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Bible Commentaries
John 12

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Jesus’ public ministry was concluded between the events of the last chapter and the Passover which comes into view in this. A number of important things in the life of Christ took place between John 11:54 and John 11:55. According to Robertson, these were:

He started the last journey to Jerusalem, via Samaria and Galilee. healing ten lepers en route (Luke 17:11-37).

He gave two parables on prayers, those of the importunate widow and the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:1-14).

He gave his teaching on divorce (Mark 10:1-12; Matthew 19:1-12).

He received little children (Mark 10:13-16, etc.).

He spoke with the rich young ruler and gave the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Mark 10:17-31, and parallel accounts).

He gave the third prophecy of his death and resurrection and rebuked ambition of Zebedee’s sons (Mark 10:32-45, etc.).

He healed Bartimaeus and a companion at Jericho (Mark 10:46-52, and parallel accounts).

He visited Zacchaeus, gave the parable of the pounds, and went on up to Jerusalem (Luke 19:142:8).(F1)

All the above events were in the Galilean and later Perean ministry, thus accounting for their omission by John, who recorded, for the most part, events in Judaea and Jerusalem. It is not known why John omitted so much of what the synoptics recorded nor why they omitted so much of what John recorded. The speculations of radical critics have shed nothing but darkness on the question by their contradictory and unreasonable hypotheses. For example:

Gardner-Smith’s investigations have led him to the startling conclusion that the Fourth Evangelist had not read any of the Synoptic Gospels.(F2)

Alan Richardson thought the apostle had read all three accounts, in fact, scrambling them in the instance of the anointing mentioned in this chapter! His words are: "St. John has fumbled in making her wipe off the ointment!"(F3)

The destructive critics are like the Pharisees of the last chapter who denied the miracle of the blind man’s healing, but then quickly admitted it and made it the basis of a slander of Jesus for not preventing the death of Lazarus.

The twelfth chapter falls into four divisions: (1) the supper for Jesus and Lazarus (John 12:1-11); (2) the triumphal entry (John 12:12-20); (3) coming of the Greeks, and the voice from heaven (John 12:21-36); and (4) Jesus sums up his claims (John 12:37-50).

Verse 1

Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead.

For purposes of this study, the date here is construed as Friday night, after Robertson, Hovey, and many others. Regarding the questions that inevitably surface with reference to this, and as to the day of the week upon which the Lord suffered, see under John 19:31.

Verse 2

So they made him a supper there; and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at meat with him.

This is the only New Testament reference to activity on the part of persons raised from the dead by Jesus; and the glimpse of Lazarus’ life is one of normality. As might have been expected, the friends of Jesus and of Lazarus made them a supper, defying the order of the Sanhedrin that they should be informed of Jesus’ whereabouts.

Verse 3

Mary therefore took a pound of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.

Pure nard … Spikenard was a perfume highly prized by the ancients, and was produced from Nardostachys jatamansi, a small plant (which is) a native of the Himalaya Mountains.(F4) The high cost derived partly from the transportation of it thousands of miles from India to Jerusalem. There were "cut" varieties of it, but this was expensive pure nard itself.

Anointed the feet … See below.

And the house was filled with the odor … Again the unmistakable mark of an eye-witness appears in John. The possession of a whole pound of so rare a perfume is evidence of the wealth and social position of the Lazarus family.


It is an unqualified wonder that some scholars view this anointing as the same one recorded in Luke (Luke 7:36-50), an interpretation which is here rejecled out of hand as being illogical and unreasonable. The melding of the two accounts serves no purpose except that of giving the critics an excuse for alleging "contradictions" between Luke and John. Where is any PROOF that both incidents did not occur? Resemblances between the two events are harder to find than differences.


In home of Simon the Pharisee. In home of Simon the leper.

Dinner given by a critic of Jesus. Dinner given by friends.

Dinner was not in Jesus’ honor. Dinner was in Jesus’ honor.

Occurred at least a year before Occurred the last week of

the Lord’s death. the Lord’s life.

This took place in Galilee. This occurred in Bethany.

The woman here was a "sinner." This woman was noble Mary.

The woman wept. Mary did not weep.

This woman wiped her tears Mary wiped the excess ointment

from Jesus’ feet. from his feet.

