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Bible Commentaries
John 12

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Verse 1

Then Jesus came to Bethany - This was near to Jerusalem, and it was from this place that he made his triumphant entry into the city. See the notes at Matthew 21:1.

Verses 2-8

See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 26:3-16.

John 12:2

A supper - At the house of Simon the leper, Matthew 26:6.

Lazarus was ... - The names of Martha and Lazarus are mentioned because it was not in their own house, but in that of Simon. Lazarus is particularly mentioned, since it was so remarkable that one who had been once dead should be enjoying again the endearments of friendship. This shows, also, that his resurrection was no illusion - that he was really restored to the blessings of life and friendship. Calmet thinks that this was about two months after his resurrection, and it is the last that we hear of him. How long he lived is unknown, nor is it recorded that he made any communication about the world of spirits. It is remarkable that none who have been restored to life from the dead have made any communications respecting that world. See Luke 16:31, and the notes at 2 Corinthians 12:4.

John 12:4

Which should betray him - Greek, “who was to betray him” - that is, who would do it.

John 12:5

Three hundred pence - About 40,00, or 8 British pounds, 10 shillings (circa 1880’s).

And given to the poor - The avails or value of it given to the poor.

John 12:6

Had the bag - The word translated “bag” is compounded of two words, meaning “tongue,” and “to keep or preserve.” It was used to denote the bag in which musicians used to keep the tongues or reeds of their pipes when traveling. Hence, it came to mean any bag or purse in which travelers put their money or their most precious articles. The disciples appear to have had such a bag or purse in common, in which they put whatever money they had, and which was designed especially for the poor, Luke 8:3; John 13:29; Acts 2:44. The keeping of this, it seems, was intrusted to Judas; and it is remarkable that the only one among them who appears to have been naturally avaricious should have received this appointment. It shows us that every man is tried according to his native propensity. This is the object of trial - to bring out man’s native character; and every man will find opportunity to do evil according to his native disposition, if he is inclined, to it.

And bare ... - The word translated “bare” means literally “to carry as a burden.” Then it means “to carry away,” as in John 20:15; “If thou hast borne him hence.” Hence, it means to carry away as a thief does, and this is evidently its meaning here. It has this sense often in classic writers. Judas was a thief and stole what was put into the bag. The money he desired to be entrusted to him, that he might secretly enrich himself. It is clear, however, that the disciples did not at this time know that this was his character, or they would have remonstrated against him. They learned it afterward. We may learn here:

1.That it is not a new thing for members of the church to be covetous. Judas was so before them.

2.That such members will be those who complain of the great waste in spreading the gospel.

3.That this deadly, mean, and grovelling passion will work all evil in a church. It brought down the curse of God on the children of Israel in the case of Achan Joshua 7:0, and it betrayed our Lord to death. It has often since brought blighting on the church; and many a time it has betrayed the cause of Christ, and drowned men in destruction and perdition, 1 Timothy 6:9.

Verse 10

That they might put Lazarus also to death - When men are determined not to believe the gospel, there is no end to the crimes to which they are driven. Lazarus was alive, and the evidence of his resurrection was so clear that they could not resist it. They could neither deny it, nor prevent its effect on the people. As it was determined to kill Jesus, so they consulted about the propriety of removing Lazarus first, that the number of his followers might be lessened, and that the death of Jesus might make less commotion. Unbelief stops at no crime. Lazarus was innocent; they could bring no charge against him; but they deliberately plotted murder rather than believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 12-19

See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 21:1-16. Also Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44.

John 12:16

Was glorified - Was raised from the dead, and had ascended to heaven.

John 12:17

Bare record - Testified that he had raised him, and, as was natural, spread the report through the city. This excited much attention, and the people came out in multitudes to meet one who had power to work such miracles.

John 12:19

Prevail nothing - All your efforts are ineffectual to stop the progress of his opinions, and to prevent the people from believing on him.

The world - As we should say, “Everybody - all the city has gone out.” The fact that he met with such success induced them to hasten their design of putting him to death, John 11:53.

