The Agora
Bible Commentary

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John 12

Joh 12:1

Interesting fact: 30% of gospel records are concerned with the last week of Christ's life.

SIX DAYS BEFORE THE PASSOVER: The 10th of Nisan, the day the Passover lamb was set aside (Exo 12:3). Mary "sets aside" Jesus, by anointing him (vv 3,7).

Joh 12:2

MARTHA SERVED: As in Luk 10:38-42.

LAZARUS WAS AMONG THOSE RECLINING AT THE TABLE WITH HIM: "It would have been a strange thing if Lazarus had not been at the table where Jesus was, for he had been dead, and Jesus had raised him. For the risen one to be absent when the Lord who gave him life was at his house, would have been ungrateful indeed. We too were once dead, yea, and like Lazarus stinking in the grave of sin; Jesus raised us, and by his life we live -- can we be content to live at a distance from him? Do we omit to remember him at his table, where he deigns to feast with his brethren? His least wish should be law to us. To have lived without constant intercourse with one of whom the Jews said, 'Behold how he loved him,' [John 11:36] would have been disgraceful to Lazarus; is it excusable in us whom Jesus has loved with an everlasting love? To have been cold to him who wept over his lifeless corpse, would have argued great brutishness in Lazarus. What does it argue in us over whom the Saviour has not only wept, but bled?" (CHS).

Joh 12:3

Mary at Jesus' feet: to hear (Luk 10:39), to weep (Joh 11:32), and to worship (Joh 12:3).

See Lesson, Mary, "three women".

PURE NARD: "Pistikos", or genuine, nard: from rt "pistis", or faith. Literally, the "ointment of faith"!

SHE POURED IT ON JESUS' FEET: She anointed his feet instead of washing them (in ct Christ's actions toward the apostles in Joh 13:5). Christ's walk had no need of cleansing, but only of sanctifying.

AND THE HOUSE WAS FILLED WITH THE FRAGRANCE OF THE PERFUME: "Your name is like perfume poured out" (Song 1:3,12). She anoints Christ for his "burial" (v 7), but also for his resurrection (Psa 45:6-8,11). Cp Exo 30:25; Phi 4:18; 1Ki 8:10,11. Mary sees the dead made alive (her brother of Lazarus: Joh 11), yet is still persuaded that Christ will die. She understands the resurrection!

Joh 12:4

Is Judas Iscariot related to Simon (WGos 250)?

Joh 12:5

IT WAS WORTH...: Judas knew the EXACT value!

"There are many acts of homage that seem to have little practical value, yet they are fragrant, and Jesus understands the loving devotion from which they spring. Sometimes they are criticized because they are intangible; occasionally less worthy motives lie behind the depreciation. No one but Jesus had any right to assess the value of Mary's action. Judas entering into this sacred intimacy was guilty of gross sacrilege. It is a scene which can be re-enacted and contains a lesson that we must all learn. It is fatally easy to pass harsh judgments upon tender expressions of love which we fail to understand" (MP 293).

Joh 12:6

NOT... BECAUSE HE CARED ABOUT THE POOR: Like the hirelings in Joh 10:13.

Joh 12:7

KJV has: "Against the day of my burying hath she KEPT this." "Kept" is sw used for KEEPING commandments (Joh 8:51,55; 9:16; 14:21-24), ie the passover.

Joh 12:8

Cp Deu 15:11.

"We may be sure that the ears of Jesus were never closed to human need, but poverty cannot be eliminated in the days when mortals earn their bread by 'sweat of face.' The giving of alms affords some relief, but on occasion may do harm; indiscriminate giving on a large scale has been known to demoralize a district; in any case it provides no permanent cure for the problem of poverty. There are times when great issues demand all the resources, with which even the claims of poor and needy may not interfere. Such an occasion produced the loving gift of Mary. Only then had she the opportunity to anoint the Lord; and the opportunity knew no return" (CJo 134).

