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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

John 12

Verses 1-11

  1. EXTRAVAGANT LOVE! (12:1-11)
    1. MARY’S DEVOTION! (1-3) [Parallel passages: Mt.26:6-12; Mrk 14:1-11]
    2. What would your plans be if you knew you only had 6 days to live? You would choose what is most important to you. Jesus choose, “I’m going over my friends for dinner & fellowshiping with them!”
      1. He chose to spend His final week with those most dear, w/His closest friends.
      2. Parallel passages include on the guest list: Simon(a leper Jesus healed; actually this is at his house in Bethany) Lazarus, Mary, Martha, & the disciples.
      3. A shelter of intimate friends!
      4. First time Mary’s name is mentioned, probably because the whole family might have suffered for their intimate identification w/Jesus, but now the beloved trio had been gathered home to God.
    3. (1) Jesus’ Clique or inner circle. What is a clique any ways? Are they good or bad? (yes!)
      1. A Clique: a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them
        1. Thus, the 1st part of this is very natural; the 2nd part is the only part that is wrong.
    4. What would you make Jesus for dinner if He was coming over?
      1. Would you serve fancy meal on your China? Or backyard BBQ on paper plates?
    5. (3) This served as an important confessional function of anticipating His death.
      1. Given the sequence in John’s gospel, Mary is portrayed as a follower who was well acquainted with Jesus’ ultimate destiny.
    6. This expensive perfume was a luxury item for herself. She poured it on the feet of Jesus as an act of humility.
      1. Attending to the feet of another person was the work of a servant.
      2. Wiping the oil w/her hair was also unusual, for respectable women did not unbraid their hair in public.
      3. Mt & Mrk add “She has done a good work(a beautiful thing to) for Me”
      4. Mary exhibited unrestrained love & devotion to Jesus that went beyond personal cost & concern for the opinion of others.
        1. King David called it undignified worship...I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor. 2 Sam.6:22
        2. F.B.Meyer called it holy ecstacy.
        3. The aroma of extravagant love. So pure. So lovely.
    7. Are the places we go filled with Christ fragrance because of us?
    8. JUDAS’ DECEIT! (4-8)
    9. This is the sole passage in the Gospels that reveal the wicked character of Judas before his betrayal of Jesus.
      1. Judas was obviously highly esteemed by the 12, because he was trusted with caring for the money bag.
      2. Individuals are often able to easily deceive others about their relationship to God, but never is God deceived!
    10. Judas could have questioned her breech of etiquette or the woman's place in that culture: Why is Mary sitting at the table w/Jewish men? - Why did she let down her hair?But, Judas doesn’t condemn her for those things, instead for her extravagance.
      1. John writing this 60 years later says knows now that Judas’ response was not so pure. (6)
      2. For the disciples, the ministry was fast becoming a business to be budgeted rather than a Savior to be served. (Ken Gire; Intimate Moments w/the Savior; pg.82)
    11. What Judas was really saying, “Why was this money waisted on Jesus, when it could have been spent on ME!”
      1. That sounds so bad...but we have each done it, often.
      2. “So beautiful the flame. So tender the wick. So mercenary the hand that seeks to extinguish it.” (ibid.)
    12. So, as Mary was preparing Jesus’ body for burial, Judas will prepare His death.
      1. What Mary had done, Jesus said will be told as a memorial to her.
      2. And so it was...potent enough behind the ears of each century, for the scent to linger to this day, a fragrant reminder of her extravagant love. Ken Gire
    13. JESUS’ JUDGMENT OF MARY & THE POOR! (9-11)
    14. (9) The dinner party was for Jesus(2) but another guest draws quite a bit of attention too.
