Through the Bible: Mark 11, John 12
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. John 12:20-21
When I was sixteen, I preached my first sermon, at First Baptist Church in Avondale Estates, Georgia. When I stepped behind the pulpit for the first time, I saw, printed on the back of the pulpit “SIR, WE WOULD SEE JESUS.” It wasn’t until later in life that I discovered where that phrase came from, but it has been a reminder to me every time I step up to preach that there are people wishing to see Jesus in the crowd, and as best as I can, it is my job to reveal Him to them.
There are some unanswered questions in this passage. Were these Hellenistic (Greek speaking) Jews? Were they Greek proselytes to Judaism? That seems to be the case, since they had come to Jerusalem to worship at the feast. But we don’t know for sure.
Why did they go to Philip? It may have something to do with his name. Even though we know the disciples by their Hellenized or European sounding names (Simon for Shimon, James for Jacob, John for Jochanan, etc.), there were two of the twelve whose names were distinctively Greek, without a Hebrew equivalent. Philip was one of them. Ironically (or maybe not), the other one was Andrew.
This doesn’t mean they were Gentiles. As the Twelve Apostles are theologically representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel, they were certainly Israelites. But perhaps his Greek name made him more approachable to these Greeks who wished to see Jesus.
But why did Philip go to Andrew? Andrew wasn’t part of the inner circle of disciples. That would be Andrew’s brother, along with James and John. But notice that EVERY time we see Andrew or Philip singled out in the gospels, they are bringing someone to Jesus. In John 1:40-42, it’s Andrew who first meets Jesus, but immediately he finds his brother Peter and brings him to Jesus.
In John 1:45, Philip finds Nathanael and tells him that he’s found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael says, “Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip says, “Come and see.”
In John 6, Jesus feeds five thousand people with the bread and fish from one boy’s lunch. Guess who brought the boy to Jesus. Right again. Andrew (see John 6:8-9).
So these two apparently had a reputation as matchmakers. They connected Jesus with people who wanted to see Jesus. So of course they are the ones the Greeks came to when they wanted to see Jesus. They were approachable and accessible because they had a shared culture with the Greeks. And they had the temperament of hosts. Waymakers. Introducers.
Wouldn’t you love to have that kind of reputation? Can you imagine someone saying to someone else, “Hey, if you want to meet Jesus, I know a guy who can introduce you.” I want to be Andrew and Philip for a culture that is longing to see Jesus.
Jesus, You made a way for me. Help me make a way for others.