My beloved wife Nancy—with whom I am well-pleased – and I have traveled many places together. We’ve been to London, England. We’ve been to Germany twice. Belgium and the Netherlands. Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and of course three times together to Israel. I’ve actually been to Israel four times. Later this year, we will be taking our dream trip – well – Nancy’s dream trip. But I’m pretty excited about it too! We’re going to Africa. To Kenya and Tanzania. You know that Nancy is a cat lover. And she wants to see the big cats in the wild. So we will be doing our touristy thing – and spending a couple of weeks on safari in Africa.
Of course, tourism is not just a 21st Century phenomenon. Our Gospel text today tells of certain Greek tourists who are visiting Jerusalem. They have come to see the sights of the famous city. It is the time of the Passover festival, and Jerusalem is a crowded place.
While there, they hear about a man who is making quite a name for himself. It is said that this man has raised some guy by the name of Lazarus from the dead. These Greek tourists are intrigued by this. They are curious. So, in an effort to meet him, they approach one of his disciples – the disciple who just happens to have a Greek name – the disciple named Philip.
“Sir,” they said, “we wish to see Jesus. We wish to see Jesus.” So Philip goes and gets Andrew, and together they go and tell Jesus. Now, 2000 years later, the same thing is still true. 2000 years later, people are still wishing – still wanting – to see Jesus. But the question is – where are they going to find him? I like the bulletin blooper – and apparently this was a real blooper printed somewhere in some church’s bulletin – one of those churches that have Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. “This morning’s sermon, ‘Jesus Walks on Water.” Tonight’s sermon, ‘Looking For Jesus.’”
But what would you do, if someone walked up to you today and said to you, “We wish to see Jesus.” What would you do? What would you say?
Now we don’t have the luxury of the human Jesus walking the earth in flesh and blood like Philip and Andrew had. That doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t here. Remember what he told his disciples – and us – just before he ascended into heaven? “Remember, I am with you always.” Jesus IS with us, through the person and the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. This we believe, and this we declare. This is our experience of Jesus. Jesus is with us, and He is watching over us.
I like the story that’s told about some seminary students as they walked through the lunch line at the seminary cafeteria. The chef had propped a sign on a big bowl of apples that said:
TAKE ONLY ONE. JESUS IS WATCHING YOU!
At the other end of the lunch line, there was a large plate of freshly baked, steaming hot, chocolate chip cookies. One of the seminarians had put a hastily written sign over it that said: TAKE AS MANY COOKIES AS YOU WANT. JESUS IS BUSY BACK THERE WATCHING THE APPLES.
Yes, Jesus is with us, watching over the apples, AND watching over people like you and me. We want to see Jesus, but at the same time we need to remember – we need to know that Jesus is watching over us at the same time.
It therefore seems to me that if Jesus is present in our lives, watching over us, then anyone in search of Jesus can find Him. And anyone in search of Jesus needs to come to those places where Jesus can be found.
Now let me tell you where I find Jesus. I find Jesus in the Word, in the Bible. I see Him in His teachings – and the story of his life, his death and resurrection bring me face to face with Him our living, risen Savior. In the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion I feel His presence. I see Jesus in word and sacrament.
But I see Jesus in other people’s lives as well. I see Jesus where the people of God gather together – you know – where two or three or more are gathered together in His name. I see Jesus where broken lives are healed and mended.
In his book, A Future and a Hope, Lloyd Ogilvie writes about a woman named Linda. Linda was a homeless cocaine addict. She was experiencing serious health problems, including a heart attack, from her addiction. Linda was in a panic, not knowing what would happen to her and her young son. She was at the lowest point in her life.
One Sunday morning she wandered into a nearby church and sat in the last pew. The people around her could not help noticing that she was crying throughout the service. That morning Linda heard the Good News about Jesus and his love and his forgiveness. She heard about how to make a new start in life.
Linda returned the next Sunday and the Sunday after that, but she was reluctant to fill out the visitor’s card. But the more she came to church the more she began to feel the love of those sitting near her. And finally, she filled out the visitors’ card, checking off that she needed help.
That particular congregation had a program of lay visitation. That week, she was visited by two of the church’s members. They brought with them a message of hope and love. They shared with her that Jesus could help her, that Jesus could heal her. Linda committed her life to Christ and asked for his healing of her addiction.
Several months later Linda was radiating joy as she shared her victory over her cocaine addiction. “I want to share what I’ve found,” she said with enthusiasm. “I want to work with people hooked on hard drugs. I want them to know there’s hope!” Linda now works with teenagers who are addicted and are in need of Christ’s love and hope.
Linda came looking, and she saw Jesus. Where was it that Linda saw Jesus? In the hearts and lives of the people of that congregation. Not every congregation – not every church – would welcome someone like Linda. But this congregation did – and that made all the difference!
Jesus says that he is with us always. But what does that means? Well – it means Jesus is here – right here – right now! Jesus is present. And to a hurting and broken world – to all the Linda’s of this world – Jesus is present through people like you and me. This is something we must not forget. Jesus is present through his followers – through those who are his disciples. He lives in you – and therefore he is present in you. And that is one way He makes himself known – he makes himself known through you and through me.
Let me share one more story. It’s one I have used before – and I probably will use it again. Maybe some of you will remember it. But the story goes like this:
There had been no time to brief the class of children at Vacation Bible School about the little boy who came in late. There had been no time, either, for the teacher to find out how he had lost his left arm and how he was coping with it. Understandably, she was nervous, afraid that one of the other children would comment and embarrass him, or worse, tease him.
Taking a deep breath, she proceeded with the lesson. No problems there. No problems with the art work; he drew quite well with one hand and seemed to fit in well. No problems during snack time; he gulped his juice down with not even a spill.
Relaxed and quite relieved now, the teacher led her class into the center circle for their closing exercises. “Let’s make our churches now,” she said, leading them in the familiar activity, “Here’s the church; here’s the steeple; open the doors, and there’s all the people,” when the awful truth of her actions struck her – a second too late. The very thing she feared had happened – done not by a child, but by herself.
As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over, placed her left hand against his right hand, and said, “Let’s make a church together.”
Where do people see Jesus? The same place where we see Jesus. Where hearts and hands come together to make – and to be – the church. We see Jesus in his word – we see him in the sacraments. We see Jesus where two or three or more are gathered together in his name. We see him where broken hearts and broken lives are put back together again.
Where Jesus dwells in human hearts – where Jesus dwells in our hearts – in our lives – in our homes – there we will see Jesus.