Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
As people swarmed around Jesus and hailed Him as AKing of Israel,@ the jealous Jewish leaders cried in dismay, ABehold, the world is gone after him.@ This was of course an overstatement, a hyperbole, an exaggeration. But John saw in it a touch of irony.
These leaders were concerned about a few Jews being influenced, but in their zeal they expressed John=s conviction that Jesus was conquering the whole world. Those sceptics were forecasting with their own lips, that was about to be. It was an unconscious prophecy of the effects fo the preaching of the gospel (Acts 17:6).
An unconscious prophecy was hidden in these words. The fist representatives of that wider world were already on their way. The first seekers from the outside world were waiting to see Jesus. These Greeks were merely the first-fruits of a whole world longing for what Jesus had to offer. We study them under three heading.
I. The Religion They Represented
These Greeks were outsiders to the religion of Judaism. They were men attracted to the monotheism and morality of Judaism. However, they did not desire to become members of Judaism due to the initiatory rite of circumcision.
They could worship only in the outer court of the Temple, which was for the use of Gentiles in worship (I Kings 8:41-43). However, the Jews had desecrated the court of the Gentiles by turning it into a marketplace.
These Greeks possibly watched Jesus cleanse their section of the Temple right after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. They saw a receptivity in Jesus that was lacking among the Jews. Hence, they desired an interview with Him.
These Greeks represented at the close of Jesus= life what the Magi had represented at the beginning. ASir, we would see Jesus@ was but another form of the Magis= question, AWhere is He that is born King of the Jews?@ The Magi, the wise men of the East, came to Jesus= cradle; the Greeks, the wise men of the West, came to His cross.
These two groups represented the two main philosophies found in the pagan religions of Jesus= day. Each had only a mere fragment of the truth, and contained no hope or promise of blessing for man.
The Orientals had robbed God of any genuine personality and compassion. Their gods were forces, not personalities. The Greeks, on the other hand, had vulgarized God. The heroes of Mt. Olympus were merely overgrown immoral men. The Orientals tended to a superstition that believed everything; the Greeks tended to scepticism which believed nothing.
Both groups probably did not know just exactly what they wanted from Jesus. They just had a vague but insatiable desire for something more. They were victims of the world=s most common pain, the aching void of a heart away from God.
The Greeks and Orientals were cultured and refined. To them was given the sad task of demonstrating for all time the absolute failure of culture to regenerate man. Their intellectual labors were those of Titans, but the grandeur of the effort was matched by the greatness of the failure.
The Magi represented the culture that would invent printing, introduce paper money, develop gunpowder, and first use compasses in navigation B all this while our ancestors floundered through the Dark Ages.
And what the world owes to the Greeks no tongue can sufficiently tell; in them is the foundation of our science, philosophy, sculpture, painting, architecture. Their language provided a way for the Gospel to be spread quickly through the world, and it gave us the richness of the New Testament.
However, the very greatness of these two cultures was possibly caused in part by the emptiness of their religions. It discouraged men, and the Aaching void@ drove their attention to other pursuits. The grandeur of their societies can not be overstated, but neither can the emptiness of their private lives be.
Men hated their past and dreaded the future. Suicide was recommended as the only sure cure for human misery, but even then your everlasting destiny was a worry.
And then along came Jesus, who told of a living, loving, personal God who gives forgiveness of the past, power for the present, and everlasting life for the future. No wonder these Greeks wanted to see Jesus. They were merely a small representation of their whole nation.
Paul the Apostle worked there, and planted churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, and elsewhere. From there Christianity spread like a blaze through the slaves and poor of Greece. It can safely be said that the gods of Greece were the first to fall down before the march of Jesus. When Jesus died, a scream was heard in fancy upon Mt. Olympus, and a wailing voice was heard through all the hills and forests of Greece saying, AZeus is dead.@
II. The Request The requested
They came to worship at the Temple, but decided most of all they wanted to see Jesus. This was a strange request, coming from men who idolized Apollo, the very opposite of Jesus, who was Awithout comeliness@ and whose emblem was a cross. They wanted to see this common carpenter who had no place to lay His head B what could Jesus be to men whose ideal was Apollo?
Our society has the same earmarks of those from which came the Magi and the Greeks B Success! Wealth! Achievement! B and also Athe aching void.@ And that=s what Jesus can still do B fill the aching void.
But here=s the tragedy; the world is not seeking Jesus. He is clouded behind rituals, images, traditions, and is incarcerated in persons called church walls. He is prisoner of First Baptist Jail of St. Johns, hidden from the world He came to save.
Let the world see Jesus. It is He that makes all the promises of god Ayea, and amen.@ The Bible is wasted paper apart from Jesus. Our ordinances have no meaning apart from Him. Without Him, baptism means no more than a swimming party, and the Lord=s supper is no more sacred than a fish fry.
When we gather in this place may we ever see Jesus. Let that be the desire of our souls; to have our acquaintance with Him increased. And then let=s be sure the world sees Jesus in us.
III. The Response They Received
The Greeks came to Philip. Since he had a Greek name, they possibly thought he would treat them more sympathetically.
These men gave Philip a title of respect, ASir,@ as one worthy of honor, because he was in relation to Christ. And there is honor upon us. Men can not come to Christ apart from human instruments.
Paul had to have Ananias. Cornelius needed Peter. And the lost still need someone to point the way.
