John 12:20-21

“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.”

The Greeks of whom John writes were not Hellenist, or Greek Jews, but Hellenes, or Gentiles. These individuals were converts to the Jewish faith. They belonged to a special class known as “Proselytes of the Gate”.

These Greeks had been admitted to the privileges of Judaism. With others they came up to Jerusalem at the feast. The Feast which the Greeks came to observe was the Passover which was united to the Feast of Unleaven Bread (Lev. 23:5-6). The whole feast, including the paschal eve, was called The Festival of Unleavened Bread. Initially, the Unleavened Bread spoke of the hast with which the people left Egypt.

“Unleavened Bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters

The Unleavened Bread was “a sign”. Every time an Israelite, or a proselyte, held a piece of Unleavened Bread in their hand while observing the Passover meal, it was a reminder of God and His power, His grace, and His faithfulness.

 8 And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, ‘This [the Unleavened Bread] is done because of what the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.  9 And it [the Unleavened Bread] shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’s law [the instruction] may be in thy mouth; for with a strong [powerful] hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. 10 Thou shalt therefore keep [guard] this ordinance in his season from year to year [at its appointed time, from year to year]” (Exodus 13:7).

Holding the Unleavened Bread caused a person to think about the Passover, and the way the Israelites left Egypt in haste.  “And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders” (Ex. 12:34). “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual” (Ex. 12:39).

There was a practical reason for the emphasis upon the Unleavened Bread. The Lord knows His creation. God knows that if we can remember the little things in life, we will more likely remember, by association, the greater events of life. A sight, a smell, a touch, a taste, and suddenly whole memories flood the heart. I have never forgotten the lovely smell in childhood of the ladies cologne my mother use to wear, Evening in Paris.

The Hebrew people never forgot their divine deliverance from Egypt, the Land of Bondage, because they never forgot the significance of the Unleavened Bread.

The Passover had laid the foundation for Israel’s birth as a nation (Hos. 2:15; Ex. 6:6-7). Up to this point in their history, the Hebrew people had been a nomadic tribe, and then an enslaved people. But on the night of the Passover the people entered into a new life of grace, mercy, and fellowship with God which was to be perpetuated for generations to come.

While in Jerusalem, the Greeks, in the providence of God, came into contact with Philip, a disciple of the One many people were calling, Rabbi, Master. These Greeks had heard of Jesus for His fame as a Teacher and Miracle Worker had spread far and wide. The Greeks had a simple request for Philip. “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

During the days of His work on Earth, many people wanted to see Jesus.  Certainly the Shepherds who were abiding in their fields, keeping watch over their flock by night, wanted to see the baby Jesus for as soon as they were told by holy angels that the Christ child had been born, the Bible says that they came “with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).  How pleased God the Father is when a person wants to come to Jesus with haste, and without reluctance.

Like the Shepherds, there were young people who wanted to see Jesus during the days of His earthly ministry. In John 6, the story is told of a great multitude following Jesus. With a marvelous sense of humor, Jesus called Philip aside and said unto him, with a twinkle in His yes, “Philip, where shall we go to buy bread, that this great crowd may eat?” (John 6:5).

Philip was alarmed and said to Jesus, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread [c. $300.00] is not sufficient for them, that ever one of them may take a little” (John 6:7).

We know that Jesus was just having a little fun in testing Philip for the Bible says that Jesus himself, “knew what he would do” (John 6:6).

Overhearing the conversation between Jesus and Philip was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter (John 6:8). Andrew spoke up and said, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9).

Is not that precious? There is a lad here. There was a young person who wanted to see Jesus. There is great joy in the hearts of those who want to see Christ at an early age. Of Timothy it was said that, from a child, he knew the Holy Scriptures which were able to make him wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15). May God grant us a burning desire to want to see Christ, and to come Him, with haste, like the shepherds, and to follow after Him, like the lad. And let us pray for the children, especially those who have, in their adult years departed from the Church while still professing faith in Christ. They are on dangerous ground. They have a spurious faith. Only those who endure to the end shall be saved for faith without works is dead.

As we can come with haste to Christ, so we can also come with deliberation.  In Matthew’s gospel we read of certain Wise Men from the East.

Slowly, deliberately, they traveled across the hot burning desert, following an unusual Star, until at last they came to Jerusalem, and then followed the star to the house whey they found the Christ child, Jesus.  The Wise Men sought the Lord,  and found Him. They wanted to see Jesus.

In John’s gospel we read that the Greeks said to Philip,

“Sir, we would see Jesus.”

The Greeks were determined in the efforts to see Jesus. Like the Magi from Persia, like the Greeks, let us move towards Christ, step by step, day after day, and we too shall see the King in all of His splendor and glory. The Shepherds, the Wise Men, and the Greeks were not like King Herod.

Herod wanted to see Jesus, but only so that he could hurt Him.  Herod had hatred and jealousy in his heart. He wanted to see Jesus to kill Him, and so Herod told the Wise Men, with great slyness, to come and tell him when they had found the Lord, “So that I may come and worship Him also” (Matt. 2:8).But Herod had no intention of worshipping Jesus.  It was the king’s considered intention to see Christ in order to destroy Him as a baby.

When Jesus had grown into a man, the Pharisees came to see Him, but they too soon wanted to kill the Lord, for their own religious reasons. While the heart of a Herod, and the heart of a religious Pharisee can beat in the chest of an individual, there are others who want to see Jesus because in Christ they perceive divine Royalty. Individuals see their Lord and their Saviour, who has the right to rule their lives. They see the Good Shepherd who has come to take care of His sheep. It was in this spirit that the Greeks, among the Jews at the Passover Festivals came up to worship, and to see Jesus. 