It has been said: "Since Jesus said, 'The poor you have with you always' (Joh 12:8), and we cannot change the world, why should we bother trying?". But Jesus did not say, "Forget the poor because they are always there." He said, in effect, "You will always have opportunities to help the poor." When Jesus was present, his followers lavished gifts upon him, and they did well. But now that he is absent, we may forget that we can give gifts to Jesus just as well by helping his poor brethren. Who would ignore the needs of the Master? But now he sits at the right hand of God, and he no longer needs the cup of cold water, the food, the clothing. But someone else -- who bears his holy name, or might -- does!

Joh 12:10

SO THE CHIEF PRIESTS MADE PLANS TO KILL LAZARUS AS WELL: What extraordinary heights of futility! They plan to kill a man whom Jesus has just raised from the dead! As if he could not bring him back to life again... and again! If they had no better choice of action than this, perhaps they should reconsider their whole philosophy! But what choice did they have? Lazarus was "living proof" of the power of Jesus -- and they simply could not accept him. Thus, as in the parable (Luk 16:28-31), "Send him to my father's house... If one went to them from the dead, they would repent... No, if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one rises from the dead!"

Joh 12:12

ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM: "A dress-rehearsal for the kingdom".

Joh 12:13

From Psa 118:19-26: a familiar psalm sung at Passover and Pentecost, including: "open the gates... rejected stone... blessed is he that comes... bind sacrifice to the horns of the altar..." (Quoted by Christ himself as applicable to the Messiah: Mat 21:42.)

HOSANNA: "Save, pray", from Psa 118:25: "Save, now, we beseech thee, O Lord."

Joh 12:14

JESUS FOUND A YOUNG DONKEY AND SAT UPON IT: "An unusual sympathy between rider and mount for an unbroken colt to walk quietly in the midst of a shouting crowd" (SMk 152).

Joh 12:15

DO NOT BE AFRAID: See Zep 3:14,16.

COLT: Colt of an ass, humble -- used by kings rather than the horse. Peaceful burden-bearer. The young donkey (spiritual Israel) is ridden by Christ; the "mother" (natural Israel) follows along (see Zec 9:9n).

Joh 12:16

See VL, Disciples, slow comprehension.

Joh 12:19

THE WHOLE WORLD: "Kosmos" = arrangement of things. Sig "the common people" (Mar 12:37). But see v 20: Gentiles there also.

Joh 12:20

Vv 20-22: See VL: Disciples, awe of Jesus.

GREEKS: Gentiles come at birth and then at death. In ct Jewish leaders, who reject.

Joh 12:21

WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE JESUS: "(The worldling) seeks satisfaction in earthly comforts, enjoyments, and riches. But the quickened sinner knows of only one good. 'O that I knew where I might find HIM!' When he is truly awakened to feel his guilt, if you could pour the gold of India at his feet, he would say, 'Take it away: I want to find HIM.' It is a blessed thing for a man, when he has brought his desires into a focus, so that they all centre in one object. When he has fifty different desires, his heart resembles a swamp of stagnant water, spread out into a marsh, breeding miasma and pestilence; but when all his desires are brought into one channel, his heart becomes like a river of pure water, running swiftly to fertilize the fields. Happy is he who hath one desire, if that one desire be set on Christ, though it may not yet have been realized... Such a man will never be content with mere ordinances. He will say, 'I want Christ; I must have him -- mere ordinances are of no use to me; I want him; do not offer me these; you offer me the empty pitcher, while I am dying of thirst; give me water, or I die. Jesus is my soul's desire. I would see Jesus!' " (CHS).

Joh 12:22

Andrew, like his brother of Peter, is instrumental in bringing Gentiles to Christ.

Joh 12:23

THE HOUR HAS COME FOR THE SON OF MAN TO BE GLORIFIED: Christ could not be glorified by the Gentiles until he had laid down his life.

