Which Jesus Do You Want To See?

Category: Audio

The popularity of Jesus had reaches its peak, climaxing in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Six days before Passover, a dinner was made for Him by the family of Lazarus in the house of Simon the leper. Mary, Lazarus’ sister, took her treasured, precious ointment, and poured in on the saviour, wiping those soon-to-be-pierced feet with her hair. Judas made his ruinous decision to go out and sell the Master for whatever he could get. The house was crowded with Jews seeking, not only to get a look at Jesus, but to see the flesh and blood man He had raised from a four-day-old grave.

The following day, Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding a young colt. People thronged before, alongside and after Him, carpeting His path with palm branches and garments, crying, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord,” fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.

The Pharisees and rulers of the synagogue fumed and raged among themselves. “Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? Behold, the world is gone after Him” (John 12:19). They found themselves utterly powerless to stop this man, and now He was being pronounced King of Israel.

Later that day, certain Judaistic Greeks approached Philip with words that have caught the fancies of churchmen down through the ages: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” So commendable is this request, and so appropriately does it recommend itself to our own hearts, we have seized upon it as an apt quote to use at the many times we are wearied with seeing and hearing nothing but men, men’s works, religion and all its empty clamor and clutter. But we have largely missed the powerful message in the context which introduces it.

Philip passed the request to Andrew, and they both inform Jesus that certain Greeks desire to see Him. This seems like a reasonable request, and, since Christ has come to reveal Himself as the Saviour of the world, one would think that He would have readily given an audience to these men. But instead, our Lord responds with a strange answer.

And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die. The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. (John 12:23-36).

I have read various commentators’ attempts to explain this puzzling answer. Most try to insert some sort of hiatus, and interruption of continuity, between the request and the answer. At least part of this passage, they say, must have been taken from another discourse at another time. But such speculation is no more than just that, and the text will not support it. There is an unbroken continuity between the Greeks’ request to see the Lord, His answer, and the final, “These things spake Jesus, and departed and did hide Himself from them”!

If we are to learn any particular lesson from this, it is that there are those who desire to see Jesus, to whom He refuses to reveal Himself. In fact, He deliberately hides Himself from them. He did not receive those Greeks. Upon hearing their request, He speaks of His imminent death, gives a warning to walk in the light while it is to be had, and then hides Himself.

Why did our Lord hide Himself from these Greeks? And does He yet hide Himself from some who seek to “see” Him? And what sort of people are those who vainly seek to see the Lord?

He hides Himself from those who would only “see” Him. These are spectators, speculators, curious inquirers. Greeks were well known for their fondness for running after every new philosopher or teacher who came along. Athens was a city where any man with an excitable tale could mount a soap box, gather a crowd and walk off with a movement. This man, Jesus, seemed to them an excellent prospect of another interesting cult. After all, stories had been around about many miraculous healings, and now it was being reported that He had raised a man who had been buried four days. Thousands were gathering to hear Him teach, and now this tumult upon His entry to Jerusalem, proclaiming Him King, and the Jewish rulers were frantic and powerless to discredit Him. Surely this would be an interesting fellow to investigate, to have a look at.

These men had absolutely no intention of being Jesus’ disciples, had no interest in serving Him. The idea of following Him had never entered their minds. They were just curious, and wanted to have a look. They, no doubt, intended to make Him the subject of some scholarly research and philosophical investigation. They were uncommitted to anything or anyone but their own agenda. They hope, not to partake of His life, but expected Him to make some contribution, some enrichment, some entertainment, to their own. Such as these never truly see the Lord. He hides from them.

But the human mind has an amazing faculty for supplying an image for one that is missing in reality. One might recall a person of whom he has heard, perhaps has read some of his writings, possibly even heard his voice. Without conscious intention, his mind builds a physical image. He becomes so accustomed to this fancied image over a period of time, that he accepts it as the actual person. Then when the real person appears, and he sees him as he is in the flesh, the contrast is so sharp, he has difficulty accepting the real, and pushing the imagined out of the mind. This sort of thing often happens to people who have heard my voice on tapes for a number of years before finally meeting me. It is nearly always a great disappointment! Hearing my voice, while at the same time the glorious truths of God are nourishing their souls, makes for a much higher and more noble impression than the rude and common appearance presented by the flesh and blood man.

