John Chapter 12:1-11

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The Gospel Of John Chapter 12:1-11

I. Outline: I. Jesus Is Anointed: 12:1-11 II. Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem: 12:12-19 III. Greeks Desire To See Jesus: 12:20-22 IV. The Magnetic Cross: 12:23-33 V. The Spiritual Blindness Of The People: 12:24-43 VI. Pointed Claims: 12:44-50

II. Introductory Comments: At the end of the previous chapter, Jewish pilgrims are starting to arrive in Jerusalem for the Passover (11:55). These are early arrivals. The events of John 12:1ff are almost a whole week before the actual Feast. Between John 11:54 and 12:1 various events took place which the other Gospel accounts mention: Jesus heals ten lepers (Luke 17:11-37); the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8); the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14); teaching on marriage and divorce (Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12); blessing the little children (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17); the encounter with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-20:16; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30); warning His disciples about His impending death, and rebuking them for their selfish ambitions (Matthew 20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45; Luke 18:31-34); the healing of Bartimaeus (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43); the encounter with Zacchaeus in Jericho (Luke 19:1-28). Foster notes, ‘All roads always led to Jerusalem at the Passover. But this Passover was different. All roads now possessed a mysterious compulsion which drew to the capital excited, expectant multitudes (John 11:55,56). Would He come? Would He dare to come? Who could prevent Him? Who could withstand Him?…If only He would declare Himself and use His miraculous power to destroy His enemies. What a day of glory that would be! But, if not—what then? The storm clouds were menacing. The tension of the suppressed excitement was fast approaching the inevitable point of explosion. Verily, this thing was not done in a corner.’ (p. 1067)


III. Commentary: John 12:1 ‘Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.’ ‘six days before the Passover’-presuming that the Passover fell on a thursday that year, most writers place this day as the Friday previous. The Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan (Leviticus 23:5), between the evenings (between sunset and the time darkness fell) (Exodus 12:6). The Passover meal was eaten at the end of the 14th day, and at the beginning of the 15th day. It seems reasonable that Jesus arrived in Bethany late on Friday afternoon, since it is not likely that He would have spent the night between Jericho and Jerusalem.

‘came to Bethany’-‘So great were the crowds who came to the Passover that they could not all possibly obtain a lodging within the city of Jerusalem itself, and Bethany was one of the places outside the boundaries of the city which…as a place for the overflow of the pilgrims to stay.’ (Barclay p. 126) Bethany was located east of Jerusalem on the road heading to Jericho, about 2 miles from the city of Jerusalem (John 11:18).

‘where Lazarus was’-In mentioning Bethany, it is very natural to mention Lazarus, ‘the reminder that Lazarus was still there, alive, a compelling, unavoidable testimony to the miraculous power of Jesus. The miracle was recent and still fresh in the minds and the conversation of the people. Crowds came from Jerusalem hoping to get a glimpse of the great Prophet and also of the man whom He had raised from the dead.’ (Foster p. 1073)

John 12:2 ‘So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.’ ‘So they made Him a supper there’-Matthew and Mark record a feast with the same sort of details as are found in John 12:2ff. They record this feast as occurring at the home of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9). Point To Note: It does appear that the supper mentioned in this chapter and Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 are the same supper. 1. John mentions Jesus arriving on the 6th day before the Passover, it seems that the supper mentioned didn’t happen until after sundown on Saturday evening, for most place the triumphal entry on Sunday (‘the next day’ John 12:12). While Matthew and Mark both mention something Jesus said and something the Jewish rulers did 2 days before the Passover (Matthew 26:2; Mark 14:1), it appears that the feast mentioned thereafter is the feast mentioned by John. Lenski notes, ‘”Six days before the Passover” is not in conflict with the two days before the Passover mentioned in Matthew 26:2; Mark 14:1. Neither of these two evangelists gives the date for the supper at Bethany. They report a saying of Jesus that he would be betrayed and crucified at the


feast of the Passover two days hence, while at the same time the Jewish authorities resolved not to destroy him at the time of the Passover. Then, without following the chronological sequence of events, these two evangelists report the supper. Matthew merely says, “now when Jesus was in Bethany”, and Mark, “and being in Bethany”, neither fixing the date. John supplements the others and records the date.’ (pp. 834-835)

‘and Martha was serving’-Which is true to her character (Luke 10:40). Since Martha was serving some speculate as to whether she was a relative of Simon, or whether Simon had asked her to be the hostess. ‘Martha’s serving is noted because of a fine sense of fairness and justice which does not omit Martha in an account where Mary appears so prominently.’ (Lenski p. 837)

‘but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him’Points To Note: 1.

