If only it were that simple. If only people actually came up to you in casual conversation and just said out of the clear blue sky, "I wish to see Jesus," or maybe, quite honestly...we would rather not them say anything close to that. We would prefer talking about the weather, or March basketball madness or the upcoming baseball season, or the latest project around the house; because those topics we can go back-and-forth on without any pressure whatsoever. But let's just say, hypothetically, even though it may never happen for the rest of our life, just imagine someone awkwardly comes up to you and says, "I wish to see Jesus." What exactly would we Christians do?
The subconscious automatic pre-programmed response for us church-going types is to say, "Well, come by on Sunday morning and I, along with a bunch of my friends, will show you this Jesus;" as if we somehow have this tight-grip hold on the Savior of the world inside these brick walls, and Jesus will only reveal Himself if enough of us show up at 9AM on the Sabbath day. So come and you'll find this Jesus you so desperately seek: you'll find Him through inspirational songs, heart-felt prayers, wisdom-filled readings from the Bible, not to mention strong hugs from people you never met, and infectious laughter. All of it will just make you feel Jesus deep within your soul.
Now there is something to be said for all of that, for all of this Holy Spirit-filled time of worship. But I think by now people know we worship on Sunday mornings, and still others on Saturday, some even during the week. I think people know there are immense opportunities available to go to a church building and experience God in a certain way; but they, and let's be honest, we too, want something even more. They want to find Jesus outside these brick walls. They know He's out there. They don't believe for a second that the church has this special power to keep Him to ourselves. They know He's out there too, but where exactly? Actually, the confusion isn't just where to find the Risen Lord, it's when to find Him.
We're under this general impression that we always need to do something to find Jesus in our life. We have to find the right path. We have to work our way to the right solution to a problem. It's all about finding Jesus in the victory over an obstacle of health, or resolving a dispute with a friend. Our Savior is waiting for us in this fantasy in our mind of exactly the right process to overcome the issue at hand, as if we can only find our Lord through the moments of satisfaction, and happiness, and joy.
Except when the people in the Gospel reading we heard this morning ask to see Jesus, they aren't taken to a party overflowing in uncontrollable laughter and excitement. Instead, the Almighty Son of God is immersed in the dirt and grime of this life. The disciples find Jesus deeply entrenched into the struggles of this world, serving those in the most desperate of circumstances.
How quickly we forget the so many instances in this life when we haven't found Jesus so much, but we felt first-hand Jesus finding us during the moments of tears streaming down our faces after the death of a loved one. Jesus finds us when we're agonizing over family or work. Actually, Jesus never finds us at all. Jesus was there all along, never leaving us behind, no matter how awful the night, no matter how depressing the day, God remains by our side.
We see it first-hand both in and outside the walls of the church, where people flock in masses when something has gone wrong: when there's tragedy and agony with our family and friends and surrounding community. It's almost ingrained into us through the Holy Spirit to immediately respond to those who are suffering. God will not allow us to sit back and not at least offer the strongest of hugs or the infectious laughter of memories past. We must continue to shine the very light of Jesus Christ that invades the deepest darkness time and time again. Our Savior brought it to life on the cross: not even death could contain His infectious life to the world.
That isn't to say we need to stay in the constant grind of this life in order to experience Jesus Christ first-hand. He obviously doesn't stay there, not even on the cross. He rises out of a dark infested tomb. He sets the stage for a Kingdom of God to finally come to reality before our eyes. He instills a victory of life everlasting: it is the Greatest News this world will ever see. And yet, even when He gets out of that tomb of death, He makes sure the people who are enduring the trials and tribulations of this life, are brought along for the journey that will get them out for good. And it's not that Jesus found them so much. He knew where they were all along, because He was just there Himself: in the pain and the agony to the point of death. But as the story goes, with Jesus, it will not last. There's too much hope, too much life, and He brings us all out into the Kingdom of God forevermore. And for that we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon