Greeks at the Feast! – John 12:20-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 9, 2015
The comedy classic Animal House was a sex, booze-ridden, crass, and sometimes funny movie from 1978. In 1962, college freshmen Lawrence “Larry” Kroger and Kent Dorfman seek to join a fraternity at Faber College. Finding themselves out of place at the prestigious Omega Theta Pi House’s party and rejected by other houses, they finally visit the slovenly and riotous Delta Tau Chi House, where Kent’s brother was once a member. Larry and Kent are invited to pledge. Filmed for $2.8 million, it is one of the most profitable movies of all time, garnering an estimated gross of more than $141 million in the form of theatrical rentals and home video, not including merchandising. It was filmed at the University of Oregon in Eugene and in Cottage Grove, Oregon. In one scene they have a Toga Party, which made these types of riotous affairs ever famous afterwards.
Here in John’s Gospel we discover a group of Greeks wanting to get together with Jesus. Not for a Toga Party but rather more than likely to find out if he was indeed the Messiah and what transpires is interesting. Let’s discover what occurred the day there were Greeks at the feast…
The Greeks at the feast precipitated several things and the first being that…
I. Jesus’ time had come! (Vv. 20-27)
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
1. This is a section of John’s gospel that has intrigued theologians and commentators for centuries. There are three main views concerning these Greeks: That they were new converts of Judaism who came up to worship God at Passover; that they were Jews, who lived in Grecian provinces, and spoke Greek; or they were Gentiles, non-Jews who never knew God and hearing of the Temple and the miracles of Jesus, came to offer sacrifices and to worship according to the manner of Israel. I believe they were the first because we discover “They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee.” Bethsaida was a city in which the tetrarch Herod Philip II was raised to the rank of a polis in the year 30/31, and renamed it Julias, in honor of the wife of Augustus. It lay near the place where the Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee. Therefore, Philip’s name being Greek, the location of where he was raised, plus the inclusion of John using the term Hellane kind of points to this notion. They came to Philip because they wanted to see Jesus. “Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.” For some, Jesus responds in a curious way, however, if we look closely at what he says, it follows with these folks being Greek converts. Now the non-Jews were coming to discover who he was, so his “hour has come” for the Messiah, “Son of Man to be glorified.” His glorification will be his death, burial and resurrection. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” The kernel of Jesus dying would produce the gospel making many seeds. If they wanted to know Jesus, they needed to fully understand that “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” It was a total commitment, not just some spiritual itch needing to be scratched. Knowing his time had come, Jesus remarks, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” Jesus’ time had come!
EXAMPLE: The American Crisis is a pamphlet series by 18th century author Thomas Paine, published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution. There are sixteen pamphlets in total. The first of the pamphlets was released during a time when the Revolution was still viewed as an unsteady prospect. Its opening sentence was adopted as the watchword of the movement to Trenton. The opening lines are as follows: “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Thousands of years before Thomas Paine, the young teenager Esther heard from her uncle when she wanted to simply hide away and not be affected by the happenings going on around her, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NIV) And now, here in John’s gospel, when the Greeks come to the feast and want to find Jesus we discover that Jesus’ time had come!
The Greeks at the feast also made the final act of Jesus’ life coming into play and we discover that…
II. Jesus glorifies God by drawing all people to himself! (Vv. 28-33)
Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
1. Jesus’ whole purpose in life was to honor God and now it was reaching its fulfillment. We do not understand this kind of commitment. In fact, many in our day would equate it with radical religions, which would be entirely wrong. Jesus was committed to his life’s goal because that is why he came to earth in human flesh. When we decide to follow Jesus our lives are no longer ours, they are the Lord’s. We have fallen into the ungodly misconception that our lives are ours to do with as we darn well please. Sure, we give God a few minutes on Sunday, but the rest of our time is our own. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is why Paul would admonish, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV) This is why Jesus prayed out loud, “Father, glorify your name!” He wanted God to be completely honored by his life. God reaffirms Jesus’ commitment vocally so all could hear, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The unbelieving crowd thought it was thunder and the superstitious thought it was an angel. Jesus knew what and who it was. God had glorified himself through his Son and would continue to do so. “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” God was going to judge his people, the Jews for their unbelief and he was going to completely destroy Satan’s ability, literally, the ruler of this world, to influence God’s people again. In the Rabbinical writings “prince of this world” was a common designation of Satan, as ruler of the Gentiles, in opposition to God, the Head of the Jewish theocracy and he was now driven out because of Jesus! In fact, when Jesus was “lifted up from the earth” he would “draw all men”, Gentile and Jew, to himself! As Paul would later affirm, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV) Jesus glorifies God by drawing all people to himself!
