We Would See Jesus
And there were certain Greeks among them, that came up to worship at the feast: The same came to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. (John 12:20-22)
Greetings to all of you, dear ones in Christ, from our family here in the village of Bunbonayili. We are grateful for each of you and for the important role you continue to play in the work of God among the Konkomba tribe. It is our desire once again to begin writing more regularly, now that we have settled back into life among our people after our furlough there in the States earlier this year. We are praying that our contact with you in this way can bless and challenge you: bless you by hearing the ways that God is answering your prayers for our tribe, and challenge you through the unique perspective that we have living and ministering among a largely unreached people group. Please forgive the long period of silence from our pen (or computer), and come with us as we share some of the thoughts that God has laid on our hearts recently.
I mentioned the unique perspective that is provided for us by the situation that we find ourselves in, surrounded by a spiritually destitute, open-hearted tribe: one outworking of that perspective is how we look at God’s Word, and what things ‘jump’ out at us when we are reading. The words ‘Greek’ and ‘Gentiles’ stand out to missionaries in general as the meaning of the two words has an application to the lost world as a whole, and we are not an exception to this rule. We find ourselves reading the Scriptures, often looking for these key words which usually signal some promise or truth that can be applied to the people we minister to here. So as I meditated on the above verses in John 12 recently, my mind was immediately alerted to the fact that the people who approached the disciples, wanting to see Jesus, were Greeks. Greeks, the outsiders, the outcasts, and the outlaws, for indeed they were outside of the Jewish system of law by birth, though in heart they obviously had enough spiritual desire that they had come up to the feast. Greeks, not the primary focus of Jesus’ time on earth, but definitely included as one of many focus groups that motivated his death on the cross as the sacrifice for all mankind. Greeks, not allowed by law to enter the inside of the temple until generations after they became a proselyte, but here at the feast none the less, and willing to just be near to the spiritual celebration if not allowed to be a part of it. Greeks, those people held in disdain and referred to as dogs by their Jewish counterparts, but definitely here at the feast, and here with enough spiritual discernment to pick out the one man who was worth seeing!
So it was Greeks who came to see Philip, desiring to see Jesus, and it seems that although Philip was still a Jew by blood, he had been with the Savior long enough to break down some of the prejudice that we all feel towards those who are different from us. His contact with Jesus may not have been long enough or intimate enough to light a fire of loving passion in his heart towards the Greeks that now stood before him, but he had seen enough of Jesus’ heart that he listened to the request of these men, and set about to fulfill their simple but heartfelt request. The long-reaching effects that Jesus’ life and impending death would have on the race of men standing before him were probably not clear to Philip, but he knew enough of the heart of his Master to know that Jesus would want to see these men, and he felt a duty to provide the connection between these two hearts: the heart of the Greeks, spiritually longing to see the Savior, and the heart of Jesus and of God himself, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth.
What about you and I? What is our attitude towards the “Greeks” who we come into daily contact with, either in person, or through reading of where such people exist? Have I been with the Savior long enough and gotten to know him intimately enough that I have at least a little of His heartbeat in my own heart? Have I had the kind of heart contact with the heart of God that so decisively changes our perspective on the world, and the Gentiles specifically? Has the Spirit of God broken through in my life, through the shell of pride that exists around all of us about who we are and how superior our way of life is? Has that resulting softness of heart had its outflow in a new and growing passion for the lost around me? Do we realize, dear brothers and sisters, that the longing hearts of a hungry world are drawing them to “come up to worship at the feast”, imperfect as their knowledge may be, and that the same spiritual hunger motivates them to stand before us now in person or in soul with the same question that met Philip’s ears, “Sir, we would see Jesus”? Do we know the heart of our Master well enough to know what he would want us to do with the hungering masses now inquisitively looking our direction? Has our Master’s passion for the world become obvious enough to us that we feel the same desire that Philip felt: namely to be the one to stand between, and provide the connection for these two longing hearts? Do we live our lives trying to meet the double responsibility that comes upon us by our knowledge of these two longing hearts: the heart of the world longing for Jesus, and the heart of Jesus bleeding for the world? Does it drive us as it should?
This is not intended to be a personal interrogation of any of you, for in truth God is and has been ministering many of these questions to my own heart, and I see my lacks on many counts. Oh, to allow the Spirit of God to work in our hearts enough that our old prejudices are broken down and replaced with some of God’s passion for every human being! Maybe we do not even realize that we have these elements of pride and superiority in our lives, but certainly they are there and their presence is one of the greatest hindrances to the ability to maintain a burden and love in our hearts for the lost world. The “New Creation” power of God can and must be brought to bear on these areas of our lives, if we are to carry the heart of the Master and see the beautiful fruit flowing out of our lives that we see out of his.
