There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?” Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. CJB
These three verses are easy to skip over because of the theological importance of what Jesus says next. Yet, there are some lessons contained here.
This is a rare appearance for Philip in any Gospel account. We learn that he was from Bethsaida, the birthplace of Andrew, Simon, James, and John. We can also infer that Philip was a Greek speaker, not just because his name is Greek. For that matter, Andrew is also Greek and it is to Andrew that Philip seeks help.
They were all good Jewish men, but most, if not all of them, spoke some Greek. The fishermen had to be able to sell their catch to whoever had money and there were many Greek speakers living along the lake shores. Even the Romans living in the area were Greek speakers, as were most of them in the eastern half of the Empire. Only the highest officials needed to know Latin.
Do not forget that all this occurs in (or near) Jerusalem at the time of Passover—though not the day of Passover. There were always Greeks in the city at the major feasts. Some of them were there as tourists, but many were believers without having converted (God fearing).
If these Greeks lived in Galilee, why did they not speak some Aramaic. For the same reason Americans living in Greece today don’t bother to learn Greek. English is so widely spoken around the world that we don’t have to bother learning; we put the burden on everyone else. The ancient Greeks felt the same way. You want to sell me your fish, learn Greek.
Notice that they asked to “see” Jesus. Philip did not just point to Jesus because he understood what they meant. They wanted Philip to translate a conversation with the great teacher. So, Philip turned to one of the inner four and asked Andrew what he thought they should do. There are few indications in the Gospels that any of the disciples had gatekeeper duties and that may not have been the case here either.
We can imagine that either Philip or Andrew asked, “Jesus, these Greeks would like to talk with you. Do you have time?”
We know Jesus rarely turned people away; in fact, he often sought them out. But not this time. Why?
This trip to Jerusalem is not his routine trip where teaching, healing, etc. was the norm. This is three days before his death. Saying a few pleasing words to non-Jews, or anyone else outside of his followers, is not an option.
Instead, Jesus said, The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Phillips We do not see the reactions to these words, but it is possible that Philip returned to the Greeks and translated what Jesus was saying. They were likely within hearing distance anyway.
Jesus goes on with this analogy. Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. CJB This is different from the mustard seed image in that Jesus is talking about himself and about each of us at the same time.
Initially, Jesus is the seed that will be buried. Once underground, he will sprout and fill the world with a great harvest. In that sense he is talking about each of us who are willing to bury our old, sinful lives and rise anew to be part of the harvest; to be both harvested and harvester. We cannot do that with our own power; we can do it only with the presence of the Messiah that is living in the world around us.
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. ESV
How do we follow Jesus? There is confusion about what we are to do and where we are to go. A good clue might be to look in the Gospels at where Jesus went and what he did. If we read the Gospels we will find enough examples of Jesus in action to fill our waking hours for more than a lifetime.
Notice here that Jesus did not send Philip back to chase the Greeks away. While this was a very Jewish moment, there was nothing wrong with Greeks watching from the perimeter. They would be in the thick of it soon.
“Right now I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’” A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.” CJB
This is all about God. God created us and wants us to live in His presence, but we are too covered with rejection of Him, what we call sin, that we cannot be in His court. But, by having His perfect Son live as a human and die as a human, carrying with him our sins, it is possible for the impossible to happen.
All God asks of us is the do our best to follow in the footsteps of His Son. It is not easy. God wants me to love people I don’t even like.
The listening crowd said, “Thunder!”
Others said, “An angel spoke to him!” CJB
Which will we be?
At this moment the world is in crisis. CJB
Be righteous and do good.