John 12:21
The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.
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(21) The same came therefore to Philip.—We have no indication of the time when, or of the place where, these words were spoken. St. John alone gives us this incident, and he gives us this incident only, of all that occurred, as we know from the earlier I Gospels, between the entry into Jerusalem and the Last Supper; and he relates this coming of the Greeks not for the sake of the fact itself, but for that of the discourse which followed upon it. He is careful, therefore, only to mention it, and is not concerned, for the purpose he has in view, with any of the historic details. The last words of the discourse (John 12:36) do, however, intimate that they were followed by a retirement from public teaching, and from public appearance in Jerusalem. They would, then,-be among the last words spoken in the Temple before the retirement to-Bethany, on the evening of what we call Wednesday. (Comp. Luke 21:37.) They were uttered, probably, in the Court of the Gentiles, as He passed from the Court of the Women, which, as the most public place for Jewish assemblies, was the frequent scene of His teaching. On the previous day, the Court of the Gentiles had been cleansed from the traffic and merchandise which had been customary in it, and the temple had been declared to be “a house of prayer for all nations.” The court of the Gentiles was divided from the inner square of the Temple by a stone fence, bearing upon pillars, placed at regular distances, the following words in Greek and Latin:—“No alien must pass within the fence round the Temple and the court. If any one be caught doing so, he must blame himself for the death that will follow.” This prohibition was known before, from Josephus (Ant. xv. 11, 5); but in our own day one of the very slabs, bearing the exact words, has been discovered by M. Ganneau during the excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund. (Comp. Note on Acts 22:28-29, and especially the Note on Mark 11:17.) The events and the words of these days must have brought strange thoughts to the minds of proselytes, men who were worshippers of the one God by personal conviction, and not because of the faith of their ancestors; and with hearts filled with wonder as to what these things meant—half-grasping, it may be, the truth that this middle wall of partition should be broken down—they ask for a special interview with Jesus. (Comp. Ephesians 2:12 et seq.)

Which was of Bethsaida of Galilee.—The mention of this place again here seems to intend that it should be told as explaining why these Greeks came to Philip. They may have themselves come from the neighbourhood of Bethsaida, or from one of the Greek cities of Decapolis.

12:20-26 In attendance upon holy ordinances, particularly the gospel passover, the great desire of our souls should be to see Jesus; to see him as ours, to keep up communion with him, and derive grace from him. The calling of the Gentiles magnified the Redeemer. A corn of wheat yields no increase unless it is cast into the ground. Thus Christ might have possessed his heavenly glory alone, without becoming man. Or, after he had taken man's nature, he might have entered heaven alone, by his own perfect righteousness, without suffering or death; but then no sinner of the human race could have been saved. The salvation of souls hitherto, and henceforward to the end of time, is owing to the dying of this Corn of wheat. Let us search whether Christ be in us the hope of glory; let us beg him to make us indifferent to the trifling concerns of this life, that we may serve the Lord Jesus with a willing mind, and follow his holy example.Bethsaida of Galilee - See the notes at John 1:44.

Would see Jesus - It is probable that the word "see," here, implies also a desire to converse with him, or to hear his doctrine about the nature of his kingdom. They had seen or heard of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and, either by curiosity or a desire to be instructed, they came and interceded with his disciples that they might be permitted to see him. In this there was nothing wrong. Christ made the curiosity of Zacchaeus the means of his conversion, Luke 19:1-9. If we wish to find the Saviour, we must seek for him and take the proper means.

Joh 12:20-36. Some Greeks Desire to See Jesus—The Discourse and Scene Thereupon.

20-22. Greeks—Not Grecian Jews, but Greek proselytes to the Jewish faith, who were wont to attend the annual festivals, particularly this primary one, the Passover.

The same came therefore to Philip … of Bethsaida—possibly as being from the same quarter.

saying, Sir, we would see Jesus—certainly in a far better sense than Zaccheus (Lu 19:3). Perhaps He was then in that part of the temple court to which Gentile proselytes had no access. "These men from the west represent, at the end of Christ's life, what the wise men from the east represented at its beginning; but those come to the cross of the King, even as these to His manger" [Stier].