Verse 20

Certain Greeks - In the original, “some Hellenists” - -the name commonly given to the Greeks. The same name was commonly used by the Jews to denote all the pagan nations, because most of those whom they knew spoke the Greek language, John 7:34; Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9-10; Romans 3:9. “Jews and Greeks.” The Syriac translates this place, “Some of the Gentiles.” There are three opinions in regard to these persons:

1.That they were Jews who spoke the Greek language, and dwelt in some of the Greek cities. It is known that Jews were scattered in Asia Minor, Greece, Macedonia, Egypt, etc., in all which places they had synagogues. See the notes at John 7:35,

2.That they were proselytes from the Greeks.

3.That they were still Gentiles and idolaters, who came to bring offerings to Yahweh to be deposited in the temple. Lightfoot has shown that the surrounding pagans were accustomed not only to send presents, sacrifices, and offerings to the temple, but that they also frequently attended the great feasts of the Jews. Hence, the outer court of the temple was called the court of the Gentiles. Which of these opinions is the correct one cannot be determined.

Verse 21

Bethsaida of Galilee - See the notes at John 1:44.

Would see Jesus - It is probable that the word “see,” here, implies also a desire to converse with him, or to hear his doctrine about the nature of his kingdom. They had seen or heard of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and, either by curiosity or a desire to be instructed, they came and interceded with his disciples that they might be permitted to see him. In this there was nothing wrong. Christ made the curiosity of Zacchaeus the means of his conversion, Luke 19:1-9. If we wish to find the Saviour, we must seek for him and take the proper means.

Verse 22

Telleth Andrew - Why he did not at once tell Jesus is not known. Possibly he was doubtful whether Jesus would wish to converse with Gentiles, and chose to consult with Andrew about it.

Tell Jesus - Whether the Greeks were with them cannot be determined. From the following discourse if would seem probable that they were, or at least that Jesus admitted them to his presence and delivered the discourse to them.

Verse 23

The hour is come - The time is come. The word “hour” commonly means a definite part or a division of a day; but it also is used to denote a brief period, and a fixed, definite, determined time. It is used in this sense here. The appointed, fixed time is come - that is, is so near at hand that it may be said to be come.

The Son of man - This is the favorite title which Jesus gives to himself, denoting his union with man, and the interest he felt in his welfare. The title is used here rather than “The Son of God,” because as a man he had been humble, poor, and despised; but the time had come when, as a man, he was to receive the appropriate honors of the Messiah.

Be glorified - Be honored in an appropriate way - that is, by the testimony which God would give to him at his death, by his resurrection, and by his ascension to glory. See John 7:39.

Verse 24

Verily, verily - An expression denoting the great importance of what he was about to say. We cannot but admire the wisdom by which he introduces the subject of his death. They had seen his triumph. They supposed that he was about to establish his kingdom. He told them that the time had come in which he was to be glorified, but not in the manner in which they expected. It was to be by his death. But as they would not at once see how this could be, as it would appear to dash their hopes, he takes occasion to illustrate it by a beautiful comparison. All the beauty and richness of the harvest results from the fact that the grain had died. If it had not died it would never have germinated or produced the glory of the yellow harvest. So with him. By this he still keeps before them the truth that he was to be glorified, but he delicately and beautifully introduces the idea still that he must die.

A corn - A grain.

Of wheat - Any kind of grain - wheat, barley; etc. The word includes all grain of this kind.

Into the ground - Be buried in the earth, so as to be accessible by the proper moisture.

And die - The whole body or substance of the grain, except the germ, dies in the earth or is decomposed, and this decomposed substance constitutes the first nourishment of the tender germ a nutriment wonderfully adapted to it, and fitted to nourish it until it becomes vigorous enough to derive its support entirely from the ground. In this God has shown his wisdom and goodness. No one thing could be more evidently fitted for another than this provision made in the grain itself for the future wants of the tender germ.

Abideth alone - Produces no fruit. It remains without producing the rich and beautiful harvest. So Jesus intimates that it was only by his death that he would be glorified in the salvation of men, and in the honors and rewards of heaven, Hebrews 2:9; “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor.” Philippians 2:8-9; “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God also hath highly exalted him,” etc. Hebrews 12:2; “who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” See also Ephesians 1:20-23.

Verse 25

He that loveth his life ... - This was a favorite principle, a sort of “axiom” with the Lord Jesus, which he applied to himself as well as to his followers. See the Matthew 10:39 note; Luke 9:24 note.

