Monday, 26 January 2015

John 12:20-36 - The light of the world

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The Pharisees had just commented that the 'whole world' was following Jesus (John 12:19). And now we see how right they were; here are some Greeks asking to see him! These were either Greek-speaking Jews from one of the Greek cities in the eastern Mediterranean, or they were Greeks who 'respected Elohim' by believing in him and abandoning pagan worship but without actually becoming Jews. These Greeks asked to see Jesus, and John makes a point of telling us that they specifically asked Philip.

Philip is a Greek name, Φιλιππος (Philippos), that literally means 'Horse lover'. And the village he came from, Bethsaida (בית ציד) is a Hebrew name meaning 'Hunting-house' or 'Fishing-house'. Perhaps the Greeks asked Philip because he spoke Greek, or because they thought that he might speak it. Philip told Andrew, and Philip and Andrew together told Jesus.

Verse 23 tells us that Jesus 'replied'. In other words, what he says next is a response to the statement from the Greeks, 'We would like to see Jesus'. On the face of it, he doesn't say or do anything to acknowledge the request. Yet on a deeper, spiritual level, everything Jesus says in verses 23 to 36 is about seeing Jesus. Indeed, it's true of the remainder of the chapter too.

What do we see when we see Jesus? We see the glory of the Father embodied here on Earth (v 23). We see that his fruitfulness requires his death (v 24). We see that we must become like him in this (v25). And we see that he requires us to follow him (v 26). We see that he is troubled by what lies ahead, but that he presses on regardless (v 27) and glorifies the Father's Name (v 28).

When the voice like thunder responds to his prayer, 'Father, glorify your Name', Jesus tells the crowd that it was for their benefit, not his. Perhaps this voice enabled the Greeks in the crowd to understand that they were seeing more than just Jesus the man, but Jesus the Son of the Most High. In more ways than one they really had now 'seen Jesus'.

And in verses 35 and 36 he refers to himself as 'the light'. The Greeks who wanted to see Jesus will have understood this message too. Without the light, not only is it impossible to see Jesus, it's impossible to see anything at all!

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