Jesus was very sociable. Here we are about a week from His death, and His attitude isn’t, ‘I don’t have time for such things.’ ‘On several occasions Jesus attended feasts, thus indicating he felt they were proper, profitable and useful (Luke 5:2729; John 2:1-11).’ (Woods p. 253) 2. In keeping with the customs of the time, they ‘reclined’ as they ate. Usually three ‘beds’ were used in a dining room, somewhat higher than the table on which the food was placed. The guests, usually three or more to a bed, reclined with the front of their body facing towards the food. Cushions or pillows were often provided, so the guests might rest their left elbow on which they leaned as they used their right hands to reach the food. 2. Foster notes, ‘Old friends are meeting again…as rest and relaxation are provided after an arduous journey. Faces are aglow and eyes are shining, for hearts are beating high. Is not the Master Himself in the midst again? What a look of reverence and gratitude is on the face of Lazarus as he leans forward to hear every word which falls from the lips of Jesus.’ (p. 1075)

John 12:3 ‘Mary therefore took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.’ ‘Mary therefore’-The ‘therefore’ may indicate something unexpected or it may connect with the facts presented in 12:2. ‘because Lazarus had been raised from the dead and was now reclining, hale and hearty, with Jesus, therefore Mary performed her noble deed.’ (Hendriksen p. 175) Remember, this is not the same event as Luke describes in Luke 7:36ff.

‘a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard’-The word ‘pound’ suggests a quantity of 12 ounces (a litra, a Greek weight containing nearly twelve ounces).


‘Perfume’-‘It is not a healing preparation that is meant, nor a solid of any kind, but a scented oil.’ (Morris p. 576). ‘Pure nard’-that is the genuine article, not a substitute or generic brand. “Nard” is the plant which furnishes the essence for the perfume, the finest coming from India.’ (Lenski p. 839) ‘nard, which is an aromatic herb grown in the high pasture-land of the Himalayas, between Tibet and India. In view of the fact that it had to be procured in a region so remote, and carried on camel-back through miles and miles of mountain-passes, it was very high-priced.’ (Hendriksen p. 175) Mark records that this perfume was housed in an alabaster vial (14:3). Alabaster was a kind of soft, white marble, which was very adapted to preserving the odor of perfume. These vials came in various shapes and sizes, though they were often long and slender at the top and round and full at the bottom.

‘and anointed the feet of Jesus’-‘One can picture the scene. Her heart overflowing with love and gratitude for her Lord, Mary has occupied a position behind Jesus, as the guests, according to …custom, are reclining on couches arranged in inverted U-shape fashion around a low table…Suddenly she breaks the jar which she is holding in her hand, and she pours its sweet-smelling contents over Jesus.’ (Hendriksen p. 176) John records that she anointed His feet, and Matthew and Mark record that she pours it on his head (Mark 14:3; Matthew 26:7). There is no contradiction here, for the contents eventually were poured over the length of His body (Mark 14:8). Point To Note: Be impressed that the Gospel writers were not copying each other, for there is no need for that, they wrote by inspiration! ‘Matthew and Mark record that Mary anointed the head. John takes it for granted that his readers know these records and supplements them by stating that Mary anointed the feet. The precious fluid was abundant; poured out upon the head and flowing upon the neck and the shoulders, enough was left for the feet, in fact, so much that Mary wiped off the feet with her hair.’ (Lenski pp. 839-840)

‘wiped His feet with her hair’-In that culture, it was viewed as a mark of low morals for a married woman to appear in public with her hair let down. We don’t know if Mary was married or not. But notice how unselfconsciousness real love is. Barclay notes, ‘When two people really love each other they live in a world of their own. They will wander slowly down a crowded street hand in hand, never thinking of what other people think of them…There are many who are self-conscious about showing their Christianity. They are always thinking about what others are thinking about them. Mary loved Jesus so much that it was nothing to her what others thought.’ (p. 128) Note the tremendous humility and sacrifice of Mary. 1. She gave the best she had to offer, and she gave all. 2. She occupied the lowest position, she wiped His feet with her hair. Like John the Baptist, Mary realizes that she is unworthy of even the most menial service in reference to the Master (John 1:27). 2. ‘Mary did not stop to calculate public reaction.’ (Morris p. 577) 3. ‘Mary took the most precious thing she possessed, and spent it all on Jesus. Love is not love if it nicely calculates the cost.’ (Barclay p. 127)


‘and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume’-a detail not mentioned by Matthew or Mark. Another indication that the writers were not copying each other. ‘Whatever turn the conversation was taking, certainly it was broken up in the most startling and amazing fashion!….Mary had decisively furnished the topic of conversation; not a nook or corner of the entire house but was suddenly filled with the pungent odor of this powerful essence.’ (Foster pp. 1077-1078)

Judas Protests John 12:4 ‘But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said,’ Points To Note: 1.

