At one point during the week when our Lord was crucified, some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover feast came to the apostle Philip. Their request was, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21). Such was not an uncommon desire, as there were many, including Zacchaeus, who wanted to get a good look at and hear the Teacher from Nazareth.
When Andrew and Philip brought the Greeks’ message to Jesus, in response He said that His hour to be glorified had come. He then spoke about the need for His followers to hate their life and serve Him (John 12:22-26). Whether or not the wish of those Greeks to see Jesus was granted, the Bible does not say.
Some humans were blessed to live in an era when people in a limited geographic area of the world had an opportunity to see Jesus in the flesh. We do not live in such a time. That is neither a criticism nor a complaint; it is merely a statement of fact. Since Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father and no longer living among men in a physical body, does that mean that people of our generation have no chance to see Him in any sense? No, it does not.
Why do people need to see Jesus? People need to see Jesus because, well, Jesus is Jesus. His very name means “Savior” or “Jehovah is salvation.” Even before He was born, this truth was revealed about Him: “. . . He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). On the night of His birth, Jesus was identified as “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Jesus is not one of many worthy Saviors; no, He is the only One through whom men can come to the Father (John 14:6). Peter proclaimed, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Every human needs to see Jesus – see Him as the Savior and Son of God.
How can that happen? How can people today see Jesus? They can see him through the eye of faith. Even in the first century, there were those who did not see Jesus with fleshly eyes, yet they believed in Him and loved Him (1 Peter 1:7,8). How was that possible? They accepted the evidence of Jesus’ deity which was presented to them in the gospel and in the first-hand testimony of those witnesses who saw the resurrected Christ.
The apostle Paul appealed to Christians in Galatia with these words: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (Galatians 3:1). In what sense was Jesus “portrayed” among them as the crucified Christ? Paul reminded them, “. . . I preached the gospel to you at the first” (Galatians 4:13). When they heard Paul proclaim the gospel message, they learned the message of the cross of Calvary and the redemption that comes through it.
Just as it occurred in the first century after His ascension back to heaven, so Jesus is shown to the world today through revelation – the inspired word of God. Yes, people today can learn about whom Jesus is. How? Through the gospel. And, when they “see” what the gospel declares about the Savior, they can “see” Jesus.
It is also the case that Jesus lives in His followers. The Christ is in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). As Paul said, the crucified Christ was living in him (Galatians 2:20). When we walk with God’s Son and are conformed to His image (Romans 8:29), then He is living in us. Such an attractive and appealing lifestyle has the power to draw the attention of observers, and our earnest desire is that the light seen through us will cause lost people to turn to the God of heaven and glorify Him (Matthew 5:16). Is the example that I set a stumbling block or an attraction for others? Does my conduct, attitude, and speech open doors to talk to others about our Lord’s salvation, or do I close doors by demonstrating despicable traits?
What possibly could hinder people from seeing Jesus? Sometimes it is an internal matter. Some people have their minds made up in advance and refuse to consider the biblical evidence of Jesus’ Lordship. Some are just too arrogant to see it.
In other instances, external matters play a role in preventing people from seeing Jesus for whom He is. Some observe hypocrisy in those who claim to follow Him. Others are overwhelmed and nauseated by religious teachers who put the spotlight on themselves and keep themselves in front of the cross, so to speak, keeping people from looking past them to the dying Savior. In addition, it is no secret that the doctrines of men and their advocates also turn people from the Messiah and His truth (Titus 1:14).
Blessed are those who long to see Jesus. One day God’s faithful will see Him face to face, taking courage now in this life from the faithful promise of the faithful God: “. . . when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Amen and Amen!
— Roger D. Campbell