Exercising a little sanctified imagination, it can be perceived that the Greeks wanted to see Jesus for several reasons. 

First, the Greeks wanted to see Jesus because they had, no doubt, heard He was born of a virgin. The story of the birth of Christ was not something that was kept secret. In recent years the scientific community has grown more and more excited with the techniques of genetic engineering, and what can be done with human embryos and human cells.  Wynne Parry, a Live Science Contributor posted an article on February 18, 2013, stating,  

“The increasing power and accessibility of genetic technology may one day give parents the option of modifying their unborn children, in order to spare offspring from disease or, conceivably, make them tall, well-muscled, intelligent or otherwise blessed with desirable traits.”

While all of that is interesting, there will never be a baby born as unique as Christ.  The Greeks heard of the Lord’s unmatched birth, and they wanted to see Him.

Second, the Greeks wanted to see Jesus because they had heard that He was the promised Messiah. 

For centuries the Jewish people had looked for their Messiah.  From time to time there arose a false messiah, but each one was quickly exposed as a fraud. The Jewish historian, Josephus mentions the story of Simon, son of Joseph. A former slave of Herod the Great, Simon rebelled against Rome.

Before he was hunted down in 4 BC and his head was cut off by Gratus, Simon managed to burn “down the royal place at Jericho, and plundered what was left in it. He also set fire to many other of the king’s houses in several places of the country, utterly destroyed them, and permitted those that were with him to take what was left in them for a prey.” Simon of Perea was a violent man.

In contrast, people found in Christ a gentle man, a man of love and peace. In Christ they found their Lord and their God, and fell down to honor and worship Him. It was Napoleon Bonaparte who said to a group of friends in a social gathering, “Gentlemen, if Socrates entered the room, we should rise and do him honour. But if Jesus Christ came into the room, we should fall down on our knees and worship Him.”

Then third, the Greeks wanted to see Jesus because they had heard He was without sin.  Could it be that a man was perfect in all of His ways and words? I have never met a sinless person though I have had two men tell me, with great reluctance and humility, that they no longer sinned. The Bible says that if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  Concerning Christ, the Greeks agreed, He could do no wrong. He was without sin.

Fourth, the Greeks wanted to see Jesus because they had heard that He would die a substitutionary death.  They wanted to see the One who would die in the place of others.

The story is told of a small boy had been consistently late for dinner. One particular day his parents had warned him to be on time, but he arrived later than ever. He found his parents already seated at the table, about to start eating. Quickly he sat at his place, and then noticed what was set before him—a slice of bread and a glass of water. There was silence as he sat staring at his plate, crushed. Suddenly he saw his father’s hand reach over, pick up his plate and set it before himself. Then, his dad put his own full plate in front of his son, smiling warmly as he made the exchange.

When the boy became a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God in Christ was like by what my father did that night” (Homemade, May, 1989). The father took away a child’s shame. He embraced his pain. Every heart which the Lord has opened to the gospel will confess,

“I should have been crucified,
I should have suffered and died.
I should have hung upon the Cross that Day
But Jesus, God’s Son, took my place.”

Fifth, the Greeks wanted to see Jesus because they had heard that He would rise again from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion. The Greeks wanted to know something of the resurrection power of Christ, for such power is liberating.

The heart that is able to firmly believe that the Redeemer has burst the bands of death, and has brought life and immortality to light, will feel no lingering shame over past sins, and will learn to fear no one, and nothing, including death.

Down through the centuries the saints have longed to know something about resurrection power. The apostle Paul wrote, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).

“The Lord is risen indeed,”
We say it as a creed:
But O to feel its power
Daily, through every hour.”

Finally, the Greeks wanted to see Jesus because they realized that men cannot save themselves. All men need a Saviour. Individuals try to save themselves by being baptized, confirmed, joining a Church, doing religious works, and living a good life, but it is to no avail. Even our good works are as filthy rags in the sight of God. He is not impressed without our own plan of salvation. But God will have mercy on those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Those, and those alone shall be saved. In times like these, we need a Savior.

The Bible says that all we like sheep have gone astray.  We have turned everyone to his own way, and in the process have become lost.  In order to find the right way, individuals must want to see Jesus, and follow Him. Jesus said I am the Way, the truth and the Light.

The deepest longing of the Christian’s heart is to be able to see Jesus. 

In matchless grace, we can see Jesus: through His Word, through the act of meditation, through the proclamation of Scripture, and through the good deeds of others.

One day we shall see the Lord physically.  One day we shall behold Him.

“The sky shall unfold,
preparing His entrance;
The stars shall applaud Him
With thunders of praise.
The sweet light in His eyes
shall enhance those awaiting;
And we shall behold Him then face to face.”

Though she was blind, Fanny Cosby knew that one day she would be face to face with the Lord and she would be able to see Him physically as well as spiritually.  She wrote of that moment.

“Face to face with Christ my Saviour,
Face to face—what will it be—
When with rapture I be-hold Him,
Je-sus Christ who died for me?

Face to face! O blissful moment!
Face to face—to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.”

There is nothing wrong with wanting to see Christ spiritually, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to see Christ personally and physically.

The disciple named Thomas has often been faulted for having wanted to see Jesus physically, but I believe that misses the point.  It was his lack of faith which was mainly rebuked.  We know this because there are too many other passages in the Bible, which teach us to look for the Lord’s return. We are to watch for Christ each day.  We are to pray with John, “Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus.” 

We are never to lose faith in the resurrection of the dead, the bodily resurrection of the saints, and the physical return of Christ to earth. But while we wait to see the Lord physically, our hearts can still see Him spiritually through eyes of faith. 

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