John 12


John 12:1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.  2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.  3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.  4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said,  5 "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"  6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.  7 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.  8 "For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always."


Jesus came to Bethany on Friday, and at some point during that week His friends made Him supper. Lazarus was still alive and living a normal life except for the extra attention he was receiving for being raised from the dead. Lazarus is the only person in the New Testament that has anything written about his life after being raised from the dead. The Sanhedrin council had ordered the Jews to report to them if Jesus was in the area, but Jesus’ friends were not going to abide by their wishes.


We have already examined how Mary anointed Jesus’ feet in chapter 11, which is the same event recorded in Matthew and Mark’s account. We also discussed how Luke’s account recorded a different anointing than the one being done here. Judas was not happy about the waste of the fragrance because it was worth around a year’s worth of wages, and his suggestion also caused some of the other disciples to agree with him. Even though he claimed his motive was for the poor, John tells us his real motive was his own greed. Judas was also a thief. He had been taking money from the money box, and he wished he could have had the money from that expensive oil. But Jesus told them to leave Mary alone because, “she has kept this for the day of My burial.” They would always have the poor to contend with, but Jesus would not be with them much longer.


John 12:9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.  10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.


Many times when the Jews are mentioned in the Gospels, it is talking about those that opposed Jesus. But sometimes it is used to refer to the Jews that believed in Him as in our verse here. When the Jews found out Jesus was there, they went to see Him and Lazarus who had been raised from the dead, which is why I said earlier that Lazarus was living a normal life except for the extra attention. I imagine some of these people touched Lazarus to see if he felt any different from anyone else.


Many of the Jews believed in Jesus because of this great miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, which put Lazarus on the chief priests’ hit list. They probably thought if they could kill him, it would stop more Jews from believing in Jesus.


John 12:12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,  13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: "Hosanna! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' The King of Israel!" 


This is known as the triumphal entry and it is recorded in all the Gospels. The use of Palm branches was customary for the reception of popular heroes and Kings.


F.F. Bruce notes:


From the time of the Maccabees palms or palm-branches had been used as a national symbol. Palm-branches figured in the procession which celebrated the rededication of the temple in 164 BC (2 Macc. 10:7) and again when the winning of full political independence was celebrated under Simon in 141 BC (1 Macc. 13:51)… On this occasion, then, the palm-branches may have signified the people’s expectation of the imminent national liberation, and this is supported by the words with which they greeted the Lord (F.F. Bruce The Gospel and Epistles of John p. 259).


This explanation makes sense because most of the Jews believed that when the Messiah came that He would establish an earthly kingdom. Since these Jews believed He was the Messiah, they thought He would help them overthrow the Romans and establish a kingdom like they had under David. Not only did they put down the palm branches, they even put down their own clothes on the pathway.


Hosanna literally means “help” or “save, I pray” (BDAG). They welcomed Him in the name of the Lord and even called Him the King of Israel.


John 12:14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:  15 "Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey's colt." 


Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy about Him:


Zechariah 9:9  " Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.  10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be 'from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.' 


Notice, He would come in riding on a donkey and not on horse. A horse represented war and a donkey represented peace and humility.


According to Raymond Hagood:


Kings … would enter upon an ass or mule, which was symbolic of their humility and their desire to be at peace with their subjects.  It was not appropriate for a king to enter a city upon a horse, but rather to enter meekly and humbly upon an ass.  Jesus is the king of His kingdom, the church.  It was appropriate for Him to enter the holy city the way that a king would enter it, riding upon an ass (Denton Lectures electronic edition on John).


In Matthew’s account it says:


Mat. 21:5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.' " 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.


Just as the prophecy states, He was riding a donkey showing His humility and His desire for peace. Some think there is a contradiction in Matthew because it says they put their clothes on the donkey and the colt, and they set Jesus on them. They think Matthew has Jesus ridding on two donkeys at once, while the other accounts have Him on the colt.


First, it grammatically possible for the colt to represent both donkeys according to a rule called “plural of class” (Winer, Grammar of New Testament). However, a much simpler explanation comes from Raymond Hagood:


The explanation is found in Luke's account in Luke 19:30, when he says "whereon yet never man sat." Luke is describing a young animal still attached to his mother.  They are linked together because of their mother-and-son relationship.  The Lord would be riding a young, untamed colt, still closely attached to its mother, which is the reason the Lord needed them both, even though he would ride the young colt only.  The mother would provide the comfort and support to allow this young animal to perform his important task (Denton Lectures electronic edition on John).


