Drawn to Jesus

March 21, 2021

John 12:20-33

Who remembers playing telephone when you were younger? You know, the game where you hear a message, and you have to share it with one person at a time to see how accurate the message is at the end. This can be a great icebreaker. It also tests how well we listen and how well we comprehend

On the television show, Ellen’s Game of Games, they have a game that is played like telephone. It is called, Say What? The message is passed through 5 people, so they should have it easy, right? Well, they are wearing headphones with music playing so they must read lips and the message that is relayed from the last person to hear is usually far from the original. While listening to others, we may not have headphones on, but what other things do we allow to distract us?

In John’s gospel it appears we have an early version of the telephone game. We have some Greeks come into the scene right after Jesus enters Jerusalem. It is before his arrest and crucifixion. We have no explanation of why they desire to speak to Jesus and whether Jesus speaks to them. The Greek people most likely come to Philip because he is one of the few disciples with a Greek name. Perhaps they knew him and they figured Philip could be the guy that could get them in to speak with Jesus. However, it is not that simple. Philip brings their message and request to Andrew. Together, Andrew and Philip go to Jesus. It is here that Jesus makes the proclamation that the time has come.

What is it in the desire of the Greek people to speak with Jesus that he makes this proclamation? Jesus speaks of being lifted up from the earth, and when this happens, Jesus will draw all people to himself. Yet, Jesus is already experiencing this. It has occurred throughout his short three years of ministry. From the time of his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, to his healing and miracles, people are being drawn to Jesus. Crowds appear wherever he goes. Crowds sometimes make it difficult for him to travel. Jesus has even found it hard to step back and take time in prayer by himself.

Even though this has been happening all along, Jesus is expecting even greater things once he is lifted up. Not only lifted up onto the cross, but also lifted up in resurrection and eventually his ascension as he leaves his disciples to proclaim the Good News with their feet on the ground.

The Greeks being drawn to Jesus are a sign of the things to come as Jesus draws all people to himself. It could also be an indicator of the mission of the disciples in the coming years. Now to say someone was Greek, would also signify them as a gentile, or a person of non-Jewish descent. If you recall, it was the Apostle Paul who was specifically called to minister to the gentiles as he traveled over vast territories. Through his disciples, Jesus would continue drawing people to himself. A drawing that continues to happen today.

What does it mean to be drawn to Jesus?

Being drawn to something usually means there is a type of attraction that is taking place. A piece of metal being drawn to a magnet. Plants being drawn to sunlight. When you realized you were going to marry your spouse. Peanut butter being drawn to jelly. Okay, the last example may be an exaggeration.

Being drawn to Jesus reveals a natural attraction that occurs in our hearts as we are created in the image of God. Being drawn to Jesus is like the plant that reaches out for the light or corn in the dry days of summer as it reaches to the air for a drink of water. Jesus wants us to be drawn to himself. It is much easier to be drawn to something than it is to be pulled.

When we are pulled into something, it is not usually a pleasant experience. It can often times be accompanied by kicking and screaming. Of course, we can witness that with children as they are told it is time to leave the park. It can also be just as bad for adults, although the kicking and screaming is usually on the inside. When we have to be pulled, we are not ready for whatever it is we are being pulled to. It may be something negative we are being pulled to by peers that are a negative influence, such as doing something illegal. It could be something we feel ill-prepared for or not qualified for. Many times, we have to be pulled out of our comfort zone into something new.

Sin and brokenness have entered our world when we have to be pulled into relationship with our neighbors because we don’t see them as a child of God, but look instead upon the color of their skin, whom they love, or what their beliefs are. The uptick in Asian-American hate crimes this past year has revealed that sin and shows that words matter. When we look towards those characteristics of a person, it is like putting on headphones and being distracted and not hearing the full message. A message that comes from Jesus when he says he will draw all people to himself.

During the season of Lent, it provides an opportune time to allow oneself to be drawn to Jesus. As we reflect and repent, Jesus waits. Silence can run rampant in this time and is essential if we are to hear Jesus and the calling he has for our lives. Being drawn to Jesus can be an emotional experience as we listen and wait. Being drawn to Jesus invites us into prayer as we welcome that relationship that Jesus longs for. Jesus is not going to pull us along. Jesus waits for us to be drawn to him. A drawing that occurs in our hearts as we allow ourselves to be open to the grace and love of God. The grace and love is always present and we choose to receive it in our own time and when we are ready. Theologian Fredrick Buechner writes, “Who knows how the awareness of God’s love first hits people. Every person has his own tale to tell, including the person who wouldn’t believe in God if you paid him.” Listening to the stories of those that have already reached the destination can be influential and this is most likely what the Greeks wanted to hear from Jesus.

Word of mouth is the best advertisement. And it is free! The Greeks heard about the many things Jesus was doing through word of mouth and they wanted to see him. The request progresses through the disciples before Jesus hears the news. It is an additional sign for him that his work his now complete and he is ready to be glorified. The Greeks that turn to Jesus are an example of how he draws people to himself. It does not matter where your beliefs have rested in the past or your station in life. Jesus draws all people to himself as he encourages his followers to imitate his proclamation and continue to carry out his healing and loving touch to all nations. In Jesus, all of creation is drawn to eternal life.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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