Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seeking Advice or an Accomplice? (John 12)

To whom did the Greeks say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”? Philip (John 12:21)

Shortly before his crucifixion in Jerusalem, a contingent of Greeks sought an audience with Jesus (John 12:20-22). They enquired of Philip, one of the first disciples (John 1:43-44) and member of his entourage (John 12:21). In turn, Philip relayed their request to Andrew who led the party to Jesus (John 12:22). This narrative aside, though exceedingly short, marks the first time Greeks interacted with Jesus. Interestingly, John does not record the outcome of this encounter. The account is more concerned with illuminating the scope of Jesus’ ministry and perhaps addresses doubts of Jesus’ willingness to engage Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:22-24).

Bruce J. Malina (b. 1933) and Richard L. Rohrbaugh (b. 1936) concluded that the disciples were merely following standard operating procedure: “Note the chain of access here, really a brokerage chain, from Philip to Andrew to Jesus, indicates the status of those core followers who stand between Jesus and the public (Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, 212).”

Others have speculated that the Greeks chose Philip because he was a disciple with a Greek name. His hometown of Bethsaida (John 1:44, 12:21) also had a significant Gentile population. Of all the disciples, Philip was mostly likely to grant their request. Coincidentally, Andrew was the only other disciple with a Greek name.

Philip seemingly did not know what to do so he consulted his peer, Andrew.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Who do you go to for advice? How do you select your advisors?

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) wrote, “Most people who ask for advice from others have already resolved to act as it pleases them.” As such many people choose an advisor whom they know will deliver advice that corroborates their direction. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) claimed that to choose an advisor is to already have decided.

Andrew never prevented anyone from seeing Jesus. In fact, each time Andrew is seen by himself, he is leading another to Christ (John 1:41, 6:8, 12:21). As Andrew first led his brother Simon Peter to Jesus (John 1:41) and later introduced the Greeks to Christ (John 12:22), it has been said that Andrew was both the first home and foreign missionary. It is doubtful that Andrew would have rejected someone’s petition to encounter Jesus.

Do you think Philip picked Andrew out of convenience (he happened to be there) or because he already knew what Andrew would do? When you choose advisors, do you pick those whose advice you can already surmise?

“The best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” - Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

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