Thanks to the expansive rubrics in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, I have the opportunity to pray one of my favorite collects every morning during Morning Prayer. It is the third collect for mission and it rings the bell of the lesson from John’s Gospel appointed for Tuesday in Holy Week.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP, 101)
As the scene around Jesus gets more and more hectic, suddenly a small cadre of Greek proselytes, those who had converted to Judaism, desire to meet Jesus. Perhaps they’ve heard of him all the way in Athens: certainly a man who had healed the blind and the lame, had cast out demons, and even raised someone(s) from the dead would have been talked about all up and down the King’s Highway. Here, as the city of Jerusalem is filling with people’s hopes and expectations, we find a strange and fleeting moment of clarity. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
John never tells us if they see Jesus or not. Jesus seems to go off on some sort of tangential aside rather than actually visit with these Greek visitors, but what we do hear is a word that tells us that whether or not he saw them, they were in his mind as he spoke. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The Greeks may not see Jesus now, but they will see him when he is lifted up on his throne of wood. They will see him again when he descends from his Father with power and triumph. They will see him in his glory as they, along with Romans, Samaritans, Egyptians, Ethiopians, and all those from every corner of the earth, are welcomed with open arms into his kingdom. The same arms that were stretched out upon cross – the same cross that acts as his throne of triumph – they will embrace all those who seek after him.