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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
John 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-50


The Triumphal Entry. Close of the Public Ministry

1-11. Supper at Bethany (see on Matthew 26:6 and Mark 14:3, which record the same incident). The event in Luke 7:36. is different. The supper was at the house of Simon the leper, a near relation, perhaps the father, of Lazarus and the sisters. St. John alone mentions the name of the woman who anointed Jesus, the quantity of the unguent (1 litre = 12 oz.), and the author of the mean speech, 'Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?' He also states that the supper was held six days (not two days, as St. Mark) before the Passover. Mary probably anointed Jesus in gratitude for the restoration of her brother Lazarus to life.

1. Six days] Since the Passover, according to this Gospel, took place on Friday, Jesus apparently arrived on Saturday (the sabbath), and the supper must have taken place the same evening.

5. Three hundred pence (denarii)] about £9.

6. The bag (or, box)] The apostles had one purse, because they realised that those who have spiritual things in common, ought (ideally, at least) to have temporal things in common also. But though communism is the ultimate Christian ideal, and has always been regarded as such (see Acts 2:44), it does not, therefore, follow that it is practicable or good in the existing state of the world.

Bare] RV 'took away,' i.e. stole.

7. Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this] i.e. She has done quite right not to sell the ointment. She has kept it for today, making today as it were My burial day, by performing the prophetic act of anointing and embalming My body. But a better reading is, 'Suffer her to keep it against the day of My burying'; i.e. She has only used a portion of the ointment in anointing My feet. Do not insist on her giving the rest to the poor. Rather let her keep it for anointing My body for burial after the death which I perceive to be impending.

9. Much people] RV 'the common people.' They came] doubtless into the house to watch the banquet. In the East a feast is a public ceremony, and there is a continual succession of sightseers.

11. Went away] i.e. apostatised.

12-19. The triumphal entry (see on Matthew 21:1; Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29.) The purpose of our Lord's public entry was to testify to the nation and to mankind that He was actually the Messiah promised by the OT. prophets, and the person by whom the kingdom of God was to be established. St. John writes briefly, supplementing the synoptic account, a knowledge of which he assumes. The synoptists seem to regard the entry as a purely Galilean demonstration, and give no explanation of our Lord's favourable reception in Jerusalem. St. John represents the procession as consisting not only of Galileans (John 12:12), but also of inhabitants of Jerusalem, who had seen Lazarus raised from the dead, and whose testimony to the truth of the miracle caused the extraordinary sensation in Jerusalem (John 12:17-18).

12. The next day] This is now generally called Palm Sunday. Much people] evidently Galileans.

13. Palm trees] Among the Hebrews, as among the Greeks, palms were carried as symbols of victory and rejoicing (1 Maccabees 13:51; Revelation 7:9).

16. Observe the author's intimate knowledge of the sentiments of the disciples.

20-22. Jesus and the Greeks. A dominant idea of this Gospel is universalism. Christ dies for all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, and is, therefore, the Saviour of the world (John 4:22; 1 John 4:14). Appropriately, therefore, the evangelist notices that the last public utterance of Jesus was on the Gentile question. St. John sees in the request of these Greeks for an interview (which we are to presume was granted) a foreshadowing of the calling of the Gentiles.

20. Greeks] i.e. Gentiles, probably from Galilee or Decapolis, where there was a large Gentile population. Their presence at the feast shows that they sympathised—as so many devout Gentiles did—with the monotheistic faith of Israel.

23-26. Last public discourse of Jesus. The voice from heaven. The time is probably Wednesday afternoon, the place the Temple: cp. Matthew 21:23. Jesus resigns Himself to death, comforting Himself by contemplating its glorious issues.

23. The humble request of these Greeks for an interview brings vividly before Christ's mind His approaching death, through which alone salvation can be offered to the Gentiles.

Should be glorified] viz. by death, which in the case of Jesus was not a humiliation, but a triumph over the powers of evil.

24. As a grain of corn must rot in the ground before it can bring forth fruit, so must the Son of man die and be buried before the harvest of the world can ripen and be reaped. The divine life, so long as Jesus remained on earth in the body of His humiliation, was confined to Himself. But when by His death and resurrection the earthly shell was cast off, the way was open for the diffusion of the divine life among all mankind. Our Lord's mysterious words would probably be understood by the Greeks, who, if they had been initiated in the mysteries of Eleusis, had seen the immortality of the soul represented under the figure of a grain of wheat buried in the earth that it might germinate and spring up into new life.

25, 26. Our Lord's followers also, if their labours for the conversion of the world are to be fruitful, must, like Him, 'love not their lives unto death.' Only by self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-mortification, and, if need be, by a martyr's death, can the faith be spread, and life given to a dying world. They are to expect no reward in this world, but in the world to come they shall have eternal life, and their heavenly Father will delight to honour them.

