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Jesus Arrives and Is Feasted at Bethany.

LAST WEEK OF OUR LORD'S MINISTRY, THEFOURTH PASSOVER, THE CRUCIFIXION.
7-1. JESUS ARRIVES AND IS FEASTED AT BETHANY.
(From Friday afternoon till Saturday Night, March 31 and April 1, A. D. 30.)
d JOHN 11:55-57; 12:1-11; a MATT. 26:6-13; b MARK 14:3-9.

     

d 55 Now the passover of the Jews was at hand: and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the passover, to purify themselves. [These Jews went up before the Passover that they might have time to purify themselves from ceremonial uncleanness before the feast. They were expected to purify before any important event ( Exodus 19:10 Exodus 19:11 ), and did so before the passover ( 2 Chronicles 30:13-20 ), for those who were ceremonially unclean were excluded from it-- John 18:28 .]

  56 They sought therefore for Jesus, and spake one with another, as they stood in the temple, What think ye? That he will not come to the feast?

  57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given commandment, that, if any man knew where he was, he should show it, that they might take him. [The decree of the Sanhedrin ordering the arrest of Jesus led the people to question as to whether he would dare to approach the city. But this mention of it and the stir and question which it created have a dark significance. It shows that the Jews generally were forewarned of the evil purpose of the Sanhedrin, and the dangers which surrounded Jesus. They were not taken unawares when their rulers told them to raise the cry "Crucify for deliberation.]

  d 1 Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead. [The word "therefore" refers to the decree and consequent dangers just mentioned. Because his "hour" had come, Jesus went to face these dangers. We are told that he came to the house of Lazarus and that he kept near Lazarus because these facts emphasized the great miracle which roused the hatred of the Jews, and caused them more earnestly to seek the death of Christ. Jesus appears to have arrived in Bethany Friday afternoon, March 31, A. D. 30. It is likely that he spent the Sabbath day at that place, and that the supper mentioned below was given him after sunset on Saturday, which, according to Jewish reckoning, would be the beginning of Sunday. This supper is mentioned later by Matthew and Mark, but without any note of time to show that it belongs specifically where they put it. But John does give us a note of time. The twelfth verse of this chapter shows that it was the night before the triumphal entry, and therefore we follow the chronology of John.]

  2 So   a 6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, d they made him a supper there: a in the house of Simon the leper, d and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at meat with him. [Who Simon the leper was is not known. It is not unlikely that he was one whom Jesus had healed, and that he united with the household of Lazarus in a joint effort to show gratitude unto the Lord for his goodness to this group of his friends.]

  b 3 And while he was [there]

as he sat at meat, there came a unto him a woman {d 3 Mary} a having an alabaster cruse of exceeding precious ointment, b of pure nard very costly;

  d 3 Mary therefore took a pound [a litra, a Greek weight containing nearly twelve ounces avoirdupois] of ointment of pure nard, very precious [Nard was a liquid perfume distilled from some odorous plant or plants and mingled with oil. It was sealed in flasks or alabaster boxes and imported from the far East], b and she brake the cruse, and poured it over {a upon} b his head. a as he sat at meat. the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair [The cruse seems to have been a long-necked flask sealed with wax so tightly as to necessitate it being broken to extract the nard. These flasks were tasteful and costly objects such as women delight to possess. Many of them were so delicate that Pliny compares them to closed rosebuds, and the same writer, speaking of nard, reckons it as an instance of excessive luxury to anoint the feet or ankles with it]: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. [Thus the liberality of Mary contributed to the pleasure of all the guests. The odor of a good deed is generally diffusive.]

  4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, that should betray him, saith,

  5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred shillings, and given to the poor?

  6 Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein.

  a 8 But when the disciples saw it, they {b there were some that} had indignation among themselves, a saying, To what purpose is this waste? b To what purpose hath this waste of the ointment been made?

  5 For this ointment might have been sold a for much, b for above three hundred shillings, and given to the poor. And they murmured against her. [It seems very likely that this murmuring was started by Judas Iscariot, for the murmurers fall in with his notions that the price of the ointment should be deposited in the poor fund. It is a singular thing that Jesus permitted a thief to occupy the office of treasurer. It is probable that Judas was honest when he was called to serve, but that same management and spirit of economy which made him fit for the place ruined him when he got it. Thus our strong points are often our weakest. The price of the pound of nard would be about fifty-one dollars of our money, but the purchasing power of money was then nearly ten times as great as it is now. The price here named agrees almost exactly with the figures at which Pliny rates the most costly nard.]

  a 10 But Jesus perceiving it, d therefore said, a unto them, alone; a Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.

d Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying.

  a 12 For in that she poured this ointment upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.

  b 8 She hath done what she could; hath anointed my body beforehand for the burying. [The expression "Suffer," etc., used by John, is taken by some as implying that all the ointment was not poured out, and that some of the apostles were endeavoring to persuade Mary to keep and sell what was left, and that Jesus ordered it kept to finish the embalming of his body which Mary had already begun. But there is nothing in the language to require such an interpretation. Jesus meant, "Let her use it rightly," using the word "keep" as in the expression, "keep the feast;" i. e., observe the ceremony. The words of Jesus about the ointment taken as a whole may be construed thus: "The sorrows of my coming passion oppress me ( Matthew 26:38 ), and Mary, conscious of that sorrow, wishes to cheer me with the evidence of love and gratitude. She sympathizes with me as I approach the shadow of death, and anoints me beforehand for the burial. You do not begrudge what is given to the dead. You do not censure as extravagant what is spent for the embalming of a dear one. You yourselves would be ready enough to anoint me in this same manner after I am dead. So do not censure her because in the fullness of her sympathy she has anticipated the coming catastrophe and has anointed me beforehand."]

  d 8 For the poor ye have always with you [ Deuteronomy 15:11 ]; b and whensoever ye will ye can do them good: but me ye have not always. [There would be plenty of opportunities in which to do good to the poor, but the time for conferring a personal benefit upon Christ in the flesh was now limited to seven days. Thereafter gifts could only be given to Christ by bestowing them upon the poor.]

  9 And verily I say unto you, Wheresoever the {a this} gospel shall be preached in {b throughout} the whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. [Jesus here makes prominent the different estimates which God and man place upon the same acts. That which the disciples had censured as a waste and that which they had regarded as worthy of rebuke was in his sight an action fit to be kept in everlasting remembrance as a model for the conduct of future generations throughout the whole earth, and he accordingly decreed that it be so kept in mind.]

  d 9 The common people therefore of the Jews learned that he was there [in Simon's house]: and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead,

  10 But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus also to death;

  11 because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away [withdrew from the party headed by the Jewish rulers], and believed on Jesus. [The presence of the resurrected man and the Christ who had resurrected him both at one table greatly excited the curiosity of the multitudes who had come up to Jerusalem to attend the passover. When word of this supper spread among the people it was natural that they should slip out to Bethany to see the sight, and it was equally natural that seeing it they should believe in Jesus. This deflection of the common people gave a keener venom to the hatred of the rulers.]