Verse 26

Serve me - Will be my disciple, or will be a Christian. Perhaps this was said to inform the Greeks John 12:20 of the nature of his religion.

Let him follow me - Let him imitate me; do what I do, bear what I bear, and love what I love. He is discoursing here particularly of his own sufferings and death, and this passage has reference, therefore, to calamity and persecution. “You see me triumph - you see (me enter Jerusalem, and you supposed that my kingdom was to be set up without opposition or calamity; but it is not. I am to die; and if you will serve me, you must follow me even in these scenes of calamity; be willing to endure trial and to bear shame, looking for future reward.”

Where I am - See John 14:3; John 17:24. That is, he shall be in heaven, where the Son of God then was in his divine nature, and where he would be as the glorified Messiah. See the notes at John 3:13. The natural and obvious meaning of the expression “I am” implies that he was then in heaven. The design of this verse is to comfort them in the midst of persecution and trial. They were to follow him to any calamity; but, as he was to be glorified as the result of his sufferings, so they also were to look for their reward in the kingdom of heaven, Revelation 3:21; “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne.”

Verse 27

Now is my soul troubled - The mention of his death brought before him its approaching horrors, its pains, its darkness, its unparalleled woes. Jesus was full of acute sensibility, and his human nature shrunk from the scenes through which he was to pass. See Luke 23:41-44.

What shall I say? - This is an expression denoting intense anxiety and perplexity. As if it were a subject of debate whether he could bear those sufferings; or whether the work of man’s redemption should be abandoned, and he should call upon God to save him. Blessed be his name that he was willing to endure these sorrows, and did not forsake man when he was so near being redeemed! On the decision of that moment - the fixed and unwavering purpose of the Son of God depended man’s salvation. If Jesus had forsaken his purpose then, all would have been lost.

Father, save me - This ought undoubtedly to have been read as a question - “Shall I say, Father, save me?” Shall I apply to God to rescue me? or shall I go forward to bear these trials? As it is in our translation, it represents him as actually offering the prayer, and then checking himself. The Greek will bear either interpretation. The whole verse is full of deep feeling and anxiety. Compare Matthew 26:38; Luke 12:50.

This hour - These calamities. The word “hour,” here, doubtless has reference to his approaching sufferings the appointed hour for him to suffer. Shall I ask my Father to save me from this hour - that is, from these approaching sufferings? That it might have been done, see Matthew 26:53.

But for this cause - That is, to suffer and die. As this was the design of his coming as he did it deliberately - -as the salvation of the world depended on it, he felt that it would not be proper to pray to be delivered from it. He came to suffer, and he submitted to it. See Luke 23:42.

Verse 28

Glorify thy name - The meaning of this expression in this connection is this: “I am willing to bear any trials; I will not shrink from any sufferings. Let thy name be honored. Let thy character, wisdom, goodness, and plans of mercy be manifested and promoted, whatever sufferings it may cost me.” Thus Jesus showed us that God’s glory is to be the great end of our conduct, and that we are to seek that, whatever sufferings it may cost us.

I have both glorified it - The word “it” is not here in the original, but it is not improperly supplied by the translators. There can be no doubt that when God says here that he had glorified his name, he refers to what had been done by Christ, and that this was to be understood as an attestation that he attended him and approved his work. See John 12:30. He had honored his name, or had glorified him, by the pure instructions which he had given to man through him; by the power displayed in his miracles; by proclaiming his mercy through him; by appointing him to be the Messiah, etc.

Will glorify it again - By the death, the resurrection, and ascension of his Son, and by extending the blessings of the gospel among all nations. It was thus that he sustained his Son in view of approaching trials; and we may learn:

1.That God will minister grace to us in the prospect of suffering.

2.That the fact that God will be honored by our afflictions should make us willing to hear them.

3.That whatever was done by Christ tended to honor the name of God. This was what he had in view. He lived and suffered, not for himself, but to glorify God in the salvation of men.

Verse 29

The people - A part of the people.

It thundered - The unexpected sound of the voice would confound and amaze them; and though there is no reason to doubt that the words were spoken distinctly Matthew 3:17, yet some of the people, either from amazement or envy, would suppose that this was a mere natural phenomenon.