      1. A great multitude was there to get a peek about the man back from beyond.
      2. Lazarus the living miracle. By merely living, he’s spreading the gospel.
        1. No wonder they want him dead (10). His very life proves Jesus’ claims!
    15. (11) And now, we don’t have Jesus physically with us as He went back to heaven, but the poor we do have with us!!! Q: So how can we anoint their feet? [tearing me up]
      1. Read Mt.25:35-40
      2. Prov.19:17 (NLT) If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord.
      3. Jam 1:27 (NLT) Pure & genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans & widows in their distress & refusing to let the world corrupt you.
      4. Jam 2:15-17 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
        1. I don’t want a dead faith. I want a living faith.
          I want a perfumed faith; I want a faith that smells good.
          I want a faith that helps others; I want a faith that changes my world.
          I want a faith that: cares for, feeds, shares resources, helps. An intentional, active, dynamic, calculated, conscious, deliberate, purposeful faith!
        2. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​How do I keep the warmth of human kindness, when wealth tends to freeze my hands, eyes, lips, & hearts?
        3. I can’t get the picture out of my head that I read about: of an African woman who was holding her child at the brink of starvation, to weak to even eat. She would take a bite of a potato she acquired, & would chew it up then spit it into her infants mouth to try to get nourishment into him.
        4. What do I do now that I know 30,000 children will die of starvation, or from a preventable disease...today?
    16. The Savior had come to earth to break an alabaster jar for humanity. And Mary had come that night to break one for Him.
      1. It was a jar He never regretted breaking. Nor did she.
    17. Prayer: That our hearts would be a Bethany for You.
      1. A quiet place of friendship where You are the honored guest. May we respond to You not with prudence of the disciples, but w/the extravagance of Mary.

Verses 12-26

  1. INTRO:
    1. Intro: Bart Starr, former quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, was describing to a group of businessmen how his coach, Vince Lombardi, held absolute power. He stated that, as you entered Vince’s office, you noticed a huge mahogany desk with an impressive organization chart behind it on the wall. The chart had a small block at the top in which was printed: “Vince Lombardi, Head Coach and General Manager.” A line came down from it to a very large block in which was printed: “Everybody Else!”
      1. Title: Letting Go of You!
    2. 12:1-11(6 days before) 12:12-19(5 days before) 12:20-50(4 days before) 13-17(the night b4).
      1. Ch.12 was the beginning of Christ’ last week on earth.
      2. John devotes ch.12-17 to the final preparation of Jesus’ disciples.
      3. This underscores the importance of what Jesus said & did during this time.
    3. John now transports us from the sleepy village of Bethany to the bustling metropolis of Jerusalem.
      1. With Passover only 5 days away, the city is bursting w/people who have come to celebrate.
      2. Most of them had either witnessed Jesus bringing Lazarus out of the tomb or had at least heard about it. Now this miracle worker is coming to their city!
  2. TRIUMPHAL ENTRY! (12-19)
    1. ​​​​​​​HOSANNA! (12-15)
    2. This moment was perhaps the high mark of Jesus’ popularity & influence.
      1. Yet, in only a few days however, these Hosannas would turn to Crucify Him!
    3. (12) Jesus takes advantage of the large Passover crowd to present Himself as King.
      1. Jesus had avoided situations that would hasten His death. But now He was forcing the Jewish leaders to act, for it was the Father’s will that Jesus die on Passover. Now, the hour had come!
    4. (13) The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory in pre-Christian times. The Romans rewarded champions of the games and celebrated military successes with palm branches. Early Christians used the palm branch to symbolize the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul, as in this Palm Sunday festival celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. In Judaism, the palm represents peace and plenty, and is one of the 4 Species for the Feast of Booths.
      1. Why do you think that in the space of 1 short week Jesus could go from being the most popular person on the planet to public enemy #1?
        1. It’s easier to shout in a parade than stand at a cross! (www)
      2. But actually, the statement that “the crowd that cried ‘Hosanna!’ on Palm Sunday ended up crying ‘Crucify Him!’ on Good Friday” is not true!
