The name is: Philip and today’s reference to him is: “They came to Philip,” “they” being “Greeks” another name
for Gentiles who lived beyond Jerusalem and Palestine, and dated back to Macedonia, an insignificant place that was turned into an empire by Philip, father of Alexander the Great, who went on to stretch his father’s realm all the way to India. But credit went to his father, and so, many boys were given the name: Philip.
“Some Greeks came (to one of Jesus’ disciples named) Philip, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’”
They might have been attracted by reports– as documented in John’s Gospel - of Jesus giving sight to a man born blind, raising Lazarus from the dead, and, as we will dramatize next Sunday, entering Jerusalem with a palm-waving crowd of supporters shouting,
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” A king! Glory days again, like they were
under Alexander the Great, son of Philip.
Whatever drew them to Jesus, His response must have sounded strange and uninviting, even repulsive:
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say— ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour, Father, glorify your name.” And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
What Jesus said to those Greek who came to see Him was for all to receive as an invitation meant to pull the hearer to the Cross!
That was THEN, but NOT NOW!
Back in World War I a priest and poet of Britain’s Anglican Church, Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy, wrote these lines while in the trenches, thinking of the large industrial city in England:
“When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.”
That is NOW!
Church pews are empty on Good Friday, while busy streets and restaurants, playing fields and malls are full.
Some who have memories going back three generations, can tell of places where there was a public shut- down on Good Friday from Noon to 3,
like the seventeen-minute shut down that began at 10 AM this past Wednesday, as high schoolers staged a silent protest against gun violence, inflicting death on the innocent.
Good Friday will, however, look like Studdert-Kennedy’s lines: “They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain,” leaving pews empty on Good Friday, not because of indifference but now it may be an act of protest, brought on by the sight of the cross.
Today many see it to be the sign of an abusive God, Who let His Son die the most humiliating, the most excruciatingly painful death by crucifixion; the ultimate proof to convict God of being guilty of being the ultimate example of an abusive Parent!
So, say some, the cross is too offensive a sight to be displayed, nor should it be turned into a song that has Christians singing, as we do this Fifth Sunday in Lent:
“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross…
I’ll cling to the old rugged cross…”
Look up! Look up and see the how much the world needs to hear us turning our testimony into an invitation, “Come, join us, listen with us, hear the words Jesus spoke to Greeks long ago, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Let His words move us to take a second look at those evil minds who plotted the hideous act to eliminate the good they could not tolerate, a corrupt court exacting a contrived sentence intent on literally killing God in Christ,
the force of evil intent on conquering good.
And see how God responded, not countering violence with violence, but with love.
Look again at Christ on the cross and hear God saying through Him,
“This is how much I love you, with a love that will endure the depths of evil and abuse and violence, and not let you go!”
Might our Lenten work, our Lenten calling, be to bring those who see Christ’s cross indicting an abusive God, more abusive than any abusive parent, to join us in hearing what Jesus is really saying,
that His cross is lifting Him up, so that “all people” will be drawn up to Him?
The more accurate translation of “all people” is “all things” being drawn to God with the pull of God’s love.
Look up, world! Look up! Be pulled from the gutter of human neglect and violence, be pulled into the all-embracing love of God, which Henry Drummond called the greatest force in the world and circulated his little book that can be read in ten to fifteen minutes and has never gone out of print since 1880.
Love, God’s weapon that takes the shape of the cross.
Look up, as genocide goes on in Syria, Puerto Rica is still without electricity, and South Africa is running out of all sources of water by August. Look up and be pulled up by love to respond in love.
When a devastating plague swept across the world in the third century, the Romans threw infected family members into the street before they died to avoid contracting the disease. Only Christians risked their own lives to care for the sick, dismissing the danger of contracting the plague themselves. http://earlychurch.com/unconditional-love.php
The love of God controlled them.
Look up, you who are weary from illness, drained of spirit by unending demands, made hopeless by debt; depressed, broken, look up to Christ on the cross with arms outstretched to pull all people, all things, into the redeeming, healing love of God,
and be moved to act in ways that had a 3rd century world exclaiming, “See how these Christians love one another!”
Look up, world! Look up to Christ on the cross!