Here, Simon the Pharisee was In this, Jesus rebuked Judas

rebuked. Iscariot.

Jesus forgave the woman’s sins The sins of Mary are not in

but not Simon’s sins. view at all.

This was received as a token of This was received as a

the woman’s love. preparation for his burial.

Modern commentators should do better than to confuse these two incidents, as there is absolutely no excuse for accepting the superstition to the effect that the sinful woman mentioned by Luke, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany were all the same individual, a confusion referred to by Robertson as "a medley of medieval mysticism."(F5)

Verses 4-5

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples that should betray him, saith, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred shillings, and given to the poor?

Matthew and Mark record this anointing, in which it seemed to have occurred on Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week, Matthew making it the incident that triggered the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. All the Gospel accounts place it in the last week of the ministry; and while John’s account SEEMS to say it was on Friday, it is not SO STATED. His words are, "They made him a supper THERE (not THEN)." Robertson and most harmonizers place the event in the sequence mentioned by Matthew and Mark, construing John as slightly unchronological here.

In Matthew and Mark, it is the "disciples" who complained of the waste of the nard; in John, the center of the objection is revealed as Judas. This is the kind of "contradiction" so delighted in by critics. Judas, of course, had persuaded other disciples to go along with his objection, Matthew himself probably having been one that did; and thus it would have been improper for Matthew to have laid all the blame on Judas for something he participated in. Note too that John did not say that Judas ALONE objected. Where, then, is the contradiction? It isn’t.

Three hundred shillings … The word in the Greek (shilling) denotes a coin worth about eight pence half-penny, or nearly seventeen cents.(F6) The relative value of the coin appears in the fact of its being a day’s wages (Matthew 20:9), making the value of the nard to have been the amount of money a man might have earned for three hundred days of labor.

Verse 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.

Richardson wrote that "St. John adds some disparaging remarks about his (Judas’) character and conduct."(F7) Since "disparage" means "to undervalue," it would have been enlightening if Richardson had told us what higher value he placed upon Judas’ character and conduct than that which is stated here. It is incorrect to believe that John here improperly added to the odium properly belonging to the name of Judas; on the other hand, it is a true statement of the traitor’s conduct and remarks, together with a revelation of what motivated him.

Verse 7

Jesus therefore said, Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying.

Suffer her to keep it … Scholars misunderstand this as meaning Mary had not used all the nard, supposing this to mean, "Let her keep what is left." The cruse had been broken; there was nothing left in it (Mark 14:3). Howard’s statement that John’s record is contrary to "the synoptic statement that the box had been broken"(F8) is untrue. Jesus’ perfectly clear meaning is: "Let her do what she has done (kept it against the day of my burying)." Moreover, the peculiar use of the present tense (and we believe prophetic tense), "Suffer her to keep it," indicates the achievement of a timeless and world-wide memorial to Mary’s name and honor. Christ commanded that the record of this loving deed be preached throughout time until the judgment; and, in such a proclamation, she did in fact truly "keep" the last drop of that precious perfume poured upon Jesus’ feet. Did not Joseph of Arimathea keep his tomb and the lad his basket, after giving them to Jesus? Did anyone ever give anything to Jesus without at the same time "keeping it"? What is given to the Lord is kept; all else is lost; and can it be any different with this nard? Mary poured all the nard on Jesus; but she "kept it all." Against the day of his burial? Yes, but also for all time until the judgment!

Verse 8

For the poor ye have always with you; but me ye have not always.

The priority of Jesus Christ and his requirements, even above and before the legitimate needs of the poor, appears in a statement such as this. The claims of the poor upon the believer’s bounty are high; but the obligation to Christ is higher. See my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 26:11.

Verse 9

The common people therefore of the Jews learned that he was there: and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.

The common people … of the Jews … This construction explains John’s use of "Jews" throughout the Gospel as primarily a designation of the religious hierarchy who opposed Jesus; thus it was necessary to explain the distinction here. "Jews …" was never used by John in a racial or anti-Semitic manner. The common people loved Jesus and believed on him.

