DaVinci’s famous painting, “The Last Supper,” originally had a beautiful silver cup on the table. But after a friend mentioned how beautiful the cup was and how his eye was immediately drawn to it, DaVinci angrily painted over it. His reason? He intended for the focus to be on Jesus – not a cup or any other object or person. In this painting, he wanted people to see Jesus.
“We wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21). Certain Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast approached Philip with this request. Philip in turn went to Andrew, and together they took the request to Jesus. What does a person see when he sees Jesus?
My mind immediately goes to the word portraits painted by the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. His miraculous birth, his amazing life, and his atoning death. I think of the masterful way he taught. The compassionate touch he gave to the hurting. His insightful words that prepared the apostles for their work after his victorious return to heaven.
“We wish to see Jesus.” We may not immediately connect Jesus’ next words with this request. But to truly see Jesus, we must make that connection. He said that the time had come for the Son of Man to glorified (v. 23). He spoke of a grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying in order to bear fruit (v. 24). He spoke of being lifted up from the earth (v. 32). And John made it clear that Jesus was speaking of his death (v. 33). So, when they asked to see Jesus, he brought up the cross.
If we wish to see Jesus, we must have the cross clearly in view. Many want to see the babe in the manger, but not the man dying on the cross. Many thrill at the marvel of his miracles, but recoil from the violence of his cross. Many, drawn to him because of his compassion, fail to recognize that it was his compassion that took him to the cross. The baby in the manger, the master teacher, the miracle worker, the compassionate one has no real meaning apart from the cross. It is at the cross that the purpose of Jesus’ life comes into true focus. It is at the cross that we truly see Jesus.
And if we see Jesus in view of the cross, our lives can never be the same. Because of his cross, we will be crucified to the world. Because he died on the cross, we will die to sin. To see Jesus in view of the cross is to accept in our lives the message of the cross. And if I do that, I will die to self and allow Jesus to live in me. And through my life, others will see Jesus.