Journey Through John – Chapter 12

I. Extravagant Worship & Selfish Ambition (12.1-8)

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

  • “Six day before the Passover” – We have now come to the final week of Jesus’ life. John spends 11 chapters on the first 3 years and 10 chapters on the final week.
  • “the Passover” – one of the major Jewish festivals, commemorating the events of the final plague upon Egypt where those who marked their doors with the blood of a lamb were ‘passed over’ by the angel of death (Exodus 12.1-27). John’s mention of this particular festivals calls to mind John the Baptist’s  statement regarding Jesus at the beginning of the gospel, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1.29).
  • “a dinner for him there” – The gospels of Matthew and Mark designate the exact location as the home of “Simon who had a serious skin disease” (Mk 14.3).
  • “Martha served” – Isn’t that just like Martha? At an earlier dinner held by the two sisters, Martha raised a complaint that she was doing all the work while Mary lazily sat around the table with Jesus (Luke 10.38-41). Here, however, there is no complaint.
  • APP: Worship doesn’t always look the same for everyone or for every circumstance. Sometimes in may be done in the business of service, sometimes it may occur when we quietly reflect upon the words of Christ. Sometimes it happens through an act of adoration.
  • “Lazarus was one of those reclining with him” – He is very much alive! The mention of Lazarus here causes some to assume the dinner is in the home of Lazarus and the sisters or that the feast is held in honor of Jesus’ resurrecting Lazarus, but we are simply not given that exact information.
  • “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair” – John has already noted this event (even before it is recorded in his gospel (11.2). Apparently, this event was so significant in the early church it had reached viral status. QUES: Read 12.3 again and tell me why?
  • “The use of unguents was very common in the first century especially on festive occasions. But the oil was normally poured on the head. The peculiar thing about this anointing was that Mary poured it on the feet of the Lord. This is probably to be taken as an act of utter humility. Mary is taking the lowliest possible place … The act is all the more striking in that a Jewish lady never unbound her hair in public” (Morris, pp. 576–77). Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 232.touching the feet of someone was regarded by Jews as a very degrading experience and was normally reserved for slaves and others to whom little “honor” was due. The fact that Mary was willing to do this act at a meal in the presence of others communicates volumes about her elevated regard for Jesus. It might also be argued by some that it indicates a lack of self-worth on her part. Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 35.
  • 12.5 – While Mary puts her heart on public display, Judas hides his under a veil of charity. On the surface, Judas brings up a noble protest. “300 denarii” would be the equivalent of about one years salary. Wouldn’t it be better to sell this ointment and use the funds for benevolence?
  • 12.6 – In a moment of rare, brutal honesty, John tells gives us his opinion on Judas. Judas is almost always identified as the betrayer, yet John tells us why Judas would even make the suggestion to sell the ointment and put it in the treasury. The phrase translated “he used to help himself to” is most often used when referring to someone who is carrying a relatively burdensome of heavy object. In John’s eyes, the money box was so heavy, Judas would try to lighten the load by placing some of the money in his own pockets. Many scholars view this act of Mary as the event that pushed Judas over the edge. Greed playing a major role in Judas’ betrayal. Ironically, Judas agrees to betray Jesus for less than half (about 120 denarii) of the amount of the perfume used in this anointing.
  • 12.7 – A loose paraphrase capturing Jesus’ intended meaning might go like this: “Leave her alone. In God’s great plan, suffering and death for sin has already begun and this woman shows her love for me at a time when I am already headed for the tomb. As for the poor, taking care of them is a good and biblical act of righteousness and you should do it. However, you’ll have ample opportunity to demonstrate that concern; I’ll be gone within a week.” Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 233.

II. The Plot to Kill Lazarus

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

  • In context, Lazarus is probably mentioned because the miracle performed by Jesus in bringing Lazarus to life has caused such a stir that the religious leaders now wish to kill Jesus (11.53) and Lazarus (12.10). The Pharisees wish to delete Jesus and all proof of his Messiahship.

III. The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

  • John has pushed the reader since chapter 6, that they must decide on how to respond to Jesus. Just as those within these chapters have. He brings this to a climax with the triumphal entry of Jesus…Do we accept him for who he is and believe or do we reject him? More specifically in this chapter, do we kill him or crown him?
  • This large crowd is probably made up of those who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast mixed with locals who had heard of Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus.
  • “branches of palm trees” – a national symbol for Israel dating back to about 150BC. Much like American’s would associate a bald eagle as a symbol or our country. This is made more clear as the crowds refer to Jesus as their king.
  • “Hosanna” – Psalm 118.25, 26. meaning “help/save I pray”. It had become a general acclamation of praise in Jesus day.
  • Moreover, hidden in the boisterous crowd’s call of “Hosanna” was an ironic twist of immense proportions. When the crowd shouted Hosanna (from the Aramaic, pronounced hōsaʿna, or Heb. hōsiʿāhna), which is a cry for “salvation now,” they were begging for something far beyond anything they anticipated. Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 42.
  • 12.15 – a quote from Zech. 9.9. The crowd came to get a glimpse of a hero. Jesus presents himself as a humble servant.
  • 12.19 – a verse of exasperation as the Pharisees met together.

Some Greeks Seek Jesus

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

  • It would not be uncommon for a mixture of Gentile worshippers to attend these prominent Jewish feast. Gentiles who worshipped Yahweh were known as “God-fearers.”
  • There is probably a day or two gap between verses 19 and 20, Jesus has now begun to teach in and around the temple. and he has quite possibly overthrown the money lenders at this point.
  • They either approach Phillip because of his Greek name or they may also be from Bethsaida.
  • “The hour has now come” – up until this point, it Jesus hour was spoken of in the future tense. Jesus says it has now arrived.
  • Oddly enough we are never told if the Gentiles got to see Jesus. John uses this as an opportunity to show that the gospel is available to anyone who would die to themselves and follow Jesus. Looking at verse 25 through a lens of priority aids in interpretaiton.To love God so much means that God has become primary and human existence has become secondary. That was the model set by the self-giving Jesus, and that is the model Jesus calls Christians to follow. Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 52.

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

  • Many have stated that this is John’s version of the Garden of Gethsemane. However, John is not concerned with such detail. That being said, He does wish to convey the agony Jesus faced while accomplishing our redemption.
  • Verse 31 and 32 should be taken as looking at both sides of the coin of judgment. One positive. One negative. Negatively speaking Jesus’ death meant the overthrow of Satan. Positively, God’s judgment would be the means in which people are drawn by his grace.
  • “The lifted up arms of Jesus are extended to everyone indiscriminately. He came to be the “Savior of the World” (4:42). But the coming of Jesus is an invitation to all, not a commitment to accept all who reject him.” Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 60.


The Unbelief of the People

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

  • Jesus’ mission as God’s messiah contradicted the popular notion of an earthly king who would rid them of Roman oppression. The notion that the Messiah would die also caused many to turn.
  • The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Jn 1:9–13. John has now come full circle in the presentation of his gospel.

Jesus Came to Save the World

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

  • What will be the basis for judgment of the final day? That is the issue as this chapter comes to a close with a focus on faith. The answer, centers not in the person of the Lord Jesus; he came into the world to save it, not to judge it. The focus of judgment will be the actual Word of God. God’s words through Jesus as well as through the prophets and other biblical writers form the final authority for obedience. They are the message of faith. God will ultimately judge people by how they received and responded to what the Bible says. This is not a common invitation in John 12, but a command to turn away from darkness to light and from death to life. – Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 239.