We had the opportunity to travel to Greece several years ago. Our youngest daughter was there as part of an international study program associated with Harding University. Their Greek campus was located just outside of Athens, so we were able to go to the city a few times and see many of its sites (including the Acropolis). We were also able to take a day trip to Ancient Corinth. I’m not sure where the experience ranks on my list of highlights, but it’s definitely near the top.
It’s also made me think more about something that happened to Jesus when He went to Jerusalem for the final time. As He entered the city, He was welcomed as the king that He is. Granted, some of the same people would be demanding His crucifixion a few days later, but still, there is something splendid about the recognition He received. And I love it that when some of the Pharisees protested to Jesus about the adulation He was getting from His disciples, He told them if they were silent the stones would have to speak up. At this time, some Greeks approached the disciples requesting an audience with Jesus (John 12:21). This was communicated to Him and He launched into a monologue about seeds not producing fruit unless they fall into the earth and die. He then spoke of His soul being troubled and asked if He should say, “Father, save me from this hour’?” He answered His own question with the reply, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour,” (v. 27).
We know Jesus was troubled because the time of the cross (“this hour”), had come. What is not as clear is how the visit by the Greeks fits in with this. Did John just throw this in as an incidental extra, a piece of trivia—or is it something more substantial?
I lean toward the latter. I think it’s possible that the Greeks had come to make Jesus an offer. They had witnessed the escalating tensions and were possibly aware of the threats on His life (11:49-53). What if they were offering Jesus an alternative to the cross? What if they are inviting Him to go back to Greece with them? Can you imagine Jesus holding court at the Acropolis? What kind of impact might He have made in Athens?
We’ll never know.
We do know that something disturbed Him, perhaps even tempted Him. It might simply have been the nearness of the cross or perhaps He was offered an alternative to it. Whatever it was, He stayed the course because He sought His Father’s glory (v. 28), rather than personal comfort or a safe existence. If what I’ve suggested is true, He turned His back on all the glories of Greece that we celebrate today in order to fall into the earth and die. That’s why when we talk about Socrates, Alexander, or Aristotle; we speak about people who achieved greatness in a particular way. But when we speak of Jesus, we are talking about One who was great in the way of God.