In John 12, some Greek believers seek out Jesus almost immediately after the triumphal entry. Now, it is no surprise that some Greeks might find the message of Jesus appealing or that some of them might seek Jesus out. What is surprising is what Jesus responds with. John 12:21 The Greeks ask Phillip if they can go see Jesus. Phillip goes to Andrew and asks him and then they go to Jesus to tell Jesus.
Let’s clear some things up here first. All of the named disciples were Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. Jesus was claiming a messianic position in the Jewish religion. So it is only natural for them to be skeptical about non-Jews wanting to see the Messiah of the Jews. Second, Jesus had already had an awkward conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well and that made all the disciples uncomfortable, but they went along with it. Here the two disciples are not certain whether they should turn these Greeks away. Everything they have ever been taught in their religious practice has trained them to explain to Greeks, “you can come to the outer court, but not to the inner court, and certainly not to the holy place.” But here Jesus is the Holy Place. So where is the line supposed to be drawn? They don’t know where the line is. Further, each time they try to draw a line, they get taught a lesson. Remember John 9, the blind guy on the side of the road. They ask a goofy question because they have been taught some bizarre form of cosmic karma. Jesus reproves them, tells them to get on board with the mission, and heals the blind guy. Third, the Greeks recognize the disparity as well. They don’t go directly to Jesus as we see so many others do. They ask the disciples to get them access. Even the Greek believers were living under the assumption that Jesus was for the Jews only and that they would have to be second class. Jesus, however, has constantly demonstrated that He has a rescue for ALL types of men, women, and children, regardless of ethnicity or religious background. For all must be surrendered to Him anyway.
So, verse 20-22 already presents us with an awkward situation in which Jesus must make a decision. The truly odd nature of this portion of the story is what Jesus says to Phillip and Andrew. (The Greeks may be standing right next to them, but we don’t know for sure because the Bible doesn’t say.) When Jesus is approached with the news of these Greeks coming to see Him, He launches into a cryptic sermon about needing to die in order for life to spring up. He explains that a seed must fall to the ground and give up it’s life in order to bear fruit. So the call of Jesus arises to the surface. “Die that you may live.” Surrender your life so that you may find life. These Greeks are confronted with the message of the Cross: it’s not about who you are or where your from or what religious underpinnings you have. All these things must be counted as nothing and forfeit for the sake of following Christ. So the call lands on us. Will we surrender all our preconceived notions of what it means to be good and follow Jesus? Will we break fellowship with the systems that hold us captive in a false since of religious righteousness to follow Jesus? Will we serve the Father and die to self?
But Jesus isn’t finished here, you see He is about to have a conversation with God that everyone is going to get to hear. It’s a freaky, amazing thing. Jesus admits that He has come to lay down His life and says He wants God to glorify His name. A that moment God speaks!
The best I can describe my feeling as I read this is through a cartoon I watched recently with my daughter. Some bugs were playing in a garden and one thing leads to another and they say, “lets ask the Lord!” (yes, I am that hokey Christian parent.) The lady bug bows its head and asked God the question. I was expecting a moment of silence and then the lady bug should have a bolt of inspiration and know what was right! The moment of silence was there, but the cartoon suddenly boomed a voice answering the little bug. I was floored! God spoke outwardly. It was only a cartoon, but it was AWESOME! So… I get the same since here. Everyone must have felt a sudden jolt of “what was that!”
Jesus explains that it is the Father and that He is about to die… of course no one understands because we are told in verse 16 that even His disciples aren’t going to get it until He is glorified.
Reading this story makes me wonder if I come to God with the expectation that He would actually speak. Jesus did. The Greeks clearly overcame their own awkwardness to address Him. Even Phillip and Andrew approach Him expecting to be rattled a little. Do I? Do you? What are you expecting to receive from Jesus?
There is a whole lot more in this text, but I think I’ll leave it there for now.