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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

Gentiles Seeking Christ.

17. The people . . . bare record. John has just narrated a wonderful passage in the life of the Redeemer, his entry into the city of his enemies, who had resolved to slay him, in triumphal procession with vast crowds raising acclamations and shouting his kingly glory. He now pauses to observe that the miracle at Bethany had its effect on this demonstration. The people who had seen the miracle bore record. (Joh 12:18)

18. For this came also the people met him. Thousands who had not seen the miracle were moved by the story of the eye-witnesses, and eagerly went out to meet him and joined in the acclamations. They could not be regarded as believers but belonged to the fickle throng who went with the tide; who would one day shout, |Hosannah to the son of David,| and a few days later, would swell the cry, |Crucify him; crucify him!| (Joh 12:19)

19. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves. These subtle opposers, were astounded and frightened by the proofs of the popularity of Jesus. They had joined with the Sanhedrim in a determination to put Christ to death; he had retired from the city and disappeared for a time from sight; an order had been issued that any one who knew his hiding place should point it out that he might be seized; yet now he had returned, entered Jerusalem as the old kings were wont to enter, with shouting crowds around him doing him homage. Hence these baffled sectarians exclaim: |Behold how ye prevail nothing; the world is gone after him.| Matthew describes the commotion in the city that so stirred up the Pharisees: |And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee| (Matt.21:10, 11). When the Lord came into the city he entered into the temple. Mark 11:11, declares: |Jesus entered Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about on all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.| The interview sought by the Greeks, of which we next have an account, either occurred this afternoon, while the Savior was in the temple, or on Monday. John does not say when it occurred, and most scholars have referred it to the next day, when the Savior cleansed the temple a second time, made his final appeal to the Jewish nation, and retired from the temple forever, speaking his farewell in the wonderfully pathetic words recorded in Matt.23:34-39. This discourse recorded by John seems to have contained his last words to the people, and after his words were uttered |he was hidden from them,| to appear no more in person with the offer of salvation until they should say, |Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.| (Joh 12:20)

20. And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast. A remarkable circumstance is related. The passover feast was for the Jews, and those who came there to worship were of the seed of Abraham, but on this occasion, |among those who came to worship| were Greeks, members of the great Gentile division of the race which embraced all that were not Jews. These were not Jews who spoke the Grecian language and lived in Greek countries; those are called in the original Greek, Hellenistoi. We find them in the Jerusalem church in large numbers. See Acts 6:1. These who seek to visit Jesus were Hellenes, a term only used of the Greek race. Where they came from we do not know. The Greek race was scattered all over the East from the time of Alexander's conquests. Eusebius mentions a tradition that they were an embassy from the king of Edessa who thus sought to invite Jesus to visit his kingdom. It is probable rather that they belonged to the large class of |devout Greeks,| met everywhere by Paul, who were sick of heathenism and were attracted by the grand Hebrew revelation of the unity of God. On this great national occasion they had accompanied Jews settled abroad as they returned to worship in the city of David.

The visit of these Greeks to Jerusalem indicates an unusual hunger for the truth which they had failed to find in heathenism. The aversion shown by a high caste Brahmin for an outcast is not greater than the Jews, in the age of the Savior, exhibited for Gentiles. Beyond the court of the Gentiles in the temple grounds was an inscription over the gateway: |Let no Gentile go farther under pain of death.| No pious Jew could sit down to eat at the table of a Gentile (Acts 11:3; Gal.2:12). If a heathen were invited to a Jewish house, we learn from the Mishna, that he could not be left alone in the room, else every article of food or drink on the table was to be regarded, henceforth, as unclean. Milk drawn from a cow by heathen hands could not be used. It was not lawful to let either house or field, or to sell cattle, to a heathen, and any article, however distantly connected with heathenism, was to be destroyed. In distant lands, or districts of Palestine where the Gentiles were numerous, the Jews became less intolerant, but in Jerusalem the aversion was most intense. An illustration of this is afforded in the address that Paul delivered from the steps, after he was rescued from the temple mob, which listened to him patiently until he spoke of the Lord sending him to the Gentiles, on which his listeners were at once transported into fury. (Joh 12:21)

21. The same came to Philip. In the court of the Gentiles where the Lord then was waiting and |looking around.| He observed much that required correction and on the next day, Monday, he again drove out the stock traders and the money changers. The name Philip is Grecian, as well as Andrew, and those of the seven deacons of Acts, chapter 6. It is not unlikely from this fact that Philip had been thrown under Greek influences and spoke the Greek language, as did Peter, John, Paul, and other apostles. This, probably, explains why they came to Philip. He had a Greek name and was acquainted with their race. We would see Jesus. They ask an interview. They had probably seen him as he came into Jerusalem in triumphal procession; they could see him every day as he taught publicly, but Jerusalem was ringing with the fame of the resurrection of Lazarus, his other miracles and the wonders of his teaching. They were seeking a better faith than that of their fathers and they wished to talk personally with the great Teacher. Possibly curiosity had something to do with their desire. (Joh 12:22)

22. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Andrew was also of Bethsaida and he and Philip seem to have been inseparable friends. The fact that Philip wanted some one to go with him to Christ shows how his character had inspired with awe even those who were nearest to him. Perhaps the Greeks followed the two apostles to the presence of Christ. It is not said whether he granted the interview or not. He probably did. John reports the address of the Savior to which the application gave rise. That Philip should hesitate to make this request is not strange in view of the fact that Christ had told his disciples when they were sent forth to preach, to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It has been noticed that Gentiles, the Wise men, came to honor his birth, and now Gentiles, the Greeks, do him homage as he is about to ascend the cross. (Joh 12:23)

