112- Gospel of John Chapter 12
Jesus remained in Ephraim until time for the Passover. The Jewish people in Jerusalem were interested in whether Jesus would attend the Passover Feast. The Jewish leadership had come to the decision that Jesus must die and had given instruction that if sighted it must be reported to them. The people were wondering then if Jesus would dare come to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem were surly He would be arrested and killed.
Six days before the Passover Jesus returned to Bethany to the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Mary is presented to us in three memorable accounts in which each one of them she is at the feet of Jesus. In the first account she is seated at His feet listening to His word. In the second account she has fallen at His feet seeking sympathy for the death of her brother Lazarus. In this final account of Mary she is at the feet of Jesus anointing His feet to express her devoted love.
All four Gospels give an account of the anointing of Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment by a woman. (Mat 26:6-13 Mark 14:3-9 Luke 7:36-50) There are differing accounts of this story between the Gospels as to where and when this event happened. Matthew and Mark record the event in Bethany and Luke places it at the home of Simon the Leper. It is implied in John as the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany as it was Martha who prepared the meal and Lazarus was said to be reclining at the table with Jesus. Matthew and Mark also say the anointing was on the head of Jesus as though to anoint a king. John and Luke say the anointing was on the feet of Jesus. Only in John is the woman who anointed Jesus was identified as Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus.
The way that Martha expresses her love and respect for Jesus is in the preparation of the meal. Mary is at the feet of Jesus and pours a precious flask of perfume upon the feet of Jesus. The anointing of Jesus’ feet is similar to a servant washing the feet of a guest. Mary also wiped away the excess perfume with her hair, showing further humility. Jewish women of good reputation did not allow their hair to hang loose. This was a display of her devotion to the Christ and her humility before Him that she would anoint the humblest part of His body, the feet, and wipe them with the most glorious part of her body, her hair.
No all present at the meal saw the actions of Mary as a devotion to the Lord and Savior. Judas Iscariot protested the action with this account recorded by John, “But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” The greed and hypocrisy of Judas stand out against the devotion of Mary. Often people refuse to spend money on evangelistic and missionary work on the argument that the money is better spent on charity. Of course we have a responsibility to the poor of this world but Jesus rebuked Judas. “Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.”For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” ( Deu 15:11) True gifts to the poor are given in the name of Jesus, for the sake of Jesus, and to win souls to Jesus. Social service apart from Christianity may spend the treasure of Mary according to the direction of Judas.
News of Jesus in Bethany reached Jerusalem and great crowds of people came to see Jesus. They came to see the One who raised Lazarus from the dead. The chief priests were Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. Lazarus being alive was very embarrassing to them. The decision was then made that not only Jesus would have to be put to death but also Lazarus. The presence of Lazarus would lend credence to the power of Jesus and therefore increased His popularity. Already many of the Jewish people were expressing belief in Him because of Lazarus as proof of His power.
On the next day, after Jesus’ meal at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, Jesus enters the Holy City of Jerusalem in which a large crowd had turned out to greet Him. John in his Gospel had produced many witnesses to the Messiahship of Jesus but none more picturesque than the multitudes that pay their homage to Jesus as He enters the holy city. Many features of this scene as reported by the other Gospels are omitted but John’s account gives more clearly the testimony of the festal throng to their belief in the person of Jesus, the predicted Messiah. The people show their faith in symbol and song by waving palm branches. The emblems of beauty and triumph and joy as they cry “Hosanna: blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” This was a usage of a Psalm which all the Jews regarded as a prophecy of the coming Messiah. (Psalms 118:26) Jesus fulfills to minute detail the prophecy relating to the coming Messiah, as He enters the city riding upon a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9) This was the final and most open offer of Himself to the nation as their King.
His mother and brethren had impatiently waited for this hour to come, His royal manifestation to the nation of Israel. This grand reception by the Jewish people would soon be followed by another hour that Jesus knew was coming, the hour of His rejection and death and the hour of His resurrection and exaltation.
John closes this scene on a point about the faith of the Jewish people. John states that their belief was in large part because of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. John also notes the rising popularity of Jesus upsets His enemies, the rulers, all the more. Because of this soon the council of Caiaphas will meet again and plan the death of Jesus.
Of all the memorable events of the Passion Week only one is chosen by John. It is recorded by no other Gospel writer but it is directly in accordance with the purpose of John’s Gospel. Certain Greeks had requested an interview with Jesus. These could have been God Fearing believers in God, or they could have been proselytes who had been converted to the Jewish faith. It is also possible that they were Gentiles who were in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover and were attracted to Jesus. Being called Greeks simply meant that they were not Jews.
Why they came to Phillip with their request to interview Jesus is not clear. Phillip is a Greek name and he was from Bethsaida which is a rather Gentile city outside of Galilee. Phillip went and sought the help of Andrew. It is recorded that Andrew was in the habit of introducing people to Jesus. Andrew too is a Greek name. Andrew and Phillip went together with the request of the Greeks.
Their request following the devotion of Mary, and the Hosannas of the multitudes, is proof of the love and faith and interest aroused by the public ministry of Jesus. There is no indication that Jesus addressed the Greeks who had wanted to see Him. When Jesus began to speak is was in general terms probably addressed to Phillip and Andrew along with the Greeks who had come with them and all others within earshot. In Jesus’ reply He emphasizes the supreme character of the hour which had now come.
