The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.” Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” – John 12:19-21
John tells us that as the crowds surrounding Jesus increased in size so also did the sense of panic among the leaders of institutional Judaism. John hints that there was infighting among the Pharisees, who saw themselves as powerless to control this Jesus phenomenon. “You see that you can do nothing,” they said to one another. The Greek of the Gospel actually makes it stronger. “What you are doing is no good” may be a better translation. And it is followed by a prophetic, desperate sigh, “Look, the world has gone after him.”
This little statement is packed with meaning. Perhaps the Pharisees were aware that the Jews who were following Jesus were not only those from Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine, but also those from the dispersion. Many Jews who had been exiled centuries before had not returned to Israel, and they formed the Diaspora, a Jewish presence in many different countries. As they came to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, they may have both heard of the miracle-worker and longed to see him.
Even more significant than these dispersed Jews may have been the Gentiles’ expressed desire to see Jesus. Most likely these Gentiles were either proselytes or God-fearers, those who found truth in the Jewish law and were in some degree in relationship with Judaism, mostly unrecognized by the leadership. Their desire to see Jesus would complete the set. Palestinian Jews, dispersed Jews, and Gentiles in pursuit of truth were all coming to Jesus. Indeed, “the world has gone after him.”
Had the Pharisees been seeking truth with the same passion of the Gentiles they may have seen Jesus as the Good Shepherd, who was gathering his flock and creating a beloved community, as was prophesized by both Zechariah and Zephaniah. Alas, it is hard for people to see when they refuse to look.
Lord Jesus, there is nothing this world or I need more than to be gathered in the fold of the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep. Amen.
A Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston