Jesus Anointed at Bethany (12:1-11)
(Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9)
1-8 See Mark 14:3-9 and comment.
9 Six days before the Passover festival, Jesus again came to Bethany, where Lazarus’ home was (verse 1). When the crowds in Jerusalem heard about it, they came out to see Jesus. They also came to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had miraculously raised from the dead.
10-11 Many of the crowds were going over to Jesus because of Lazarus. Therefore, the Jewish leaders decided to kill Lazarus, too. As long as Lazarus was alive, he was visible proof of Jesus’ power; if he was killed, the people would soon forget about him.
Caiaphas the high priest had said one man must die for the people (John 11:50). Now the Jews said two people had to die: Jesus and Lazarus. Thus does evil grow!
The Triumphal Entry (12:12-19)
(Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40)
12-16 See Mark 11:1-11 and comment.
17-19 The people continued to come out to see Jesus because He had raised Lazarus from the dead. The Jewish leaders were becoming even more anxious. It seemed to them that the whole world was going after Jesus (see John 11:47-48 and comment). Because of the increased number of Jesus’ admirers, it was going to be more difficult than ever to kill Jesus.
Jesus Predicts His Death (12:20-36)
20 At that time some Greeks94 had come to Jerusalem to worship. Even though these Greeks were Gentiles, they were followers of the Jewish religion. But they had not become true Jews,95 because they had not been circumcised.
21-22 These Greeks came to Philip, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples (John 1:43-44), and asked to see Jesus. They had heard about Him and now wanted to meet Him. Philip was not sure what to do, so he told Andrew, Peter’s brother (John 1:40).
23 When Jesus heard that some Greek Gentiles were looking for Him, He knew that this was a sign that the hour had come for Him to be glorified, that is, killed on the cross96 (see John 17:1). Now the Gentiles had begun to turn to Him. Now His witness would begin to spread outside Israel through the preaching of His disciples. Now it would be seen that He was the Savior not just of the Jews but of the whole world. Now His own work on earth had come to an end. The hour, the time for Him to die, had come.
24 Then Jesus gave the reason why it was the right time for Him to die. It was God’s plan that only after Jesus’ death would the Holy Spirit be sent to live in the disciples (John 14:16-17; 16:7). Through the power of the Holy Spirit the disciples would then spread the Gospel all over the world. They would do greater things than Jesus had done (see John 14:12 and comment).
Then Jesus gave an agricultural illustration to show why His death was necessary. Any seed that is sown must in a way “die” before it can “come to life” again (1 Corinthians 15:36). Jesus was like a kernel of wheat. By dying, He produced many seeds—that is, the twelve disciples.97 And from the twelve disciples, many other seeds have sprung up and are still springing up today in ever increasing numbers.
25 Although Jesus was comparing Himself, in particular, with a kernel of wheat (verse 24), the comparison is also true for all Jesus’ followers. By dying, we too produce the most fruit for Christ. This doesn’t mean that we all have to physically die in order to produce fruit; only some Christians are called to be martyrs. But we all must “die” to ourselves. Our old sinful self must die, otherwise we shall not be able to bear fruit for Christ (see Mark 8:34-35; Romans 6:2-6; Galatians 5:24 and comments).
Jesus said that the man who hates his life in this world98 will gain eternal life. Jesus didn’t mean we must actually “hate” ourselves. Rather He was saying that our love for Him must be so great that, in comparison, our love for ourselves will seem like hate (see Luke 14:26 and comment). Indeed, we cannot love our old sinful self and Christ at the same time (Matthew 6:24).
26 Whoever serves me must follow me. The Greeks sought Jesus (verses 20-21). But to seek Jesus is not enough. Seeking Jesus is only the first step. We must then believe in Him, and then serve Him. If we love Jesus and want to serve Him, we must follow Him. Where Jesus goes, we must go. That means we must be ready to suffer and die with Him.
The man who follows Jesus may lose his life in this world. He may lose his possessions. He may lose his honor in men’s eyes. But in exchange, he will get to live with Jesus forever. That is, he will receive eternal life in heaven. He will also receive honor from God. God honors those who honor Christ (John 5:23)—because those who honor Christ honor God.
27 Then Jesus said to those around Him, “Now my heart is troubled.” He was troubled because He was about to die. He was a man, and men don’t ordinarily like to die. But Jesus wasn’t troubled only about dying; He was troubled because He was about to take on Himself the punishment for the sins of all men (see Mark 14:32-34 and comment). He was about to be made … sin for the sake of men (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was about to be forsaken both by His disciples and by God (Mark 14:50; 15:34).
