Look, the world has gone after Him. – John 12:19b
This was spoken of Jesus, by the Pharisees. What was it that precipitated these words? The Gospel of John ultimately traces this back to the raising of Lazarus from the dead, which is recorded in the eleventh chapter of John. It was due to this miraculous occurrence that took place at the word of Jesus, that “Many of the Jews…believed in Him” (11:45). It was in response to that belief that “the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this Man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation’.” (11:47-48) They were concerned that the people would rally around Jesus as the promised Messiah and redeemer and king of Israel, sparking a revolt; and therefore, Rome and its Caesar would have no choice but to come out against Israel and put down the revolution.
This whole Lazarus business was a problem. It could bring nothing but trouble as far as the chief priests and Pharisees were concerned. We read that “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there,” that being the town of Bethany, just a short distance from Jerusalem, “they came, not only on account of Him but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead” (12:9). You see, as long as people could see Lazarus, back from the dead, with potentially hundreds and hundreds of eyewitnesses to confirm both that he had been dead and was now alive, there was a risk. The chief priests and Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, so as far as they could tell, nothing good could come from His being elevated to such a position in the eyes, hearts, and minds of the people. They decided that an effective way to deal with the problem was to eliminate Lazarus. “So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of Him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (12:10-11).
This was evidenced by the fact that “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem” (12:12). They went out to Him, shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (12:13b) Thus, the leaders’ fear were confirmed. The people were being led to follow somebody that was clearly not the promised Messiah that would liberate Israel. We go on to find out that “The reason why the crowd went to meet Him was that they heard He had done this sign” (12:18), which was that “He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead” (12:17b). It was all that people could talk about, which is quite understandable. This is what prompted the Pharisees to say, “Look, the world has gone after Him” (12:19b).
Had the world gone after Him? Was it not just the people of Israel? What comes next? What do we read? We find that “among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks” (12:20). These Greeks, Gentiles of course, went to one of Jesus’ disciples and said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (12:21b). Is this not interesting? Not only was Jesus to be the Messiah for Israel, but Israel’s Messiah was also to be the ruler of all the nations. Here, we find that it was more than the Jews going after Him. It was more than the people of Israel that were going away and believing in Jesus. There were Gentiles going after Him as well. These Greeks could very well represent the whole world going after Him. So what is Jesus’ response to the inquiry of these Gentiles? Does He say that He does not have time for them? Does He put them off? Does He say, “that’s nice to hear”? No, upon learning that Gentiles were desirous of seeing Him, He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (12:23b). It seems that Jesus saw this wish to see Him as a grand part of His mission.
Sparked by the Grecian inquiry, Jesus launches into a dissertation on dying, bearing fruit, losing and hating one’s life, eternal life, service, following Him, being where He is, and being honored by the Father (12:24-26). He almost immediately begins speaking of coming to this hour as it related to the purpose of His life and ministry (12:27). Again, in a series of statements sparked by the Greeks desiring to see Him, Jesus exclaims, “Father, glorify Your Name” (12:28a). Shortly thereafter, we hear Jesus saying, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (12:31). Extending that, not only was the ruler of the world being cast out, but He would shortly be replaced by Jesus, as King and Ruler of the world, by the coming of the Kingdom of God, through His Resurrection. Jesus says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself” (12:32). He would draw people to Himself though He would undergo the shaming and dishonoring spectacle of crucifixion (which was partially designed to repel people from the crucified one). He would draw people to Himself through the giving of new life, just as He had done for Lazarus. He would draw people to Himself, just as He had drawn these Greeks. From that point on, there would never come a time in which it could not be said of Jesus, because of the power of the Gospel’s proclamation drawing people to Him, “Look, the world has gone after Him.”