slap in the middle between
what many scholars call
the two major sections
of the Gospel of John.
Raymond Brown, Roman Catholic Scholar,
One of the greatest New Testament thinkers
of the twentieth century,
pointed this out, the
first part of the Gospel of John,
up until this passage,
is called the Book of Signs.
A sign is a miracle Jesus does
to show what God is like.
It shows us God’s beauty and presence
Surrounding and filling us
right here, now in this moment
In the first sign,
Jesus turns water into wine
at a wedding in Galilee.
It shows God’s beauty
to be rich and sweet, like wine,
a celebration of life, like a wedding.
Later on, Jesus heals a young boy
from a distance,
more than a day’s walk away,
doesn’t touch him,
doesn’t even see him.
Then he heals a person who can’t walk
Hasn’t been able to walk for decades,
Now the person stands up and walks.
God’s beauty has to do with healing and power.
Jesus finds himself in the wilderness
With several thousand people
They’re all hungry
and all Jesus has
is five loaves and two fish.
Jesus does not whine
about how little he has.
He does not hoard it, cling to it. No.
He thanks God for what he has,
and then he shares what he has.
And there is this preposterous abundance.
Everybody has enough to eat.
God’s beauty and presence
meeting us right now
has to do with gratitude and sharing ‘
and preposterous abundance.
Jesus heals a man who is born blind.
There are all kinds of overtones in this account
about seeing and not seeing.
The blind man can’t see with his eyes,
And yet he sees with his spirit,
The people who can see with their eyes,
On the other hand,
have no vision at all in their spirit.
The man who was born blind
Has this sense of wonder.
After he gets his sight, he says
“Never since the world began
has it even been heard
that a person born blind
is made to see.”
is about sight and wisdom and wonder.
Very soon before the Gospel lesson for today,
Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead.
Lazarus been dead four days,
so long people think
he’s starting to smell bad.
Jesus stands in front of his tomb,
says “Lazarus come out!”
Lazarus comes out,
all tied up in his grave clothes.
Jesus says “Unbind him, and let him go.”
God’s beauty and presence are about life.
By now, people have heard about
this rich celebration,
this healing and power,
this gratitude and sharing
and preposterous abundance,
this sight and wisdom and wonder,
this life, and they flock to see Jesus.
There’s a lot of controversy and danger
over all this
Jesus heals on the Sabbath,
he sets aside age-old ways of doing things
in order to bring God’s life
to the people.
That makes people mad.
Jesus also sets aside
prudent, reasonable concerns.
Like when he raises Lazarus,
the leaders are terrified,
because now that people know
Jesus connection with God
is beyond death,
they are not afraid to die,
They’re going to start standing up
to people who threaten them with death,
like the Roman occupation.
This is dangerous.
Leaders assume Jesus
is intending to start an armed rebellion,
Jesus does not intend an armed rebellion
Because he insists on loving the enemy.
He insists on loving the Romans.
Leaders don’t understand that.
They think that the people will rebel
And the Romans will come
and destroy everything.
A rational concern.
So the leaders decide
It’s better for Jesus to be killed
Than everybody else.
Everybody knows this is in the air,
They know there is conflict and danger.
They don’t care.
They want to be touched by God’s life.
They want to see Jesus.
The Greeks in the Gospel lesson
for today will know this.
They still want to see Jesus.
We also know this, don’t we.
We know there is a cross
on top of our building.
We know there is a cross
At the front of our sanctuary.
We know there will be conflict and tension,
Friction with the prudent, reasonable
Concerns of the world,
Concerns like, What will people think?
What do I get for my money?
What about my schedule?
We know. We don’t care.
We still want this beauty of God,
We still want to see Jesus.
Jesus says “Now is the hour
when the Son of Man is glorified.
He says that
unless a seed falls into the earth and dies,
it remains an single grain;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
He’s talking about his crucifixion and resurrection.
He’s talking about the cross and resurrection
To which all of us are called,
That we die every day,
To rise new, re-oriented
toward God’s life.
After this passage comes the second section
of the Gospel of John,
called the book of glory.
It begins with Mary,
the sister of Lazarus and Martha,
pouring a bottle
of very expensive ointment
on Jesus feet,
and wiping it with her hair,
this intimate act of devotion.
Then Jesus rides into Jerusalem,
Argues in the temple,
Has his last supper with his disciples,
his trial, cruicifixion and resurrection.
The Book of Glory, the seventh sign,
the great revelation of what God is like.
Because this is where it comes from:
the richness and celebration,
the healing and power,
the gratitude and sharing
whereby everyone has enough to eat.
the sight and wisdom and wonder of God,
It comes from God’s love,
God’s willingness to die
so that we could be free.
We come to see Jesus.
Here are a couple of places where,
I would submit, you might see Jesus.
First of all, every preacher knows
That anybody who walks in with a baby,
Nobody in that pew
The pew ahead or two pews behind
Is going to hear anything you say.
to be watching and cooing.
No use getting upset,
Just accept it.
No preacher can compete with a baby.
That’s okay. That’s okay.
Baby’s a better sermon
than you’ll ever be able to preach anyway.
So vulnerable, full of life and wonder.
God really is like that.
The other folks were I see Jesus,
people like Art Thompson.
Art, ninety-four year old veteran
of World War II,
would roll into one of my former parishes
on his walker,
his grandson who drove him to church,
walking beside him with his cane,
Art would make it in the front door.
Everybody say “Hi Art, how ya doin”
he’d say “Got up this mornin’
You know how it takes maybe a minute
to walk into church, find a place, sit down?
It took Art five.
His arms would shake as he came in.
He would use his cane
to come up for communion.
Not the walker.
Arms shaking. Every Sunday.
He wanted to see Jesus. He really did.
But everybody saw Jesus in him.
Where do you see Jesus?
Where do you see Jesus in this congregation?
Where do you see Jesus in your home?
On your street?
On the other side of the world?
Watch for him.
Watch for God’s beauty and presence.
Keep a sharp eye open
Because it is there.
Jesus is there.