Jesus in His mind wondered for a moment if it would be possible to avoid such an hour, that is, such a death. He asked Himself: “Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” But immediately He thought, “No, such a prayer would be against the Father’s will. It was to die that I came into the world. It was to take men’s punishment that I have come to this hour of death” (see Mark 14:35-36 and comment).
28 Then Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name.” That is, “Let your name be glorified through my death” (see John 17:1,4).
Then God said from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” God had glorified Jesus by speaking at His baptism (Mark 1:9-11) and at His transfiguration (Mark 9:2-7). He had glorified Jesus by giving Him the Holy Spirit without limit (John 3:34). By glorifying Jesus in this way, God had also glorified His own name. And now God was about to glorify His name once again through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
29 The people heard the sound of the voice from heaven, but not all of them understood it (see Acts 22:6-9). To some it was like thunder; to others it was like an angel speaking.
30 The voice was for the people’s benefit, so that they might know that Jesus had come from God. In particular, it was an encouragement to the believers among the crowd. From the voice they could understand that Jesus’ life was in God’s hands.
31 Jesussaid, “Now is the time for judgment on this world.” That is, the men of this world will in a sense be condemned by Jesus’ cross. Men condemned themselves by hanging Jesus on the cross (see John 3:18-19). Thus the cross of Christ is a sign of judgment on the world.
The cross is not only a sign of judgment; it is also a sign of Satan’s downfall. On the cross, Jesus achieved final victory over Satan. It seemed like Satan had won, but in fact, he had lost.
Satan is called the prince of this world, because he rules over the hearts of unbelieving men (see John 14:30; 16:11). But Jesus never fell into Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan, to the end, tried to tempt Jesus to flee from the cross, but Jesus did not listen (verse 27). Satan knew that, through Jesus’ death, many people would be delivered from his control. Therefore, he did not want Jesus to die on the cross.
Therefore, Jesus says: “… now the prince of this world will be driven out. He will be cast into outer darkness (Matthew 22:13; 25:30). Through my death on thecross, Satan’s powerover believers willbe broken; and at the end of the world he will be utterly destroyed” (Revelation 20:10).
32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. That is, when Jesus is lifted up on the cross and then is lifted up into heaven (Acts 1:9), He will draw men into the kingdom of heaven (see John 6:44 and comment). He will begin to free men from bondage to Satan.
Jesus says here: “I… will draw all men to myself.” That means He will draw all believers to Himself. And He will draw believers from all nations, not just from Israel (see John 3:14-15 and comment).
33 John here explains that in the above verses, Jesus has been talking about His death on the cross and about His resurrection and ascension into heaven.
34 The crowd understood that Jesus was talking about His death. They had supposed from reading the Law, that is, the Old Testament (John 10:34), that the Messiah would never die (Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:14). Now Jesus had said that He, the Son of Man, must be lifted up on the cross. The crowd was confused. Many of them thought that Jesus was the Messiah; but the Messiah wasn’t supposed to die. Yet Jesus had said that the Son of Man must die. Therefore, the crowd asked, “Who is this Son of Man? Is He the same as the Messiah?”
The crowd had understood only part of the Old Testament. It was true that the Christ, the Messiah, would never die. But the Old Testament also taught that Christ in His bodily form would pour out His life unto death (Isaiah 53:12). To understand fully who Christ is, one must read all of Scripture, not just part of it.
35 Jesus did not answer their question directly. But He did say that they were going to have light just a little while longer. The light was Christ Himself. Let the people listen to Him and believe in Him while they had opportunity.
Every man receives some spiritual light from God. If he rejects that light and turns from it, he will soon fall into spiritual darkness. The light will be withdrawn from him. Therefore, each man must walk while he has the light. He must walk according to the light he has received. Today, perhaps, a man’s heart is sof t, his mind open. Tomorrow his heart may be hard and his mind closed. Today, perhaps, a man is ready to believe; but tomorrow it may be too late, and he will have lost the chance to receive salvation. … now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).
The Jews in Jesus’ day had received a great light—Christ Himself. But they rejected the light, and from then on they walked in darkness. They lost their nation, and they lost their souls (see John 1:4-5; 8:12 and comments).
36 In verse 35, Jesus said, “While you have the light, walk in it.” Here in verse 36, He says, “While you have the light, put your trust in it.” To walk in the light is the same as to believe in the light. The light is Christ. It is not enough only to see the light; we must believe in it. Moths see light and come to it. But when we see the light, we must believe in it. That is, when we see Jesus, we must believe in Him and follow Him.
When we believe in Christ, we become sons of light (see Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessa-lonians 5:5). That is, we become sons of God (John 1:12). God is light (1 John 1:5). Sons receive the character and qualities of their father. Thus, when we believe in Christ, we receive the character and qualities of God Himself.