Even so, unregenerate people, impressed in their natural flesh by certain portions of Scripture, or by reports of Jesus, build an image of Him based upon their carnal perception. It is always some particular misunderstanding of the Word of God that appeals to their particular flesh. That is the Jesus they build up in their minds, and the one in which they believe, the one the “see”.

The Orthodox Jesus?

Some, who have been endowed with keen analytical minds, lay hold upon the orthodox Jesus. They have studiously examined the Bible, the historic church councils and creeds, and have learned all the correct Christology. Theirs is an objective, intellectual Jesus who emerges from their delight in philosophical pursuits. They abhor the subjective aspect of emotional involvement in the sufferings and joys of persons less intelligent, who have, nevertheless, come to partake of the indwelling Christ. To them, this is profane foolishness, irrational subjectivity which goes beyond the bounds of human reason. But these have utterly missed the living Christ of the Bible. Their Jesus is confined to the pages of theological books. They know nothing of the One Who indwells His people.

The Emotional Jesus?

There are those who, on the other hand, run principally on emotional energy. They make much of love, sentiment, pathos. These would “see” the emotional Jesus. The Biblical accounts of Jesus’ compassion, of God’s love for His people, of our Lord’s command to us to love one another, seize on their minds and created a subjective, emotional Jesus. It is a mistake to think that these people are more compassionate and loving than others. They are not great lovers of God and of men, but great lovers of love. And the love that they are in love with is not agape. Their Jesus of love cannot be the God of the Bible, for He is stripped of His deity, holiness, righteousness, sovereignty and power. When you speak of any of these attributes, their excitement cools and their interest wanes. You have begun to speak of a Jesus they have not “seen”, and they have nothing in them to respond to Him.

The Prosperous Jesus?

Others, the “health and wealth” or “gab it and grab it” people, have a prosperous and successful Jesus. The power which Jesus demonstrated in multiplying loaves and fishes, in healing the sick, in getting money out of a fish’s mouth, all appeal to a carnality that hankers for power and wealth. John’s wish that Gaius might prosper and be in health (1 John 2), translates to them that God’s will for everyone is to be healthy and rich. They agree with Job’s “friends”, that the cause of his poverty and sores was his sin and unbelief, forgetting that God said that what they said about him was not right. The Jesus they “see” commends us to faith and prayer as a means of getting goodies, fattening our purses and gaining dominion over others. They have an incredible blindness to the poverty of our Lord and His disciples, and the suffering and persecution of the holiest of Christians through the centuries. The prosperous, successful Jesus has filled their vision, and they cannot know the Christ of the Bible.

The Happy Jesus?

Another variation is the happy Jesus. To those who would “see” Him thus, the abundant life of John 10:10 is fullness of worldliness and foolishness, fun, frolic and frivolity. They actually publish pictures of a laughing Jesus. A recent motion picture has Jesus and His disciples as a group of slap-happy guys, hee-hawing half the time. How strange that the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief, Who did not shirk to declare that He came to “send a sword”, and that “a man’s enemies shall be those of his own household”, Who said, “Woe unto you that laugh, for you shall weep,” should be so pictured! How powerful is the delusion of our carnal minds, to conjure up such a contradiction as that!

The Miraculous Jesus?

Still another variety is the miraculous Jesus. The badge of authenticity to them who would “see” such are signs and wonders. They follow not Christ, but miracles. And that these miracles are wrought by demons through madmen, widow-robbers, drunkards and whoremongers, it matters not! Their Jesus is essentially a miracle worker, therefore all that is miraculous equals Jesus. All His teachings, His substitutionary death for our sins, His prophetic and high priestly office, have utterly escaped their attention. Can you imagine a more destructive delusion?

The Antinomian Jesus?

The old Antinomian Jesus is always cropping up in the minds of a fresh batch of religious outlaws. Laying hold of such precious Scriptures as Romans 6:14, 10:4; 2 Corinthians 3:6-13; Colossians 2:16-21, and perverting them to their own interpretations, they affirm a Christ who came to abolish God’s moral law and set every man free to follow the lusts of his sinful flesh. These pride themselves in preaching “Christ Only”. This is an especially dangerous delusion, for it honors the substitutionary penal death of our Lord, which truly does remove the elect sinner from any judicial power of the law. But the lawless Jesus these people “see” also abolishes any objective standard for moral behavior. They ignore all His exhortations and commands to moral behavior. I do not hesitate to declare that he who preaches a Jesus who died that men might be free to violate God’s holy law at will, preaches a Christ who does not exist, and has never seen the Lord.