        1. It was primarily the Jerusalem Jews, influenced by the priests, who asked for His blood (Matt. 27:20).
        2. This multitude of enthusiastic lovers of Christ were principally from Galilee.
    5. Hosanna - “Save” or “Save Now”. An expression of Praise!
    6. The gospel of John emphasizes the royalty of Jesus. (Mt.21; Mrk.11; Lk.19)
      1. John is the only gospel that records that the people also shouted, “Blessed is the King of Israel!”
    7. 3 GROUPS! (16-19)
    8. (16) The disciples didn’t understand this was fulfilling prophecy, until after His death.
    9. (19) The Pharisees can’t hardly believe their eyes. More & more people, hearing about the miracle of Lazarus, kept putting their faith in this Jesus, this local man who was causing so much trouble for them.
    10. Religious jealousy is deplorable. It leads to murder, if not by cross, by the lips!
      1. ​​​​​​​It embitters the heart; separates & divides those who ought to love.
  3. GRAIN OF WHEAT! (20-26)
    1. ​​​​​​​ITS GREEK TO ME! (20-22)
    2. Certain Greeks/Gentiles - God-fearing Gentiles who were probably not yet proselytes but still admired much of what they saw in Judaism & came regularly to the feasts.
    3. At His birth, Gentiles came from the East; now at His death, Gentiles come once again.
      1. These men came to Philip, probably because of his Greek name. (Andrew also)
    4. (21) I believe the coming/inquiring of these Greeks, put a smile on Jesus’ face.
      1. Why? Because their coming introduces the consummation of Jesus work.
      2. These Greeks were a token of the world of people beyond Israel who would be saved through Jesus’ atoning death & resurrection.
      3. And what had just taken place, on this very day(Lk.19:41), was that the King had been rejected by Israel. And Jesus wept over them, because they had not known the time of their visitation.
        1. The Jews said, “We want to see a sign!” The Gentiles said, “We want to see Jesus!”
    5. (21,22) Unsure what to do Philip goes to Andrew together they bring the request to Jesus.
      1. Interesting..Andrew is only mentioned 3 times in the bible, & each time he is bringing someone to Jesus! What a soul-winner!
    6. LETTING GO OF YOU! (23-26)
    7. (23) Glorified - i.e. In His death & Res.
      1. There was no other way to the glory, than Calvary & the grave!
      2. If His love for men was to bear much fruit, He must fall into the ground & die.
        1. Death is the only way to Savior-ship! Death is the necessary price of fruitfulness! (ibid.)
    8. (24) Jesus sees Himself as a seed that would die & produce fruit.
      1. Jesus so masterful at using observations from nature to illustrate spiritual realities.
      2. Earlier, he used the illustration of the sower sowing seeds. Now, He talks about the seed itself. It must die first. It must loose its own identity. That the new plant may spring up.
        1. Thus, death is a condition of life at its fullest!
        2. Jesus understood that His death would bring life to many people.
    9. Small Potatoes - A pastor/farmer was digging up a mess of potatoes in his garden. But he accidently dug up a sermon as well. On the 1st hill of potatoes there was 7 beautiful, large potatoes. But when he plunged his fork under the next plant there was only 3 scrawny ones, as small as marbles. He saw the reason. For some reason or another the original seed potato had failed to die! It looked almost as it did 4 months earlier. It didn’t die & there was no fruit. 3 sermons came from these 3 small potatoes:
      1. ​​​​​​​A lesson about Jesus - unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground & dies, it produces much grain. Jesus the grain of wheat that died, only to be resurrected in us as believers as His fruit.
      2. A lesson for Sinners - Until the sinner dies to his own works & to his own efforts, merit, & righteousness, he cannot know life & be saved.
      3. A lesson for Believers - We too have been “planted in the likeness of His death”(Rom.6:5). This established our position & salvation. But, to become fruitful we must die to self. We must put to death the works of the flesh(our old nature)
    10. (25) He who loves his old life/old nature/old ways (w/o Jesus) will lose it for/in eternity! He who hates his old life in this world, will keep it for eternal life!