Poss, the disciples thought Jesus was about to set up his kingdom, and declare himself as king; they arrived wondering what places they might have. They went into the room seeing themselves as lords, not as servants but as lords! They even argued with each other during the meal about who would be the greatest amongst them (Luk 22:24).

Joh 12:24

// Psa 126:5,6; 1Co 15:36.

Joh 12:25

HATES: In the sense of "is prepared to abandon".

Joh 12:26

WHERE I AM: At this very moment, Christ was (prob) in Gethsemane (cp Joh 18:2).

MY FATHER WILL HONOR THE ONE WHO SERVES ME: Cp God's words to Eli (1Sa 2:30).

Joh 12:27

MY HEART IS TROUBLED: At the thought of his suffering and death.

Joh 12:29

THUNDERED: Thunder as voice of God: Exo 19:18,19; 20:18; Psa 81:7; 18:13; 29:3; Isa 29:6.

Joh 12:30

THIS VOICE WAS FOR YOUR BENEFIT, NOT MINE: The voice/thunder was audible to the bystanders. More usually, apparently, God spoke to His Son with nothing being heard by others.

Joh 12:31

THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD: Ref religious leaders of Israel -- "archon" in Joh 3:1; 7:26,48; 12:31,42; 14:30; 16:11 -- whose offices would be effectively ended by the sacrifice/resurrection of Christ (Joh 12:32). Cp Joh 14:30; 16:11.

DRIVEN OUT: "Ekballo" = cast out; thrown out, ie, of power and position. Within one generation after the death and resur of Christ, the Jewish "prince" (the High Priest, and his temple!) would be no more! (This is, of course, the primary message of Hebrews.) For that matter, the DAY after his resurrection, the "prince" would be, effectively, nullified.

Joh 12:32

WHEN I AM LIFTED UP: The message to Nicodemus (Joh 3:13) all over again. See v 42 here.

WILL DRAW ALL MEN TO MYSELF: Lifting up a banner or sign is understandable. But here the lifting up was crucifixion! Naturally speaking, this was the least likely thing to draw men. All men, and Jews esp, would be totally repulsed by the spectacle of a crucified Messiah (1Co 1:23-29). Yet, as Christ said, it would be so!

ALL MEN: That is, all kinds (classes, or races) of men. Examples of "all" prob meaning "without distinction" rather than "without exception": Joh 1:7,9; 3:26; 5:28; 8:2; 13:35; Rom 10:13; 1Ti 2:1,2; 4:15; 5:20; 6:17; Heb 2:9.

In the context here, "all men" thus sig Gentiles (v 20) as well as Jews.

Joh 12:33

TO SHOW: To "signify", or to show by sign or type (Joh 3:14).

Joh 12:34

SO HOW CAN YOU SAY, 'THE SON OF MAN MUST BE LIFTED UP'?: A crucified Messiah was not at all the kind of leader they were looking for!

Joh 12:35

THE LIGHT: Christ, the light of the world (Joh 8:12).

OVERTAKES: "Katalambano" = to take hold of, to overcome (as in Joh 1:5; cp v 48).

Joh 12:36

// 1Th 5:5; Eph 5:8; Luk 16:8.

Joh 12:40

HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND DEADENED THEIR HEARTS: The punishment of willful continuance in sin: Rom 1:28; 2Th 2:11.

Hard-heartedness is first seen in Pharaoh (Exo 4:21; 7:3,13; 8:15,32; 9:12,34; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8). So when this description is used of anyone in Israel, it is very pointed: 'You are being like the oppressing Egyptians from whom I have delivered you!' Cp Deu 15:7; 2Ch 36:13; Psa 95:8; Isa 63:17; Mark 10:5; 16:14; John 12:40; Rom 2:5.

Joh 12:42

BECAUSE OF THE PHARISEES THEY WOULD NOT CONFESS THEIR FAITH: Men like Nicodemus (Joh 3:10; 7:50-52) and Joseph of Arimathea, still beset by doubts and misgivings, believe, but cannot "obey" as yet.

