Lord, we want to see Jesus, 5th Sunday of Lent 2018

Friends, we shall soon enter the Holy Week. From next Sunday, we shall enter the last week of Lenten season during which we have been following Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. Most of us are worried over the things that are happening both within and outside the Church.  None of us can deny that there are serious reasons for concern. Many wonder why they should keep their faith. The confusion is so great that many people no longer know where they are coming from and where they are going. They do not know why they have their faith or why they continue to believe in a God who leads the world when there appear to be people who are masters over this world.

The desire for money and pleasure have taken over most of us so that we are prepared to kill fellow human beings whom we consider as standing between us and desires.  From experience, we know to experience the new life in Christ is a constant struggle. Yet in the important stages of life, in times of worry, change and despair, we can go to the scripture to seek inspiration. In difficult times, we can go to the scripture for guidance and let the Word of God heal our wounds and calm our concerns like the balm of Gilead.

As Christians, we need to speak with conviction and from the heart, firmly convinced of God's power to save. We are invited to receive every day as gift from God while at the same time respecting dignity and integrity of every human that have been gained by the blood of Christ.

At the age of 23, Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet. It was also a decisive time for the people of Israel. The leaders, the priests, were more interested in politics than serving God just as it is today. They were punished with the exile in Babylon and had to pay the conquered people's tax to Babylon. Meanwhile, they hoped that Egypt would free them from Babylon. Jeremiah spoke against the people's plans to revolt against Babylon because it would mean the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. While King Zedekiah did not want to hurt Jeremiah, there were others who wanted to see Jeremiah's death. Jeremiah was put in jail for his opposition. It was decided that he should be executed. Jeremiah was taken to Egypt, and there he was murdered by his own people. Like Jeremiah, there are many priests, evangelists, and servants of God who are persecuted today because they oppose politicians' political correctness. 

In our day, Journalists have incredible power to persecute Christians and many of them are antagonistic towards religion. The fact that Christianity is persecuted in many countries today may be attributed to atheist, agnostic and sceptical journalists who mock, ridicule and blasphemy against God and religion. Most of these journalists encourage people to turn freedom to license to do as one wishes without corresponding concern for the consequences of one’s actions.

God's people broke the first covenant that God made with them on Mount Sinai. Therefore, God promised to create a new covenant with them (Jer 31: 31-34). The first covenant was only between God and Israel and Judah. But the new covenant is not between God and one people but between God and the whole world. We read from Micah:You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (7:19).

Having the new covenant written in our hearts through baptism will not lead us to heaven unless we keep the two commandments: love of God and love of neighbour. The new covenant should not be a covenant of obligations but of love. They had promised to keep the covenant with God but failed totally. The northern kingdom of Israel had already disappeared (722 BC). The people forgot that they were the people of God and went for false gods. Therefore, idolatry is interchangeable with adultery in the Old Testament (Jer. 3: 8-9, Ezra 23: 7, 2: 1,13, 4: 12-14). Today, Christians are like the people of Israel. We break the covenant of God with us through Christ, our salvation and our salvation. We live like those who have not been saved.

Paul’s letters were written before the gospels and give us the earliest glimpse of the early Church. The Letter to the Hebrew is written by a disciple to Paul. It was written to Jewish converts. Its purpose is to confirm the converts of the Christian faith they received. To do this, the author refers to the Old Testament by showing that Christ is the promised Messiah. In the old, the high priest entered the temple's most holy place to pray for forgiveness of his sin and the sins of the people. But in the new covenant, the new high priest enters to pray for the sins of the people. His prayer is heard. All people will face death at some point in life. Therefore, we cannot pray that God should save us from death but that he should save us from being a prisoner to eternal death. In other words, our prayer is that he gives us the glory of the resurrection by waking us out of eternal death. We have all sinned and need to be reconciled. We have shortcomings and evil inclinations we want to overcome. Therefore, we need to fast and abstain in our lives. The one who believes in God must of course have real practical concerns for God's people. Christians are always willing to sacrifice in love and hold on to the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel has not come to us only as words but also with power and the holy spirit.

