Gospel of John #15 – John 12

John 12 – From Adoration to Crisis

The four sections of John 12 which we will study below remind us of the “roller coaster ride” the disciples have had for the last three years while walking along with Jesus crisscrossing the land of Israel proclaiming the good news of the Messiah.  From that first amazing introduction to the Savior on the  shore of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee all the way to the raising of Lazarus, Jesus has been revealing the good news of Redemption to a needy world.  While thousands believed and followed Him as He moved about the land, the world was generally skeptical and antagonistic to His speaking as God.  Most could not get past His humanity to believe He was actually God, an “exact representation” of the Father (Heb. 1:3).  Much less did they grasp that He was the Suffering Servant Messiah (Isa. 53:1-7) Who would give His life in order to give us Redemption.  So when He started talking about being given over to the authorities and put up on a Roman cross, most people had no ability to connect the dots.  If they were receptive to Him at all, they wanted Him to deliver Israel from Roman domination and be their King – not surrender and die on the Cross!

John 11 took us to a climax as we hear Jesus speak of Himself as the “Resurrection and the Life”.   Two precious followers, Mary & Martha, have had their heart stretched as they sought to trust the Savior while their brother Lazarus lay in a tomb.   Jesus used this tragedy to be transformed into a glorious declaration of what He was to accomplish in the next few days. Jesus’ public revelation of Himself as Messiah is completed. But the sizzling headlines of what happened with Lazarus threw the Jewish leaders and the Sanhedrin Council into high gear.  As Jesus continues to demonstrate His deity and minister to His disciples’ faith, He points to His destiny of the Cross and Resurrection.  As the animosity against Him rises to a fever pitch leading to blatant conspiracy for His death, John 12 becomes the bridge that takes us into the final week of Jesus’ earthly life beginning in John 13.

Note that John 12 is the final report from John regarding Jesus’ “public” ministry.  In addition to the dramatic Triumphal Entry, Jesus also taught in an elegant sermon that His “hour has come.”  Also note His final public compassionate plea in Jn. 12:45 to believe in Him, the Light of the world.

John 12:1-11 – The Sweet Aroma of Love – Still Worshipping

It is important to see that this major chapter follows the great miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus.  It begins with a dramatic confrontation of  and greed, then rises up to the victorious Jesus’ Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem.  In the midst of great emotion, Mary bows in deep worship of her Savior.  A lesson we all should learn.

What is different about this chapter?

    • This unique period of time, the day after Lazarus was raised from his grave, is bursting with meaning.  John 12 is the end of John’s record of Jesus’ “public” ministry when He was standing before the crowds proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.  He will spend the next days, the last week before the Cross, in private ministry with His Disciples.

Where are they?

    • They were in Bethany, northern Judea, only a couple of miles from Jerusalem itself.  Lu 9:51, this is a major shift in Jesus’ ministry, no more going to Galilee, this is literally the beginning of the end.  The Disciples had repeated tried to keep Jesus from forcing His own arrest and death, but He was not to be kept from His mission.
    • They were in the home of Simon the leper who was healed by Jesus (Matt.26:6; Mk. 14:3).  No doubt they were in some way celebrating being able to have Lazarus with them alive, along with Mary & Martha , and their close friend Jesus.
      • The memory of that earth-shaking event with Lazarus is still fresh in peoples’ minds.  Crowds are still milling around wanting to see the miracle Lazarus.

Who is Mary?