EXAMPLE: We live in a day where the first penetrating question many want answered is, “What’s in it for me?” Sacrifice is seen simply as having an emotional connection or feeling apathy for someone or something else. Getting people to be kind or simply civil has been reduced to making a myriad of laws and regulations. We no longer teach self-sacrifice but rather entitlement instead. Political correctness has replaced common courtesy and has created hypersensitivity. Jesus was not about being liked or political correctness. He lived his life for God the Father and what was pleasing to him. This is why he would tell others, “I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29 NIV) what would happen if this were the motto and lifestyle of those who followed Jesus? Perhaps we would see our world changed? If we live for Jesus shouldn’t we be drawing people to him? Jesus reminded his followers that the world would know we were his disciples by the way we treated one another. Here in John’s gospel we discover Jesus glorifies God by drawing all people to himself!
The Greeks coming to speak with Jesus shown a spiritual light had come into the world and now…
III. The light of Jesus would be gone! (Vv. 34-36)
The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
1. The unbelieving crowd was incredulous at what Jesus had just told them because they had a distorted view of what and who the actual Messiah would be. The crowd of the day was often influenced by the spiritual fad of the day, kind of like many of today’s Christians. They falsely regurgitated the spiritual misconceptions that had tickled their ears, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” There was no part of the law or Scripture that said the Messiah would not die; but rather there are several passages that say the Messiah would suffer and die, especially Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. They incorrectly thought this because God had promised the Messiah’s reign would be forever so they thought he would live forever on earth as well. The Messiah remains forever because he is Jesus, the Son of God, part of the trinity. The Son of Man, the Messiah would in fact be lifted up on a cross and suffer and die for the sins of mankind. The crowd was working from a spiritual misconception, and therefore spiritual darkness, as to who the Messiah was and what his ministry would be. Jesus tells them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” They should listen and understand now while they have Jesus with them because soon they will not enjoy the light of God in their midst and in fact they would be influenced by the spiritual darkness of their leadership. He bluntly tells them, “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” But they would not do so, and so “When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.” The light of Jesus would be gone!
EXAMPLE: While you didn’t see it, feel it, or even read about it in the newspapers, Earth was almost knocked back to the Stone Age on July 23, 2012. It wasn’t some crazed dictator with his finger on the thermonuclear button or a giant asteroid that came close to wiping out civilization as we know it, though — no, what nearly ended us was a massive solar storm. Over three years ago our sun kicked out one of the largest solar flares and coronal mass ejections ever recorded. And it missed Earth by a whisker. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” says Daniel Baker, who led the research into the massive solar storm. They are saying we are due for a big time EMP, electromagnetic pulse, hit from the sun. If there is a big enough solar flare it would disrupt communications and electronics worldwide. It would effectively make the world go dark electronically. The world was going to go dark spiritually for a bit when Jesus died on the cross. John relates that after the Greeks came for the feast, the light of Jesus would be gone!
The Greeks at the feast precipitated several things occurring all at once: Jesus’ time had come! Jesus glorifies God by drawing all people to himself! The light of Jesus would be gone! Now, let me ask you, are you just someone who is interested in Jesus for the moment or are you willing to make a life commitment? Are you just a Greek at the feast?
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.