An angel spake - It was the opinion of many of the Jews that God did not speak to men except by the ministry of angels, Hebrews 2:2; “The word spoken by angels;” Galatians 3:19; “It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”

Verse 30

Came not because of me - Not to strengthen or confirm me; not that I had any doubts about my course, or any apprehension that God would not approve me and glorify his name.

For your sakes - To give you a striking and indubitable proof that I am the Messiah; that you may remember it when I am departed, and be yourselves comforted, supported, and saved.

Verse 31

Now is the judgment of this world - Greek: “crisis.” This expression, doubtless, has reference to his approaching death, and whatever he means by judgment here relates to something that was to be accomplished by that death. It cannot mean that then was to be the time in which the world was to be finally judged, for he says that he did not come then to judge the world John 12:47; John 8:15, and he has clearly declared that there shall be a future day when he will judge all mankind. The meaning of it may be thus expressed: “Now is approaching the decisive scene, the eventful period - the crisis - when it shall be determined who shall rule this world. There has been a long conflict between the powers of light and darkness between God and the devil. Satan has so effectually ruled that he may be said to be the prince of this world; but my approaching death will destroy his kingdom, will break down his power, and will be the means of setting up the kingdom of God over man.” The death of Christ was to be the most grand and effectual of all means that could be used to establish the authority of the law and the government of God, Romans 8:3-4. This it did by showing the regard which God had for his law; by showing his hatred of sin, and presenting the strongest motives to induce man to leave the service of Satan; by securing the influences of the Holy Spirit, and by his putting forth his own direct power in the cause of virtue and of God. The death of Jesus was the determining cause, the grand crisis, the concentration of all that God had ever done, or ever will do, to break down the kingdom of Satan, and set up his power over man. Thus was fulfilled the prediction Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Now shall the prince of this world - Satan, or the devil, John 14:30; John 16:11. He is also called the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:12; “The rulers of the darkness of this world” - that is, the rulers of this dark world a well-known Hebraism. He is also called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” Ephesians 2:2. All these names are given him from the influence or power which he has over the men of this world, because the great mass of men have been under his control and subject to his will.

Be cast out - His kingdom shall be destroyed; his empire shall come to an end. It does not mean that his reign over all men would entirely cease then, but that then would be the crisis, the grand conflict in which he would be vanquished, and from that time his kingdom begin to decline, until it would finally cease, and then be free altogether from his dominion. See Luke 10:18; Colossians 1:18-20; Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26; Revelation 20:14.

Verse 32

Be lifted up - See John 3:14; John 8:28.

Will draw - John 6:44. The same word is used in both places.

All men - I will incline all kinds of men; or will make the way open by the cross, so that all men may come. I will provide a way which shall present a strong motive or inducement - the strongest that can be presented to all men to come to me.

Verse 34

We have heard out of the law - Out of the Old Testament; or rather we have been so taught by those who have interpreted the law to us.

That Christ - That the Messiah.

Abideth for ever - Will remain forever, or will live forever. The doctrine of many of them certainly was that the Messiah would not die; that he would reign as a prince forever over the people. This opinion was founded on such passages of Scripture as these: Psalms 110:4, “Thou art a priest forever;” Daniel 2:44; Daniel 8:13-14. In the interpretation of these passages they had overlooked such places as Isaiah 53:1-12; nor did they understand how the fact that he would reign for ever could be reconciled with the idea of his death. To us, who understand that his reign does not refer to a temporal, an earthly kingdom, it is easy.

How sayest thou ... - We have understood by the title “the Son of man” the same as the Messiah, and that he is to reign forever. How can he be put to death?

Who is this Son of man? - “The Son of man we understand to be the Messiah spoken of by Daniel, who is to reign forever. To him, therefore, you cannot refer when you say that he must be lifted up, or must die. Who is it - what other Son of man is referred to but the Messiah?” Either ignorantly or willfully, they supposed he referred to some one else than the Messiah.

Verse 35

Yet a little while is the light with you - Jesus did not reply directly to their question. He saw that they were offended by the mention of his death, and he endeavored to arrive at the same thing indirectly. He tells them, therefore, that the light would be with them a little while, and that they ought to improve the opportunity while they had it to listen to his instructions, to require with candor, and thus to forsake their false notions respecting the Messiah.

