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Bible Commentaries
John 12

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-11

118. Jesus returns to Bethany (John 12:1-11)

Before going on to Jerusalem, Jesus returned to Bethany, where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. Mary, believing this was probably the last time Jesus would be with them, showed her devotion by washing his feet with expensive perfume (John 12:1-4). Judas objected that the use of expensive perfume in this way was a waste of money. In answer Jesus told his disciples that he would be with them only a little longer, then would be crucified. He saw Mary’s act as a symbolic anointing of his body in preparation for burial (John 12:5-8).

Once it became known that Jesus was in the house, a crowd gathered. Some were just curious sightseers, but many became genuine believers. The Jewish leaders were right in thinking that the raising of Lazarus would attract a following for Jesus. They therefore became more determined to kill him and decided to kill Lazarus as well (John 12:9-11).

Verses 12-19


119. The triumphal entry (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)

The time had now come for Jesus to challenge his opponents openly by a clear public demonstration that he was Israel’s Messiah. The Jewish leaders wanted to arrest him, but when told of his whereabouts they feared to take action. They were unsure of the extent of Jesus’ popular support (cf. John 11:57; John 12:9-11).

To make sure that nothing stopped him from making a bold public entry into Jerusalem, Jesus had made a secret arrangement with some unnamed villagers who would provide the donkey that he would ride. By using a pre-arranged password, two of his disciples collected the donkey and brought it to him (Matthew 21:1-3; Luke 19:28-34).

As the messianic king, the son of David, Jesus then entered his royal city of Zion. He came not riding a horse as a conquering warlord, but sitting on a donkey as a king of peace, as the Scriptures foretold (see Zechariah 9:9). People who were in Jerusalem for the Passover, along with local residents, welcomed him as the Messiah. They may not have understood the nature of his messiahship, but they were enthusiastic in their acceptance of him (Matthew 21:4-11; Luke 19:35-38; John 12:12-16. (The word ‘Hosanna’, meaning ‘Save us, O Lord’, came from two Hebrew words found in Psalms 118:0, where Israel’s victorious king was welcomed with the words, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’; Psalms 118:25-26. By New Testament times the two expressions, used together, had become a declaration of praise to God for the promised Messiah.)

The Pharisees were annoyed at the welcome Jesus received and unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to silence the people (Luke 19:39-40). As the news of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus spread, more and more people flocked to see him. The thing the Pharisees most feared was happening before their eyes (John 12:17-19).

Jesus, however, was not deceived by this enthusiastic welcome. He knew that when people properly understood the nature of his messiahship, they would turn against him. The nation as a whole would reject him, and in the judgment to follow, Jerusalem would be destroyed (Luke 19:41-44). The significance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was not political but spiritual, and therefore he went not to the palace but to the temple. He took note of what was happening there, then returned with his disciples to Bethany, where they spent the night (Mark 11:11).

Verses 20-26


136. The seed must die (John 12:20-26)

Among the crowds that went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival were some Greeks. They had joined themselves to the synagogue communities where they lived, and now they wanted to see Jesus (John 12:20-22).

When the Lord heard of the Greeks’ request, his response was to announce that the climax of his mission had arrived and he was now about to lay down his life. He apparently saw these Greeks as the firstfruits of a great Gentile harvest that would result from his death. Grains of wheat must die and be buried before they can grow up and produce a harvest. Likewise Jesus had to die so that multitudes from all nations might find eternal life. The principle of ‘death before life’ applies also to those who follow Jesus. For his sake they must sacrifice their lives of self-pleasing before they can be fruitful for him. People will despise them as they despised Jesus, but God will honour them (John 12:23-26).

Verses 27-50

137. Final message to the Jews (John 12:27-50)

Jesus trembled as he thought of the suffering that awaited him, but he was determined to finish the work he had come to do. He prayed that through his death he would glorify his Father, and his Father responded in a voice from heaven that the prayer would be answered (John 12:27-29). As the startled onlookers were wondering what they had heard, Jesus told them that the time for Satan’s defeat was approaching. Through Jesus’ crucifixion, people of all nations would be delivered from Satan’s power and brought into the liberty of the kingdom of God (John 12:30-33).

The people were puzzled at Jesus’ statement. He spoke of himself as ‘the Son of man’, but if he used this expression to mean ‘the Messiah’, how could the Messiah die on the cross? They thought the Messiah would live for ever. Jesus had no more time to reason with them, but urged them to believe in him immediately and so walk in the light while he was still on earth. Otherwise the darkness would come upon them and they would be lost eternally (John 12:34-36).

Most of the Jewish people were stubborn in their unbelief, as Isaiah had prophesied. Any who believed in him were afraid to say so openly, for fear of being put out of the synagogue (John 12:37-43). In his final words to the crowd, Jesus explained that to believe in him was to believe in God; to reject him was to reject God (John 12:44-46). Jesus came to save people, not to condemn them, and the words he spoke were the words of God. But in the day of judgment those same words would be a witness for the condemnation of those who rejected them (John 12:47-50).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 12". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/john-12.html. 2005.
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