“Now some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival. So they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested of him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”” (John 12:20–21 HCSB)
This is such a strange passage in John. These Greeks, who were most likely either God-fearers [regular worshipers at the synagogue] or proselytes [official converts to the Jewish faith] come to Philip and profess a desire to see Jesus. Philip goes to Andrew, both go to Jesus, and…and…that is the last we hear of the Greeks. We do not know if they accompanied Philip and Andrew, or if they were in the crowds that interacted with Jesus. Presumably they were, but John never mentions them again.
What is going on?
Obviously, we cannot know for sure, but we do have hints of why they are an important element in John and in the Gospel story. Recall that at Jesus’ birth magi from the east showed up to worship him. Now as Jesus prepares to be glorified in his death and resurrection, men from the west show up and want to see/speak with him.
Henry Alford comments:
The very appearance of these Greeks is to Him a token that His glorification is at hand. Stier strikingly says, “These men from the West at the end of the Life of Jesus, set forth the same as the Magi from the East at its beginning:—but they come to the Cross of the King, as those to His cradle.”
The magi came to see the great King in his cradle. The Greeks will see him at the cross.