Let’s move on now, and look more closely at the simple request that the Greeks made to Philip, for indeed it is the soul of this passage of Scripture: the men asked to see Jesus, and they could have asked no better question, or used their chance to ask to see a better man! Somehow in the soul of these Greeks, just like in the soul of every human being everywhere, there was an inherent consciousness that when allowed to observe or hear just a little of the One, instinctively knows that this is the One. Once that consciousness dawns on the heart of man, no matter how vague the understanding may be, the soul will never find its rest until it finds the source and fulfiller of its longing. The soul of man, created by God to fellowship with him, must either spend its life moving ever closer to the one who created it, or tragically it can die in a futile attempt to run away from the consciousness of God< and the demands that that awareness brings on its life. The wonder to you and I, reconciled as we are to God, should be the fact that these unlearned and untaught men somehow knew who they needed to see! Somehow they were able, or I should say were enabled, to look through all of the outer shells of human thinking, and were blessed with the awareness of the One they needed to see and know. In this regard, the many things that they did not ask for seems to me as significant as the fact that they knew the One to ask for! The fact of this divine moving in the heart of man even before conversion, and the longing heart of God that it represents, should be a strong motivator to you and I as we view the world full of “Greeks” and ponder on our responsibilities towards them. Something had happened in the heart of these men to bring them, first to Jerusalem to observe the feast, and now to stand in front of Philip with their request, “Sir, we would see Jesus”.
Do you and I acknowledge, not just with our minds but with our hearts, the fact that the God of heaven is working even now in the hearts of people groups all over the world, drawing them to himself, not by the work of some missionary or pastor, but ahead of both of these, working by His Spirit alone to bring them to the knowledge of Himself and their need of Him? Does our knowledge of this truth affect our lives in any tangible way? Does the simple imperative caused by the fact that God is working in hearts all around the world grip us? Does it create in our hearts a desire to follow up on and work with God in the drawing of these people to himself? Is this desire strong enough to motivate us through the incredible difficulties that this redemptive work entails? Doesn’t the fact that God is working create in us a feeling of guilt for all of our sitting while God is working?
I think that it is also noteworthy to observe who came to whom in this story: Philip was not out looking for someone to witness to, combing the streets trying to find an open heart, in fact, he was not looking at all! The Greeks came looking for him, with a view of asking the all-important question. Philip was certainly somewhat responsible for their coming to him, because he walked with the Master faithfully and had evidently followed him to a place where the Greeks could meet him. But at the moment of consequence, we cannot but say that the initiators were the Greeks, and not the disciples. They felt the first desire, they decided to find someone who could answer their question, they found Philip, and they started the conversation. Philip had a role to play, but it was largely his responsibility to comply with their desire and lead them to Jesus. Oh, what a joy it is to meet people today, who, just like the Greeks, are placing themselves in front of you with the life-altering question on their lips “Sir, we would see Jesus”! Dear reader, are you aware that the scene described in John 12 is being repeated dozens of times daily all around the globe on which we live? We are privileged to have the opportunity to witness these kinds of heartfelt requests on a regular basis as we minister here, and though it happens often, it still thrills and grips my heart every time! All around the world, the “Greeks” of our day are looking for the “Philips”, coming to them and then presenting them with this most wonderful open door of ministry. It may be hard for you to imagine, if you have never been in Philip’s place, but the motivating power of receiving such a request is incredible. We have but a small window through which we view what God is doing in the world, but what we see definitely motivates us and drives us to action.
The last question asked in the section above spoke of the fact that God is working and many times we are not, and now God has added another challenge to us through this story: not only is he working, preparing hearts for that initial encounter with the truth of his existence, but people in many places are responding to the Spirit’s moving, and are setting out on a search to find someone who can help them to see Jesus. We wrote several paragraphs ago about the double responsibility that comes on us as we realize that God’s heart is longing for restoration with every human being on the face of this earth, and also acknowledge that only in finding Christ will the longing heart of man be satisfied; now add the last two points and the moral imperative or responsibility grows even more. Not only is there this hidden longing between the heart of God and the soul of man, but now we see that God is actively pursuing man, and many times man is actively looking for God!
Does it do anything to our souls to have this dawn upon our hearts? Shouldn’t this realization make our hearts well up with desire to use our time and resources to provide the link that can satisfy these two longings, and bring to an end their feverish search for each other? Could you remain inactive while watching a friend search for a lost item, if all the while you had a clear view of where the item was hidden? Haven’t we all felt the need to pick up a pen that someone dropped, or to hand a toy back to a small child who was unable to reach it for themselves? If such a simple need can motivate us to actively involve ourselves in someone’s life, then shouldn’t the eternally greater need of the hour, that of linking men to Jesus, motivate us with an unsurpassed intensity? Can we continue sitting as though deaf and dumb, while in front of us stands a great crowd of “Greeks” earnestly desiring to see Jesus?
May God forgive our idle complacency, and begin to impress on our hearts the single most important thing he left us here to accomplish: the task of leading hungering hearts to the source of all true satisfaction, Jesus Christ! Do not wonder that I include myself in the prayer for God to forgive our inactivity, because though we are active for God here and are thrilled at helping and watching the Konkombas come to Christ, I have the chance to witness the need more than most, and feel keenly my own lack of passion, when viewed against the combined forces of the tremendous need and the pleading heart of God.