Verses 10-11

But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

Howard’s condescending remark that "The chief priests were alarmed at this recrudescence of popular fanaticism and added the name of Lazarus to the list of the condemned"(F9) is to be deplored for its use of the term "fanaticism," applied to the popular movement, toward Jesus. Are those who still seek and believe on Jesus also "fanatics"? It is in such off-hand statements as this that one may often determine the existence of hostile thoughts against the Lord and thus be able to explain comments which are otherwise a mystery.

Verses 12-13

On the morrow a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches from palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried out, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.


Hendriksen noted: the triumphal entry is in all four Gospels declaring that "Although the accounts differ, they do not conflict in any way."(F10) For comments on the primary features of this event, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 12.

Went forth to meet him … The two sources of the great throng of people were: (1) the crowd following from Bethany, and (2) the great crowd who, hearing that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, went forth from the Holy City to meet him.

Branches of palm trees … This was a customary greeting of popular heroes; and the prevalence of many palm trees facilitated this type of demonstration.

Hosanna… has the meaning of "O Jehovah, save now!" It had not, at that time, developed into a mere "hurrah!" but had overtones of deep religious feeling. The Old Testament has this:

Save now, we beseech thee, O Jehovah: O Jehovah, we beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah (Psalms 118:25-26).

According to Westcott, this Psalm was written as the dedication Psalm for the second temple,(F11) making the quotation both appropriate and significant.

The King of Israel … The popular recognition of Jesus, even in this outpouring of demonstration, fell far short of any true appreciation of Jesus’ actual mission and purpose. It would appear to be certain that Jesus permitted such an outpouring, along with this reference to "the King of Israel," in order to bring about the confrontation with the hierarchy. The Pharisees, having already decided not to kill Jesus during the Passover (Matthew 26:1-5), would be overruled in their strategy of delay; and such a thing as this triumphal entry was exactly calculated to spur them into a change of strategy.

Verses 14-15

And Jesus, having found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.

Ass’s colt … John did not narrate the manner of this beast’s procurement, as in the synoptics, but did make reference, as did they, to the prophecy (Zechariah 9:9). It is incorrect to make any point of Matthew’s reference to "Son of David," contrasting with John’s "King of Israel." The reference by both to the prophecy show exactly who was meant; and, in such a mob welcome as that, these and possibly other titles of Jesus were used in the popular greeting.

Verse 16

These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

The failure of Jesus’ most intimate and faithful disciples to comprehend the spiritual nature of his kingdom, and the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies concerning him, was evidently due to their also having been so full of the "earthly kingdom" idea which dominated the minds of the Jewish leaders. Not until after the resurrection did the apostles finally get everything into the proper focus and have the full glory of the Saviour’s glorious work finally dawn upon their understanding. We should be thankful for this; because here is the positive and unanswerable proof that the disciples, having the attitude they held, could not possibly have contrived any such thing as stealing Jesus’ body, or any kind of hoax regarding his resurrection. As a matter of truth, they did not even expect his resurrection, having no thought of it whatever, until after it happened.

Verse 17

The multitude therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, bare witness.

This means that the multitude were shouting his praises and telling to all men the marvel of how Jesus raised a man from the dead who had been dead four days. Only John pointed out the contribution made by the witnesses of the seventh sign to the triumphal entry.

Verse 18

For this cause also the multitude went and met him, for they had heard that he had done this sign.

It was the raising of the dead that triggered the appearance of such a large and enthusiastic multitude; and the people who had seen it were telling the story to all whom they met. The popular frenzy at the thought of seeing one who could do such a thing increased as Jesus approached Jerusalem, an immense throng being caught up and swept along by the momentum of such a demonstration.

Verse 19

The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Behold how ye prevail nothing: lo, the world has gone after him.

Here again, the Pharisees’ comment, probably inspired by, or even spoken by, Caiaphas, was prophetic without their intending it so. The whole world had indeed gone after Jesus; even the Greeks would shortly afterward make their appearance! Of course, the Pharisaical answer to such popular approval was to murder the Lord judicially, little dreaming that their very act of doing so would accomplish exactly what Jesus came into the world to do.

Verses 20-21

Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast: these therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.


