The triumphal entry concludes with jealousy from the Pharisees and the statement, “Look how the whole world has gone after him.” (12:19). The very next verse shows how true that statement was. Some Greeks approach Philip and ask to see Jesus. Philip and Andrew ask Jesus if this would be okay and, in typical Jesus fashion, he answers their question without appearing to answer their question. They ask if it is okay for them to come and see him and he talks about seeds falling to the ground and dying, love and hating your life, and what it means to be a disciple. A bit more than the yes or no Philip and Andrew were probably expecting.
So how is Jesus’ response to this request a response to this request? All through Jesus’ ministry in John he has talked about his ultimate glorification in the cross. That is not how we would typically think of glorification but Jesus knew what was going to happen and where it was leading. The Greeks wanted to see Jesus because of all they had heard of him but Jesus knew that miracles and teaching were not even going to compare to the events that were about to unfold. The passion week would be the ultimate fulfillment of the Pharisees’ statement in 12:19, that the whole world was going after him. Ultimately Jesus answer to their request comes in John 12:32, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” – The Greeks came to see Jesus and even though he wouldn’t go and spend time with them now, he knew that being put on the cross and again raised from the death in his resurrection would be more than the Greeks who were now there to see him could even know to ask for or experience.
So what was Jesus’ answer to their request? It was, in a round about way, “Not yet…there is something bigger and better to come that will fulfill their request and draw them into something much bigger, grander, and with bigger implications than anything they might expect.
One last note of interest in this passage is that when Jesus usually speaks cryptically like this no one gets it…not the disciples and certainly not the crowds. But they do! They know he is speaking about his death through crucifixion because they ask him how the Son of Man can both be “lifted up” and live forever (12:34).
It is strange for Jesus to turn someone away but Jesus knew there were better things in store and that ultimately if they continued to seek him out they would eventually have eternal life but first Jesus must endure the cross and walk out of the tomb alive. It also seems strange to us that the most faith building thing God can do at times is to answer us with “Not yet…wait and see.” We often experience that as a “No” but it takes faith to carry us through to the “wait and see” part. If we are willing to wait our faith can be taken to the next level. Impatience is often lethal to the maturation of our faith.