We Would See Jesus
“Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’” (John 12:20-21)
You never know who’s going to show up for a party.
In this case, some Greeks showed up in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. In our day, that would mean “men from Greece,” and it could mean that in this case. But in New Testament times, the term “Greeks” covered all the non-Jews, i.e. the Gentiles. So these aren’t Greek Jews who came for the big event. They are Gentiles from who knows where who have come to Jerusalem to join in the worship. That probably puts them in the category of Gentiles who became Jewish converts or perhaps they were “God-fearers” (like Cornelius in Acts 10) who offered prayers to God and showed kindness to the poor.
Why did they want to see Jesus?
No doubt they were fully aware of the ruckus Jesus created when he cleansed the temple. We know the whole city was talking about him. If Twitter had existed back then, #WhoisJesus would have been a trending hashtag. Who was this man who could walk on water, heal the sick, and raise the dead?
The Greeks couldn’t be sure how Jesus would receive them. That’s why they approached Philip who told Andrew and together they told Jesus. We don’t know if Jesus ever met the Greeks in person because they aren’t mentioned again. But Jesus uses the occasion to announce that the time of his death has come. Then he illustrates what must happen. As a seed must die in the ground in order to bring forth much fruit, so Jesus must die so that many will believe in him. He adds a fascinating prediction in verse 32, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He is thinking of his coming death on the cross. Certainly these unnamed Greeks were included in the “all people.” Even before the cross we see the magnetic power of Christ.
German Theologian Rudolf Stier explained the significance of these Greeks coming to Jesus:
“These men from the west represent, at the end of Christ’s life, what the wise men from the east represented at its beginning; but those come to the cross of the King, even as these to His manger”
You never know when Magi will show up in Bethlehem looking for the King of the Jews, and you never know when Greeks will show up in Jerusalem looking for Jesus.
This should give us hope for our friends and loved ones. We can’t know what other people are thinking. If we could see the hearts of our loved ones, we would discover that the Holy Spirit is at work even though today they seem so far from Jesus.
Don’t stop praying.
One final note. Many years ago I listened to Dr. Lee Roberson preach the gospel at Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. On the pulpit, just above where he placed his Bible and notes, there was a little plaque that said, “Sir, We would see Jesus.” He put it there to remind himself (and anyone else who might preach there) of the preacher’s sacred obligation to magnify Christ in all things.
There are hungry hearts everywhere. You never know when someone will show up looking for Jesus. Make sure you know how to help them find him.
Lord Jesus, thank you for opening the door of heaven to anyone who believes in you. Give me faith to keep praying for my friends who do not yet know you. Amen.