As Knox observed:

The "Greeks" were Gentiles — we do not know from where — who had already become proselytes to Judaism or faithful friends of the synagogue (God-fearers) … Notice that it is the desire of the Greeks to see Jesus which alone interests this writer. He does not tell us whether or not these particular Gentiles saw him. Presumably they did; but that does not matter.(F12)

Throughout John to here, the enemies of Jesus could not harm him because his hour had not yet come; but Jesus saw in the awakened interest of the Gentile world that the time had come. At last, it was his "hour," and there would be no further providential hindrances of what his enemies planned to do.

Many questions of curiosity arise around this incident, such as whether or not the Gentiles went to Philip because he had a Greek name, or if they had come with an offer of sanctuary from Jesus’ enemies, etc. The Spirit-inspired evangelists never catered to human curiosity, relating only the facts which were pertinent to their holy message of salvation.

Verse 22

Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: Andrew cometh, and Philip, and they tell Jesus.

What was it that they told Jesus?

Eusebius mentions a tradition (and it is merely that) that these men had been sent by the Syrian King Edessa with a commission to invite Jesus to come to his realm, assuring him a hearty and princely welcome … The coming of these Greeks was prophetic. The leaders of the nation were seeking even then to kill him, but Gentiles came to seek to know him; rejected by his own, the Gentiles would turn to him.(F13)

Andrew … once more appears in Scripture as the man who brought someone to Jesus, corresponding with what is said of him in the instances of his bringing Peter and the lad with the loaves and fishes.

Verse 23

And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

Far from being glad to have an offer of sanctuary (if such a thing was involved), Jesus instantly recognized that the moment of his suffering was at hand. His sufferings, death, and resurrection would be the "glorification" referred to here. He viewed it thus, because in that would be the means of his winning millions of souls.

Verses 24-25

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit. He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Three applications of this metaphor are: (1) in nature, the death of seeds is necessary to their production of fruit; (2) Jesus consented to die as a means of winning the world to himself; and (3) for all who would be saved, the process is the same. One must renounce himself, loving not his own life, but losing it, and taking up fully the identity of Jesus in order to be saved.

Note here the promise of eternal life. The doctrine of the "last things," or eschatology, as some like to call it, is alleged by some to be lacking in this Gospel; but, as Howard noted, "That favorite term in the Johannine vocabulary, `eternal life,’ is eschatological in its origin."(F14) The reference to final resurrection and judgment (John 5:24-29), and the recurring refrain, "I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54) along with such passages as the one before us, make it clear that John’s Gospel, in this particular, is no different from the others.

Verse 26

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be: if any man serve me, him will the Father honor.

Where I am … is also a reference to last things. Dummelow wrote: "(This means) where I am soon to be, viz., in heaven,"(F15) this making Jesus’ promise to be that his true followers shall join him finally in heaven.

If any man serve me, him will the Father honor … claims an equality between Jesus and the Father, requiring the deduction that serving Jesus is the same as serving God.

Verse 27

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour.

The English Revised Version (1885) margin has "save me from this hour?" interrogatively, which is necessary to sustain the thought. It means that Jesus would thus have prayed if his purpose had been otherwise than that of dying to save men.

Is my soul troubled … The events unfolding before Jesus were extremely ugly and tragic, not simply for himself, but also in the profound implications for the chosen people. The total rejection and casting off of Israel loomed ominously in this visit of Gentiles who would accept Jesus, contrasting so tragically with the obduracy of the chosen nation. As Westcott expressed it:

The shock has come already … The presence and petition of the Greeks foreshadowed the judgment of the chosen people, and brought forward the means by which it would be accomplished. The prospect of this catastrophe was perhaps the crisis of the Lord’s present conflict.<16>

Verse 28

Father glorify thy name. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

Three times God spoke out of heaven during the ministry of Jesus: here, at the baptism, and at the transfiguration (Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7, and parallels). The Jews are said to have regarded thunder as an echo of the voice of God; but, "In all four Gospels, it is no mere echo of God’s voice that is heard, but the direct speaking of the Father to the Son."(F16)

Glorify thy name … Offered in the emotional tension arising from Jesus’ consciousness that his "hour" was at hand, this prayer is surprising in that it has no petition for himself, but only for the glory of the Father’s name.