      1. It’s not saying, you can’t enjoy your stay here on planet earth!
        1. Solomon said, that every man should eat & drink & enjoy the good of all his labor - it is the gift of God! (Eccl.3:13)
        2. Look what Jesus just said in John 10:10b.
      2. Examples of loving your life: my life when Brian was #1; my selfish life; my self-focused life; my life when I was in charge; it’s the art of keeping it all for me!
      3. Examples of hating your life: death to the old Brian; not my will but His will be done; it’s the art of giving my all for others!
    11. The Christian life is a paradox: to keep, we must give; to be great, we must serve; to live, we must die.
      1. And not until we die will we realize the real joy of giving, or the emptiness of keeping.
    12. But, how do I know if this is speaking to me? Here’s a test:
      1. If your favorite subject is yourself, then it might be you! :-)
      2. If a glazed look that comes over your eyes when the conversation wanders away from you.
      3. God sends no one away empty, except those who are full of themselves. DL Moody
      4. The trouble with some self-made men is that they worship their creator.
    13. Discipleship means crucifying the ego & putting Christ & others first. H.G. Bosch
      1. We’ve got a lot of people running around with seriously inflated egos who come crashing to earth all the time.
      2. Ego is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. [Ego, Greek for “I”]
      3. The smallest package in the world is a person wrapped up in himself.
      4. I’ll say up front, I don’t think this is a very politically correct statement, but it’s a direct quote from an American Indian convert, who in broken English said, “Indian lay down blanket - Indian lay down pipe - Indian lay down tomahawk - Indian lay down Indian!” [That’s it!]
      5. When I got saved, I laid down my sense of humor, because it was pretty crude, but He let me keep my sense of humor, just a cleaned up version.
        I laid down my rights, I was no longer my own, because He had bought me for a price; and now I’m to glorify Jesus in my body & spirit. (1Cor. 6:19,20)I laid down my future, because it was better trusting my future to One who sees the end from the beginning!
        1. The more we die to self, the more we live unto God!
    14. (26) Service - All through life we must be prepared to erect altars on which to sacrifice all that hinders our highest service to others.
      1. A businessman well known for his ruthlessness once announced to writer Mark Twain, “Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb Mount Sinai and read the 10 Commandments aloud at the top.” “I have a better idea,” replied Twain. “You could stay in Boston and keep them.”
      2. The soul that dares to live in this way finds streams flowing from every smitten rock, and honey in the carcass of every slain lion. Day out of night, spring out of winter, flowers out of frost, joy out of sorrow, fruitfulness out of pruning, Olivet out of Gethsemane, life out of death. F.B.Meyer
    15. I would sum up this section with 4 statements:
      1. Look the world has gone after Him (19) - Have you?
      2. Sir, we wish to see Jesus (21) - Do you?
      3. Do you hate your old life? (25) - Or, still love it?
      4. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me (26)- Are you serving Him or self?
        1. When Mother Teresa was passing through a crowd in Detroit a woman remarked, Her secret is that she is free to be nothing. Therefore God can use her for anything.
    16. Q: What is your condition at this moment? Maybe you are a believer yet are still struggling with bearing fruit in your life. Basically you’re still small potatoes!
      1. ​​​​​​​Ask the Lord, what you need to “lay down” this morning; what you need to “give up”; what you need to “crucify”!
    17. Maybe you’ve never made a profession for Christ. Maybe you’re like the little potato seed, covered up by life’s dirt, with arms folded, saying, “I’m not gonna die!”
      1. ​​​​​​​I invite you to come & die this morning! That you might bust forth with a life full of fruit, a life filled with abundance, a life worth living, a life that isn’t selfish, a life that matters, a life that seeks to make a difference in this world, a life committed to Jesus Christ!