23. The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. The answer of Christ may have been to Philip and Andrew, and the Greeks may have heard and understood it. The substance is that the time for his glorification had come and that glorification would draw all men, Greek, Gentiles as well as Jews, to him. After his glorification, accomplished by his death, there would be no wall of partition, but to him the Gentiles should seek, and there should be neither bond nor free, male nor female, Jew nor Greek, but all one in Christ Jesus. (Joh 12:24)

24. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. This statement, prefaced by the verily, verily, that gives solemn emphasis, enforces a great truth. The grain of wheat may remain in the granary for a thousand years and be preserved, but it is useless there. It neither reproduces, nor is food. Grains were found in the wrappings of Egyptian mummies that were 4,000 years old, but they had never produced another grain. It is when it falls into the ground and undergoes dissolution, that it brings forth fruit. It is fruitful by giving itself up. So, too, Christ must give himself up. Must die, be placed in the ground, before he can be glorified and draw all men to him. His death was needful in order that he might impart life to the nations. (Joh 12:25)

25. He that loveth his life shall lose it. Then he announces a principle that underlies all exaltation. He gave his life and found eternal exaltation; the grain gives its life and lives a hundred fold; those who consecrate their lives, give them up for others, dedicate them to their holy work, will live eternally. Those who seek to save their lives, live for this present life, live for pleasures and gains and honors, shall lose their lives. The man who says he will get as much out of life as possible, the worldling, is the one who |loveth his life.| The one who disregards present pleasures, or worldly interests, but dedicates his life to Christ, is the one who hateth his life. (Joh 12:26)

26. If any man serve me, let him follow me. This is Christ's direct answer to the Greeks. His service is to be rendered, not by secret interviews, but by obeying him, for so the word |follow.| is to be understood. If any man serve me, him will my Father honor. God demands that |every knee should bow and every tongue confess that he is Christ.| The Christian's ambition should be to follow Christ, to be Christlike, to serve him well, and leave all else to the will of the Father. (Joh 12:27)

27. Now is my soul troubled. |Now a sudden change comes over the spirit of the Redeemer. His eye closes on the crowd without; he ceases to think of, or to speak with man; he is alone with the Father. A dark cloud descends and wraps him in its folds.| -- Hanna. It is the shadow of the cross and the tomb. The horror just before him falls upon his soul with terrific power. It is a foreshadowing of the struggle of Gethsemane. The best comment on this verse is to compare it with the account of the agony in the garden. Here he exclaims: Father, save me from this hour. There, |If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.| Here he adds: But for this cause came I unto this hour. There |Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.| Here the perfect resignation that follows the struggle in his soul is in the prayer, Father, glorify thy name. It required a fearful struggle, but he |had hated his life| and given it for his work's sake. (Joh 12:28)

28. Then came a voice from heaven, saying, I have glorified it, etc. At Gethsemane the angel came to strengthen him; here the Father's voice speaks in approval. Three times the Father's voice was heard from the sky; first, when Christ was buried in Jordan, a type of his own burial; second, when Moses and Elias talked with him on the holy mount about his death; third, when he had his struggle of soul in view of death portrayed here and triumphed. These facts show the tender, agonizing interest the Father felt in the suffering of the Son. Will glorify it again. God had glorified his name by the wonders wrought by Jesus; he would glorify it by his resurrection, his exaltation, the scenes of Pentecost, and the triumphs of the church. (Joh 12:29)

29. An angel spake to him. All heard the sound of the divine voice, but it was not clear to all what it was. Like those who were with Saul of Tarsus when on the way to Damascus, they heard, but did not comprehend. (Joh 12:30)

30. This voice came not because of me. He had already won the victory before the voice came. It was rather to confirm the faith of his disciples who still stumbled over the prospect of his death. (Joh 12:31)

31. Now is the judgment of this world. Now, |this hour,| the |hour| referred to in verses 23d and 27th, the hour for which he had come into the world, the hour of the cross; that was to be the hour of judgment, the crisis, which should determine who should rule the world. The cross became a throne. It gave him the crown. Because he suffered he was exalted to majesty and |all power in heaven and earth was given to him.| The prince of this world is cast out. The great opposer, the worldly power, Satan as manifested in the pomp, power, and majesty of the earth. The cross cast him out, dethroned him; he is now a usurper and shall finally be cast into the lake of fire. (Joh 12:32)

32. If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me. Lifted up, first, to the cross; second, from the grave; third, to heaven and the eternal throne. The crucified, risen and exalted Savior becomes a power to draw all men, Jews and Gentiles, all nations. Christ does not declare that he will draw every individual, but all races. The great thought is the power of his death and resurrection. (Joh 12:33)

33. Signifying what death he should die. And the great events that followed it as a regular sequence. (Joh 12:34)

34. We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever. The multitude were perplexed. They had cried, |Hosanna to the King of Israel who cometh in the name of the Lord.| They believed Christ to be the king. Their idea of the Messiah was an eternal king. Now he spoke of death. They ask two questions: first, about the lifting up, and second, Who is the Son of man? (Joh 12:35)

35. Yet a little while the light is with you. He refuses to answer their questions directly, but imparts to them needed truths. The light was then present with them. He was shining, teaching. Let them seek the light and walk in it while they had opportunity. The opportunity might soon pass away and the darkness come. (Joh 12:36)

36. Believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. That they might receive the light of the light of the world they must believe on him. Unbelief closed their spiritual eyes to his words. Unless there was belief and a reception of the light they could not become children of the light. With these words he retired from their midst.

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