It appears that Judas started the protest, then the other disciples joined in (Matthew 26:8-9). 2. Even a week before the Passover, Judas had definite intentions about betraying Jesus. We cannot excuse Judas for his actions, for God didn’t (Acts 1:18). His betrayal wasn’t a moment of weakness, an act of confusion. It was planned and premeditated. 3. In addition, Judas was also of thief (12:6). Tenney notes, ‘The two chief personages in the account are Mary and Judas. The contrast between them is striking. Mary was the embodiment of self-sacrifice; Judas, of selfishness. Mary expressed her feeling in a costly gift; Judas, by cheap sarcasm. Mary took the place of servant of Jesus; Judas constituted himself a critic.’ (p. 182) Which attitude are we more like? Are we prepared to sacrifice, give and serve? Or we the critic, the complainer, the person who sees God’s will as tootaxing, as asking too much, as being unworkable? Do we want Christianity to work for us, or are we willing to work for Jesus? Do we want a Christianity that is popular, successful and convenient, or do we simply want to sit at Jesus’ feet, regardless of the cost?

John 12:5 ‘”Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to poor people?” “three hundred denarii”-the average worker earned one denarii a day, and taking into account the Sabbath days, this amount would be an entire salary for a whole year. It’s interesting that Judas knew exactly what that vial of perfume would have sold for at the local market. He would have been successful in the pawn-shop trade.

John 12:6 ‘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.’


‘not because he was concerned about the poor’-God knew the true motives of Judas. In like manner, there is a day coming when the same sort of exposure will be cast upon every word and deed in our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10). Greed didn’t die with Judas, even greed among religious people. To this day religious people plead for material resources for various ‘causes’, and in some cases the motivation isn’t the ‘cause’, but personal fame, status or wealth that comes their way. It is ironic that people can become very wealthy by claiming to be concerned about poor people.

‘as he had the money box’-Barclay makes a good point when he says, ‘Jesus would not have put Judas in charge of the money-box unless Judas had some capabilities in that direction…Temptation commonly comes through that for which we are naturally fitted. If a man is fitted to handle money, the temptation comes to regard money as the most important thing in the world…If a man has any particular gift, the temptation comes to take pride or to become conceited in that gift.’ (pp. 129-130)

‘he used to pilfer what was put into it’-Which means that Judas wanted that 300 denarii at his disposal. Morris notes, ‘It also meant that he would be in a position to help himself from time to time. It further opens up the possibility that disappointed avarice (greed) may have been one of the motives leading Judas to betray Jesus…The impression left is that Judas, seeing one source of personal enrichment lost, hastened to create another. And if this is the character of the man we may well feel that he was dissatisfied with the way the mission of Jesus was turning out. Certainly he would have hoped for better pickings when he first attached himself to the little band.’ (pp. 578-579) Points To Note: 1.

The ‘spirit’ of Judas isn’t dead. People have left the church, and sold out the truth because they wanted to be part of a group which was more popular, more materially successful, a group that would give them better business contacts. 2. Various people attach themselves to Christ, because they are hoping for some type of material gain or selfish advantage. 3. And people still think that they can sin and God won’t find out about it. Judas saw the miracles of Christ, saw that Jesus could perceive what people were thinking, and yet Judas still thought that Jesus was unaware of what was happening with the money. Sin will blind one to reality. 4. Greed had blinded Judas. What was an act of love and unselfishness, Judas saw only to be a waste. ‘He was an embittered man and he took an embittered view of things. A man’s sight depends on what is inside him…If we dislike a person, we will misinterpret his finest action. If we are cynically minded, we will impute the lowest motive.’ (Barclay p. 130) See 1 John 2:9-11. Titus 1:15 ‘but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure.’

John 12:7 ‘Jesus therefore said, “Let her alone, in order that she may keep it for the day of My burial.”’ “Let her alone”-hooray for Jesus! He isn’t an ascetic and neither is He a miser.


“in order that she may keep it for the day of My burial”-Obviously, the word “keep” doesn’t mean that Mary should not use it until His burial, for she had already used all of it. ‘she has kept it for the day of My burial’ (Nor). It seems that Jesus is saying, ‘Let her alone, for she had kept this valuable perfume for the right purpose. ‘she did it to prepare Me for burial’ (Matthew 26:12); ‘she has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.’ (Mark 14:8) Point To Note: The question from the above passage has been, ‘How much did Mary really know about the impending death of Christ?’ From these passages are we to infer that Mary saw something that the other disciples did not see, i.e. that He was headed for definite danger and death? Is this anointing purely out of gratitude for raising her brother, or is there also an element of deep sorrow, the feeling that she might lose Jesus to an impending death? A case could be made that Mary was the best listener of those who followed Jesus (Luke 10:39). In addition, Jesus had often spoken about His death (Matthew 9:22; 16:21; Mark 8:31,32; 9:12; 10:32-34; John 6:52-56; 7:33; 8:21-23; 10:11,15). Had Mary seen the truth that the other disciples had refused to see?

