By: Steve Shirley
Let's begin by reading (Jn 12:1-22).
(Verse 1) "six days before the Passover" This was likely Saturday night.
(Verses 1-2) "Lazarus, who had been dead" Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in the previous chapter. It is considered by most His greatest miracle.
(Verse 3) "a pound.... of spikenard" A pound really about 12 oz. Spikenard was a very costly perfume that was imported from the mountains of India. It was extracted from the root of the nard plant.
(Verse 3) "Mary.... anointed the feet of Jesus" Washing feet was considered the work of a servant as we will see in the next chapter (Jn 13:1-17). In Mary's case, this was also an act of worship. Her large sacrifice shows us that nothing is too costly to give to Jesus.
Most agree that we have parallel accounts of this act by Mary in (Mt 26:6-13)(Mk 14:3-9) (even though the name "Mary" is not given). If this is the case, we learn several other important things. The "supper" was "at the house of "Simon the leper," Mary also poured the perfume on Jesus' head, and Jesus adds these awesome words:
(Mt 26:13) "Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her." (Jesus knew this would later be recorded in Scripture.)
(Verses 4-6) "Judas Iscariot" We know very little about him. Judas "Iscariot" (Gr. Iskariotes) meant "Judas of Kerioth." Jesus said he was a "devil" in (Jn 6:70), and in (Jn 6:71) it says he was the "son of Simon" (Jn 6:71). He later betrayed Jesus (Mt 26:47-50)(Mk 14:43-45) (for 30 pieces of silver - Mt 26:14-16, Mt 27:9-10). After betraying Jesus, he committed suicide by hanging himself (Mt 27:5). (I explain what appears to be a contradiction on how Judas died in Mt 27:5 and Acts 1:18 here: https://jesusalive.cc/ques113.htm.)
(Verse 5) "three hundred denarii" One denarius is called a day's wages in (Mt 20:2), therefore, 300 denarii would be about a year's wages for the average worker!
(Verses 7-8) "she has kept this for the day of My burial" Mary was unknowingly preparing Jesus' body for burial. Spices and fragrances were often used to anoint a body after death (i.e. Jn 19:39-40, Lk 23:56 with the body of Jesus). Mary was in essence performing a prophetic act.
(Verses 10-11) "the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death" As we have seen in previous chapters, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus (Jn 5:18)(Jn 7:1)(Jn 8:58-59)(Jn 10:30-33). Now, we see that they wanted to kill Lazarus too! Why did they want to kill Lazarus?? Had he committed any sin that they considered worthy of death?
"The Triumphal Entry!" (Verse 12) "Jesus was coming to Jerusalem" (Also found in the other 3 Gospels: Mt 21:1-11, Mk 11:1-10, Lk 19:28-44)
(Verse 13) "Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him" This was on Sunday. Why did they wave "palm branches," and throw them in front of Jesus?
In the Bible, as well as from sources outside of the Bible, we see that the use of "palm branches" was often tied to "victory." The Bible first shows us this in conjunction with the "Feast of Tabernacles." As a part of this celebration, the Israelites were commanded by God to construct and live in "booths" (for 7 days), which were in part made from the "branches of palm trees" (Lev 23:40)(also see: Neh 8:14-18). This was done to commemorate the way the Israelites lived after God gave them "victory," and brought them out of Egypt. In addition, while not recorded in the Bible, history tells us that waving palm branches was done to celebrate kings and conquerors. We also know that in Greek athletic competitions, victors were often given a palm branch, which they would wave to celebrate their "victory."
However, what I found most interesting in studying this is a parallel to the Maccabean Revolt which occurred in 167 - 160 B.C., and in particular to Judas Maccabeus (a Jewish priest), who led that revolt. This was, and is, one of the key events in Jewish history. Fighting a war to regain Jerusalem from the Seleucid Empire, who had conquered it, and had desecrated God's Temple, the forces of Judas Maccabeus prevailed in 164 B.C. (The war to regain more Jewish territory continued for a few more years, with Judas Maccabeus being killed near the end.) In the apocryphal book of Maccabees (still contained in the Catholic Bible), we see Judas Maccabeus being celebrated "with praise and palm branches" by the Jews as he entered Jerusalem (1 Macc 13:51). He was a conquering hero! He had set the Jews free from their conquerors and oppressors! He cleansed and rededicated the Temple! (Jews celebrate this event with Hanukkah, also known as the "Feast of Dedication" [see: Jn 10:22].)
Do you see the parallel to Jesus? I feel confident that the Jews had this event (and Hanukkah) in mind when they did exactly the same thing when Jesus came into Jerusalem. They were waving palm branches, and throwing them in front of Him to celebrate their "conquering hero," who was going to set them free from Roman oppression.
