Longing to See Jesus - Bob Sawvelle

I rejoice for Christmas present and Christmas past; it fuels hope for the future. I reflect on God’s grace and mercy personified in Christ. His grace anchors me to a joyful hope: “God has this,” and “Nothing shall separate me from his love.”

For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life. John 3:16 TPT

Just as I longed for Christmas day as a child, I long to see Jesus and the fullness of his grace and glory. With the eye of faith, I glimpse upon what awaits me and every believer, all because “God so loved the world.” But I also lean into Jesus, with an expectation that his visitation is near to awaken a darkened world to his everlasting love and grace. Many long to see him, but will they see him through us?

Today, I want to discuss two accounts in the gospels of people who longed to see Jesus.

First Account, the Birth of Jesus, Luke 2:8-20

An angel appears at night to shepherds in a field near Bethlehem and says,

…Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 NKJV

Next, a multitude of angels appear, praising God, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” The shepherds respond, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened…” Luke 2:14-15 CEB

The supernatural angelic encounter with God’s presence created a longing in their heart to see Jesus. Perhaps the shepherds and the people thought, “Is this the long-awaited Messiah, prophesied so long ago? Will he become the future King of Israel and deliver us?

I find the wordplay used by Luke in this account fascinating. Different translations of Luke 2:15 describe the birth of Christ differently. In the NKJV, the shepherds say, “let’s go see this thing…See this thing—what? Were they doubters of what the angel just declared to them?

Luke 2:15 CEB reads, “…and see what’s happened…” What’s happened? Don’t the translators mean “see who is born?

Another translation reads, “Let’s go! Let’s hurry and find this Word that is born in Bethlehem and see for ourselves what the Lord has revealed to us.” Luke 2:15 TPT See this thing, see what’s happened, now see this Word? Again, are the translators grappling here for the correct English words? In a sense, yes, but they are also all correct! You see, in the Aramaic text, the birth of Christ could be rendered manifestation, or in this context, “Let’s hurry and find this manifestation…!”

The Greek for Word in the TPT, or this thing in the NKJV, or what’s happened in the CEB is rhḗma, which means “that which is said or spoken,[1] an active word,[2] a happening to which one may refer—‘matter, thing, event.’[3] Rhḗma is, therefore, an active word, that causes a manifestation or event.

Paul uses rhḗma in Romans to describe the development of faith in a person’s heart, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word (rhḗma) of God” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV).  The Passion Translation reads, “Faith, then, is birthed in a heart that responds to God’s anointed utterance of the Anointed One.” (Rom. 10:17 TPT)

In John’s gospel, Jesus is referred to as the Word or lógos who came down from heaven (See John 1:1-5). He is the eternal word and he is the active word, that causes a manifestation or an event. The angel’s proclamation to the shepherds created a longing in their hearts to see Jesus. The shepherds told others of what they had seen, which created a longing in the heart of many to see Jesus in the manger.

When Jesus began his earthly ministry, the news about him and the testimony of healings and miracles caused others to believe in him. Not solely due to the testimonies about him, but also because he is the active, eternal Word that causes faith to build in the hearts of others!

And to that point, humanity longs to know this active, eternal Word—despite the fact that they largely ignore Jesus as truth, just as Pilate did. You see, truth is a person—Jesus!

Humanity longs to understand the meaning of life. The quest to know why we exist and if there is more to life than our daily grind, both troubles and inspires humanity. To those who believe and know Jesus—life has focus, meaning, and purpose. To those who ignore the message and life of Christ, the troubled pursuit of the meaning of life continues.

Despite statistics of people losing faith and leaving church, the truth is still the truth. Truth is a person—Jesus is the answer to life’s deepest search for meaning!

The Second Account, the Passion Week, John 12:20-26

Jesus had just come to Jerusalem riding on a colt to shouts of “Hosanna!” People were gathering for Passover, and there was an attitude of expectancy in Jerusalem because of the news of Jesus. The people were expecting a political messiah, one who would restore the Davidic kingdom to Israel once again. Hope fuels expectancy. It’s Passion week, and in days, Jesus would be crucified, and three days later rise from the dead.

Paul said, “And now faith, hope, and love abide …” (1 Cor. 13:13 NKJV) Hope, from the Greek elpis, means “a reasonable and confident expectation of a future event.” Hope undergirds our faith. Hope is joyfully expectant of the future promise.

It is important for us to live from hope with expectancy. Hope diffused through the church lifts society and brings an awareness of God’s Kingdom, and suddenly, all things are possible!

But the people’s expectation for a political messiah—a governmental savior—to lift them above Roman oppression created a wrong expectation. The wrong expectation caused many in Jerusalem at Christ’s birth/death to lose hope. Why?

