where he takes upon himself our suffering, sin, and death. Following Jesus means surrendering our self-serving narcissism to God’s self-giving love.
C. S. Lewis learned this lesson while riding on the top of an English bus. He sensed he was being invited to surrender, to let go, to lose his life in order to find it. He said that when he let go, he felt like “a man of snow at long last beginning to melt.”* He found what he was looking for. Have we?
*C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017), 274.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee. (umh, no. 363)
The readings for Holy Week focus our attention on the sacrifice made by the Messiah. The prophecies in Isaiah speak of it. The Psalms tell of confidence in God even in the midst of betrayal and suffering like that experienced by Jesus. The author of Hebrews celebrates Jesus’ death as the final and perfect sacrifice. Paul describes crucifixion as the center of our teaching as Christians. We follow these events through the eyes of two Gospel writers, particularly John. Jesus foreshadows his death in multiple ways, but even his closest followers struggle to understand and accept its meaning. Why would the Son of God experience such alienation and suffering? It is all for us, the ultimate work of love. But then he conquers the grave! Praise be to God!
Read John 13:21-32. When have you noticed darkness planting seeds of betrayal in your heart? How did you follow Jesus’ light?
Read John 13:1-7, 31b-35. What status symbols do you hold on to that keep you from following Jesus’ example of humble service?
Read Isaiah 53:1-5. On Good Friday, God enters into human suffering. When have you felt God’s presence in your suffering?
Read John 20:1-18. How has Christ found you?
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