The last challenge that God has ministered to my heart from this short narrative, and which I would like to share with you, comes from looking closely at what the Greeks requested, and what Philip then did with their request. I mentioned above that it seemed just as significant to note what the Greeks did not ask for, as to note what they requested, and the same thought applies to the response of Philip. Philip took the request given to him, and immediately set about to answer it; and meet the need of the men standing before him. His quick response should challenge us, but the main challenge I took from this portion was how, or with what, he answered their need. The men asked to see Jesus, and Philip simply helped them to meet this end. No complex system of learning, no set of prerequisites for them to meet, no book of law and order, right though some of these may be at times. Philip knew that the need of the hour was not for more information about Jesus and the miracles he had done for others, not a schedule of the upcoming speaking engagements Jesus would honor, but a face-to-face encounter with the One who could meet their need. Philip kept to the basic need and made sure that he met it, not with platitudes and programs, but with a life-changing meeting with the Master!
The challenge of making sure that we keep our attitude and ministry focus on the things that really count is not limited to the developed world, though the opportunities for error may be greater in number there than here. It is so easy there in the States, with all of our wonderful plans, outreaches, and church gatherings, to forget that in the end each of these things will only be effective as they fit into meeting the real needs of the people around us; and those needs can only be met through people seeing Jesus! How necessary all of our ministries and organizations are, but oh how easy it is amidst the busyness that these programs create to forget that people need to SEE JESUS, and that only this will satisfy their hunger. What a tragedy it is to offer to the “Greeks” who come to us, not that meeting with Christ that they need, but rather the list of our latest programs, seminars, or some other equally interesting but still not life-changing information. They need exactly what they are asking for, and that is to see Jesus!
But even here with our much simpler form of life and ministry, the challenge remains: though we are not trying to uphold a great list of programs and institutions, just getting to the villages and organizing a meeting can be so filled with difficulties that in the end we can easily forget what our primary focus must be. Amidst the daily challenges we face just living here, it is very possible to forget that in the end our goal must not be to plant this many churches or establish this many leaders training classes, though these are needed, but to show in every way the life of Christ in action! Our people desperately need discipleship and leadership training, and we are endeavoring to provide this, but in the end God continues to draw my heart back to the center, which is that our people must see Jesus if they are going to become the men and women of God we so desire them to be. It is not only the initial work of salvation that flows out of seeing Jesus, for even for us as more mature believers the need to continually keep the image of Jesus before us remains important. The thought that God has continued to press on my heart is that I must make sure that I keep as much focus on living the life of Jesus before my people as I put on meeting with the leaders of several villages every week, organizing leaders training classes, etc. My thoughts on these verses have been one of those times when God, by his Spirit, again focuses us on that which is all-important, and in a moment of time we see that all that we are doing will be nothing if we do not have this area right. I am praying for God to continue to make this truth real in my heart, and for him to show me areas where I am out of focus and am offering that which can really never satisfy the needs of my people here.
What are we offering to the many “Greeks” who come, and with their life or mouth ask us to see Jesus? Are we humbly leading them to the one who has met our need and who will surely meet theirs? Or are we offering them a program or plan in place of an actual meeting with Jesus? Maybe we are so busy with our own ministries that we do not even know that the “Greeks” are waiting for us, and on their lips a plaintive but simple request, “Sir, we would see Jesus”? Do we hear them? Is the maintenance of our ministries consuming so much of our focus, that only occasionally do we get a chance to really show people the life of Christ? Are we so busy tuning the combine and greasing the wagons that we have forgotten that the harvest is still waiting in the fields? Or have we possibly, in the fervor of trying to reach the world, forgotten to give significance to the only real ministry that counts for eternity?
Brothers and sisters, maybe if I could stand before you to share these words, and you could see the burden God has placed on my own heart in this matter, and the specific applications he has made in my life, it might be easier for you to hear some of these hard words. I trust that my heart has come through clearly, not one of judgment at all, but one that desires with you to keep finding our way ever closer to the kind of lives and ministries that God desires, and that will impact the world. For indeed, while we wait, so does the world, and the Greeks or lost peoples of the world still stand in front of us with only one desire on their lips, to see Jesus. Oh, to simply, humbly, answer their cries with a willing heart and life, ready to show them Jesus and help them to go to Him!
I close these thoughts here, dear ones, with a prayer that God would cut through our shell of proud prejudice, to reveal to us the needs of the world in a way that effects us for eternity. I pray that the awareness of God’s heart for and work in this world would grip us as never before, and that this reality coupled with a realization of the active hunger for Christ felt by many, would form in us a passion to be involved in what God is doing redemptively all over the world! I pray also that we here, together with you there, would be brought back to the center, and that our lives would become even more clearly a representation of Christ here on the earth. It needs to happen, indeed, it must happen, if the people of the world are to see Jesus and have the needs of their hearts met! Oh, to see Jesus ourselves, to really see Him, until the only desire we have, yea the only capability we have, is to show Him to the world in an ever clearer way!
Sir, we would see Jesus!
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