    • The Mary here is that “of Bethany” – not the woman of Lu. 7 who also anointed Jesus with perfume. This is the Mary that sat at the feet of Jesus in John 11.
      • There are possibly five Mary’s appearing in the Gospel narrative:
        • Mary the Mother of Jesus
        • Mary Magdalene, delivered from demons, first to see risen Lord
        • Mary of Bethany, sister to Lazarus, interestingly not at Cross or Tomb
        • Mary mother of James the Lesser (not Jesus’ brother), with Jesus’ mother at crucifixion and burial
        • Mary mother of John Mark who wrote the Gospel and went on missions trips with Paul and Barnabas
    • Where did she get that expensive ointment?  Although only about 12-14 ounces, the aromatic spikenard was expensive, worth about a year’s common wages.  It was customarily used to anoint the body before burial, so perhaps it had been used for Lazarus’ funeral?
    • Mary had no regard for herself, her focus was on Jesus.  She poured the ointment on His head then went down to His feet and wiped them with her unbound hair.  Perhaps she was thinking “if He is the King of Kings could there be any extravagance too much for the Savior?”  This was a dramatic and sacrificial expression of worship.  Reflect on the comparison of this anointing to Jesus washing the Disciples’ feet in Jn. 13.  Jesus said to let her alone then speaks of the importance of what Mary did.  He says it was “kept for my burial” referring to her using an ointment often reserved for burial but also pointing to the burial yet to come of Jesus, perhaps reserving a bit of the ointment for His burial.  The pervasive aroma filling the room, reminding us of how our lives should be a sweet aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14-17) to those around us.  Criticism of the act from Judas was abrupt, brazen and extensive, and it was even echoed by the other Disciples (Matthew & Mark don’t even comment that Judas started the complaint).
    • Mary’s worship of the Lord Jesus:  She portrays genuine Christian worship at its best –  humble, sacrificial, spontaneous, voluntary, selfless.  ‘Worship” = “worth-ship”, bestowing and declaring the higher worth of the one worshiped. – who merits worth more?  Mary took what she had and gave it to the One more worthy.  We may be hesitant to give our all to the Lord, but God chose to give sacrificially in His Son in order to provide us with salvation.

Why was Judas upset? 

    • Judas was already lost to the cause of Christ.  Verse 6 says he had already been stealing money from the Disciples funds needed for their provisions.  Satan had his heart, after this outburst (Matt. 26:14), he was ready to make a deal with the Jewish leaders to lead them to Jesus to arrest Him.  He was manipulative and self-serving.  So with the ointment’s fragrance filling the room, Judas “caused a stink”.
    • He conspired from the beginning to get his hands on the money for his own benefit.
    • Jn. 12:9-11 describes the “fallout” of Judas’ action.  Many visitors were streaming into the area because of Lazarus’  resurrection.  The notoriety was a distraction but Judas’ plot continues to develop.   Judas is now in touch with the leaders,  but many Jews are still choosing to believe in Jesus.  It is amazing that even with all the evidence and testimony, the Jewish leaders still planned to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus.  Their opposition reaches back to John 5.  The more legitimate evidence surfaced about Jesus, the more desperate they became to be rid of Him.

Bible Study Journal

    1. See Matt. 26 & Mk. 14 for their accounts of this event.
    2. Why did Mary do this extravagant gesture?
    3. What motive was behind Judas’ proposal (Jn. 12:5)?
    4. What is the meaning of Jesus’ answer (Jn. 12:7-8)?
    5. Compare the resolve Jesus had to get to Jerusalem to finish His mission (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23).

John 12:9-19 –  The Triumphant Entry – Still Exalting

  • From a quiet dinner in Bethany (well, it did get a bit exciting) we go to a noisy procession in Jerusalem.
  • 12:12, ”the next day” refers to Sunday, the first day of Passover week, and the last day of this week, Jesus will be crucified, before Sabbath
    • The “JLs” (the unbelieving Jewish leaders) are doing everything they can to avoid Jesus being killed on Sabbath
    • Jesus’ celebratory entry on “Palm Sunday” is unique, the only such public demonstration He allowed.
  • 12:13 – “Hosanna”, the word is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase meaning to “give salvation now”, it is used in the Tabernacle feasts (see the Hallel Psalms (Psa. 113-118)
    • “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”  This is a phrase understood by Jews of that day to be referring to the Messiah.
  • 12:15, The donkey – John just mentions it, but the Synoptics tell more background of how it was acquired.
    • This verse quotes Zech. 9:9, a Messianic passage – see 9:16 especially.
  • 12:16 – “Then they remembered” – the picture starts getting a little more clear to the Disciples.  John gives one of his mini-commentaries in John 2:22, “…when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered…”.
    • So now 2100 years later, how are we doing – are we “getting the picture” any more clearly?
    • The Disciples, along with many other Jews, believed He was “in fact” the Messiah – but many had not grasped the fulness of His nature as Son of God and Messiah.
  • 12:19 – the “whole world” has gone after Him – perhaps overstatement, but the point stands: what a great observation of God’s great message of Redemption prevailing above the frantic wailings of the heathen.
    • Recall Caiaphas’ unintentional prophecy in Jn. 11:50, saying in the Sanhedrin that perhaps it is “expedient” for one man to die for the people.  If only he knew…

