“Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast: these therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12:20-21, ASV).
Jesus asked about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” (Matt 11:7-9) We may ask the same about Jesus. What are we looking for? What did we “go out” to see? What kind of Jesus are we expecting? As with John, the expectations about Jesus are often not what Jesus shows Himself to be in reality. Much of what the world thinks about Jesus is not what Scripture teaches, but a mold of their own making into which they have poured Him.
Jesus’ question came when John was imprisoned, and John had sent a couple of disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matt 11:2). Jesus’ response was to go tell John what they hear and see. They needed to consider the evidence. Jesus also said, in this context, “blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (v. 6). The split between what people want to see and what they actually see might be recognized in how offended people become at the Jesus of Scripture. Remember that the real Jesus was killed for His claims and works.
The biblical Jesus is not the Jesus of modern culture, which would have us to accept a Jesus who never judges, who redefines love according to our thoughts, and whose primary goal is to make people happy in just the way they wish. This is a Jesus who rubber stamps our desires and conveniently fits our personal agendas. This is a Jesus who is the product of the modern idolatry of self-love, not the Jesus of Scripture who requires self-denial.
What are we looking for? Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt 16:13) The answers were scattered. Then He asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (v. 15) While there are many varied views about who Jesus is, we all must answer this question personally. Who do you say that Jesus is? Our answer to that question will determine the course of all else we think and do. How will we determine the way we answer? By feelings? By wishes? By Scripture?
All Scripture points to Jesus (cf. Luke 24:25-27; 44-45; John 5:39). Everything that God planned from the beginning comes to fruition in the person of Jesus Christ. He is both the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (cf. Rev 5:5-6). In Him resides all authority and power (Dan 7:13-14; Matt 28:18-20). Yet we find in Him the perfect example of humility in going to the cross (Phil 2:5-11). In Jesus is the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12), and the One through whom that forgiveness is found because of His death and resurrection (1 Pet 2:24-25). In this, He showed the greatest love possible (John 15:13).
Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Forgiveness by His grace is available, but the problem of sin needs to be seen for what it is. Jesus didn’t dance around the problem, but He faced the problem of sin head on and died for it. People don’t recognize their need for Jesus because they haven’t seen their need for repentance and forgiveness. Yet that recognition requires an understanding of the problem of sin coupled with Jesus’ solution. The result is what we call the gospel! Even so, this gospel is foolishness and a stumbling block to many (1 Cor 1:18ff). That’s not the Jesus they want to see.
What kind of Jesus are we looking for? One who comforts us in our sin? One who affirms us as we are? One who wishes happiness upon us with no call for repentance? A type of genie in a bottle? Or do we want the Jesus who saw sin for what it is and loved us enough to die for us?
Are we looking for a Jesus who solves all the political debates of our day? A Jesus who fixes every social problem? A Jesus who fights for our agendas and battles according to our wisdom? Or are we looking for God manifest in the flesh, whose purpose was to seek the lost and reconcile us back to God?
Why do we read our Bibles? Are we picking at parts and seeing what we want to see, or are we seeing the whole? Are we seeing how God brought about the solution to the problem of sin through Jesus? Are we seeing ourselves as part of that problem, needing the Savior? In need of repentance? In need of self-denial? In need of His will in all that we do and all that we are?
Yes, we would see Jesus—the only One who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).