Vol. 18 New Series June, 1956 No. 3

JOHN 12:20-24
The Pharisees were excessively annoyed when the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead. It was intolerable that many of the Jews should believe in Him as their Messiah, as this might mean that the Romans would come and "take away our place as well as our nation" (John 11:48). It was then that they made up their mind to kill the Lord.

To make matters worse, it would seem they observed some of the foreign proselytes who intended to worship at the festival of the Jews, perhaps including the Greeks who are mentioned. In wrathful despair the Pharisees cry, "Lo! the world comes away after Him." Not only Israelites, but some from other nations, the world. It was insufferable that even Gentile outsiders should get to hear that this man Jesus had raised Lazarus. It meant much that such Gentile dogs should wish to worship the God of Israel. It implied that they were righteous and good-living men. They had chosen to worship Israel's God because they knew He was the only God, and a holy God.

Why did these Greeks approach Philip and tell him that they wished to become acquainted with Jesus? Was this out of mere curiosity on their part? And why did Jesus give an answer which seems very indirect?

The probability is that these Greeks were far more sympathetic towards the Lord than curious to see Him and speak with Him. They must have apprehended that the Lord was as an outcast in the eyes of the chiefs of the people. Godet has painted a fine picture of what probably happened. The Greeks may have witnessed the Lord's entry into Jerusalem, and His expulsion of the merchants from the Temple, whereby the Lord restored to its proper use the only part of the sanctuary which was open to them, the Court of the Gentiles. Or they may have heard of these events. This may have stirred up within them a strong desire to get to know Jesus better. At the time Jesus was in the Court of the women, which was entered after crossing the Court of the Gentiles. They may have observed Him as He passed through the Court of the Gentiles.

Godet suggests that they may have wished to invite the Lord to turn to the Gentiles, seeing that Israel had accorded Him such a poor reception. They may have known what the Hebrew Scriptures prophesied regarding the call of Gentiles. Eusebius has recorded in his ecclesiastical history how an embassy was sent to Jesus by the king of Edessa in Syria, inviting Him to take up His abode with the King, and promising Him such a royal welcome as should compensate for the obstinacy of the Jews who rejected Him.

The Greeks approached Philip cautiously and modestly. As a disciple of such a Master, they called Philip "Sir," or Lord (kurios).

Godet suggests they may have come from some district near to Galilee, perhaps the Decapolis (Ten Cities), where there were several entirely Greek cities. Philip and Andrew, who approached the Lord with the request of the Greeks, are the only two of the disciples whose names are of Greek origin. Philip belonged to Bethsaida of Galilee. Perhaps that was why the Greeks approached him first.

But the Lord was only sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matt. 15:24). Nevertheless, He must have been greatly cheered to find that Gentiles were seeking after Him. "It is, as it were, the first bursting forth of a new world." In due time the Gentiles would hear and would acclaim Him as Lord; But first, He must carry out His immediate responsibilities to His own nation, and "the way of Calvary unveiled itself before Him." Gentiles were knocking at the door of the Kingdom. "Did He not know that it was from the height of a cross that He would draw all humanity unto Him?"

The approach of the Greeks was a signal to the Lord, a direct and timeous encouragement from the Father. It was a signal for the human race, and especially for Israel, that a decisive hour had arrived.

So the Lord gives His answer: "The hour has come that the Son of Humanity should be glorified. Verily, verily, I am saying to you, except the kernel of the wheat, falling into the earth, may be dying, itself it is remaining albne, yet if ever it may be dying, much fruit it is bringing forth." Then in v. 32 He says that His dying will draw ALL (emphatic) to Himself.

Could the death of the Prince of Glory ever bring forth anything but fruit?

A.T. Last updated 31.12.2005