by Mtipe Koggani
Mtipe delivered this sermon as a guest preacher at St. John's on Sunday, March 21.
My friends, the gospel for today tells us about some Greeks who wish to see Jesus, and Jesus speaking about his death.
This passage informs us that among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Why do the Greeks approach Philip? Some scholars suggest that perhaps it was because they were drawn by his Greek name for, he was named after the City of Philippi. Philip goes to tell Andrew. Incidentally, "Andreas" means "Andrew" in Greek.
The passage also does not tell us whether these Greeks had seen Jesus before or whether Jesus knew of them. The questions here become, “Who were they?” Were they Greeks as what the passage says? If they were Greeks, what would have motivated them to travel such a long distance to Jerusalem? Did they come all that way to worship the God of the Jews? Some scholars believe that these people were circumcised Greeks who believed in the God of Jew; other scholars believe that they were Diaspora Jews.
To understand this passage, we need to recall that this incident happens after Jesus raises his friend Lazarus who had been dead four days. John 11:43-44 tells that Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus came out of the tomb, his face, hands, and feet bound with strips of cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” and verse 45 goes further and says, “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.” Although, many Jews believed in Jesus, the Pharisees and chief priests called the meeting of the council, and planned to put him to death.
Some people responded in negative ways at the good deeds of Jesus. Sometimes enemies gathered in response to the good deeds of him. It was because of the good works he did that Pharisees and chief priests planned to put him to death.
My friends, the good news is that even though Jesus faced all those challenges, he never abandoned his mission to preach the good news to the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. He never resigned from healing people; he never stopped doing good works.
John 11: 7-8 tells us that his disciples tried to prevent him from going to Judea to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew that he was facing death in Jerusalem, he knew that there was a plot to destroy his efforts. Even so, Jesus did not let that prohibit him from doing the work. He went anyway.
While opponents were gazing for the opportunity to put Jesus to death, this passage informs us that some Greeks - Gentiles - desired to see Jesus. This means that while Jesus was facing difficulties from the Pharisees and chief priests, God had already opened a door for the Gentiles. In today’s passage, Philip and Andrew report their desire to Jesus: “the Greeks desire to see you."
My friends, not every time when we do good works will we be praised by everyone. Sometimes we will face challenges and oppositions from different angles. Not everyone will appreciate the good works that you do. This morning I encourage you not to quit from doing good works just because of some people who do not appreciate what you do, or because of the challenges you face. Jesus’ mission did not fail because he never quit. Our mission as Christians will never fail if we all decide not to quit.
There is a Swahili saying "Tenda wema nenda zako, usingojee shukrani” which means, “Do good and keep going, do not wait for the appreciations.”
"Joplin, Mo., June 23 - KC Chiefs' Rodney Hudson helps out [Image 1 of 2]" by DVIDSHUB is licensed under CC BY 2.0
I remember the first day of class as an undergraduate student, I was sitting waiting for the class to start. A certain girl of about my age or younger came and sat on the chair in front of me. I do not know what happened, but suddenly, she threw some words which I found them to be offensive. As always, I decided to keep my mouth shut and, in my heart, I prayed, “God forgive her because she doesn’t know what she is doing.” Another girl sitting next to me, immediately stood up for me. She asked the offender to present an apology to me, but my offender chose not to do so.
A couple of weeks later, I got elected as chairperson for the University Students’ Christian Fellowship, and a cabinet member in the Students’ government. As a chairperson of the University Students’ Christian Fellowship, I had an opportunity to appoint a few people to lead small committees. Among other people, I appointed the girl who had insulted me earlier, and the girl who stood up for me. We all became good friends from that day up until now.
Someone said that there are three groups of people in this world. The first group is of those who once they die, their names die with them because they did not do anything that would keep their names alive when they are gone. The second group is of those who once they die, their names will live forever because of the bad things they did while they were alive. The last group is of those who once they die, their names will live forever because of the good things they did while they were alive.
My brothers, sisters and Siblings in Christ, as we continue to walk in this Lenten season, it is my prayer that we all continue to do good works, we all continue to love and serve the Lord, we all continue to do God’s work here on Earth. Galatians 6:9 says that by so doing, we will reap at harvest time. If we do not give up, when we die, our names will live forever. Amen.
Mtipe Koggani is a community member at Deaconess Anne House, and is in discernment for the priesthood.
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