Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we are halfway through our study! We continue as we start on part eleven of this series as we discuss John Chapter Twelve!
Before John describes the “Passion” (the time before His death and resurrection that Jesus spent with His disciples), John describes the various reactions by different groups to Lazarus’ resurrection.
John 12:1-3: "Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance."
We know that it was Jesus’ custom to stay with His friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in Bethany ( a few miles to Jerusalem) and He would stay with them when He visited Jerusalem to teach or during various festivals. His own home was approximately 80 miles North in Capernaum near the Red Sea. The Passover was the most important and best attended Feast in the Jewish calendar, but Jesus was not there for just the Feast. He knew it was His appointed time (for the Passion to begin) and He was there because of this. Martha, true to her nature was organizing the supper; this time with no complaining. Lazarus, a walking miracle, a resurrected man, was at the table. Imagine that! Now, in Matthew and Mark’s account of this event, they mention that Mary anointed the head of Jesus; Here John notes that she also anointed His feet. The wiping of His feet with her hair is significant in that a woman of that culture would not display her hair in public, and certainly not to a group of men. At the supper, there was only men because men and women did not recline to eat in mixed company. Her action demonstrated that she was laying her honor at her master’s feet. The complete use of the expensive ointment nard (nard is a plant from India that provides the essence for the perfume) and the way that it was done was a perfect act of humility, devotion, and honor to her Lord.
Mary’s Reaction to Lazarus’ Resurrection:
Humility – Her head at His feet
Devotion – All the ointment used
Honor – Only Jesus anointed
Mary’s reaction demonstrated her faith in Jesus. Not as a friend or teacher, but rather Jesus as the divine Lord toward whom she directed her worship and love. Not just an act of gratitude, but one of worship.
John 12:4-8:"But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
So, Judas could have objected on several grounds legitimately. He could have said such a show was too lavish for a prophet of God or it was too showy for a simple Rabbi from Galilee or that it was improper for a woman to be so forward in the company of men. There could have been legitimate claims that Jesus were an ordinary man if He were just a Rabbi, but Judas, revealing his nature, zeros in on the value of the ointment and he complains about the waste that this action caused. His accusation was that Jesus is wasting money on self-glorification instead of taking care of the poor. Of course the basis of this is, Judas doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God. If Jesus is ONLY a man, then yes this might have been a little too much, but He was NOT only a man. John, in an editorial comment reveals the true motivation behind Judas’ words and that’s greed and dishonesty which blinded him from seeing the truth before his very eyes. Judas sat with the resurrected Lazarus and he still continued in his evil ways, even now accusing Jesus of sin and waste. Imagine that! Judas’ reaction to Lazarus’ resurrection was a hard heart. Jesus doesn’t let Judas’ words slip by. He defends Mary’s actions with a number of considerations. He doesn’t say anything about the accusations of Himself, but He defends Mary’s actions which He says were an act of devotion to Him. He IS special and this WAS a worthy act! He says the poor are always there and this was not the only resource that they had. They had helped in the past and would do so in the future but for now, this was the BEST thing they could do with what they had, to honor Him. His death was also at hand and it was a good time to refer to it and prepare for it.
John 12:9-11: "When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus."
Do you believe these guys!? They don’t only want to kill the guy that did the miracle, they also want to kill the recipient of it! The situation is now critical for these Jewish leaders because it is becoming evident that they are on the wrong side of the fence. Lazarus’ resurrection has electrified the people and the leaders are losing control. SO, their plan to capture and kill Jesus now includes Lazarus because he is causing as much of a stir as Jesus, Himself had caused due to the resurrection. The Jewish leaders reacted to the resurrection with the same disbelief and fear as they had always had with Jesus. Nothing has changed except now they are resolved to take action against Him. No turning back!
John 12:12-19: "The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!”Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.” His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him. Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”
After the miracle in Bethany and the word spread of what had happened, a large crowd had gathered around Jesus and had accompanied Him to Jerusalem. A lot of times we read about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and we forget to hook events together. He raises Lazarus from the dead which ignites and excited the people and then the next day or in that immediate time period, is His triumphal entry; so one is fueling the other. The momentum is building here. People are praising Him and accepting Him as the Messiah (quoting Psalms). The palm branches represented life and salvation for the Jews. Riding on a donkey was the direct fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 concerning the manner the Messiah would enter the city. Jesus came in meekness and grace on the donkey. Why a donkey? Well, its the type of animal that matters here. Its not a horse; a king rode horses, in the Jews eyes, and on chariots. They believed this is what the King of kings would do as well. But Jesus comes in on a humble donkey. John notes that after His resurrection, the prophets would realize the prophetic importance and rightness of this moment. We live life forward but understand it backward, right? John also rights that the miraculous raising of Lazarus is what galvanized His followers for the triumphant entrance into the city and John uses the comments of the Pharisees who were watching helplessly. They say that the whole world (THEIR world) has gone over to Jesus for the moment and there is nothing they can do about it. He’s outflanked them in their eyes. John next decides to give us the reactions of the Gentiles there. We can read that coming up.