As we see though, this celebration was short-lived. The same Jews who had waved palm branches to celebrate their king who would set them free, shouted out to "crucify Him" just a few days later (Mk 15:13-14)(Lk 23:21)(Jn 19:6). Jesus had indeed come to give the Jews "victory," however, it was not "victory" over the Romans, but it was "victory" over sin. When the crowd cried out "Hosanna!" in the next verse, which means "God saves," they did not realize that Jesus came to "save" them from "sin." The Romans were not the problem, sin was the problem! Jesus was not the king, or Messiah, or liberator (like Judas Maccabeus) that the Jews expected, therefore they turned on Him.
(Verse 13) "Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." This phrase is taken from (Ps 118:25-26).
(Verse 14)(NASB) "Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it" We find more details about this "donkey / colt" in the other Gospels. Let's go to (Mt 21:1-8). A similar account is found in (Mk 11:1-7), and in (Mk 11:2) we find out that the "colt" would be one "on which no one has sat." (also see: Lk 19:29-35)
(Verse 15)(NASB) "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt." This was the fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy found in (Zech 9:9)(NASB) which said, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
(Verse 16) "These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him."
The disciples did not understand that Jesus was fulfilling the Messianic promises found in verses 13 and 14 until after "Jesus was glorified," meaning until He had ascended to the Father after His resurrection. Their "understanding" was likely after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given, who Jesus said would "bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (Jn 14:26). (also see: Jn 16:13)
(Verses 17-18) Those who had witnessed Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead told many others what had happened. This created a great crowd to see who had done this. This leads us to the Pharisees comment in verse 19.
(Verse 19)(NKJV) "Look, the world has gone after Him!" Obviously, this is is an example of "hyperbole" (exaggeration). We see this type of language displayed over and over in the Bible i.e. (Judg 7:12)(Isa 55:12)(Mt 5:29)(Jn 21:25)(Mt 23:24)(Mt 17:20).
(Verses 20-22) "some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast... (wished) to see Jesus" These appear to be Gentiles who had converted to Judaism. Their desire to see Jesus appears to be sincere, as opposed to most of the crowd who just wanted to see the man who had raised a person from the dead. In verse 22, we see that Andrew and Philip told Jesus of the desire of the Greeks to see Him, and Verse 23 starts with "Jesus answered them." He then begins speaking about His impending death. Perhaps, the Greek converts had expressed some concern for Jesus too, hence His reply.
Next, let's read (Jn 12:23-36).
(Verse 23) "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified." We have seen it said of Jesus a number of times in the Book of John: "My / His hour had not yet come" (Jn 2:4)(Jn 7:6,30)(Jn 8:20). Now, we see that Jesus' hour HAS come (also see: Jn 13:1, Jn 16:32, Jn 17:1). Again, "glorified" means the time is near when Jesus will "return to the Father." This happened after Jesus' death and resurrection.
(Verse 24)(NASB) "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Just as a "grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die" before it can "produce much (more) grain," so also after Jesus died (a single grain), many would be saved (much more grain would be produced).
My Believer's Bible Commentary shares this great quote from T.G. Ragland, applying this to us as a parallel. "If we refuse to be corns of wheat - falling into the ground and dying; if we will neither sacrifice prospects, nor risk character, and property, and health; nor when we are called, relinquish home, and break family ties, for Christ's sake; then we shall abide alone. But if we wish to be fruitful, we must follow our Blessed Lord Himself, by becoming a corn of wheat, and dying, then we shall bring forth much fruit."
(Verse 25) "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." So, what does this mean? Do we have to "hate" our life to be saved?
(Verse 28) "Father, glorify thy name." Just as Jesus prayed this short prayer, I believe this should be the prayer of all Christians. Whatever happens in our lives, our desire should be that God ultimately gets the glory. What would be some examples of this?
(Verses 28-29) "Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." Can you imagine? How do you think you would have reacted?
***Note: This was one of three times when God the Father audibly spoke to Jesus while He was on earth. He also spoke to Jesus at His baptism (Mt 3:17)(Lk 3:22), and at the Transfiguration (Mt 17:5)(Mk 9:7)(Lk 9:35).
(Verse 31) "now shall the prince of this world be cast out." This is speaking of Satan. He is also called "the prince of this world" in (Jn 14:30)(Jn 16:31), the "god of this world" in (2 Cor 4:4), and the "prince of the power of the air" in (Eph 2:2).