I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again … Christ had glorified God by his ministry among the Jews, and he was now to glorify him by his death for all men, and by the gradual spread of the gospel among all nations.(F17)

Verse 29

The multitude therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it had thundered: others said, An angel hath spoken to him.

That some of the multitude heard the words is obvious. The apostle John heard and understood the words himself, without any need of anyone’s interpreting them to him (for no such thing is mentioned). Thus it may be assumed that they were intelligible words, wanting only attention on the part of hearers to be understood. As Frank L. Cox expressed it:

Here we have an illustration of the fact that people often hear things differently according to what they are themselves. Some hear thunder, others an angel’s voice, but Jesus understood.(F18)

It is one of the mysteries of life that some see and hear the things of God, and others do not see nor hear. Daniel was by the river Hiddekel when he saw the holy vision, but his companions were not aware of it; and Paul’s companions on the Damascus road heard the noise but not the words of the Lord out of heaven.

Verse 30

Jesus answered and said, This voice hath not come for my sake, but for your sakes.

Since the voice was given for the multitude’s sake, it follows that they should have understood it. That some did not may be a reflection upon themselves, in that their moral condition did not permit them to hear God’s voice. Jesus did not need such a testimony, but the carnal multitude did need it.

Verse 31

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

The crisis of all ages had arrived. Jesus would die on the cross to redeem men from the curse of sin, enabling them to be saved eternally, and to restore the fellowship with God, broken such a long while before by the disaster in Eden. The head of Satan would now be "bruised" in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. This great victory is here called the casting out of the prince of this world. That the cosmic victory over Satan would be won by such a thing as the death of Christ on Calvary is the mystery hidden before times eternal. The victory came through death itself, and that at the very moment when Satan might have thought that he had won (Hebrews 2:15). The words Jesus spoke here were in anticipation of that victory.

The prince of this world … refers to Satan, called also the "god of this world," and "the prince of the powers of the air." The casting out will be accomplished by the cross, as the next verse shows.

Verses 32-33

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should die.

As Dr. Baxter wrote:

It is difficult to realize the tremendous faith which this expression reflects. We hear these words through nineteen centuries of Christian history which followed them; but, when Jesus made the statement here, there was little visible evidence to make anyone believe that these words might literally come true. It must have seemed to those who heard it the most presumptuous statement ever made.(F19)

Lifted up … See under John 3:14. The primary reference of this is to Jesus’ death by being lifted up upon the cross; but the words suggest other truth also. Christ was lifted up from the grave; he was lifted up into heaven; he has been lifted up in the hearts of men by the preaching of the gospel in all ages since then.

Draw all men unto myself … He draws men in that he alone loved men sufficiently to die for them, in that he is the only true revelation of God, in that he is the only perfect soul who ever lived on earth, and in that he alone is the satisfaction of the soul’s deepest desires.

The glorious manner in which the daring words of this prophecy have been fulfilled defies explanation. Jesus of Nazareth is the most conspicuous and the mightiest of all the personalities ever to make themselves known on earth; and, in the last decade alone, there have been more beautiful buildings constructed and dedicated to the honor and worship of Jesus Christ throughout the world than have been constructed and dedicated to any one hundred of the greatest kings and rulers who ever lived; and still Jesus marches on!

Verse 34

We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

Out of the law … means out of the Old Testament, rather than being restricted in meaning to the Pentateuch. The passages they might have had in mind are Psalms 110:4; Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 37:25; and Daniel 7:14. In all of these, the everlasting dominion of the Messiah is implied or stated.

The multitude were also present when Jesus spoke of the Son of man (John 12:23), and thus it was no impropriety for them to question "Who is this Son of man?" They had wrongly construed the above prophecies as meaning that Messiah would continue ON EARTH forever as a literal ruler over God’s people; but this is not strange in view of the fact that some still misconstrue them in the same manner.

Son of man … was far and away Jesus’ favorite title for himself; and by the use of it he meant everything, and even more, than is conveyed by "Messiah," "Son of God," etc. See the article on "Son of man …" under John 1:51.

Verse 35

Jesus therefore said unto them, Yet a little while is the light among you. Walk while ye have the light, that darkness overtake you not: and he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have the light, believe on the light, that ye may become sons of the light.