The light - John 1:4. It is probable that they understood this as denoting the Messiah. See John 8:12; “I am the light of the world;” John 9:4.

Walk ... - John 11:9. Whatever you have to do, do it while you enjoy this light. Make good use of your privileges before they are removed. That is, while the Messiah is with you, avail yourselves of his instructions and learn the way to life.

Lest darkness - Lest God should take away all your mercies, remove all light and instruction from you, and leave you to ignorance, blindness, and woe. This was true that darkness and calamity were to come upon the Jewish people when the Messiah was removed; and it is also true that God leaves a sinner to darkness and misery when he has long rejected the gospel.

For he ... - See John 11:10.

Verse 36

While ye have light - This implied two things:

1.That he was the light, or was the Messiah.

2.That he was soon to be taken away by death.

In this manner he answered their question - not directly, but in a way to convey the truth to their minds, and at the same time to administer to them a useful admonition. Jesus never aroused the prejudices of men unnecessarily, yet he never shrank from declaring to them the truth in some way, however unpalatable it might be.

Believe in the light - That is, in the Messiah, who is the light of the world.

That ye may be the children ... - That ye may be the friends and followers of the Messiah. See the notes at Matthew 1:1. Compare John 8:12; Ephesians 5:8; “Now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light.”

Did hide himself from them - John 8:59. He went out to Bethany, where he commonly passed the night, Luke 21:37.

Verse 37

So many miracles - This does not refer to any miracles performed on this occasion, but to all his miracles performed in view of the nation, in healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, etc. John here gives the summary or the result of all his work undeniable proof of his being the Messiah, yet the nation did not believe on him.

Before them - Before the Jewish nation. Not in the presence of the people whom he was then addressing, but before the Jewish people.

They believed not - The Jewish nation did not believe as a nation, but rejected him.

Verse 38

The saying - The word of Isaiah, or that which Isaiah predicted. This occurs in Isaiah 53:1.

Might be fulfilled - That the same effect should occur which occurred in the time of Isaiah. This does not mean that the Pharisees rejected Christ in order that the prophecy of Isaiah should be fulfilled, but that by their rejection of him the same thing had occurred which took place in the time of Isaiah. His 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 the Jews in the time of Christ. The same language of the prophet would express both events, and no doubt it was intended by the Holy Spirit to mark both events. In this way it was completely fulfilled. See the notes at Isaiah 53:1.

Our report - Literally, by report is meant “what is heard.” Our speech, our message. That is, few or none have received the message. The form of the question is an emphatic way of saying that it was rejected.

The arm of the Lord - The arm is a symbol of power, as it is the instrument by which we execute our purposes. It is put for the power of God, Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 52:10. Thus, he is said to have brought out the children of Israel from Egypt with a high arm that is, with great power. It hence means God’s power in defending his people, in overcoming his enemies, and in saving the soul. In this place it clearly denotes the power displayed by the miracles of Christ.

Revealed - Made known, seen, understood. Though the power of God was displayed, yet the people did not see and understand it.

Verse 39

They could not believe - See Mark 6:5; “He could there do no mighty works,” etc. The works can and could are often used in the Bible to denote the existence of such obstacles as to make a result certain, or as affirming that while one thing exists another thing cannot follow. Thus, John 5:44; “How can ye believe which receive honor one of another.” That is, while this propensity to seek for honor exists, it will effectually prevent your believing. Thus Genesis 37:4 it is said of the brethren of Joseph that they “could not speak peaceably unto him.” That is, while their hatred continued so strong, the other result would follow. See also Matthew 12:34; Romans 8:7; John 6:60; Amos 3:3. In this case it means that there was some obstacle or difficulty that made it certain that while it existed they would not believe. What that was is stated in the next verse; and while that blindness of mind and that hardness of heart existed, it was impossible that they should believe, for the two things were incompatible. But this determines nothing about their power of removing that blindness, or of yielding their heart to the gospel. It simply affirms that while one exists the other cannot follow. Chrysostom and Augustine understand this of a moral inability, and not of any natural want. of power. “They could not, because they would not” (Chrysostom in loco). So on Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin,” etc., he says, “he does not say if is impossible for a wicked man to do well, but, because “they will not, therefore they cannot.” Augustine says on this place: “If I be asked why they could not believe, I answer without hesitation, because they would not: because God foresaw their evil will, and he announced it beforehand by the prophet.”

