The introduction of a new group of people (some Greeks) indicates a new narrative and thrust of the gospel message. Anyone could “see” Jesus as he was in the Temple precincts. I think it is a given that the Greeks wanted more. Even if their desire to “see” Jesus doesn’t mean “become a follower,” their presence relates to Jesus’ statement in v. 32, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” It should be notes there is a variant reading of “all things” (panta) in many ancient Greek manuscripts rather than “all people” (pantas).That being said, the coming of the Greeks symbolizes the drawing of all people to Jesus. His hour has come.
Just before our text we are told that a crowd had come to Jesus because they had heard that he had raised Lazarus from the dead (12:18). Soon after our text we are told: “Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him” (12:37). “Seeing” is not believing in John’s gospel. The place to see Jesus in all his glory is not just the miraculous (2:11, 11:4, 40), which may not produce faith; but seeing his glory on the cross (12:23; 21:19).
Perhaps, they wanted to interview Jesus – although they give no reason for this. Up to this point in time, John has given no indication that Jesus’ reputation was such that Greeks would have heard of him; though perhaps they are from Decapolis. Those people may well have heard about Jesus. But the general tone of John’s Gospel leaves certainly leads us to assume the point of the inquiry: Jesus was the Savior of the world, and this group of Gentiles symbolically represents the world seeking its salvation from Jesus.
Oddly, Jesus seems to ignore the Greeks; in fact, there is no immediate or subsequent reference to them. Still what follows makes it difficult to assume Jesus’ audience is limited to Andrew and Philip. There is a wider audience in mind. Clearly, the coming of the Greeks is important to Jesus. Morris notes : “Jesus views it as evidence that his mission has reached its climax and that he is now to die for the world, Greeks included. … The gospel is a gospel for the whole world only because of the cross. Their presence leads to Jesus’ response, “The hour has come…”
We are reminded of the series of references to “the hour” throughout the Gospel. Though unobtrusive, this is one of the important themes in this Gospel. It marks that for which Jesus is destined. At Cana, “the hour” had not yet arrived. Now it has. The verb “has come” is in the perfect tense, i.e.,: “the hour has come and stays with us.” There is no going back on it. In referring to his “hour” there is no doubt but that Jesus is referring to his death (see v.24). But he speaks not of tragedy but of triumph. He is not to be dishonored; he is to be glorified and that by the way of the cross.
John 12:23 Jesus’ response suggests that only after the crucifixion could the gospel encompass both Jew and Gentile.