John 12:20-26: "Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus. Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me."
Well, there was only one thing worse for the Jewish leaders than having their people go over to Jesus and losing their position. That was: if non-Jews were also allowed to follow Jesus and both groups became one. This was the scenario they were seeing unfold. This is a look into the future as this would only happen when the Word is spread abroad, beyond Judea. Of course the Apostle Paul brings the gospel to the Gentiles, and here we get a little preview of it. Not much but just a taste; but, Jesus is showing what’s to come in the future. Jesus sets the stage for this event here. The Greeks were Gentile converts allowed to participate in the Feast, but only from the outer Court of the Gentiles. Jesus was probably in the Court of Men, separated from the Court of the Gentiles and they knowing Philip, requested He come to them for a meeting. They knew they could not go to Him but Jesus could leave the Court of Men and come into the Court of the Gentiles. So Philip confers with Andrew (who is in the inner circle), perhaps due to the trouble that this might cause (Jesus speaking with Gentiles in the area of the temple). So, they final pass on the request to Jesus who responds not by meeting with them, but by making a general declaration that will affect them far into the future. It seems to not connect with the request, but it does.
Jesus uses the request to declare two events:
His suffering and death was going to happen soon
He public accepts it here
He is the grain of wheat sown into the ground that He mentions
Their Difficult Choice
Those who would follow Him would have to make a difficult choice between this world or the world to come.
He gives the Greeks what they had wanted. Although they did not get a meeting, He publicly declared that ANYONE, not just Jews but ANYONE, who wanted to follow and serve Him could do so. This is the key here!!
The Greeks reacted with a desire to know Jesus and What does HE offer them? He offers them and all that would follow Him the opportunity to have full access, not only to Himself but to the Father on an eternal basis. No more walls or divisions of Jew or Gentile.
John 12:27-43: “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him. Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this to indicate how he was going to die. The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?” Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them. But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him. This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted:
“Lord, who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?” But the people couldn’t believe, for as Isaiah also said, “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts— so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he said this, because he saw the future and spoke of the Messiah’s glory. Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God."
There are several verses mixed into this long passage. The four voices in this passage:
Declares that the hour (or time) of His death is at hand and He will both fulfill his reason for being here and be glorified (honored by the event).
Declares by this death, He will defeat Satan and his hold on death over the people. (think about how sin and death work without Jesus and then with Jesus)
With this action all of mankind will be pointed and drawn to the cross of salvation. He encourages them to believe while the time for faith is ripe.
The voice of the Father affirms what Jesus has just declared. He has done this before at Jesus’ baptism (the transfiguration) and He does so again for the multitudes here.
These are the same ones who were praising Him as He entered the city.
Now they are beginning to doubt. They do not like the idea of a tortured Messiah. They interpret the scripture to mean that the Messiah will never die! Of course this is true, He is eternal so He is the ONLY one that can give His life to end the stronghold of sin because He has the power to both lay down His life and take His life back up again. The crowd does not understand this.
Takes over at the very end to explain Jesus’ response to the doubts of the multitude.
Explains that their reaction to Him was EXACTLY what the prophets predicted would be the reaction to the Messiah even with the signs and miracles performed. Their centuries and stubbornness and disobedience kept them from believing even when the proof was right in front of them and this was predicted from the start.
John 12:44-50: "Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”
In this last section, Jesus offers a warning to everyone who has heard His words and seen the miracles and here’s the warning.
The Warning is Twofold:
Reject Me and you reject God
This has not changed in 2,000 years
The basis of judgment will be My Word!
Light and darkness refer to truth and knowledge and salvation and good verses lies.
His words are God’s words and obeying them would be the basis of salvation.
This is Jesus’ final appearance and He wants to leave this out there.
When you doubt your salvation, remember this and disregard your feelings. The Word is the only truth, not how we feel or if we feel saved.
Today the decision and consequences are still the same.