After He finished speaking, Jesus hid himself. He knew that He was going to die at the hands of men. But He would not die before the appointed time.
The Jews Continue in Their Unbelief (12:37-50)
37-38 Jesus, a Jew, had come to be the Messiah of Israel. Yet the Jews themselves rejected Him. How could this be? John says this happened in order that the prophecies of the Old Testament might be fulfilled. Isaiah the prophet wrote: Who has believed our message? No one. To whom has the arm of the Lord (that is, Christ’s mighty works) been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1). Christ did mighty works, but the Jews did not see the arm of the Lord in them. Christ was revealed, but they did not recognize Him.
39-40 John then says that the Jews could not believe because God had blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts. But God didn’t blind them at first. They first chose to reject God’s prophets. They chose to turn from God to sin. It was only as a result of their sin and disobedience that God gave them up to hardness of heart and unbelief. After that, they could not believe. The person who says to God, “I will not believe,” soon finds that he is unable to believe (see Romans 1:24,26,28 and comment).
John here quotes from Isaiah 6:10. This same passage is quoted by Matthew, Mark, and Luke in slightly different forms, but the meaning is the same (see Matthew 13:1415; Mark 4:12; Acts 28:26-27 and comments).
God knew that the Jews would reject Jesus. He knows everything that will happen in the future. He knows who will accept Christ and who will reject Him. But even though God knows in advance what each man will do, each man is still free to do as he chooses. If a man rejects Christ, he does so by his own choice. He is responsible. He cannot blame God (see Romans 9:14-21 and comment; General Article: Salvation—God’s Choice or Man’s Choice?).
41 When Isaiah wrote this prophecy, he was writing about the glory of the Messiah. In a spiritual way, he saw in the future the glory of Christ and knew that the Jews would reject that glory.
42-43 But many Jews, including some of the Jewish leaders, did not reject Christ’s glory. The Pharisees had thought that no Jewish leader had believed in Christ (John 7:48). But John here says that many believed in Him secretly. Only two of them are mentioned in the New Testament: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 3:1; 19:38-39). It is doubtful whether the other Jewish leaders had real faith, because John says that they would not confess their faith. The person who refuses to confess Christ because he fears what men will think usually does not have true faith (see Matthew 10:32-33 and comment).
Then in verse 43, John gives the reason why these leaders did not confess their faith: namely, they loved praise from men more than praise from God. They knew that if they believed in Christ and served Him they would receive honor and praise from God (verse 26). Nevertheless, they preferred the praise of men more than praise from God (see John 5:44). They didn’t want to take the risk of being put out of the synagogue, because, for a Jew, to be put out of the synagogue was a very great disgrace (see John 9:22).
44 These words of Jesus recorded by John in verses 44-50 are His last words to the public. In these verses Jesus gives a final call for men and women to believe.
Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus has talked about His unity with God. He who honors Jesus honors God (John 5:23). He who has seen Jesus has seen God (John 14:9). He who hates Jesus hates God (John 15:23). He who accepts Jesus accepts God (Matthew 10:40; Mark 9:37; John 13:20). And here Jesus says that he who puts his faith in Him puts his faith in God also.
45 Here Jesus repeats the idea of verse 44. When we look at Jesus through the eyes of faith, we do not see only a man; we see God Himself.
46 See John 8:12 and comment.
47 Those who hear Jesus’ teaching and reject it will be judged. Jesus Himself does not judge men in this life. He did not come into the world to judge but to save (see John 3:17-18 and comment).
48 However, in the last day, that is, at the end of the world, Jesus will be our judge (see John 5:22,27). But even then Jesus Himself will not have to judge the person who rejects His word. Jesus’ own word will judge him. And on the last day the “judge” (Jesus’ word) will say to that person: “The word of salvation came to you, but you rejected it. You may not enter heaven.”
Here a question arises: What will happen to the person who has never heard God’s word in his lifetime? That person will not be judged according to God’s word. Instead, he will be judged according to the spiritual light and knowledge he has received from God (see Luke 12:47-48; Romans 1:18-20 and comments).
49 Jesus’ word is a fitting “judge,” because it is, in fact, God’s word. All that Jesus spoke was exactly as the Father commanded. When a person is judged by Jesus’ word, it is the same as being judged by God Himself (see John 5:30; 8:16 and comments).
50 Jesus spoke according to God’s command (verse 49). God’s command is not harsh. It is the promise of eternal life to all who believe and obey it. Moses at the end of his life said to the Jews: I have set before you life and death. … Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deuteronomy 30:19). Today Jesus says the same thing to every man and woman.