Honor the King
Glorify the Father
The Greeks who request to see Jesus not only represent ‘the whole world’ (cf. notes on v. 19), but they stand in contrast to the Pharisees who are exasperated by Jesus’ growing influence.
Strictly speaking, Jesus does not respond to the direct request of the Gentiles, but to the situation that their request represents. At the very moment when the Jewish authorities are turning most virulently against him, some Gentiles begin to clamour for his attention. This is not unlike one of the great themes of Romans 9–11: apart from a remnant, Israel as a whole rejects their Messiah, but by his death and resurrection he sweeps into his covenant community large numbers of Gentiles who had earlier been excluded from the people of the covenant. In this instance, however, the approach of the Greeks is for Jesus a kind of trigger, a signal that the climactic hour has dawned.
This request is nothing other than an articulation of the principle that has controlled his life and ministry (7:18; 8:29, 50). The servant who does not stoop to his own will, but who performs the will of the one who sent him—even to the death of the cross—is the one who glorifies God. But the focus of the prayer transcends mere acquiescence; it betrays acquiescence that is subsumed under the passionate desire to bring glory to God, in much the same way that the petition ‘hallowed be your name’ in the Lord’s model prayer presupposes the active obedience of the one who is praying.
Believe in Both
Then John again quoted from Isaiah (6:10) to explain that the nation as a whole was unable to believe. Because they constantly rejected God’s revelation, He had punished them with judicial blindness and deadened … hearts. People in Jesus’ day, like those in Isaiah’s day, refused to believe. They “would not believe” (John 12:37); therefore they could not believe (v. 39). Similar illustrations of God’s punishing of persistent sin by hardening are common (Ex. 9:12; Rom. 1:24, 26, 28; 2 Thes. 2:8–12).
v. 39 insists that it was for this reason that the people could not believe. On the other hand, such unambiguous predestinarianism is never set over against human responsibility: v. 37 presumes there is human culpability, and v. 43 articulates an utterly reprehensible human motive for the unbelief.
In spite of massive national unbelief, the situation was not hopeless. God always has a remnant. Many individuals in high places did believe in Jesus, but for fear of being put out of the synagogue they did not openly confess Him. They feared men’s opinions and loved men’s praise … more than God’s praise.