Verses 27-50

  1. INTRO:
    1. Jesus responded as though the Greeks weren’t even present. Jesus is preoccupied with one thing, His death. From vs 23 to vs.50 as His last public teaching, Jesus concentrates on 4 Major Themes:
      1. The Cross is Imminent (only 4 days away; vs.23-28); The Pain is Great (vs.27); The Need is Urgent (35,36); The Response will be varied (37; 42,43)
      2. The Cross, was His final word/His final answer!
  2. THE CROSS, THE DIVINE MAGNET!
    1. LIFTED UP! (27-36)
    2. (27,28) My soul is troubled - everything which really counts really costs!
      1. This went beyond the physical & emotional agony that awaited Him.
      2. This was the result of bearing the weight of the sin of the whole world, as a sinless being.
      3. Yet, while He contemplated praying to God for deliverance, He remained on the course toward what God had willed for Him.
    3. He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.
    4. Father, glorify Your Name - Oh that we would set the promotion of God’s glory above any thought of ourselves! [May this be the master-principle of our lives!]
      1. Bring glory to YOUR Name Lord!
    5. (31) When Jesus is lifted up, Satan is cast down.
      1. When heaven bleeds on the cross, hell is defeated by its own schemes.
    6. (32) In vs.24 we saw the Necessity of the cross; In vs.27 we see the Anguish of the cross; In vs.28 the Master Principle of the cross; here in vs.32 we see the Triumph of the cross
    7. The cross is the divine magnet! And our attitude toward it shows what we are… either steel shavings drawn to it, or ashes that feel no magnetic draw.
    8. If I am lifted up - obviously speaking of His crucifixion (vs.33)
      1. Yet here, Calvary is Transformed! - He looks beyond the revolting externals to the inner glory & ultimate triumph of it.
      2. His crucifixion became His coronation!
      3. As Paul said, the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Gal.2:20
      4. Yes, Calvary is Transfigured! - Redeeming grace transforms the Cross into a Throne!
    9. The Cross...the most eloquent word in all the vocabulary of God! (J.Sidlow Baxter; Awake My Heart; pg.297.)
      1. ​​​​​​​The tragic, yet magnetic Cross! [which draws all peoples to Him!]
      2. “That which showed how much He was hated, is that for which He is now most loved!” :)
    10. God, the ultimate target of sin!
      1. Whatever sin you commit, in its final meaning it is a wound inflicted upon God.
        1. Sin is not just a breaking of His law, but a wounding of His heart!!!!!!
        2. And that is why He was there at Calvary, as that broken-hearted sufferer.
        3. Jesus took our place!
          1. ​​​​​​​{Loves transfigures Calvary; then Calvary transfigures everything else}
    11. Can you see your ultimate triumph beyond your present tragedy?
      1. Illustration: A young Christian student offered his life for overseas missionary service & labors hard at study to become a qualified doctor, is suddenly afflicted with an illness the very year he qualifies, & is informed that he can never go out as a missionary. Is God mocking him? These life enigmas make our baffled minds & our frustrated longings scream, WHY? (Ibid pg; 94)
        1. William Cowper(famous Hymn writer), who had a strange enigma in his own life wrote, Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face.”
        2. ​​​​​​​That young medical graduate, who could not go out as a missionary learned to find his ultimate triumph beyond his present tragedy. For he was used to influence & train hundreds for the overseas fields; & today there is a large missionary memorial hospital erected in his venerated memory.
          1. Puzzled, frustrated, disappointed Christian? there is a golden lining to the cloud & a hidden good purpose in that which seems cruel.
          2. See your ultimate triumph beyond your present tragedy?
    12. (35,36) Walk in the light; believe in the light; & you will become sons/children of light!
