20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.John 12:20-21 (NIV)
Have you ever had the privilege to see a celebrity person in a close setting? Maybe you were part of a reception line. Even better, maybe you had a conversation with them and even had a picture taken. Most of us have few, if any, opportunities like were just described. Many celebrity individuals have such busy schedules and numerous demands that they are unable to spend time with the average person. People like the Pope, Queen Elizabeth, and the President of the United States have to have individuals who manage all the requests for an audience with them. The requests are many and the time is limited.
Today’s passage presents a time when a group of Greeks desired an audience with Jesus. They had to go to one of the inner twelve to ask to see Jesus. It is probable that this occurred many times after Jesus became known throughout the region. Apparently, Philip was not sure about going to Jesus with the request alone so he co-opted his brother, Andrew. We are told they make Jesus aware but we are not told if the request is granted or not. Jesus instead is recorded as discussing his death and what is necessary to follow him. The request just sits there.
Like the group of Greeks, we also would like to see Jesus. One of the challenges of our Christian faith is not being able to physically see or audibly hear the One who we follow. Yet we can have our request met if we realize that Jesus is a part of those around us. As the line from a praise song says, “Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you.” (Open the Eyes of My Heart, Paul Baloche) We need the Lord to open us to seeing and hearing him in those around us. We have been granted an audience with the Lord through the lives of one another.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.Matthew 23:1-12 (NIV)
One of the pitfalls which many celebrities can experience is when they became arrogant or aloof with their notoriety. They come to expect certain types of treatment when they go to restaurants, parties or stores. When they contribute to a charity or do an act of service, they assume they will be noticed and acknowledged in some public manner. Celebrities are not the only ones who can succumb to this pitfall. Ordinary people risk adopting similar attitudes and behaviors if they are given power or status for whatever reason.
In a conversation with his disciples, Jesus calls out this potential pitfall. Jesus warns against following the example of the Pharisees who exalt themselves. They make a public showing of their actions. Instead Jesus tells the disciples to humble themselves and be servants. They are not to take titles or place anyone, including themselves, in the place of the Father or the Messiah. The pitfall of arrogance is to be avoided through conscious humility.
We would do well to listen to Jesus’s warning and instruction. Jesus is not indicating that we show or promote disrespect but instead he is advocating we keep a healthy perspective when it comes to recognition and acknowledgment. We are to avoid assuming that we deserve anything outside the decency and honor any person deserves. Anything more than that should be because others have chosen to offer it and not that we have an expectation for more. Our service to and for others should be done because we are following Christ’s example, not to receive accolades. We should always reserve the places of highest honor in our lives for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.