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In Search Of The Saviour

John 12:20-26

It is the cry of the ages summed up in five words. The scripture says very simply: “Some Greeks came to Philip and said to him, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus.'”

It is a request made in countless ways, countless numbers of times, by countless numbers of people. It is the request of a young man who said to me recently: “I attend church and try to live a decent life, but still Jesus has never seemed very real to me. What can I do?”

“Sir, we would see Jesus.”

Is it your request as well? Is that why you are here today? Did you come hoping that somehow through this service of worship you might catch even a fleeting glimpse of the Savior? If so, you must understand that that is perfectly natural. This desire to see Jesus, this desire to establish some meaningful relationship with Him is a natural part of all of us. Oh, to be sure, some of us fight against this natural desire, some of us deny its existence; but that does not change the fact that this desire is built into us.

In the Hebrides Islands, off the coast of Scotland, they have a beautiful legend about a god who lived beneath the sea. This sea-god was lonely and his great desire was to have a son. Well, one day the sea-god saw a boat sailing among the islands. Among the passengers on the boat was a little boy, and the sea-god wished to take him for his own. He came surging up before the boat and announced his intention. The boat quickly turned and headed for shore with the sea-god in pursuit. The boat reached the shore and the people lifted the little boy to the safety of land just as the sea-god came rushing in on the crest of a wave. They thought the little boy was safe. But, according to the legend, the sea-god managed to splash one little bit of sea foam into the heart of the child. And, as the sea-god settled back down to his home beneath the waves, he was heard to say: “He will return to me, for I have put a bit of myself in his heart.” Well, the legend says that years later, the people were astonished to see that little boy, now a strong, young man, get into a boat, rowing it well out beyond the breakers, then suddenly diving into the sea, returning to the god who put a little bit of himself into his heart.

That’s just a legend, but this is what is true. When God made us, He put a bit of Himself, a bit of the Kingdom of heaven, a bit of that which is eternal down inside us. It cries out for Him. It longs to return to Him. That’s why our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. That’s why we echo the cry of those long ago Greeks: Sir, we would see Jesus.” And that’s why this morning I want you to take a journey with me, for perhaps, by the grace of God, we may catch a glimpse of the Savior.

Travel with me first to a sleepy little town, six miles south of Jerusalem, called Bethlehem.

You know, whenever we want to get someone’s attention, we have a tendency to make a lot of noise and clamor. But that isn’t the way God works. Have you ever paused to ponder the fact that the greatest power works silently? Gravity, that awesome, tremendous force which holds our cities to the earth so that they do not float away like leaves in space—gravity is absolutely silent. And what of the tides? The magnetic power of the moon causes the seas to ebb and flow—and it is all done without a sound. And what of the seasons? No fanfare, no rolling drums, no sounding trumpets signal the changing of the seasons—yet all of life is dependent upon those silently changing seasons. So it is with God. There is no place in the Bible where it says that God breaks down people’s doors. No, instead He stands at the door and knocks, and waits for us to open it.

Nowhere is that more clearly revealed than in the cave-stable beneath the inn of Bethlehem. Remember, please, that an inn was not a very pretentious place in the first century—just a tavern and a few rooms, usually built adjacent to a small cave which was made to house the animals. They provided no food—just fodder for the animals and a fire at which you cooked your own meals, but you had to bring your own food. The manger, of course, was the animal’s feeding trough which was cut out of the rock wall of the cave. The swaddling clothes? Just a square of cloth with a diagonal band going off from one side. The baby was placed in the midst of that square—it was folded over and the band was wrapped round and round. Hardly what you would call royal robes! They were more like first-century Pampers, but not nearly so convenient! Yet that is how God came to this earth—not in a soaring spaceship to a great city like E.T.—but as a child born to a peasant mother, sleeping in a camel’s feeding trough, in a little out-of-the-way place called Bethlehem.

It’s hard for us to understand that. God, with all of the power of eternity at His fingertips, chose to come to us as a stable-born child. But God does not ask us to understand. He asks up only to accept it. Celsus, a bitter enemy of the Christian faith, wrote thise words nearly 1,500 years ago: “If you would be a Christian, then be ingorant; if you would be a Christian, then be simple and stupid; if you would be a Christian, then be as one not worthy of the attention of your father.” Hard words, those. But Celsus may have written more wisely than he knew. For you don’t have to be a Ph.D., you don’t have to have a high-powered intellect, you don’t have to be one of the captains of industry, you don’t have to have a fat bank account in order to see God in Jesus in that manger at Bethlehem. All it takes—and Jesus Himself said it—all it takes is the simple trusting faith of a child.

And once we see Jesus in the manger nothing is ever quite the same again. For no matter how worthless we may feel, the Bethlehem manger says that we are of infinite value to God. We are made in His image. We are the objects of His love. And once we see God in the stable, we can never be sure where He will appear again. He always comes to us at times and in ways we least expect it. And He comes to us in such a way that we can turn Him down—like the innkeeper at Bethlehem. He comes to us in the hungry person we don’t have to feed. He comes to us in the lonely person we don’t have to befriend. He comes in all the desperate human need of people whom we are free to turn our backs upon. God doesn’t force Himself upon us. He slips into our lives like that child slipped into a Bethlehem stable one starlit light. Onr great Christian has expressed it in poetry like this:

Holding a beggar child against my heart
Through blinding tears I see,
That as I love that tin piteous thing,
So God loves me.