Though not an answer to their question, this was an answer to the attitude of the people. Jesus had proclaimed himself the Light of the world (see under John 9:5), but they were not willing to walk in it.

Yet a little while … is a tragic reference to the fact that the "hour" had come, and that the Saviour would shortly be sacrificed. Israel’s day of grace was fading. The sneering, captious questions of the unregenerated would be endured only a few more days. Their one remaining great opportunity was then and there. If they had believed, it would have conferred upon them the right to become sons of God, but such a blessing would not wait much longer upon them. With these solemn words, the Lord rang down the curtain on the great Judean ministry, except for a few more brief hours during his holy passion.

Verses 36-37

These things spake Jesus, and he departed and hid himself from them. But though he had done so many signs before them, yet they believed not on him.

Upon this verse, Frank L. Cox commented that:

The public ministry of Jesus had closed. Two summaries of this ministry are given: one by John, and the other by Jesus and recorded by John. John’s summary is in John 12:37-43, and Jesus’ summary is in John 12:44-50.(F20)

So many signs before them … For a list of the seven great signs, see the heading of chapter two. There were countless signs besides the one John recorded (John 20:30; John 21:25).

They believed not … refers to the majority of Israel, and especially to the leaders; but John at once pointed this out as a fulfillment of prophecy.

Verse 38

That the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

Might be fulfilled … does not mean that the Pharisees disbelieved in order to fulfill prophecy, but that their unbelief had been foretold by Isaiah. The very same unbelief that greeted the words of Isaiah also greeted the message of Jesus. Barnes noted that:

Isaiah’s message was despised by the nation, and he himself put to death. And it was also true, by the same causes: by the same nation, that the same gospel message was rejected by Jews in the time of Christ. The same language of the prophet fully expresses both events; and no doubt it was intended by the Holy Spirit to mark both events.(F21)

Significantly, the prophecy here quoted (Isaiah 53:1) is the same prophecy that foretold the rejection of Jesus and that he would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. That great chapter also details the crucifixion: "by his stripes we are healed," "God laid upon him the iniquity of us all," etc.

Verses 39-40

For this cause they could not believe, for that Isaiah had said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and he hardened their heart; Lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, And should turn, And I should heal them.

They could not believe … This accounts for the sad remark of Jesus (John 12:35). It was already too late. The people had closed their eyes, stopped their ears, and hardened their hearts. They had shut their eyes to every sign, greeted every spiritual message with some crass literalization of his words, scorned every revelation of himself as the Shepherd, the Door, the Light, the Bread of Life, etc., and had caviled at his every word. Having so hardened themselves, they inevitably suffered the penalty of God’s judicial hardening, making them no longer capable of believing. For study of hardening of Israel, see my Commentary on Romans, p. 376; and for comments on the manner of God’s hardening all who do not like to keep God in their hearts, see my Commentary on Romans, pp. 45f. It should ever be borne in mind that God’s judicial hardening always follows, and never exists apart from the act of evil men sinfully hardening themselves.

John’s quotation is from Isaiah 6:10. Matthew quoted Jesus as using exactly the same words (Matthew 13:14-15).

Verse 41

These things saith Isaiah, because he saw his glory; and he spake of him.

Isaiah did indeed see the glory of the coming Redeemer and was especially effective in the portrayal of Messiah’s dual nature. Christ as God and Christ as man were prophesied and presented throughout Isaiah as the one Messiah. Thus he was hailed as "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6), and by the same prophet as "Despised … rejected … put to grief … bruised … chastised … having no beauty … in travail … cut off out of the land of the living," etc. (Isaiah 53:1 ff). Not the least of Isaiah’s great prophecies of Jesus was that of his rejection by the chosen people.

Verses 42-43

Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God.

These two verses are among the most important in Scripture in regard to their bearing upon the question of whether or not one is justified by FAITH ONLY, making it impossible logically to believe that faith alone can justify.