Said again - Isaiah 6:9-10.

Verse 40

He hath blinded their eyes - The expression in Isaiah is, “Go, make the heart of this people fat, and shut their eyes.” That is, go and proclaim truth to them truth that will result in blinding their eyes. Go and proclaim the law and the will of God, and the effect will be, owing to the hardness of their heart, that their eyes will be blinded and their hearts hardened. As God knew that this would be the result - as it was to be the effect of the message, his commanding Isaiah to go and proclaim it was the same in effect, or in the result, as if he had commanded him to blind their eyes and harden their hearts. It is this effect or result to which the evangelist refers in this place. He states that God did it, that is, he did it in the manner mentioned in Isaiah, for we are limited to that in our interpretation of the passage. In that case it is clear that the mode specified is not a direct agency on the part of God in blinding the mind - which we cannot reconcile with any just notions of the divine character - but “in suffering the truth to produce a regular effect on sinful minds, without putting forth any positive supernatural influence to prevent it.” The effect of truth on such minds is to irritate, to enrage, and to harden, unless counteracted by the grace of God. See Romans 7:8-9, Romans 7:11; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. And as God knew this, and, knowing it, still sent the message, and suffered it to produce the regular effect, the Evangelist says “he hath blinded their minds,” thus retaining the substance of the passage in Isaiah without quoting the precise language; but in proclaiming the truth there was nothing wrong on the part of God or of Isaiah, nor is there any indication that God was unwilling that they should believe and be saved.

That they should not see ... - This does not mean that it was the design of God that they should not be converted, but that it was the effect of their rejecting the message. See the notes at Matthew 13:14-15.

Verse 41

When he saw his glory - Isaiah 6:1-10. Isaiah saw the Lord (in Hebrew, יהוה Yahweh) sitting on a throne and surrounded with the seraphim. This is perhaps the only instance in the Bible in which Yahweh is said to have been seen by man, and for this the Jews affirm that Isaiah was put to death. God had said Exodus 33:20, “No man shall see me and live;” and as Isaiah affirmed that he had seen Yahweh, the Jews, for that and other reasons, put him to death by sawing him asunder. See Introduction to Isaiah, Section 2. In the prophecy Isaiah is said expressly to have seen Yahweh John 12:1; and in John 12:5, “Mine eyes have seen the King Yahweh of hosts.” By his glory is meant the manifestation of him - the Shechinah, or visible cloud that was a representation of God, and that rested over the mercy-seat. This was regarded as equivalent to seeing God, and John here expressly applies this to the Lord Jesus Christ; for he is nor affirming that the people did not believe in God, but is assigning the reason why they believed not on Jesus Christ as the Messiah. The whole discourse has respect to the Lord Jesus, and the natural construction of the passage requires us to refer it to him. John affirms that it was the glory of the Messiah that Isaiah saw, and yet Isaiah affirms that it was Yahweh; and from this the inference is irresistible that John regarded Jesus as the Yahweh whom Isaiah saw. The name Yahweh is never, in the Scriptures, applied to a man, or an angel, or to any creature. It is the unique, incommunicable name of God. So great was the reverence of the Jews for that name that they would not even pronounce it. This passage is therefore conclusive proof that Christ is equal with the Father.

Spake of him - Of the Messiah. The connection requires this interpretation.

Verse 42

The chief rulers - Members of the Sanhedrin - Nicodemus, Joseph, and others like them.

Because of the Pharisees - The Pharisees were a majority of the council.

Did not confess him - Did not openly avow their belief that he was the Messiah. Two of them, however, did afterward evince their attachment to him. These were Joseph and Nicodemus, John 19:38-39. That Joseph was one of them appears from Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-51.

Put out of the synagogue - Excommunicated. See the notes at John 9:22.

Verse 43

The praise of men - The approval of human beings. It does not appear that they had a living, active faith, but that they were convinced in their understanding that he was the Messiah. They had that kind of faith which is so common among people - a speculative acknowledgment that religion is true, but an acknowledgment which leads to no self-denial, which shrinks from the active duties of piety, and fears man more than God. True faith is active. It overcomes the fear of man; it prompts to self-denying duties, Hebrews 11:0. Nevertheless, it was no unimportant proof that Jesus was the Messiah, that any part of the great council of the Jews were even speculatively convinced of it: and it shows that the evidence could not have been slight when it overcame their prejudices and pride, and constrained them to admit that the lowly and poor man of Nazareth was the long expected Messiah of their nation.

