“We Would See Jesus”

"Sir, we would see Jesus" (Jn. 12.21)

     INTRO.: A hymn which urges us to have the same desire to see Jesus spiritually as the Greeks who came to Philip at the feast did physically is "We Would See Jesus." The text was written, under the pseudonym of Amy Lathrop, by Anna Bartlett Warner (1824-1915). It first appeared as a poem in her 1852 novel Dollars and Cents (republished in 1853 at London, England, as Speculation; or the Glen-Luna Family). Its first use as a hymn was in her 1858 Hymns of the Church Militant. Miss Warner is best-known for the song "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know." The usual tune (Raynolds, Reynolds, or Consolation) for "We Would See Jesus" had been composed by Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn (1809-1847). It was first published in 1833 or 1834 as "Adagio non troppo" in his Songs Without Words, Book II, Op. 30, no. 32 (often given the subtitle of "Consolation" by music editors) for piano solo. The arrangement is sometimes attributed to Adolphus Levy in 1880, but hymntune arrangements had already appeared in E. J. Hopkins’s The Temple Church Hymn Book of 1869 and Charles S. Robinson’s Spiritual Songs of 1875.

     Originally in six stanzas, the song is reduced in most books to four. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1), with a different tune (Henly) by Lowell Mason, and in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns (two stanzas only) edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand. The Mendelssohn tune is also found in many of our books (Great Songs of the Church No. 1 and No. 2, Abiding Hymns, Christian Hymnal, Great Songs Revised, and Praise for the Lord) with Horatius Bonar’s "Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face."

     The song describes the blessings of using our eyes of faith to look unto Jesus as our support in life.

I. Stanza 1 says that we need to look at Jesus because death is approaching
"We would see Jesus, for the shadows lengthen
Across the little landscape of our life;
We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen
For the last weariness, the final strife."
 A. As we grow older, the shadows lengthen and we approach the night when no man can work: Jn. 9.4
 B. Therefore, we must look unto Jesus to strengthen our weak faith: Eph. 3.14-17
 C. This will help us in our last weariness and final strive, knowing that it is appointed for all to die once: Heb. 9.27

II. Stanza 2 says that we need to look at Jesus because He is our only sure foundation
"We would see Jesus, the great Rock foundation,
On which our feet were set with sovereign grace;
Nor life, nor death, with all their agitation,
Can thence remove us, if we see His face."
 A. Jesus is the great Rock foundation: 1 Cor. 3.11, 10.3
 B. Our feet have been set on Him if we have built on the rock by keeping His saying: Matt. 7.24-25
 C. If we do this, then life, nor death, nor anything else can separate us from His love: Rom. 8.38-39

III. Stanza 3 says that we need to look at Jesus because others whom we have loved are leaving too
"We would see Jesus; other lights are paling,
Which for long years we have rejoiced to see.
The blessings of our pilgrimage are failing;
We would not mourn them, for we go to Thee."
 A. The fact that "other lights are paling" simply means that many of those are also passing away from this life who have helped us, guided us, and meant so much to us as lights in the world: Phil. 2.15
 B. In this way, some of the blessings are failing that have benefitted us in our pilgrimage: Heb. 11.13
 C. While we sorrow for their loss, we do not mourn as those without hope because our goal is to be with Christ and with the redeemed of all ages: 1 Thess. 4.13-17

IV. Stanza 4 says that we need to look at Jesus because our loved ones of earth who have left us are still dear to us
"We would see Jesus; yet the spirit lingers
Round the dear objects it has loved so long.
And earth from earth can scarce unclasp its fingers;
Our love to Thee makes not this love less strong."
 A. While our aim is to see Jesus, yet the spirit and its thoughts linger round the dear objects that it has loved so long because we are still in this world, though striving not to be of it: Jn. 17.16-18
 B. We often say at commital services, "Our hearts still cling to this body because of the spirit who once animated it," and indeed earth from earth can scarce unclasp its fingers from those who have departed and whose death is precious in the sight of the Lord: Ps. 116.15
 C. The reason is that our love for Christ and our hope in Him does not make the memory of those who have died in the Lord and whose works still follow them any less strong: Rev. 14.13

V. Stanza 5 says that we need to look at Jesus because we cannot live by sense
"We would see Jesus; sense is all too binding,
And heaven appears too dim, too far away.
We would see Thee, Thyself our hearts reminding
What Thou hast suffered, our great debt to pay."
 A. Sense is all too binding, so we cannot walk by sight: 2 Cor. 5.7
 B. Yet, heaven often appears too dim and too far away since it is yet a promise: 1 Jn. 2.25
 C. However, by looking to Jesus, we can see what He suffered on the cross our great debt to pay and gain patience to run the race: Heb. 12.1-2

VI. Stanza 6 says that we need to look at Jesus because He give us all we need for eternity
"We would see Jesus; this is all we’re needing.
Strength, joy, and willingness come with the sight.
We would see Jesus, dying, risen, pleading;
Then welcome day, and farewell, mortal night!"
 A. Regardless of what else happens in this life, in the final analysis all we need is to see Jesus and we can rejoice in Him: Phi. 4.4
 B. He is the one who died for our sins, arose from the dead, and now ever lives to make intercession for us: Heb. 7.25
 C. Therefore, if we keep our eyes of faith upon Him, we can eventually say farewell to mortal night and welcome to eternal day, as Paul was awaiting: 2 Tim. 4.6-8

     CONCL.: No, we cannot see Jesus literally, although someday we shall stand before Him and finally be able to gaze directly upon Him who died for us, but through His word we can look at Him with the eyes of faith. This is a devotional type of song that may seem trite and sentimental to many, especially those who are younger, which may explain why it is not as popular today as it once was since many hymnbook editors have joined the "youth craze" in choosing songs. However, as we grow older, moving closer and closer to the time of death, judgment, and eternity, and experience personally many of the things that are mentioned in it, we come to understand all the more how important it is that "We Would See Jesus."


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