      1. It’s real simple...Accept Him, before it is too late.
    13. BLIND EYES & HARD HEARTS! (37-41)
    14. In His words & works, Jesus showed Israel the light, but they chose to walk in darkness.
      1. Jesus tells the Jewish crowd their unbelief was predicted centuries before by Isaiah.
    15. (38,40) Both Isaiah quotes speak of Christ (Messiah)
    16. Quick Infomercial on Isaiah:
      1. Isaiah is quoted far more in the NT, than any other prophet.
      2. He is mentioned 21 x’s by name.
      3. Ch.53 is quoted, or alluded to, at least 85 x’s in the NT!
    17. Isaiah known as the Mini-Bible! - 66 chapters/66 books.
      1. The 1st 39 chapters are like the OT’s 39 books.
      2. The next 27 chapters are like the NT.
        1. Ch.1-39 = a message of Judgment (on immorality & Idolatry) regarding: Judah; surrounding nations; & whole earth.
        2. Ch.40-66 = A message of Hope (Messiah is coming as Savior & Sovereign) To bear a cross, & to wear a crown)
    18. Isaiah = “Yahweh is Salvation” (excellent summary of the book!)
      1. Deutero-Isaiah, or 2nd Isaiah theory (Deuteronomy=2nd Law; early & later Isaiah) is destroyed here, with Jesus quoting from both “sides” of Isaiah.
        1. John said it & he’s a pretty good bible teacher & contributed a few books to the NT
        2. Jesus quoted from Isaiah 8 x’s from the early section & 8 x’s from the later section & each time Jesus uses Isaiah’s name.
    19. (39) They could not believe - not because their freedom of choice had been removed from them, but because they had purposely rejected God & chosen evil.
      1. Thus God turned them over to their own choices.
    20. (40) Blinded - What is the only reason you can now see? Because the veil has been lifted!
      1. 2 Cor4:3 even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
    21. (40) This verse is found 7 x’s in the bible, & each time it speaks of judgment.
      1. It is a repeated warning that reminds the unsaved not to take their spiritual opportunities lightly. While you have the light, believe in the light (36).
        1. This doesn’t mean much to us who can “make light” (electricity in every home, street lights everywhere, flashlights, back up lights, candles, cell phone lights, etc)
        2. Back when we 1st joined Harold & Natalie in Haiti (before generators, before solar power) we had to rely upon “Hinche Electric” (which was a giant Generator in town, that they would run, if & when they had diesel, & if & when they decided to run it)
          1. We understood, A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light,
      2. Seek the Lord while He may be found.
    22. Hardened - formation of a callous.
    23. Habits are formed by the result of our choices.
      1. Our day by day choices gradually turn into habits.
      2. Example: Trail through a forest! - A pioneer can barely see the trail; but when followed by another, then another, years later it becomes a highway.
      3. This works for both good & bad habits.
    24. They did not believe(37) [though they had seen the evidence for His divine Sonship]
      They could not believe(39) [because their hearts had become hard & their eyes blind]
      They should not believe(39) [because the had spurned His grace!]
    25. PRAISE OF MEN, PRAISE OF GOD! (42-50)
    26. (42) Remember how severe this was, putting out of the synagogue meant, separation from public worship & from social interactions.
    27. (43) They loved the praise of men - & so do I, & so do you.
      1. But, I don’t want to offend anyone! I don’t want to be a freak! I don’t want to be embarrassed! I don’t want to be hated!
      2. I love the praise of men; I love what people think of me; I love my glory; I love my reputation; I love myself...more than God.
      3. Jesus received praise from the Father audibly(28), we most likely won’t.
        1. Well, we will later “well done my good & faithful servant”.
          1. Can we wait, or do we need it now?
        2. Do you want to hear that from our Father who art in heaven or men on the street?
    28. (45) Sees - i.e. Careful observation leading to spiritual insight.
    29. (48) Paper trail - I’m pretty forgetful. What has saved me a number of times is keeping emails conversations (i.e. a paper trail).
      1. What are the significance of Jesus words? They will be the sole criterion at the day of judgment. Every one of His sentences, each of His words, were purely & simply the reflection of the Fathers mind!
    30. (44-50) The seriousness of rejecting Jesus is the subject here.
      1. Why is it so serious to reject Jesus? To reject Jesus is to reject the Father.
      2. To accept Jesus is to accept the Father, which leads to life everlasting.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on John 12". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/john-12.html. 2017.