The people couldn’t see prophetically that he must first come as the suffering Messiah. One who would carry the sin, sickness and brokenness of humanity on the cross. Jesus wept over Jerusalem that week, demonstrating his compassion for the people—not a desired judgment.

Have you ever had a wrong expectation as to how God would answer your prayer?

Our assumptions as to how God will act in our lives may cause us to miss his answer and visitation. We don’t see him in a manger or on a colt—but he is the eternal, active Word of God! Hope that is steadfast must be anchored in truth. Jesus is truth. Only Jesus answers the question of the meaning of life—he is the express image of God.

To receive God’s grace, be willing to allow God to use the foolish to confound the wise, the weak to confound the strong. The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. Therefore Church, preach Christ crucified! Why? To anger the atheist? No, to give an opportunity for grace to have its complete work!

Greeks came to Philip, “Sir we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:20-21

Greeks came for Passover, but they longed to see Jesus. They heard of him, perhaps the stories about his birth, the miracles, and his coming upon a colt into Jerusalem. Know this, humanity longs to see the truth. “Let us… see this thing!”

Greeks were coming to worship, and even though they were not of Jewish descent, they were drawn to God through ancient Judaism. But genuine worship of the King of Kings trumps religious tradition. Jesus is the desire of the nations, irrespective of the many world religions.

Jesus said in John,

… the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 NKJV

Truth is discovered through Spirit-inspired worship of the King. Pride blinds humanity from seeing the truth, who Jesus is. Yet humanity hungers to know and encounter truth.

All through the gospels, we see the cry of humanity:

The ten lepers, stood afar, “Jesus, Master have mercy on us!” Luke 17:12 NKJV

The Canaanite woman, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!  My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” Matt. 15:22 NKJV

Blind Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, sat begging, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark 10:47 NKJV Bartimaeus someone’s son, you see all around us are real people with real hurts and pains.

Woman with the issue of blood, spent all she had with the doctors (Luke 8:43). Many today are very ill, and their only hope is a miracle from Jesus. They need to see and encounter Jesus through us.

The Greeks knew that Philip could lead them to Jesus.

The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:43-46 NKJV

Philip says, “Come and see.” Philip had an encounter with the Lord that changed him. In a moment, God’s presence redirected him. Encounter brought Philip into relationship and destiny.

Humanity is looking for Jesus in us… Do our lives reflect him?

He replied to them, “Now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified. Let me make this clear: A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain died.

The person who loves his life and pampers himself will miss true life! But the one who detaches his life from this world and abandons himself to me, will find true life and enjoy it forever! If you want to be my disciple, follow me and you will go where I am going. And if you truly follow me as my disciple, the Father will shower his favor upon your life. John 12:23-26 TPT

Jesus is the “one grain,” who will be offered as the sacrifice for sin on the cross of Calvary. He will “drop” into the ground as “a grain of wheat” and bring forth a great “harvest” of “seeds.” This parable given to Philip and Andrew was meant to be Jesus’ reply to the request by the non-Jewish seekers to see Jesus.

Jesus’ answer? “They will see me through you. As you follow me, you will also experience the dying and birthing experience.” The harvest among the nations will come when we follow Jesus where he goes. The implication in the text is that a life of full surrender to God will make us “a grain of wheat” that multiplies into a “harvest.” [4]

The religious leaders in Israel were looking for the Messiah to establish his government.  But, God knew that the greatest need man had was to come to Jesus to have their sins atoned for and to be filled with his Spirit and walk in truth with him.

Only Jesus can fill the deepest need of humanity! Not the governments, not the UN.

Your greatest need is to have Jesus completely fill your life with his presence! This will only happen as we die to ourselves, and completely surrender to him. The problems in our world are greater than what the world’s governments can solve or handle.

Jesus is the true bread that we hunger for. I’m not against social programs, and meeting the physical needs of people, but we must have him foremost and look expectantly to a day we will be with him forever—the eternal Word! We must do both, respond as we can to the social needs of those around us, and we must share the good news of Jesus to the world.

As we fall completely in love with him and allow him to be at the center of our lives, then we will see the hurts and pains of life begin to be healed and confidently rest in him while we wait for the answers to prayer. Church, the hour has come that Jesus should be glorified, through us!

Many are searching, many are hurting. They need an encounter with God’s love and power to awaken them to truth and give them hope of a future. Jesus desires that we would follow him and follow his example of surrender that a great harvest would occur.

Humanity is longing to see Jesus. Are we willing to live for him in order for others to know him, to see him?

I pray that you and your family have a blessed and joyful Christmas Season! As you celebrate, be cognizant of the reality that you will pass by people who are longing to see Jesus. Radiate his love and grace, be willing to answer every person of the hope that is within you! You know the Eternal Word, let his light shine through you!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!




For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Longing to See Jesus“:


[1]Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 1569.

[2]Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament(Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 505.

[3]Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains(New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 161.

[4]The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.


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