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"At first His disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that these things had been done to Him.
"Now the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised Him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that He had performed this sign, went out to meet Him. So the Pharisees said to one another, 'See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!'" John 12:16-19 NIV.
Although John was writing as though he were an objective observer, we must remember that he was one of the disciples and he knew the inside story. He was one of those who did not realize that Jesus was busy fulfilling prophecy in front of their eyes. Once again, like all the other events in Jesus' life, none of this would make sense to them until it was all over, and they could put all the pieces of the puzzle together and see the bigger picture.
We cannot blame the disciples for their slowness to understand and believe. Everything that was happening was outside their experience and their frame of reference. Like the women who went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, (and found the tomb empty and a glowing figure sitting inside who told them an outlandish story about Jesus being risen which was enough to terrify the wits out of them), the disciples could not correctly process these events until they had time to make sense of them with hindsight.
It seems that the Lazarus incident set off a wave of popularity for Jesus that sent the Pharisees into a frenzy. Things were getting out of hand and it was time for them to take action rather than to keep meeting and planning.
In the meantime...
"There were some Greeks among them who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. 'Sir,' they said, 'we would like to see Jesus.' Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus." John 12:20-22 NIV.
Two stories are running parallel here. There were dark forces egging the religious leaders on to get rid of Jesus, stirring up the jealousy, hatred and anger that dragged them deeper and deeper into their ungodly intentions. At the same time there were men, Gentiles and foreigners, who were moved by the stories they were hearing about Jesus. Was it mere curiosity that prompted their request, or was there a genuine interest in what they were hearing about this man because there was answering response in their hearts?
John stated the reason for their presence in Jerusalem. They had come to worship at the Feast. That put them squarely in the camp of the "God-fearers" - Gentiles who had abandoned their idolatry and had become adherents of Judaism, not yet inducted into the covenant but participating in the ceremonies and festivals of the Jewish people. Somehow, in spite of the ritualistic rigmarole of Judaism, they had been attracted to their monotheistic religion that worshipped an unseen God who received and embraced them though they were not part of His covenant people.
As the events of this saga unfold, in the sovereignty of God He was slowly moving the two camps closer together -- antagonists who wanted to kill Jesus and sympathisers who were interested in what He was saying and doing. The two stories converged at the cross; the killers accomplished, in the perfect plan of God, what the enquirers would need to complete their search after God!
Only a wise and sovereign God could devise and put into action a plan so complex and yet so precise that prophecy, human hatred and divine love could meet at one strategic moment in time and effect a deliverance so great that embraces all of time and eternity and shines the spotlight on the mercy and grace of the One who put it all into action.
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