Initially, Philip did not know exactly what to do. He moved cautiously. He probably did not know how Jesus would respond. Also, these were inflammatory days. Entertaining Greeks could jeopardize Jesus with the bigoted Jews.
Though Philip did not bring them directly to Jesus, he did bring them to someone who did. He consulted with Andrew, and Andrew knew what to do. He was always bringing people to Jesus, and knew that marvelous results always followed.
He had brought Peter, the lad with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, and now he brought the Greeks. Andrew had learned that no one could ever be a nuisance to Jesus. He knew that Jesus would never turn away a seeking soul.
I=ve spoke of the Magi, the Greeks; now let me tel you of another company that came seeking. They did not travel to Bethlehem o Jerusalem, but rather to St. Louis.
After traveling all summer and fall, four Indian Chiefs arrived in St. Louis in the early winter 1832. They had heard of AThe White Man=s Book of Life@ and had come to hunt for it and Ato ask that teachers be sent.@
General Clarke, the military commander at St. Louis, took the chiefs to every place he thought would entertain and interest them. He was a devoted Catholic, and took them often to Catholic services.
On the last evening of their visit, General Clarke made a banquet for them at which one of the chiefs made this speech:
AI came to you over the trail of many moons from the setting sun . . . I came with an eye partly open for my people, who sit in darkness. I go back with both eyes closed. How can I go back blind, to my blind people?
AI made my way to you with strong arms through many enemies and strange lands that I might carry much back to them. I go back with both arms broken and empty. . .
AMy people sent me to get the AWhite Man=s Book of Heaven.@ You took me to where you allow your women to dance as we do not ours, and the book was not there.
AYou took me to where they worship the Great Spirit with candles and the book was not there. You showed me images of the good spirits and the pictures of the good land beyond, but the book was not among them to tell us the way.
AI am going back the long and sad trail to my people in the dark land. You make my feet heavy with gifts and my moccasins will grow old in carrying them, yet the book is not among them.
AWhen I tell my poor blind people after one more snow, in the big council, that I did not bring the book, no word will be spoken by our old men or by our young braves. One by one they will rise up and go out in silence.
AMy people will die in darkness and they will go a long path to other hunting grounds. No white man will go with them, and no white Man=s book to make the way plain.
AI have no other words.@
A St. Louis tragedy. God forbid that it could happen again, or that it could happen to the very people who live next door to us.
If you are lost, let me introduce you to Jesus.
That the Greeks wanted to see Jesus showed it was time for Him to die for the world. Judaism no longer owned Him. He belonged to the world, it now had to undergo the process which would burst the Jewish husk in which His human life had been enclosed.
A world-wide harvest was on its way, but it would not be achieved in a way men would try to achieve. We would have urged Jesus to leave turbulent Judea and seek a tranquil life with these Greeks.
Jesus could have become their new philosopher or even their ruler had He so desired. But Jesus refused such honors. He was ready for Athe hour,@ His death and resurrection. His exaltation would come through humiliation; the lowest degradation would bring His highest dignity. What a paradox!
If there is to be a crop, a seed must die first. The harvest springs from a dead seed. Unless a corn of wheat dies, it can barely supply a meal for the smallest bird. Jesus faced the dilemma: the lives of many were dependent upon His death.
Life comes from death. We must die if we would live. In addition to Jesus, church history offers many other proofs of this paradox. The church itself lives because of the death of its founder. The blood of the martyrs has evermore Abeen the seed of the church.@
Death means life. A corn of wheat is useless as long as it is preserved in safety and security, and so is your life. To bear fruit, a man must sacrifice himself. The kernel must not only fall Ato@ the ground, but Ainto@ it. There must be the complete loss of self from sight. Then the burial-place becomes the scene of a wonderful resurrection.
We may not have to die a physical martyrdom; but we should die a spiritual one, pouring out our lifeblood in service to the Master. A seed in the ground doesn=t care what the world says or thinks because it is already dying.
In our daily walk, a higher life can be reached only by the decay of the sower. Your spiritual life will blossom upon the decay of your carnal nature.
O God, bury us that we might blossom. Let us die that we might live.
Hating life in this world means that you put God first by loving spiritual life more than you love physical life. You must prefer God=s favor to all below.
You must not be obsessed with this earthly life, with its desires, appetites, and affections. You must renounce it as secondary. When you lose your lust for self-gratification, you find self-gratification. What a paradox.
You must surrender earthly desires to have earthly joy. Many a man hugs himself to death, and loses real life by wallowing in pleasures that last only temporarily. Everything this world has to offer must be viewed as incompetent to give lasting and true joy.
Selfishness will give you the worst life possible. If you surround yourself with perishables, your joy will perish with them. Do you want the best life available? You will find it in sacrifice, self-surrender and death.
We are to be imitators of Christ. A grain of corn multiplies by yielding other grains like itself. If Barley is sown, barley comes up; if wheat, wheat; if Christ, Christians. We are to be life Him.
Unfortunately, we speak glibly of following Christ B by it we mean the sweet and touching aspects of His life. We somehow forget that the most important event in Jesus= life was the cross. That=s what we must imitate. We must strive toward Abeing made conformable unto His death (PH 3:10).
Love seeks its life outside itself; self seeks its life in itself. Love, in order to possess, sacrifices self; while self, in order to possess, keeps itself and sacrifices love.
We need the spirit of Mrs. Serwick, a Liverpool Salvation Army worker. She kept a huge sign in her window, AIf you need help, knock here.@