Sermons 2009
We wish to see Jesus, Lent 5B, 29 March 1009, John 12:22-33

Home | Proper 17B, 30 August 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | Proper 16B, 23 August 2009, John 6:56-69 | Pentecost 10 (Proper 14B) 9 August 2009, John 6:35, 41-51 | Pentecost 8B (Proper 12B), John 6:1-21, 26 July 2009 | Pentecost 7B (Proper 11B), 19 July 2009, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 | Pentecost 6B (Proper 10B), 12 July 2009, Mark 6:14-29 | Pentecost 5B (Proper 9B) 5 July 2009, Mark 6:1-13 | Pentecost 4B (Proper 8B), 28 June 2009 | Pentecost 3B (Proper 7B), 21 June 2009 | Pentecost 2B (Proper 6B), 14 June 2009 | About Pentecost, Pentecost B, 31 May 2009, | On the Trinity, Trinity B, 7 June 2009 | Jesus and Prayer, Easter 7B, 24 May 2009, John 17:6-19 | How can we love? Easter 6B, 17May 2009, John 15:9-17 | 2 Sermons: Vineyard and a Baptism, Easter 5B, 10 May 2009, John 15:1-8 | Who's in? Who's out? Easter 4B, 3 May 2009, John 10:11-18 | Sacramental Meals, Easter 3B, 16 April 2009, Luke 24:36b-48 | Resurrection, continued, Doubts, and a Baptism, Easter 2 B, 19 April 2009, John 20:19-31 | He is not here, Easter B, 12 April 2009, Mark 16:1-8 | The Seven Sayings from the Cross, Palm Sunday B 2009 | We wish to see Jesus, Lent 5B, 29 March 1009, John 12:22-33 | For God so loved the world, Lent 4B, 22 March 2009, John 3:14-21 | Out with the money changers! Lent 3B, 15 March 2009, John 2: 13-22 | On taking up the Cross, Lent 2B, 8 March 2009, Mark 8:31-38 | News or the real Good News?, Lent 1B, 1 March 2008, Mark 1: 9-15 | Listen to Him! Epiphany Last B Transfiguration, 22 February 2009, Mark 9:2-9 | What do you mean, demons? Epiphany 4B, 1 February 2009, Mark 1:21-28 | Immediately and discipleship, Epiphany 3B 2009, 25 January 2009, Mark 1:14-20 | Right in front of your eyes, Epiphany 2B, 18 January 2009, John 1:43-51 | In the beginning, water and the Spirit, Epiphany 1B, 11 January 2009, Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11 | In God we trust, Christmas 2B, 4 January 2009, Jeremiah 31:7-14; Matthew 2:1-12

Lent 5B                                                                  John 12:20-33


 “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”


This story in our Gospel for today is a rather odd one.  The setting is Jerusalem at the time of the great Passover festival at the Temple on Mount Zion.  This was a time when Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims coming to fulfill their religious obligation.           By this time Jesus had become rather famous as a prophet and teacher.  And some Greeks, hearing that he was in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, found his disciple Philip, whose home was nearby, and asked to see Jesus.


These Greeks may actually have been from Greece, but more likely they were from the Greek colony towns of the Decapolis north of Jerusalem.  These towns had been established during and before the conquests of Alexander the Great some 400 years earlier.  The Greeks who came to see Philip may have been converts to Judaism, or merely observant, or simply tourists.  From the Biblical references it is not clear.  And in any case, the term “Greeks” was used to describe people who were not Jewish by birth and religion; a term synonymous with “Gentile”.


“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Just inside the doors of the great library at Virginia Theological Seminary is a marble sculpture of Phillips Brooks, the author of “O little town of Bethlehem”, who graduated from the Seminary in 1859 and was ordained deacon by Bishop Meade of Virginia and priest the next year in Philadelphia.  In 1869 he became rector of Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston.  While at Trinity Church and before his consecration as Bishop of Massachusetts in 1891, Brooks became famous nationwide for his preaching.  There is a book of his sermons in our Parish Hall library.  He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints on the 23rd of January.  (1)


Phillips Brooks inspired one of the masterpieces of American nineteenth century church architecture: the rebuilding of Trinity Church into the magnificent edifice it is today.  Brooks played a very direct role in Trinity’s architecture.  But there is one feature of Brooks’ design visible only to those who preach in Trinity church.  He had these words carved on the inside of Trinity’s pulpit: “Sir, we would see Jesus,” the King James Version of “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  (2)


While this is an admonition to all who would preach the Gospel and is found on many pulpits around the world, it applies to all of us who call ourselves Christian.  All who makes that claim are witness to the Gospel by the way they practice their faith and live their lives.   It is an awesome thing to consider that we may be the way that people come to think about Jesus, may come to see Jesus. 


            Near Jerusalem today is a place named Yad Vashem.   It is the Holocaust memorial, a memorial to the martyrs.   To get to the memorial buildings there is a tree‑lined corridor.  Each tree1 has a plaque in front of it dedicated to a Gentile, a non-Jew, who during the Nazi Holocaust, risked their own lives to save Jews.  The corridor is the Avenue of the Righteous, and it is the only place in all the world where the Jewish community officially and formally designates a gentile as a righteous person.

            One of those trees is dedicated to a man named Aristidos deSousa Mendes. He was a Portuguese aristocrat who before the war was in France as the Portuguese Consul General.  As the war started out, refugees from the east entered France and .made their way to the Portuguese Consulate to ask for asylum in neutral Portugal .  Many of those refugees, were Jewish. Mendes began to give anyone who was fleeing the Nazi terror an entry visa into Portugal.  Thousands of people entered Portugal under these visas until the Portuguese government halted it.   Mendes was ordered to stop issuing visas into Portugal.

            Mendes and his wife were very devout Christians. and this order from their government was in total conflict with their faith.  It presented a terrible dilemma. But they continued to issue entry visas.  Mendes was soon removed from his post and ordered home.  As he made his way back to Portugal through a part of France where there were large numbers of refugees he wrote out entry visas for all of them.  Knowing that most of the borders were closed and that the border guards knew his visas were no longer valid, he led these refugees to a very obscure border crossing where the guards would be unaware of the government order.  He brought all of them into Portugal and safety.

            In Portugal Mendes was treated as a traitor who had disobeyed his government while on foreign service. He died in poverty in 1954.  But 10,000 people escaped the Holocaust because of him.  Mendes and his wife were practicing Christians and that led them to risk everything for the chosen people.  (3)


            A few years ago, a rabbi at a large Reform synagogue published an editorial in the local newspaper on Christmas Day. He said, “I like Christmas, and I like Christians.  My only problem with both is that they need more Jesus.”


            We all need a lot more Jesus.  It’s not only a problem for preachers; it’s a problem for every one of us who are called by the name of Christian.

            “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” the Greeks said to Philip.  We, too, need to see Jesus, so that when others want to see Jesus, they can see him in us. As the old spiritual puts it:

In the morning when I rise,

Give me Jesus.

When I am alone,

Give me Jesus.

When I come to die,

Give me Jesus.

You can have all the world,

But give me Jesus. (4)







1.  Wikipedia

2.  The Rev. J. Barry Vaughn, Ph.D., Selected Sermon for Lent 5B 2009. Worship that works,

            3.  As told in Dr. Carl L. Schenck, Missouri United Methodist Church, “Inviting us to die”, Lectionary Homiletics for Lent 5B,

4.   Vaughn, op. cit.