Apostle Paul and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews invites us to take Christ's obedience to God as an example and model of obedience. This is what Jesus asks when he says, "He who wants to follow me must deny himself, take his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). True and credible Christians must be prepared to suffer persecution and crucifixion. Jesus was tormented for our crimes, blamed for our sins, tortured for our healing, his wounds gave us cure (Isaiah 53: 5). The whole world's distress and evil rests on the heart of Jesus. It is important that we do not forget that we have all our share of the debt. Lent is time to return to obedience if we have walked away from it.

During the Old Testament, people who lived around the Mediterranean went to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter. Easter was the most important feast of pilgrims. Sometime before, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Therefore, the people celebrated him as he rode into Jerusalem. The people did not honour him as a political leader but as a conqueror of death. This was the basis for the tribute of the Jews who witnessed the event and the Greeks who heard of it gave him. This shocked Pharisees who confessed: "There is nothing we can do for the whole world is running after him" (John 12:19). The Greek's request to see Jesus was evidence of what the Pharisees had said. The evangelist does not tell if they spoke to Jesus. Through his death on the cross he would defeat death. What was important was to prepare the disciples and Greeks for the shock that would give them next week. Jesus had come to Jerusalem for this sole purpose. He came and did not try to escape.

"Lord, We'd Love to See Jesus." Filippos went and spoke to Andreas, who in turn went and talked to Jesus. The moment has come. Every person has his time. Some know the moment when it comes while some do not know it and it passes them by. Occasionally, the answer we receive is preceded by a preparation time. At times it is the greatest moment we have to accomplish our mission in life. Our moment either glories or denies God. The hour or the moment is a time or a period during which something is meant to happen or happen. Sometimes, we give all to God. We allow God to be God in our lives so that He can use us for whatever he wants. It is about dying to oneself. Therefore, Jesus says, "If the wheat grain does not fall into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it yields rich harvest. "

All efforts on earth can be said to have the purpose of reaching a certain goal, reaching joy, peace, love. It is to walk in constant light. Life is a search for this state. In other words, it is to see Jesus. It turns out that Filippos, whom the Greeks first approached, did not go directly to Jesus, but first to Andreas who, in turn, went and talked to Jesus. We do not know why Filippos does not go to Jesus directly. Why they Greeks went to Filippos is a subject of speculation. Some suggest that it may have something to do with having a Greek name. Earlier, Philip said to Nathanael, Come and see Jesus (1:46). It may have something to do with the new situation that Jesus' visit to Jerusalem had caused, it awoke a nationalist feeling in many Jews. When Andreas and Philip spoke of these Greeks something suddenly happened. Jesus replied, "The time has come when the Son of man is to be glorified." Jesus' salvation work reaches a new phase when the Greeks came to him. Jesus does not speak directly to them but about their place in his community in the future. The death of Jesus will give rich harvest (v.24) because he will draw all to himself (v. 32). The Greeks receive their answer in an indirect way: "I tell you, if the wheat grain does not fall into the soil and die, it will remain a single grain. But if it dies, it yields rich harvest "(v. 24). It seems strange that Jesus speaks of his death as a glorification. But it will not be strange if we think that God is love and love is to give his life to others (1 John 4: 8; 3:16). Real life is a sacrifice. Selfishness destroys life. Jesus’ Cross is a model of life that exists for all peoples of all ages. Life means more than physical life. If someone loves himself, he or she loses his or her life. What is required is to refrain from selfish love. It is the self that wants to be autonomous from God.

Through our baptism we have become brothers and sisters to Christ. But this would serve nothing if we divorce ourselves from him through iniquities. If we are Christians, then we must live as Christians. Living as Christians means obeying God's Word and taking care of it in everything. This is to see Jesus. Christ is the all-time model of how a human being lives for God. Though he had no sin to confess, God wanted his Son to suffer for us and sacrifice his life so that we could inherit life. Through his death and resurrection, Christ saved us from death and emptiness. He carries our iniquities, because he puts his life to death, and was regarded as a transgressor, he who committed no sin became sin for us. He pleaded for us, who are the transgressors. If we live for God, we will stand against the devil who will fly away from us. If we approach God, He will approach us. We will see Jesus. All Christians probably want to see Jesus, but everyone will not see him. Only those who obey God's word will see him. Chikezie Onuoha MSP


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