My friends, if you would see Jesus, if you are seeking the Savior, then you must travel first to Bethlehem.

But now journey with me up the road to Jerusalem, to a small but rugged hill which stands outside the city walls.

The terrible purging of Calvary was necessary. Just as salve cannot cure cancer nor aspirin heal polio, so nothing less than the brutal murder of God’s Son could have brought redemption to His people. There at the cross on that hill outside Jerusalem’s walls, were gathered all the hatred and all the sin that could ever infect a human life. Yet on that cross, Jesus manages to stamp out the worst in us and bring out the best in us.

In a famous chapel in a European village there was a much-celebrated painting of Christ on the cross. At the base of the painting, the artist wrote these words as if they were spoken by Christ Himself:

“All this I did for thee;
What hast thou done for me?”

One afternoon, a young German nobleman named Count Zinzendorf, strolled into that chapel, saw the painting, and began to study it closely. He saw love in the pierced hands, love in the bleeding brow, love in the wounded side. Then he read the words:

“All this I did for thee;
What hast thou done for me?”

Those words struck home and the Count walked away a changed man. He went on from there to do his great life’s work, which literally circled the globe with a fraternity of redeemed men and women. All because he saw Jesus on Jerusalem’s cross. So, if you too are seeking the Savior, look to the cross. He is dying there—dying there for you.

Not far from the hill called Calvary, we travel to a garden, which encircled a tomb.

Oh, my friends, here is the greatest story the world has ever known. It’s the story of one who had been dead, executed like a criminal, nailed to a cross and left to die, buried in a new grave, sealed with an enormous stone, and guarded by soldiers of the legion. It’s the story of how, on the third day, after His death, sometime between sunset and dawn, this One who had been dead, rose up from the cold, stone slab where they had laid His dead body, cast aside the grave clothes, and standing on wounded feet, walked out into the garden, alive forevermore. It’s the story of how He appeared to His startled disciples and in signs that ultimately convinced even the most unbelieving of them, proved Himself to be alive, to be the first conqueror of death, to be the living Son of a living God. It’s the story of how all who believe in this Jesus and put their faith in Him obtain the forgiveness of their sins, and how all who claim Him as the Lord of all life gain not only a life beyond death, but also a peace of mind and a power for living in this life which nothing can ever destroy.

Please, I beg you, don’t make the mistake of those first disciples who came running to the tomb, peeked in, and then went home again unconvinced. Don’t just peek at the empty tomb. Claim it. For when you claim it, you gain for yourself a victorious life—a life that will know temporary setbacks, yes, but a life that will ultimately give way to a life that is eternal. So, if you would seek the Savior, look at the gardener’s empty tomb. Your Savior lives!

But, we cannot end the journey without a quick tour through our world—if you can stand it.

Those dazed and bleeding people in Lebanon caught in the vice of Palestinian-Israeli hatred. Those chanting hate-filled mobs in Iran fueling a push into Iraq. Those thousands in Afghanistan trying to survive the “yellow rain” and a bad wave of death. Those streaming crowds trying to flee Cambodia and VietNam by plunging into the waters of the South China Sea. Those gaunt-faced, hollow-eyed human scarecrows starving slowly to death in Bangladesh or Somalia. Hellish prejudice erupting in the massacre of innocent and not-so-innocent. Dying alcoholics lying on park benches or in doorways at the edge of slums. Blind and crippled and neglected children suffering both in dirty hovels and in sterile hospitals. Murders and robberies and rape transforming shops and residences into barred, armed camps in our cities. All creation groaning in agony. I tell you, it is enough to make even the most devout Christian to surrender to despair.

But God’s Word promises that one day the heavens will split with the sound of the trumpet and Christ will come again. That is our glorious hope. You know, the early Christians always greeted one another with the Aramaic word, “Maranatha,” which means, “Take heart, the Lord may come today.” What a thrilling greeting! In a world of aspirins and ulcers, tensions and fears, hunger and hatred, warfare and waste, what a great word to hear: “Take heart, the Lord may come today.”

He has not come back yet, at least as far as I know. But He will. I don’t know when exactly—and that’s not important anyway. The only thing that matters is that we know that He will come back. Then we shall see Him face to face. Maranatha. Take heart, the Lord may come today.

Well…

We have come to journey’s end. But let me ask you to do something unusual. The stained glass window which is the centerpiece of this sanctuary is beautiful indeed. You may have looked at it before, but you may not have seen all there is to see. For if you squint your eyes and look at the window, suddenly you see that the whole window constitutes an outline of the face of Jesus. If you don’t believe it, try it…or take the church’s brochure in your pew and look at the photograph of that window. When you try hard enough, you see the face of the Savior. You know what I am saying, don’t you? You’ve got to look for Him through the eyes of faith. For when you seek Him in faith, He will find you. Remember what He said?

He said, “I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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