If these Grecians (as is probable) were Syrophenicians, their country was so near to Bethsaida of Galilee, which was Philip’s town, that it is probable they might have some knowledge of him, and that might bring them to him to be spokesman; but it should seem they came only to satisfy their curiosity, for they ask for no more than that they might

see Jesus. The same came therefore to Philip,.... Who might know him; they might have been some of his neighbours formerly, for that Philip's parents, though Jews, dwelt among Greeks, seems probable, from the name given to him, which is a Greek one; some have thought, that these Greeks were Syrophoenicians, who dwelt upon the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and were not far off from Galilee, and from Bethsaida, the native place of Philip, and is therefore mentioned as follows:

which was of Bethsaida of Galilee; See Gill on John 1:44. This place may be interpreted, "the house of hunting", or "of fishing"; for it is not easy to say which it has its name from, since "saida", signifies both hunting and fishing: and seeing it was in or near the tribe of Naphtali, where was plenty of deer, and a wilderness was near it, where might be wild beasts, it might be so called from hunting: and as it was situated near the lake of Gennesaret, it might have its name from the fishing trade used in it; for Peter and Andrew, who were of it, were both fishermen: but it is yet more difficult to determine, whether this is the same with, or different from the Bethsaida Josephus (s) speaks of, as rebuilt by Philip, and called by him Julius, after the name of Caesar's daughter, as I have observed in See Gill on Luke 9:10, See Gill on John 1:44; since this was in Galilee, of which Herod Antipas was tetrarch, and where Philip could have no power to rebuild places, and change their names; and besides, the city, which he repaired, and called Julian, according to Josephus (t) was in lower Gaulonitis, and therefore must be different, unless that, or any part of it, can be thought to be the same with Galilee: wherefore the learned Reland (u) thinks, that there were two Bethsaidas, and which seems very probable; and it is likely, that this is here purposely called Bethsaida of Galilee, to distinguish it from the other, which, by some persons, might still be called Bethsaida, though it had got a new name. Moreover, this Bethsaida is mentioned in other places along with Capernaum and Chorazin, Matthew 11:21, which were in Galilee. And Epiphanius says (w), that Bethsaida and Capernaum were not far distant one from another: and according to Jerom (x), Chorazin was but two miles from Capernaum; and who elsewhere says (y), that Capernaum, Tiberias, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, were situated on the shore of the lake of Gennesaret. It is said to be fifty six miles from Jerusalem:

and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus; that is, they entreated him, that he would introduce them into the company of Jesus; they wanted to be admitted into his presence, to have some discourse and conversation with him; and what might make them the more desirous of it, was the miracle he had lately wrought in raising Lazarus from the dead; as also the uncommon manner of his entering into Jerusalem, which they saw; and which shows, that it was not a bare sight of his person they meant, but the enjoyment of his company, for a while; and this favour they ask of Philip, with great respect to him, and in a very polite way, and yet with great sincerity, and strong affection, and earnest importunity; and was a pledge and presage of the future conversion of the Gentiles, when the Jews would be rejected. And it may be observed, that sensible sinners are very desirous of having a spiritual sight of Christ, of the glories of his person, and the fulness of his grace, and to see their interest in him, and to have communion and fellowship with him: he is all in all to them; no object so delightful, and satisfying to them as he is; and they never see him, but they receive something from him, and are made more like unto him.

(s) Antiqu. l. 18. c. 2. sect. 1. Ed. Hudson. (t) De Bello. Jud. l. 2. c. 9. sect. 1.((u) Palestina Illustrata, l. 3. p. 654, 655. (w) Contra Haeres. l. 2. Haeres. 51. (x) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 90. 6. (y) Comment. in Esaiam, c. 9. 1.

The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.
John 12:21-22. The Messianic hope, which they as proselytes share, draws their hearts to Him whose Messiahship has just found so open and general a recognition. They wish to see Jesus, that is, to be introduced to Him, in order to make His nearer personal acquaintance, and this it is which they modestly express. For mere seeing, as in Luke 19:3, any intervention of a third party (as Brückner now also recognises) would not have been required.

Whether they came to Philip accidentally, or because the latter was known to them (perhaps they were from Galilee), remains undetermined. To presuppose in Philip, on account of his Greek name, a Greek education (Hengstenberg), is arbitrary.

κύριε] not without the tender of honour, which they naturally paid even to the disciple of a Master so admired, who truly appeared to be the very Messiah.