John 12:8 “For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.” Points To Note: 1.

‘There are things which we can do almost any time; and there are some things which we will never do, unless we grasp the chance to do them when it comes.’ (Barclay pp. 130-131). 2. The poor can be helped everyday, but Jesus will not be with them in the flesh for that much longer. 3. Poverty will never to eradicated (Deut. 15:11). 4. Where Jesus is honored, where people unselfishly seek to serve Him, the poor will be taken care of. ‘How the disciples must have regretted their actions here in later days. How they must have felt the shame of criticizing Mary when they themselves allowed these precious opportunities of showing loving concern pass by.’ (Butler p. 171) 5. Matthew and Mark add, ‘And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, that also which this woman has done shall be spoken of in memory of her.’ (Mark 14:9; Matthew 26:13). Jesus knew the truths which would be revealed through the Holy Spirit and written down for all time (John 16:13; Ephesians 3:3-5). Woods notes, ‘Had she followed the suggestion to sell the nard and give the proceeds to the poor, a few no doubt would have benefited; but thousands upon thousands, in ages to follow, would have lost immeasurably more than the objects of her charity would have then gained. This teaches us the important lesson that a good work for Christ does not die in the doing of it…Here is impressive proof of the far-reaching consequences of unconscious influence. One murmurer may poison a whole community; another, like Mary, may inspire multitudes.’ (p. 256)


John 12:9 ‘The great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead.’ ‘a great multitude’-‘On one occasion a census was taken of the lambs slain at the Passover Feast. The number given was 256,500. There had to be a minimum of ten people per lamb; and if that estimate is correct is means that there must have been as many as 2,700,000 people at a Passover Feast.’ (Barclay p. 134) The news got out that Jesus was in Bethany. The people had been in anticipation, some had doubted as to whether He would show up this year (11:56). This probably had taken place Saturday and after sundown on the Sabbath. Many people would have been camped out and a Sabbath-day’s journey wouldn’t have prevented them from coming to Jesus.

‘but that they might also see Lazarus’-people within the city, and those camped out between Bethany and Jerusalem came to see the man who had been dead four days. ‘They were intensely interested, as one might imagine, in seeing and, if possible, talking to Lazarus who had been called back from the realm of the dead.’ (Butler p. 172) And we would do the same thing! It’s not everyday that you have the chance to learn the greatest secret in life—what happens after death! The ultimate mystery!

John 12:10 ‘But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also;’ Points To Note: 1.

This seems like a strange plan on their part, seeing that death hadn’t been able to hold Lazarus the first time, and from the fact that Jesus didn’t have a problem in overpowering death. 2. Remember what Caiaphas had said that it was expedient for ‘one’ man to die and not for the whole nation to perish (11:50). ‘But one was not enough. Now it had to be two. Thus does evil grow.’ (Morris p. 582) 3. And also remember that the chief priests were Sadducees, a party which denied the afterlife, the fact that man has a soul and the resurrection (Acts 23:8). But this miracle destroyed the very heart and foundation of their doctrine. In fact, Lazarus was a standing condemnation of what they believed and taught. One simple question would have undermined everything the Sadducees stood for, ‘Lazarus, were you conscious when you were dead?’ 4. ‘Lazarus, enjoying excellent health, walking around as usual, left an indelible impression upon the multitude, for they knew that this same man had been dead and in his tomb for four days!’ (Hendriksen p. 181) 5. Since these men couldn’t stop people from believing in Jesus, and since they didn’t have an argument as to why Lazarus hadn’t been raised or never was dead in the first place. The only thing they could do was “destroy the evidence”. Brethren, mark this down. When people attack the Bible, attack the Bible’s inspiration, credibility, accuracy and so on, they are doing the same thing that these chief priests were trying to do. They realize that they don’t have an


argument against the teachings of Scripture, so they must try to destroy the Scriptures. Butler notes, ‘Can you imagine trying to kill a man (Lazarus) who will not stay dead? Lazarus has been dead once—usually enough for most men—but now he is alive again and the chief priests plan to put him to death again! The same procedure is used, in a less violent manner, by the enemies of Christianity today. Rather than surrender to the overwhelming quantity and irrefutable quality of evidence for Christ and His claims, unbelievers spend fortunes and talents of a lifetime trying to discredit the evidence.’ (p. 172)

John 12:11 ‘because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus.’ ‘believing’-Which is in an imperfect tense, people were continually coming to Jesus and were continually believing in Him


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