12:20-36 – We Would See Jesus – Still Seeking

  • 12:20-22: John gives us a brief insight of some who probably saw the Triumphal Entry and wanted to know more.  Only John mentions this incident, likely sensing the significance of Jesus’ expression of internal spirit. In the midst of the crowd, this little group of Gentiles (Jewish proselytes?) wanted to see Jesus and hear the Truth.  They may have recognized Philip (the “evangelist” in Acts 8) so he and Andrew let Jesus know of the request.  They seek to see Jesus when the Jewish leaders are scheming to kill Him.  After this little scene occurs, the Greeks are never heard from again.
  • 23-26: Jesus’ response supersedes the need for the inquirers to hear directly from Jesus.
    • Jesus declares that His “hour” has come, so follow Him.  What is “His hour”?  His death, resurrection and glorification (Jn. 2:4; 4:21, 23; 7:30; 8:20).  So, now there is the transition from 8:20, no more “not yet” – John captures three of the four times Jesus specifically says His hour has come – Jn. 12:23; 16:21; 17:1 (Mk. 14:41 is the fourth, in the Garden with the sleeping disciples).
    • Jesus makes a final declaration of true discipleship – he who loves his life will lose it.
  • 27-29: Jesus is in close communion with His Father – “Father glorify Your name.”  This is the third of three times God speaks audibly during Jesus’ ministry on earth – Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration.  Only John reports this third occurrence.
    • 29: witness to the Voice – these people are a historical fact, as are all the other thousands who were impacted personally by the Savior during His earthly ministry
  • 30-33: The time is up, judgment of the world and Satan is set

Bible Study Journal
In verse 31,  the ruler of this world is Satan.  Look up: Jn. 14:30; 16:11; Matt. 4:8-9; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 6:12 – note the information you get from these verses about Satan.


    • Jesus will be “lifted up” (see John 3:14). He is focused on “drawing all to Himself” (look at Romans 5:18), to offer to all mankind the free gift of salvation which every person can choose to obtain by faith in God to provide it.

  • 34:  The crowd knew what Jesus was referring to.  Recall Him referring to being lifted up while talking with Nicodemus (John 3:14); this punishment on the Cross was considered by society to be the most despicable death, reserved for those who were the worst of humanity.  They knew Who He was referring to by saying Son of Man, a parallel reference to the Messiah in the OT.
  • 35-36: Jesus gives a final warning, they need to believe while that have the Light with them – it is a foreboding thing to be overtaken by darkness.  This can still be a serious warning today – many lost souls have opportunity to hear the Gospel explained, and they often turn away, choosing the darkness of the world instead.  I’m reminded of a wonderful song that has often been sung at evangelistic crusades, “The Savior Is Waiting”…
The Savior is waiting to enter your heart,
Why don’t you let Him come in?
There’s nothing in this world to keep you apart,
What is your answer to Him?
Time after time He has waited before
And now He is waiting again
To see if you’re willing to open the door,
Oh how He wants to come in!

 


12:37-50 – While You Have the Light – Still Believing

    • These verses seem to be commentary provided by John as we move to conclude this chapter and go to the Upper Room.
      • 37-41: So many signs, so much unbelief – Isaiah was right in declaring that the peoples’ eyes had been blinded, their hearts hardened.
      • John quotes from Isaiah to underscore the catastrophic unbelief of the Jews – Isaiah 53, notably the suffering servant passage, and then from Isaiah 6, noting the sovereign plan of God in these developments.
      • 42-43:  The good news is that there are some who did believe, many even from Jewish Leaders, although their belief was hidden because of the fear of reprisal.  Note however the recognition of failed spiritual leadership – the Jewish leaders refused to let go of their personal interests.
    • 44:  Jesus “cried out”, a heart rending outburst.  This phrase the is used 9x by John, and it serves to indicate the emotion John allows to show in his Gospel, starting with John the Baptist’s declaration (1:15), then four times by Jesus (7:28, 37; 11:43; 12:44), then four times by the hostile crowd (18:40; 19:6, 12, 15).
      • This crying out is the last public declaration by Jesus as recording by John.  An open invitation to believe from the Savior Himself!
      • This is an extended invitation, seven verses of concentrated expounding of Jesus’ message, spoken almost like an attorney’s closing argument.  He states one final time that He is the light of the world (note that is how John began his Gospel).  The contrast is clear: belief in Him, the Light, or belief in the world and its darkness.
      • We are also reminded that Jesus has been committed from the beginning to be faithful to His Father’s plan.  If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father.
      • Jesus knew the tomb would give way to the Light.