That Philip first communicates the proposal to Andrew, who was possibly in more confidential relations with Christ (Mark 13:3), and who was on terms of intimacy with him by the fact of the same birthplace (John 1:45), and that with him he carries out their wish, rests on the circumstance that he was himself too timid to be the means of bringing about an interview between the Holy One of God—whose immediate destination he knew to be for Israel—and Gentiles. His was a circumspect nature, prone to scruples (John 6:5 ff., John 14:8-9). “Cum sodali, audet,” Bengel. Note the stamp of originality which appears in such side-touches.

In the reading ἔρχεται Ἀνδρ. κ. Φ. καὶ λέγουσι τῷ Ἰ. (see critical notes), observe (1) the lively manner of representation in the repetition of ἔρχεται; (2) the change of the singular to the plural of the verb, which also is found in the classical writers. Xen. Anab. ii. 4. 16, and Kühner in loc.John 12:21. οὗτοι οὖν προσῆλθον φιλίππῳ, “these came therefore to Philip,” probably because they had learned that he knew their language; or, as indicated in the addition, τῷΓαλιλαίας, because they had seen him in Galilee. Their request to Philip was, Κύριεἰδεῖν. “Sir, we would see Jesus”; not merely to see Him, for this they could have managed without the aid of a disciple, but to interview the person regarding whom they found all Jerusalem ringing. Philip does not take the sole responsibility of this introduction on himself, because, since they, as Apostles, had been forbidden to go to the Gentiles, Philip might suppose that Jesus would decline to see these Greeks. He therefore tells Andrew (cf. John 1:44; John 6:7-8), his fellow-townsman, and together they venture to make known to Jesus the request.21. to Philip] Their coming to S. Philip was the result either (1) of accident; or (2) of previous acquaintance, to which the mention of his home seems to point; or (3) of his Greek name, which might attract them. See on John 1:45, John 6:5, John 14:8.

Sir] Indicating respect for the disciple of such a Master: comp. John 4:11; John 4:15; John 4:19.

we would see Jesus] This desire to ‘come and see’ for themselves would at once win the sympathy of the practical Philip. See on John 1:46 and John 14:8.John 12:21. Βηθσαϊδά, Bethsaida) It was there, perhaps, that those Greeks had been wont to lodge on their journey to Jerusalem. Or else they were aware that the Galileans were likely to serve them in their object, rather than the Jews. [Or else, when, unacquainted with the true state of the case, they had, at Jerusalem, fallen in with the adversaries of Christ, they had been teamed by these not to go to the Lord Himself.—Harm., p. 450.]—κύριε, Sir) They address him thus, as being almost unknown to them; comp. ch. John 20:15 [Mary Magdalene, after the resurrection, not knowing Jesus, addresses Him, ‘Sir’]; but not without therein implying some degree of respect. Acquaintances were usually addressed by name.—θέλομεν, we wish) Here is exhibited an effect and specimen of those things of which John 12:31, etc., treat, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out,—I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” [This desire of theirs was superior to Herod’s desire; Luke 23:8, “He was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him, and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him.”—V. g.]—τόν) The article has a demonstrative force.—ἰδεῖν, to see) A modest request. It was not as yet time that Jesus should speak much with them. They had either seen Jesus even previously at Jerusalem, or they had heard concerning Him. Jesus was then engaged in the inner part of the temple, to which an entrance was not open to the Greeks.Verse 21. - These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. The first expression of that great yearning which, swollen by multitudes without number, is loud as the voice of many waters and mighty thunderings. It is the wail of every penitent; it is the birth-cry of every renewed soul; it is the raptured burst of joy as each son of God passes behind the veil The "therefore" implies some kind of previous relation with Philip, whose somewhat timid, cautious, speculative mind, as hinted in the earlier portions of the Gospel, made him accessible to them. Personal acquaintance is, of course, possible. Was Philip identical with the Aristion of Papias (see Introduction, p. 34, and Archdeacon Farrar, Expositor, November, 1881)? The mention of Bethsaida of Galilee confirms the suggestion that they were inhabitants of one of the Greek cities of Decapolis, or of the slopes of the Lebanon. Many commentators refer to Philip's Greek name as indicating proclivities or sympathies on his part which would make him peculiarly accessible.
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