Jesus responded with this statement, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” It is in Jesus’ death that He is to be revealed as the Savior of the world. The Greeks did not need to hear His words or see His signs; His death was what they needed to witness. His cross would be the divine power which would draw the multitudes of the Gentile world unto Him.
Jesus uses a grain of wheat to illustrate the need for His death on the cross. A grain of wheat must be buried in the ground and its outer covering must decay. It must perish as a grain before it can produce a multitude of grains like itself. Jesus applies this principle to Him, this great law of life through death, of service and influence through self-sacrifice, and states that if He sought selfishly to avoid the cross; He would forfeit the Father’s purpose and will for His life here in the world. By yielding His life Jesus would secure and bestow blessings that are eternal. This same law applies to the disciples of Jesus.
In contrast to the Greek ideal of self gratification the followers of Jesus must walk a path of self denial, not first for the sake of others, but for the sake of Jesus Christ. The result will be an abundant life, an abiding fellowship with Jesus, and the divine approval of the Father.
Turning from the crisis that confronts the believer in a willingness to submit to death for Christ, Jesus expresses His own crisis. Jesus’ struggle with the acceptance of His mission of death for others is now exposed. This identification of our Savior that any human undergoes in finding and accepting the will of God shows the reality of the incarnation. As it is difficult for the believer to take up the cross with Jesus so it was also difficult for Jesus to accept His own death. “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” In the same breath which Jesus struggled to be freed from that which He had come, He also expressed compliance with the will of God. It was His purpose and the will of God to come into the world and bring redemption to humankind. That Jesus would do no matter the personal cost.
“Father, glorify Your name.” Praise should come to the Father in the act of an obedient Son. In response to Jesus’ request came a voice from Heaven saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The past and the future are brought together in this response. The Father had been glorified in the past by His true character being expressed by the acts of Jesus. In the future His character and will would be made known through Christ to His praise.
The people were not sure what to make of the sound coming from Heaven. What they heard they were not able to understand. Some felt the sound was that of thunder. Others thought that is was the voice of Angels. Jesus already knew that the Father approved of His ministry. The voice came to encourage and inform the people. Any of them who would hear and heed the voice would know that the act of Jesus in self-sacrifice was authenticated by the Father.
By Jesus’ death and resurrection judgment of the world had not come. The world would be judged by the acceptance or rejection of Jesus. The ruler of this world, Satan, would be defeated by this event. Satan’s power, the power of death, would be forever destroyed by the resurrection of Jesus. The source of the power over death would be the cross of Jesus. The lifting of Christ has no reference to preaching. Jesus was to be lifted up not by testimony or by imitating His life but by His death.
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” The cross today is still the supreme moral magnet of the world. It is not the teachings of Jesus, or His example unrelated to His death, but His cross that is attracting multitudes and making them willing, as devoted followers, to take up the cross and come after Him.
The people were puzzled by His prediction of death. They had been looking from a Messiah that would assume political power and free them for the control of the Romans. They did not understand the prior need for His death. Men are still troubled by the truth of a crucified Savior. It is natural for man to shrink from the suffering involved in the complete surrender of self. Pain and sacrifice is not pleasing and death is no delight. In spite of all that is to be won Jesus trembles at the sight of the cross. Jesus knows its necessity but He is not blind to its anguish. “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour?” As in the Garden of Gethsemane there is all the agony in His bitter cry, and in the words that follow all its victory too. “But for this purpose I came to this hour.”
Jesus then gives one final warning and promise. “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” Jesus Himself is “the Light of the world.” Whatever the mystery of Jesus, His person and work, we must believe Him, follow Him, commit ourselves to Him, otherwise we shall be like men stumbling along in a pathless night. Our Faith in Jesus will transform us more and more in to His Christ like image.
John now looks back over the ministry of Jesus; he aims to emphasize the causes and the consequences of Jewish unbelief. John employs the word of the prophet Isaiah. In quoting Isaiah John identifies Jesus as the same divine being whom Isaiah saw in his vision. (Isaiah 53:1 Isaiah 6:10) This same identity with God Jesus claimed for Himself with His own lips.
John refers the signs of Jesus as sufficient to produce faith in Him. In the light of such signs unbelief was sinful, but how could it be explained? The Jewish people’s spiritual blindness and moral cowardice were the cause of their unbelief. One is the nature of judicial blindness. The Jews would not believe so a time came, as it always does, when they could not believe. As it was in the days of Isaiah it was also in the days of Jesus.
Their hearts were not right; they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God. Some of the Jewish leaders believed in Jesus but they were afraid of the Pharisees and therefore did not openly confess their belief in Jesus. No one can ever hope to see the truth if they are not willing to accept the consequences of that truth. A continued unwillingness to believe will result in the degeneration of the faculty of faith crippling the ability to believe. At the close of Jesus’ public ministry John provides a summary of Jesus’ teachings to emphasize the consequences of unbelief. Jesus claimed to be a personal manifestation of God, and to have proclaimed the very will of God. Therefore by rejecting Jesus is to reject God. Jesus refrained from judging men during His earthly ministry but by their refusal to believe on Him men were judging themselves. In the last day men would be convicted by the words that Jesus had spoken. No one who rejects Jesus can hope to be accepted by God.
Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, 1 Corinthians 11:15, Zechariah 9:9, Psalms 118:26, Isaiah 53:1, Isaiah 6:10