(Verses 32-33) "if I be lifted up from the earth... signifying what death He would die" Jesus is prophesying that He would soon be placed on the cross ("lifted up"), and die.
(Verse 32) "I....will draw all men unto me." Not "some," but ALL! Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross for ALL people, not just a "chosen" few.
(Verse 34) "We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever."
When the "law" is spoken of in the New Testament, it does not "always" mean just the first 5 books of the Old Testament. It can also mean all of the books of the Old Testament i.e. (Jn 10:34)(Jn 15:25)(Acts 24:14). Some verses in these books made it appear that the Messiah would not die (Ps 89:28-29,36)(Ps 110:4)(Dan 2:44)(Dan 7:13-14)(Isa 9:7). However, these Jews misunderstood the meaning of these verses (they had been taught wrong). They failed to understand the dual nature of Jesus, that He was "both" God and man (called the "hypostatic union"). In His humanity, Jesus would die, and His "temporal (earthly) kingdom" would end. This was prophesied in verses such as (Isa 53:5-12)(Dan 9:24-27). However, as God, His "eternal kingdom" would last "forever." The Jews apparently had made a "tradition" that if someone called themselves "the Messiah" (there were others before Jesus), and they later died, they could not be the Messiah.
(Verses 35-36) "the light" Jesus continues the constant pattern we have seen in the book of John of calling Himself "light" (also see: Jn 3:19-21, Jn 8:12, Jn 9:5).
Finally, let's close by reading (Jn 12:37-50).
(Verses 37-38) "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him." Despite Jesus' "many miracles," the Jews refused to believe in Him. (Verse 38) shares a verse from (Isa 53:1), telling us that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus was not the Messiah they expected.
(Verses 39-40) Verse 40 is taken from (Isa 6:10). Jesus mentions this verse in another place in conjunction with why He spoke in "parables" so often (Mt 13:10-17)(Mk 4:10-12)(Lk 8:9-10). (Paul also mentions this verse in Acts 28:26-27.) Looking at these verses shows us the likely explanation.
Jesus explained that this was to show "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 13:11) to those who believed in Him and were open to His message, but to conceal His message from those who rejected Him. (Mt 13:12-13) continues, "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. (13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."
What we need to realize is that when people are seeking the truth and light of Jesus Christ and His message, they will be given more of it (Heb 11:6)(Acts 17:26-27)(Jer 29:13)(Deut 4:29). However, if they reject the message of Jesus Christ, and are not seeking Him, they will be blind and without understanding. We can see this happening today as well. How often do we try and share our love of Jesus Christ and His message of salvation with others, only to be rejected and ridiculed? We want so much for others to find what we have found, but they are not open to it. Yet, at times, a person is seeking and open to the message of Jesus Christ and they come to understand and believe it, and as they are given more light and truth, they finally make a decision to trust in Jesus Christ and surrender their life to Him. The Bible says in (Rom 1:18-20) that the knowledge of God and His existence is manifest in all men because God has placed it in them. What we do with this knowledge determines our destiny.
(Verse 41)(NASB) "These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him." Ok, this verse is COOL, and ties to my obsession with Jesus in the Old Testament.
As we said above, verse 40 is taken from (Isa 6:10). This verse is part of a conversation that Isaiah had with God in (Isa 6:1-13). In (Isa 6:1) and (Isa 6:5), Isaiah recognized that he had personally "seen" God during this conversation. In verse 41, John tells us that the God who Isaiah spoke with, and whose "glory" he had seen was JESUS! This is yet another great proof that John gives us for the deity of Jesus. It is also another great example of Jesus appearing in the Old Testament!
***Note: Remember, that "no man hath seen the Father" (Jn 6:36)(Jn 1:18). So, when "God's glory" was seen in a number of other places in the Old Testament i.e. (Ex 16:6-10)(Ex 24:16-18)(Ex 33:18-23)(Ex 40:34-38)(Lev 9:22-24)(Num 14:10,22-24)(Num 16:19,42)(Num 20:6)(Deut 4:24-27)(1 Kin 8:10-13)(2 Chr 5:14)(2 Chr 7:1-3)(and numerous verses in Ezekiel) who was seen in these instances??
(Verses 42-43) "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but...did not confess Him" Their "belief" here does not sound like "belief" that saves, as we see in (verse 43). This should remind of Jesus' words in (Mt 10:32-33) "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. (33) But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."
We have seen other examples of this type of "belief" in John. Let's look back at a few: (Jn 2:23-25)(Jn 5:44)(Jn 6:60-66)(Jn 8:30-59).
(Verses 44-50) Does anything stand out to you in these last verses?