The story is told of Anthony the Great, the fourth-century leader of Egyptian monasticism. As the story goes, a well-worn monk and a young novice would journey each year into the desert to seek the wisdom of Anthony. Upon finding him, the monk would seek instruction from the great Anthony on the life of prayer, devotion to Jesus, and his understanding of the Scriptures. While the monk was asking all the questions the novice would simply stand quietly and take it all in.
The next year the well-worn monk and the young novice again went into the desert to find Anthony and seek his counsel. Again, the monk was full of questions, while the novice simply stood by without saying a word. This pattern was repeated year after year. Finally, Anthony said to the young novice, “Why do you come here? You come here year after year, yet you never ask any questions, you never desire my counsel, and you never seek my wisdom. Why do you come? Can you not speak?” The young novice spoke for the first time in the presence of the great saint. “It is enough just to see you. It is enough, for me, just to see you.”
When the Greeks asked to see Jesus, what were they seeking? Reading the whole story in John’s gospel that follows the above passage doesn’t give us a lot of information. It presents little new information and it asks a lot of questions. What we see in this encounter is that we are less interested in the answers than we are about seeing Jesus as he makes his way toward the cross this week. It is Holy Week and we are invited to see the answer to all our questions – to see Jesus.
When we see Jesus in this story we get this image: “And I, when I am lifted up from this earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Vs 32) Understanding this image gives depth to our experience of Holy Week. How serious was Jesus when he said “all people”? There is insight in this poem from Edwin Markham:
He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win;
we drew a circle that took him in!
I imagine Jesus (Love) drawing a circle that is big enough to take everyone in. The Book of Common Prayer includes this:
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.
As we walk the way of the cross this Holy Week, are we truly prepared to walk with Jesus? Can we see him leading the way and are we ready to abandon our search for security so that we may reach out and risk living with open arms? Remember, the answer to all our questions is simply to see Jesus.
Just wanting to see,