This is just another case where the whole counsel of God gives us the complete picture. Matthew lets us know the mother donkey was there beside the colt, but Jesus was riding the colt. This humble act should have showed the people that He was not coming to overthrow the Roman government because He was the King of peace.


John 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.


This passage teaches us that Jesus’ disciples did not fully understand the spiritual significance of this event because they were thinking of a physical kingdom too. There was much they did not understand. For instance, they did not understand that Jesus was going to be raised from the dead (Jn. 20:9). However, after Jesus was raised from the dead, their eyes became open, especially after they received the Holy Spirit who guided them in all truth (Jn. 14:26). 


John 12:17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness.  18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign.  19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, "You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!"


This 7th miracle Jesus did in the Gospel of John was the one that drew the crowds to Him. The Jews that witnessed this miracle were letting every person know what He had done. Even though the opposing Jews did everything in their power to make Jesus out to be evil, they had failed. These Pharisees believed the whole world had gone after Him.


John 12:20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.  21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.


John is the only one that records this event. These Greeks would have been Gentile proselytes who had accepted the Jewish religion. We do not know if they had honorable intentions or not, but they wanted to see Jesus. First, they talked to Philip, and Philip told Andrew, then Andrew and Philip told Jesus. We are not told if the Greeks got to see Jesus or not, but notice Jesus’ response:


John 12:23 But Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.  24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  25 "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  26 "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.


Jesus knew His death was approaching when He would be glorified. His death would be a blessing for the Jews and Gentiles. He illustrates this by comparing His death to a grain of wheat. Since farming was a way of life for the 1st century people, this example would have meant a lot to them. The grain of wheat must die before it can produce more wheat, which is exactly what had to happen to Jesus. He had to die before those in the world could live and be saved.


When Jesus said the grain of wheat remains alone, it seems like He is referring to how He would be abandoned and left alone when the Jews took Him at the Garden of Gethsemane as prophesied by Jesus (Mat. 26:31).


In verse 25, Jesus has made this statement several times throughout His ministry. He is saying that if a person loves their life more than they love God, they will be lost because a person like that will live his life for himself. However, when Jesus said, “He who hates is life in this world will keep it for eternal life,” He was saying those who are willing to deny themselves and seek God first in their lives will have eternal life. Paul put it this way: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). So, if people serve themselves or the world, they will lose their soul to the devil, but those that are willing to serve God and follow Jesus will save their soul and be honored by the Father.


John 12:27 " Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour.  28 "Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again."  29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to Him."  30 Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.  31 "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 


Jesus humanity is showing in that His soul was troubled about His pending death. The word “troubled” means: “To cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind … to render anxious or distressed” (Thayer). Even though this was bothering Jesus, He was not going to avoid His death because He knew that all humanity would be lost without the shedding of His blood, which was His purpose for coming to the earth.


When Jesus prayed to the Father, He asked Him to glorify His own name. Notice Jesus did not pray for Himself, but for glory of the Father. The Father spoke from heaven saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” Every time the Father keeps the promises He has made, His name is glorified. The Father would glorify His name again when He raised Jesus from the dead. In the New Testament, this is the third time the Father has spoken out from heaven. The first time was at Jesus’ baptism and the second was at the transfiguration.


When these people heard God speak from heaven, some thought it was thunder and others thought it was angel that spoke to Him. Some people only want to hear what they want to hear, which is true today as well. God does not speak to us directly from heaven today, but He does speak to us loud and clear through His Word. Unfortunately many today are not willing to hear what the Word of God says. Instead, they listen to what others teach and continue to live in sin because they have closed their eyes and ears to God’s Word. When the Father spoke from heaven it was for the benefit of those who heard it because Jesus knew the Father was always with Him and heard His prayers.


When Jesus died on the cross, the power of the devil would be overcome. His head would be bruised as predicted in Genesis 3:15.  His power was sin because sin separates us from God, and Jesus gave us the power over sin through His blood (Heb. 2:14-18). When we choose to become Christians and serve God, we have the power to send the devil packing (Jam. 4:7). This does not mean that he will not try to tempt us today because Peter said: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). He is tricky because he can even appear to be angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). As Christians, we need to understand that he cannot force us to do anything. He can only tempt us through things that are common to man. If we look hard enough, we will find a way to avoid temptation, which is provided by God (1 Cor. 10:13). The best way we can prevent the devil from getting into our life is by putting on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11). When we do that, the devil will have hard time bringing us down. The wonderful thing about being a Christian is if the devil does tempt us and we sin, he has not defeated us because we can repent and confess that sin to God and that sin will be gone.