Verse 44

Jesus cried and said - John does not say where or when this was; it is probable, however, that it was a continuation of the discourse recorded in John 12:30-36. Jesus saw their unbelief, and proceeded to state the consequence of believing on him, and of rejecting him and his message.

Believeth not on me - That is, not on me alone, or his faith does not terminate on me. Compare Matthew 10:20; Mark 9:37. It involves, also, belief in him that sent me. Jesus uniformly represents the union between himself and God as so intimate that there could not be faith in him unless there was also faith in God. He did the same works John 5:17, John 5:20, John 5:36; John 10:25, John 10:37, and taught the very doctrine which God had commissioned him to do, John 8:38; John 5:30, John 5:20-23.

Verse 45

Seeth me ... - This verse is a strong confirmation of his equality with God. In no other way can it be true that he who saw Jesus saw him that sent him, unless he were the same in essence. Of no man could it be affirmed that he who saw him saw God. To say this of Paul or Isaiah would have been blasphemy. And yet Jesus uses this language familiarly and constantly. It shows that he had a consciousness that he was divine, and that it was the natural and proper way of speaking when speaking of himself. Compare John 5:17.

Verse 46

A light into the world - John 8:12; John 1:9; John 3:19.

Walk in darkness - In gross and dangerous errors. Darkness is put for error as well as for sin, John 3:19; 1 John 1:5. It is also used to denote the state when the comforts of religion are withdrawn from the soul, Isaiah 8:22; Joel 2:2; Isaiah 59:9; John 8:12.

Verse 47

I judge him not ... - John 8:15. It was not his present purpose to condemn men. He would come to condemn the guilty at a future time. At present he came to save them. Hence he did not now even pronounce decisively on the condition of those who rejected him, but still gave them an opportunity to be saved.

Verse 48

He that rejecteth me - Luke 10:16. The word “reject” means to despise, or to refuse to receive him.

Hath one - That is, he needs not my voice to condemn him. He will carry his own condemnation with him, even should I be silent. His own conscience will condemn him. The words which I have spoken will be remembered and will condemn him, if there were nothing further. From this we learn:

1.That a guilty conscience needs no accuser.

2.That the words of Christ, and the messages of mercy which the sinner has rejected, will be remembered by him.

3.That this will be the source of his condemnation. This will make him miserable, and there will be no possibility of his being happy.

4.That the conscience of the sinner will concur with the sentence of Christ in the great day, and that he will go to eternity self-condemned. It is this which will make the pains of hell so intolerable to the sinner.

  1. The word that Christ has spoken, the doctrines of his gospel, and the messages of mercy, will be that by which the sinner will be judged in the last day. Every person will be judged by that message, and the sinner will be punished according to the frequency and clearness with which the rejected message has been presented to his mind, Matthew 12:41.

Verse 49

Of myself - John 7:16-18.

Verse 50

Is life everlasting - Is the cause or source of everlasting life. He that obeys the commandment of God shall obtain everlasting life; and this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his only-begotten Son, 1 John 3:22. We see here the reason of the earnestness and fidelity of the Lord Jesus. It was because he saw that eternal life depended on the faithful preaching of the message of God. He therefore proclaimed it in the face of all opposition, contempt, and persecution. And we see also:

  1. That every minister of religion should have a deep and abiding conviction that he delivers a message that is to be connected with the eternal welfare of his hearers. And,
  2. Under the influence of this belief, he should fearlessly deliver his message in the face of bonds, poverty, contempt, persecution, and death.

It may not be improper to remark here that this is the close of the public preaching of Christ. The rest of his ministry was employed in the private instruction of his apostles, and in preparing them for his approaching death. It is such a close as all his ministers should desire to make a solemn, deliberate, firm exhibition of the truth of God, under a belief that on it was depending the eternal salvation of his hearers, and uttering without fear the solemn message of the Most High to a lost world.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/john-12.html. 1870.
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