Joh 12:44

NOT... BUT: That is, "not only... but also..."

Joh 12:45

ME... THE ONE WHO SENT ME: God manifestation: 1Ti 3:16.

Joh 12:46

I AM COME... AS A LIGHT: The Shekinah glory of the temple, as in Isa 6 (v 41 here).

LIGHT: The basis of responsibility: Psa 119:30; Heb 2:2,3; cp Joh 3:19. See Lesson, Resurrectional responsibility proofs.

Joh 12:47

I DO NOT JUDGE HIM: It is not Jesus' personal prerogative or power to judge, but God's power which has been committed to him: v 49; Joh 8:15,16; 5:30.

Joh 12:48

THE WORD: Christ IS the "Word of God": Joh 1:1; 1Jo 1:1; Luk 1:2; Rev 19:13; 6:9; 1Pe 1:23,25; Heb 4:12.

THE LAST DAY: What is ''the last day"? Does it mean some day, long since past when, in a national sense, the Jews were punished for their (unenlightened?) rejection of Christ? (But how then explain "he" and "him" of v 48, instead of "they" and "them"?) It is far more reasonable to take a look at the other instances of the identical Greek phrase in John: "the last day". It almost invariably means the day of resurrectional judgment: (a) John 6:39,40,44,54: Those who truly and fully believe will he raised up to eternal life "at the last day". (b) John 7:37: "The last day" here is limited and defined by the immediate context -- it is the last day of the feast. (c) John 11:24: "The last day" of resurrection. So in five of the other six occurrences, "the last day" means unambiguously the "day" of resurrection and judgment, while in the sixth instance it is rigidly limited by the context. So which is it in John 12:48?

These words are addressed at the Pharisees who believed (v 42), but did nothing about it! They are the living examples of "enlightened rejecters".

The fall of Jerusalem was 35-40 years later. Many of these who hear Christ's words would have died by them (cp Eze 18:20,30). A national judgment, while in the scope of God's plan, is not on personal merits (Mat 23:32-36).

It has been asked, "How can this verse be about an 'enlightened rejecter'? Can one be enlightened and yet receive not Jesus' words?" The answer is "Yes". There are different degrees of reception of Christ's words. A Sunday School scholar may passively receive instruction in the Truth for years, then finally reach maturity and "reject" what he formerly "received". A person may even "receive" the Truth so far as to be baptized, and then later "reject" the gospel and all it stands for. In fact, it may be argued that since Christ uses the word "reject" in verse 48, he necessarily implies an initial acceptance, or understanding, to some degree at least. We would not generally say, "A rejected our dinner invitation' unless he: (a) received it, either verbally or in writing, (b) understood it, and finally, (c) refused to act upon it. If the postman had delivered our note to the wrong address, then it would not be fair to say Mr A rejected it. If it in fact came to A's house but was written in unintelligible Latin, it still would not be fair to say he rejected it. But if it were written in his native tongue, if it came to his house, if indeed he opened it, read it, understood what it said, and then set it aside.... Yes, that is "receiving" in one sense -- but not in the most important sense. In the most important sense he "received it not" -- ie its desired effect of stirring up action was not achieved; he willfully and knowingly "rejected" it! To get into the tangle of contending that "to receive it not" must mean "never to know" suggests that there must be no better arguments for the special interpretation of John 12:48.

Joh 12:49

THE FATHER WHO SENT ME COMMANDED ME WHAT TO SAY AND HOW TO SAY IT: Christ spoke as he was instructed by the Father: Joh 7:16; 15:15; Heb 1:1,2; 2:3.

Joh 12:50

HIS COMMAND LEADS TO ETERNAL LIFE: God's command, accepted, leads to eternal life. Therefore, His command, rejected, can lead only to eternal death!

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