message of note


John Lancaster



The pulpit in the parish church inSt Leonard’s on Sea inSussexwas made inIsraeland is a beautiful replica of the bow of a Galilean fishing boat. To the preacher and his congregation it becomes a powerful reminder that what he is about to do is to continue on the shores of the English Channel what ‘Jesus began to do and to teach’ on the shores ofGalilee. Even more powerful for the preacher are the words which face him as he enters that pulpit. Taken from John 12:21, they read, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus.’

The little group of Greeks who came to Philip with that re­quest were men who had ‘turned from idols to serve the living God’, but their problem was that, having turned from the sensuous emptiness of pagan religion to the stern rituals of Judaism, they had still not found the living God. All around them people were talking about Jesus, so could he be the answer to their search? It was not mere curiosity that lay behind their request; they sincerely sought an encounter with Jesus. Tired of religion, they wanted reality.

The congregations that face modern preachers may not spell out the same request. In fact, some would never even think it was their prior need, but the truth remains that, above everything else, people in our churches – and outside of them -need to be led into an encounter with Jesus. Modern preachers and communicators at every level and in every medium need to hear this message, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus! We don’t want to hear your opinions about this and that, or learn about your experiences and achievements; we need more than therapy for our hurts, we need more than advice about self-fulfilment, more than instruction on meth­ods of achieving success. We do need help with many of those things, but most of all we need an encounter with Jesus. Help us to “fix our eyes on Jesus”.

‘Tell us more about him, about who He is, what he has done, and what He still desires to do in us. Show us His glory, declare His Lordship, tell us about His second coming. Yes, we’ve heard it all before, but we need to hear it again and again, so that we will be able to worship Him in spirit and in truth, be inspired to live for His glory and be a witness for Him in a world that needs to see Him.’

This Christ-centeredness was the secret of the early church. Whether in a city-wide crusade (Acts 8:4), a one-to-one en­counter (Acts 8:35), a hostile court of enquiry (Acts 4:10) or an encounter with cynical academics (Acts 17:18), the message was the same -Jesus. Whatever else they talked and wrote about, they always came back to the centrality of Jesus; their preaching and writings were saturated with his name.

Nor was it only in their preaching that they proclaimed Christ, but also in their personal conduct. Intellectually out of their depth in an encounter with the cream ofIsrael’s academics, and psychologically under pressure because this was the court that had condemned their master to death, the apostles conducted themselves with such composure, mental alertness and free­dom of speech that the Council ‘noted that they had been with Jesus’. Intimacy with him through his Word and the Spirit enabled them to rise above their natural limitations.

There are many important issues that demand our attention and our voice, but in the end the deepest need of our fallen world is an encounter with Jesus. This means that, whatever else we talk about and do, we must help people to meet Christ.


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