Sir, we would see Jesus? What a beautiful one-line request, simple, yet genuine, from a group of Greeks to see Jesus.They approached the right guide whose name was Philip, one of the early disciples of Jesus, to facilitate an audience. Philip possibly had a Greek background and was able to speak their language. By the way, the name “Philip” means “a lover of horses” in Greek.
Before I go any further, here is the Scripture connected with my title for this post; John 12:20-23:
“20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: 21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. 22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, saying the hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified”.
1. What struck me first was the brevity of the reference, just three verses. That was it? As one can instantly notice, there is precious little information about these enquirers and their single request; no details as to their names, background, where they came from originally etc. Who advised them and prompted them? What was the outcome of their meeting with Jesus? Notice the response of Jesus “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified”(more on this later).
2. The location and neighbourhood may throw some light. Jesus grew up in Nazareth which was part of Galilee. Historians narrate that Galilee at the time of Jesus and Philip was a mix of “(a)Greek Speaking (Culture and philosophy), (b) pro-Rome and (c) openly Jewish place”. Evidently these Greeks had heard about Jesus and his teachings. They must also have heard about the miracles, particularly the latest, the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 12:9).
Surely, they were not thinking now of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle but rather, they were determined to grab the opportunity of a lifetime to meet Jesus the Saviour of the world!
3. This is very interesting! Again, historians assert “the Greek language played the role the English language is playing today. It was understood by many different cultures all around the world. It was possible that the Galileans spoke no fewer than three languages: Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew. It is commonly believed that Aramaic was the primary language”.
These factors underscore one important point. Almighty God always has a master plan. While Hebrew was the religious language of the Jews and was primarily reserved for prayers, religious teaching, and communication with other Jews, the Greek language was popular and prominent at that time. It was the language of business, education, and for communication with foreigners (because it was a widespread language. By the way, let us not forget our own English Bible owes a lot to the Greek Bible.
4. Jesus’ response -“the hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified! This sudden expression of joy is remarkable. Jesus after thirty years of labour, study, selecting, training disciples patiently, is now seeing the very near fulfillment of the cross and Salvation! (If time permits read John 12:23-33).
The point I stress is, God sent his Son “in the fullness of time” not only for that corner of the world but for the whole world. As I often underscore, Christianity is not provincial but universal “God so loved the world” (John 3:16).
Was this simple request by the Greek to meet Jesus the start of world evangelism? The Gospel, the “good news”, the LIGHT can no longer be kept “under the bushel” or for that matter, held within the four walls of a temple, town or nation! A Believer cannot and should not miss the length, breadth, height and depth of our Salvation accomplished on the Cross. Could one foresee the prophetic significance in the huge veil inside the temple at the Holy City being torn from top to bottom after the crucifixion of Jesus; another sign of the “evangelical explosion”? Jesus recognized it instantly! (Matthew 27:50-51).
The “summum-bonum” of the Gospel, as evident from the simple keen desire of the Greeks to see Jesus, was not just the opportunity to see a prophet, teacher, healer, miracle worker, or even Jesus raising one from the dead (Lazarus). It is the most spiritual, God given opportunity to realign or reset our life, not only in this present world but also for all eternity. It is the glorious combination of the the love of God, the plan of God and the grace of Jesus Christ.
St. Peter, a close disciple of Jesus, coined a unique phrase; “unspeakable joy and full of glory”, when he wrote: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with “Joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Hallelujah!
This reminds me of an old hymn by Barney E. Warren -1867-1951. (quoting only 2 verses to save space and word count)
I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.
I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.
Notice Philip and Andrew did not have to entice or drag the Greeks to Jesus. The Greeks approached Philip! In closing, there are many still seeking and constantly asking the same question, quietly and prayerfully: “Sir, we would see Jesus”. The sweet response is still the same: “Come and See”, e.g. Philip to Nathanael ! Yes, Jesus commissioned; “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel (good news) to every creature” Mark 16:15”. We will do well to consider the other equal part; “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord of hosts”, a Scripture verse tucked away in the OT, Zechariah 4:6.
It takes humility and a contrite spirit to spread the good news and address seekers especially millions in various countries, people of other customs, colours, and cultures. Respect them and abhor using terms such as a “dark continent”, “blind”, etc. Remember “I once was blind” – Amazing Grace” !
Learn from Philip how softly he communicated to Nathanael’s caustic response, “come and see” (John 1:46) The following words are commonly attributed to Francis of Assisi, (1182-1226): ”preach the gospel, if necessary use words ”.
Since I started this post with an old hymn, allow me to close with another, which is both poetic as well as deeply spiritual- by Frances Havergal 1835-1876 :
Like a river, glorious, Is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, In its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth, fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth, Deeper all the way.
Stayed upon (Jehovah) Christ Jesus,Hearts are fully blest;
Finding, as He promised, Perfect peace and rest.
Every joy or trial, Falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial By the Sun of Love.
We may trust Him fully, All for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly, Find Him wholly true.
Songwriter/King David put it in his own poetic style “O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusteth in Him” ! Have and enjoy “unspeakable joy and full of glory”.
God bless, Danny Paul