There is something very interesting in the request made by certain Greeks in John 12:21, when they came to Philip and said (I believe in all good faith) “Sir, we would see Jesus.”
It was not made by Pharisees, nor chief priests, who had, indeed, abundant opportunity for both seeing and hearing Him at the very feast which furnishes the occasion.
No, it was the desire of Greeks (Gentiles) who had come to worship there.
Drawn by religious motives and by the fact that the gods which, as Gentiles, they worshipped, were but “dumb idols,” and dissatisfied, we may assuredly assume, by the hollowness of their Grecian mythology, they now expressed their desire to see Him whose name and fame had been published throughout the land, and in whom, perhaps, they expected to find a something that would meet their own vacant and needy souls.
It is in itself no small testimony to the glory of His person who was thus in their midst. Rejected by Israel, He was sought for by the despised Gentile—refused by the one, He is enquired for by the other. The last is first.
We do not read, however, that their desire was granted. The Lord, on hearing about it from the lips of Philip and Andrew, said, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” His thoughts turn at once to the hidden significance of what the gratification of such a desire on the part of the Gentiles should be. It signified His death. Rejected as Israel’s Messiah, He would take the wider place of Son of man—a term which, as in Psalm 8, embraces a much larger range than the “Anointed” of Psalm 2; but then, in order to fill that larger range, He must first die!
Hence “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit” (v. 24). And the “much fruit” now under gracious contemplation necessitated His death.
There could be no blessing for man, whether Gentile or Jew, apart from this blessed corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying. He would otherwise have remained alone. Now this is all very touching. Had He “remained alone” His place and title as Creator and Lord would have still been His own—He would still have claimed angelic adoration and universal homage; but redemption, with its magnificent train of glory to Himself and of salvation to countless myriads of fallen and guilty men, who should thankfully own their indebtedness to His atoning blood, would have been unknown. There would have been no Redeemer, no Saviour—only a Creator and Judge!
Had He remained alone, then so should we. He in glory, and we in hell! He in His own proper and pristine bliss, and we in the hopeless doom our sins had merited; for God and sin are essentially separate. But, blessed be His name, He fell into the ground and died. It was His own voluntary act, and thereby supplied the basis of blessing. “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” But His blood was shed.
The importance of this passage in John 12 cannot be overstated, and the question raised by these poor Gentiles gave occasion for the opening out of this deep and wondrous truth. It was the hour when the Son of man should be glorified, not, observe, the enthroning of the Messiah (another and distinct truth), but the glorification of the Son of man, as the consequence of His death as the corn of wheat. What a happy truth for us Gentiles who had no claim on Him as Messiah, nor a single promise given us on our behalf! Now we may know Him as the dead and risen Son of man, our Lord Jesus, through whom all, both Jews and Gentiles, are welcome to all the fruits of His death on Calvary.