The Legal Jesus?

Perhaps the most widespread delusion is the legal Jesus. Self-righteous people, proud of their morality, delighting in comparing themselves to less exemplary persons, are drawn to the do’s and do-not’s of the Bible. Interpreting God’s law in the light of their own imagined abilities, they go about “imitating” the christ they “see”. The Christ they see rewards those who live up to their standards and punishes those who do not. But they have never seen the Christ Who died to redeem sinners utterly unable to live up to God’s standard of righteousness.

These, and countless others, are the delusions people who have never seen the Lord fabricate in their minds. That is why there are so many different concepts of Christ and Christianity in the world. There are a thousand counterfeits, all called Jesus, but there is only one Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, and one cannot know what He is like until he sees Him.

The Biblical Jesus

To truly see the Lord is to know Him, to enter into experiential communion with Him. It is nothing less than salvation itself. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

How, then, may one find Him, see Him, determine Who is the true Christ of the Bible? Ah, there is the crux of the matter. We cannot. If Christ wills to hide Himself, who can find Him? The Bible nowhere tells us how to find the Lord, how to discover His hiding place, or how to detect Him from all the false gods. The problem is that we have no objective criteria for which we should look. We have nothing in our experience with which to compare Him. He is the incomparable God. “I am God, and there is none else: I am God, and there is none like Me” (Isaiah 46:9). Our minds and senses are tuned too low and are too dull. God is not discovered by man’s study and research. He reserves the prerogative to reveal Himself to whomsoever He will. He is the self-attesting God. “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whosoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).

Who are they, then, who shall see the Lord? Jesus’ first statement in His answer is the jolting declaration that the time of His humiliation has come to an end. No more will He be on display for carnal, curious gazes. The Rock has been smitten once for all. The shame of the Cross is past. He has by Himself purged our sins, and is set down at the right hand of the most High. He is in glory. We who would see Him will find Him high and lifted up and His train filling the temple.

And there are indeed those who shall see Him. Who are they? The Bible tells us that the “pure in heart shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). They whose hearts are singly set on Him. They have no divided heart, no ulterior agenda of their own. They seek none but God and His righteousness. These are they who do indeed hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6). They seek not wealth, health, power, signs, wonders, thrills or recognition – nothing but God’s unshadowed favor. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully (Psalm 24:3-6). Those who have been humbled, brought low, stripped of self-confidence, will find Him to be their sufficient Saviour, who seek Him as absolute Lord. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). They who follow peace with all men and holiness shall see the Lord.

If we would see the Lord, we must have our heart set on serving Him (John 12:26), and have no prior commitments that will hinder our freedom to serve Him. We who would serve Him must follow Him, so that wherever Christ goes, we go; whatever Christ dos, we do; where Christ is, we are. If we would follow Him, we must have no agenda of our own, no interfering goals and objectives. This wipes out, not only the bad things we have in our plans, but the good ones also.

The only thing that lends any eternal value to what we do or do not do, is that we do it or abstain from doing it because of following Christ. There is a vast difference in doing things because they are “moral” and doing things for Christ’s sake. Self-denial, suffering for reasons other than Christ is worthless humanism, heathen asceticism or masochism. Giving of our substance, if not for Christ’s sake, is self-righteous works. To “surrender” to foreign missions while Christ bids you stay at home is wicked disobedience. To “stand fast” while Christ leads you ahead is stubborn rebellion. It is only the following of Christ that gives worth to our action or inaction.

He who has thus surrendered his life to King Jesus has, as a “corn of wheat”, fallen into the ground and died. He has “hated his life in this world”. And he who thus “dies” and “hates” shall surely keep his life eternally and shall bring forth much fruit. And he shall ever behold the face of his blessed Lord.

If these words of our Lord have now shed some light on the darkened path before you, it is imperative that you immediately begin to walk in that light. You must not dally around excusing yourself because you do not see further up the way. If you would follow the Lord, the light before you leads to Him. There may yet be some darkness obscuring His face, but He is to be found in that direction. Your disobedience will soon lose for you your present light, and you will be in the same awful fix as those curious but uncommitted Greeks. The Lord will utterly hide Himself from you and you will ultimately be cast into outer darkness where there is nothing to be heard but the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth of those of your fellows who also would not walk in their light.

Christ will be found by those who seek Him with their whole heart, and seek Him early.