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Apr 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 9, 2017 – John 12:12-21

If We Don’t Look, We Won’t See

On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”
Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.
So the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard he had performed this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.” Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
 John 12:12-21

Intro: Before we settle in, and listen to the Palm Sunday story,

We remember other Christians in other churches around the world
– they are also observing Palm Sunday today
• earlier this morning in two of those churches terrorist bombs took 37 lives
• ISIS has taken credit for the attacks on two Christian churches in Egypt
– this juxtaposition of celebration and death is disturbing
• I wonder, is it alright for us to stick to the program and keep our tradition?
• or should we cancel Palm Sunday this year in honor of those whose died?

In John’s report of this event–much more so than others–
– we see a confusion of competing and conflicting forces
• the crowds finally allowed to openly cheer for him
◦ adding to the electricity in the air, are the testimonies of Lazarus resurrection
• at same time, the Pharisees are furious
◦ they met to plot not only Jesus’ death, but the death of Lazarus too
– besides those crisscrossing issues, we learn of the inner turmoil of Jesus
• this is the biggest event of Jesus’ life (bigger than his birth or baptism)
◦ from chapter 2 on, he has predicted his “hour” that had not yet arrived
◦ now, on this day he says, “The hour has come” (v. 23)
• surprisingly, however, he is not overjoyed

Now My soul has become troubled and what shall I say, “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour.”  (Jn. 12:27)

◦ a week later he will be tortured and crucified
◦ those things are included in his hour

So, it is not incongruous for the shadow of death to fall across Palm Sunday
– this is, in fact, at the heart of the tradition
– Jesus’ triumphal entry is the prelude to his crucifixion

From this chaos of personal agendas and motivations, a request

John introduces the request in his own distinct way
– the Pharisees had just said, “look, the whole world has gone after Him”
• then, immediately following their statement, John says,
“Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast”
• these were most likely converts to Judaism or else curious tourists
– they came to Philip–the one disciple with a Greek name
• “Sir,” they said, “we wish to see Jesus”
• that is, to meet him and talk with him

This same wish has been the dominant theme of my entire Christian life
– in the 1970’s, I began reading books on human consciousness
• what is consciousness? how is it related to functions of the brain?
• I wanted to make sense of statements like Practice Presence of God
◦ is awareness of God’s immediate presence an innate but atrophied human ability?
◦ is it something we can develop or is the experience always pure grace?
– for twenty years my chief prayer for myself was to be given prophetic vision
• then, in 2004, I felt a strong impression that God told me,
“I am birthing something new in you”
• I literally crossed “prophetic vision” off my prayer list
◦ at the same time, I began to see Jesus
◦ not in visions, like I had wanted–it was something different

A few years ago, I spent a month in hermitage

It was one of the best things I ever did for my soul
– I prayed while walking through forests
• alone on a stretch of beach, I meditated on scripture
• I saw two dear one morning before dawn on my way to vigils
◦ and I watched sun set over the edge of the ocean each evening before vespers
– the whole time I was zealously praying, “Show me your glory”
• one morning, reading Psalms with the monks, it hit me
• I had been seeing God’s glory every minute of every day

So now I have to ask myself, “Do I make the most of vision I have?”
– do I look for beauty?
• if I look but don’t see it, do I create beauty? surround myself with it?
◦ do I bring beauty to places that are ugly?
– do I acknowledge God’s glory in beauty?

Simone Weil, “The beauty of the world is Christ’s tender smile for us coming through matter. He is really present in the universal beauty. The love of this beauty proceeds from God dwelling in our souls and goes out to God present in the universe. It is also like a sacrament.”
Also, “In everything which gives us the pure authentic feeling of beauty there really is the presence of God.”

• do I acknowledge the beauty I see as God’s artistry and give thanks?

How do we see Jesus, who is invisible?

Try this: bring awareness to eyesight as a here and now experience
– do not focus on any particular object, but to the seeing itself
• think: “Information is entering my mind through my eyes”
• there may not be much in what you see to inspire,
◦ but being aware that you are seeing brings you into present moment
◦ and every moment is a threshold of the eternal now
– “But, Chuck, we ‘walk by faith, not by sight’” (2 Cor. 5:7)
• I know that, but the context in which Paul wrote that suggests another kind of sight
• in the previous chapter Paul had said that

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the gods of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4)

◦ there he also speaks of our inner self and outer self, and says,

while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen . . . (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

◦ so we do not walk by sight, but still we are looking! and looking at things invisible

You might complain, “I can’t see!” – okay, but are you looking?!
– what sight is to outer self, faith is to the inner self
• faith is the vision of the inner self

By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen (He. 11:27)

There’s another verse that might discourage us from spiritual eyesight:

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him 
 (1 Cor. 2:9)

• but we must read on:

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit . . . (1 Cor. 2:10)

Theologian Helmut Thielicke observed, “When [scripture] bears witness to what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered any human heart, this saying can mean only that the eye, the ear, and heart do not have suitable criteria. If they did, something would have entered them.”

– but maybe they have not been trained, adapted, or utilized in this way

Thielicke goes on, “When we have the criteria for something, this no longer stands over against us in silence and the void. We are always . . . open to it.”

• we know well the “silence and the void” — what is less well, Paul describes again in Corinthians:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God (1 Cor. 2:12)

• this is the “criteria” to seeing into the unseen
◦ God’s Spirit testifies with our spirits (Ro. 8:16)
◦ our spiritual eyes and ears are opened in this way, Spirit to spirit


Conc: Jesus one time referred to the Pharisees as blind guides

And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit. (Mt. 15:14)

Things happen in our world that no one sees
– artists and some scientists see more than most others
• we’ve heard of blind ambition and that love is blind
◦ and people can be blinded by power or prejudice
◦ we all have blind spots, into which another human can disappear
• who besides Jesus saw the poor widow drop two pennies in the offering box?
– so it is necessary for us to take time every day to look and listen
• Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote something profound that applies to our situation
◦ for “meditation” you may prefer to read “prayer,” silent prayer or contemplative prayer

Kabat-Zinn, “If you hope to bring meditation into your life in any kind of long term, committed way, you will need a vision that is truly your own–one that is deep and tenacious and that lies close to the core of who you believe yourself to be, what you value in your life, and where you see yourself going. . . .
“The vision we are speaking of has to be renewed every day, has to be right out front all the time, because mindfulness itself requires this level of awareness of purpose, of intention. Otherwise, we might as well stay in bed.
“The practice itself has to become the daily embodiment of your vision and contain what you value most deeply.”

Paul told the Christians in Rome, Do not be conformed to this world (Ro. 12:2)
– but that is impossible if this is the only world we know
• our Christian history and tradition gives us much to connect us to spiritual realities
◦ our rituals bring us into the experience of historical events as if we were there
◦ Palm Sunday, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the Lord’s Supper
• the unseen benefits of those events are ours
◦ God reveals his own glory every day — we just have to open our eyes

I see trees of green,
Red roses too
I see them bloom
for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

God has opened his heart to us
and now he looks for us
to open our eyes to him

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