26. Where I am] i.e. where I am soon to be, viz. in heaven.

27. Deeply pathetic are these words, and deeply comforting to all who feel their load of sorrow too heavy for them to bear. Even Jesus could not face His hour of agony without a struggle. The horror of His approaching death filled Him with anguish. His soul was troubled. For a moment He almost prayed to be spared the bitter cup. Then His purpose victoriously reasserted itself. It was to die that He came into the world, and by dying willingly He will glorify His Father. The intensely human struggle described here exactly corresponds to the agony in the garden recorded by the synoptists (Matthew 26:39), and is evidence that St. John, no less than they, realised our Lord's true humanity, and its subjection to human conditions. Father, save me from this hour] or, perhaps better, 'Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?' For this cause] i.e. to die.

28. Father, glorify thy name] viz. by accepting My willing sacrifice upon the Cross. A voice] The voices from heaven in the NT. are objective in the sense that all present hear them and are startled by them, but only those for whom they are intended understand their meaning. Thus at the Baptism the heavenly voice was understood by Christ and the Baptist, at the Transfiguration by Christ and the chosen three, here by Christ and the apostles, perhaps by Christ alone. Similarly at St. Paul's conversion only St. Paul himself distinguished the words spoken from heaven, though all heard the voice. I have both glorified it] viz. by accepting the offering of Thy life's work, crowned as it is by Thy willing submission to suffer death upon the cross, and will glorify it again by raising Thee from the dead, and placing Thee in glory at My right hand.

31. Now (i.e. within a few days) is the judgment (or, a judgment) of this world] i.e. of the persons in it. Christ's death followed by His Resurrection is a 'judgment,' because it is a deliberate challenge to mankind to accept Him as the Divine Redeemer of the world Henceforth men must take sides for and against Christ. To accept Him is to accept eternal life: to reject Him is to be self-condemned.

Now shall the prince of this world (i.e. Satan) be cast out] i.e. deposed by the power of Christ's Death and Resurrection from his usurped dominion over the human race. 'The prince of the world' (i.e. of the Gentile world) was a recognised rabbinical title of Satan.

32. And I, if I be lifted up (viz. upon the cross) .. will (after My Resurrection and Ascension) draw all men unto me (RV 'myself')] St. John regards the crucifixion of Jesus as a symbol. His elevation upon the cross is an emblem of His being set up as the ensign (Isaiah 11:10) around which the nations are to rally. The attractive power of the cross lies largely in the fact that sorrow and suffering are universal, and that the sympathy for which all suffering souls crave is only to be found in the love of the Crucified. All men] The offer of salvation is made to all.

34. The people understand Christ's allusion to His death, and find this difficult to reconcile with 'the Law,' i.e. the OT. (see John 10:34), which teaches that the reign of the Messiah will be eternal (Psalms 45:6; Psalms 110:4; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 7:14). Can, therefore, Jesus be the Messiah? Has He even claimed to be He? He has only (John 12:23) claimed to be the Son of man. Is this Son of man, whom He claims to be, the Messiah or not? They press for an answer.

35, 36. Jesus gives no direct answer, though He implies that He is the Messiah by calling Himself the Light: see John 8:12. Avoiding all controversy, He bids them believe on Him, while they have Him with them, and warns them of their danger if they do not.

36. Children (RV 'sons') of light] i.e. enlightened persons. The phrase occurs Luke 16:8; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5. Did hide himself] lit. 'was hidden.' This was Christ's final retirement from His public ministry, and corresponds with Matthew 24:1, where Christ leaves the Temple for the last time. He went, probably, to Bethany (Matthew 21:17).

37-43. Cause of the unbelief of the Jews. At first they could believe, but refused. By and by they became incapable of it. In this too common experience St. John sees the judgment of God: cp. Romans 9-11.

38. Lord, who, etc.] quoted exactly from LXX of Isaiah 53:1.

40. He hath blinded, etc.] A very free quotation from Isaiah 6:10.

41. These things said Esaias (Isaiah)] Strictly speaking, God said them to Isaiah about Isaiah's own contemporaries, but St. John sees in the passage a typical prophecy of the unbelief of the Jews in the time of Christ. When he saw his glory] i.e. Christ's glory. The words were spoken at Isaiah's call when he 'saw the Lord' (whom the evangelist identifies with Christ) 'upon a throne high and lifted up' (Isaiah 6:5).

43. They loved to be honoured by men, more than to be honoured by God.

44-50. Judgment of Jesus upon their unbelief. He refuses to condemn them formally (John 12:47), because His First Coming was not to judge, but to save. Yet He adds that in the Last Day they will be self-condemned. His words, which they rejected, will rise up against them in judgment. These vv. are neither a public address, which Jesus came out of his retirement to deliver, nor a private exhortation to the Greeks, but rather a collection of striking sayings of Jesus on the subject of faith and unbelief, appropriately inserted by the evangelist in this place.

45. Cp. John 14:9.

46. Cp. John 8:12; John 9:5, John 9:39 etc.

47. And believe not] RV 'and keep them not.' I judge him not] cp. John 5:45; John 8:15, John 8:26. I came not] cp. John 3:17.

48. In the last day Jesus will but ratify the verdict of their own consciences.

50. 'The gospel message which the Father has committed to Me conveys to those who accept and obey it eternal life.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on John 12:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/john-12.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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