Believed on him … is alleged to have been faith of a DIFFERENT KIND from that required for salvation. Hovey called it "a rational conviction … but not a saving trust in Christ."(F22) Gaebelein wrote, "But they had no true faith in God."(F23) Barnes has, "They were convinced in their understanding that he was the Messiah."(F24) Johnson says, "These rulers, not believing with the heart, did not make open confession."(F25) Morgan concluded that "The most illuminating sentence concerning this verse came from the pen of Bishop Westcott, who said, `This complete intellectual faith is really the climax of unbelief.’"(F26) Yet we have Westcott’s own testimony thus:

It is remarkable that St. John uses of this belief the phrase which marks the completeness of belief. The belief only lacked confession, but this defect was fatal. Compare John 2:23, where belief complete in itself is practically imperfect.(F27)

It is astoundingly clear that many of the rulers had a COMPLETENESS OF FAITH, Westcott leaving no doubt whatever that the Greek New Testament teaches this. Therefore, the deduction must stand stark and mandatory that something beyond faith (even if one has a COMPLETE faith) is required for salvation. The device of supposing that one kind of faith comes from the heart and another kind from the mind, or intellect, is ridiculous, because the Scriptural HEART is the MIND. Furthermore, the Bible has absolutely nothing about KINDS of faith, distinctions of so-called varieties of faith deriving from human speculation and not from God’s word. It must be rejected out of hand, therefore, that the faith of the rulers (in this verse) was anywise different from the faith of any man coming to Jesus Christ for eternal salvation. There was only ONE THING wrong with their faith. It was FAITH ALONE! Of course, this stands squarely opposed to the Lutheran heresy of justification by faith only; and this undeniable fact would appear to be the only reason why so many writers have labored to make the faith in this verse to have been some diverse kind or variety of faith. The thing lacking was not faith (they had it all) but obedience (they would not confess). Millions of men today are in the same category with these rulers. They believe but will not confess and be baptized. John’s entire Gospel is in full harmony with what is taught here. See John 1:12; John 2:23; John 8:31; etc.

Lest they should be put out of the synagogue … The social pressures in the community were sufficient to restrain some from acting in harmony with their faith in Christ. The same is true today.

They loved the glory, etc … Regardless of the faith that may exist in the heart, it is the love of God which must sustain and activate it if it is to issue in any benefit to the believer. Love is greater than faith, even a complete faith; and the reason for this was announced by our Lord himself who said, "If ye love me ye will keep my commandments," a statement nowhere made concerning faith (John 14:15). How strange it is that men claim exactly the same thing for faith that Christ claimed for love, making faith the fulfilling of all the commandments.(F28) Any theory of justification by faith which omits love and obedience is a false theory.

Verse 44

And Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

Here begins Jesus’ own summary of his teachings, the same being a recapitulation of teachings already recorded in John.

Verse 45

And he that beholdeth me beholdeth him that sent me.

See under John 5:23.

Verse 46

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me may not abide in darkness.

See under John 9:5, etc.

Verse 47

And if any man hear my sayings, and keep them not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

This priority in our Lord’s purpose appeared earlier. See John 3:17 f.

Verse 48

He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day.

See under John 3:17-18 and under John 5:24-29.

The last day … Again the doctrine of the last things comes into prominence in this Gospel. See under John 12:25.

Here it is affirmed dogmatically that the basis of the eternal judgment will be the word of Jesus Christ. Matthew quoted Jesus as teaching the same thing (Matthew 7:24-27). The word of Christ, as delivered to men by the apostles, is the final dogmatic authority in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said, "whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20) is the burden of the church’s commission, thus making his teachings the constitution and bylaws of the kingdom of God, or the church. The reason underlying the truth enunciated here (that his word shall judge all men) is given in the next verse.

Verses 49-50

For I spake not from myself; but the Father that sent me, he hath given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life eternal; the things therefore which I speak even as the Father hath said unto me, so I speak.

The words of Jesus are eternally important because they are the words of God. Significantly, our Lord never requested men to believe him AS A MAN, but as the TRUE MESSENGER OF GOD. What a difference prevails among human authorities. The rule of thumb for claiming attention on the human level is this: a bishop has spoken; a pope has published an encyclical; the council has made a decision; the head of the church has spoken; an archbishop has said, etc., etc. Not even the holy Christ himself, while on earth as a man, demanded that his words be accepted on the basis of any earthly trust or position that he occupied, his sole claim upon human credibility and acceptance being in this alone, that he delivered the TRUE WORD OF ALMIGHTY GOD! This is the unique significance and authority of the word of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 12". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/john-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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