John 12: 32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."  33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.


Once again, Jesus is predicting His death and how it would be done. He made this prediction several times in His ministry (Jn. 3:14; 8:28). Not only did Jesus know He was going to die, He knew how He was going to die. His death would draw all peoples, which included Jews and Gentiles. The way people will be drawn to Christ is by the Word of God (Jn. 6:44-45).


John 12:34 The people answered Him, "We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?"


These Jews and even Jesus’ disciples were confused about the kingdom of God the Messiah would establish. There are several passages from the Old Testament they may have had in mind (Ps. 110:4ff; Isa. 9:7; Ezek. 37:25; Dan. 7:14).  These verses imply or state that the Messiah’s reign will last forever, which is true, but He will reign from heaven over His spiritual kingdom, which is the church. Even though Jesus called Himself the Son of man on many occasion, they wanted to know who this man was, and why he had to be lifted up. Jesus responds:


John 12:35 Then Jesus said to them, "A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.  36 "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.


Jesus does not specifically answer their questions, but He does call Himself the light because He is light of the world. He tells them to walk in that light lest darkness overtake them, which is talking about the evil way. As Christians today, we must always walk in the light of truth and stay away from the darkness of error. When we become Christians, we become sons of light, and we are to be a light for the world just as Jesus was during His life on the earth. After Jesus taught them this message, He left and hid from them.


John 12:37  But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,  38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?"  39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:  40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."  41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.  42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;  43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.


John writes this sad news. Even though these people had seen the great signs that Jesus did, which proved that He was the Messiah, they did not believe Him. Their disbelief was no surprise because Isaiah prophesied this would happen in Isaiah 53, which is also the same chapter that teaches about Jesus’ death. Isaiah tells us the reason they could not believe: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them” (Isa. 6:9-10).


How did God do this? It was the same way Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. The truth hardened their hearts. God did not force them to be blind to the truth; they chose not to see it. Since they had their preconceived ideas of what the Messiah was supposed to do and be like, they rejected all the evidence that Jesus is the Messiah.


Verse 42 says that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus when he said these things, yet Isaiah 6:1-10 says that it was Jehovah that he saw which shows Jesus preincarnate existence and that He is God. To show there is more than one person in the Godhead, Isaiah 6:8 says, “And who will go for Us?”


Not everyone was blinded to the truth that Jesus was the Messiah. Even some of the rulers believed in Jesus, but they would not confess Him because of their fear of being kicked out of the synagogue. They were more concerned about the praise of men than the praise of God, which is great example that proves that faith alone will not save a person. These rulers believed, but their faith was empty because they would not confess or do anything else except believe. There have been many people who have lost their souls to the devil because they were more concerned about what others think about them instead of what God thinks about them. We have to be careful not to fall into this trap or we could lose our soul to the devil as well.


John 12:44 Then Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.  45 "And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.  46 "I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  47 "And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  48 "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.  49 "For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  50 "And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."


Jesus summarizes His teaching and points out when we believe in Him, we believe in the Father who sent Him. When they saw Jesus, they were seeing the Father, which is same thing that Jesus told Philip in John 14:8-9. Jesus was the true representative of the Father, and He explained this many times throughout His ministry. He and His Father are one, and everything that Jesus did and said came from the Father. Whenever someone believed in Jesus, they believed in the Father, and when someone did harm to Jesus it was the same as if they did it to the Father.


Jesus was sent into the world to be its savior and not its judge, but the words that Jesus spoke will be the words that we will be judged by on the last day (2 Cor. 5:10). We have control over our destination. We can choose to live according to God’s Word or we can live how we want to. One way will get us to heaven; the other way will get us sent to hell. There are not going to be any judgments made from a human perspective because they will all be based on the Word of God. If a person will take the time to learn the Word of God and live by it, there will not be any surprises on the Day of Judgment. 


Jesus is teaching us that the words He spoke came from God and not from man, which is why He can claim that ever word that came out of His mouth was by the authority of the Father. If we refuse to live by the doctrine Jesus has left us, then we will lose the Father and the Son (2 Jn. 1:9).


It is also comforting to know that we have a similar relationship with God because when people do good or bad things to us when we are doing things in the name of God, it is just like they are doing it to Jesus. Jesus gives us this idea in Matthew 25, which is same way we should feel about one another (1 Cor. 12:26).