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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 12



Jesus embalmed in the love of His intimates .

Verse 1

John 12:1 . Ὁ οὖν ἸησοῦςΒηθανίαν . οὖν takes us back to John 11:55 ; the Passover being at hand, Jesus therefore came to Bethany. πρὸ ἓξ ἡμερῶν τοῦ πάσχα , not, as Vulgate, “ante sex dies Paschae,” but with Beza “sex ante Pascha diebus”. So Amos 1:1 , πρὸ δύο ἐτῶν τοῦ σεισμοῦ . Josephus, Antiq. , xv. 14, πρὸ μιᾶς ἡμέρας τῆς ἑορτῆς . Other examples in Kypke; cf. John 10:18 , John 21:8 , and see Viereck’s Sermo Graecus , p. 81. Six days before the Passover probably means the Sabbath before His death. According to John Jesus died on Friday, and six days before that would be a Sabbath. But it is difficult to ascertain with exactness what day is intended. Bethany is now described as the place ὅπου ἦν Λάζαροςτεθνηκώς . This description is given to explain what follows.

Verse 2

John 12:2 . ἐποίησαναὐτῷ . ἐποίησαν is the indefinite plural: “they made Him” a supper; δεῖπνον , originally any meal, came to be used invariably of the evening meal. καὶΜάρθα διηκόνει , “and Martha waited at table,” which was her peculiar province (Luke 10:40 ). ὁ δὲ Λάζαροςαὐτῷ . This is mentioned, not to show that Lazarus was still alive and well, but because the feast was not in his house but in that of Simon the leper (Mark 14:3 , Matthew 26:6 ). That this was the same feast as that mentioned by the Synoptists is apparent; the only discrepancy of any consequence being that the Synoptists seem to place the feast only two days before the Passover. But they introduce the feast parenthetically to present the immediate motive of Judas’ action, and accordingly disregard strict chronology.

Verse 3

John 12:3 . Ἡ οὖν Μσρία … The third member of the Bethany family appears also in character, λαβοῦσα λίτραν μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίμου . λίτρα (Lat. libra), the unit of weight in the Roman empire, slightly over eleven ounces avoirdupois. μύρον (from μύρω , to trickle, or from μύρρα , myrrh, the juice of the Arabian myrtle) is any unguent, more costly and luxurious than the ordinary ἔλαιον . Cf. Luke 7:46 , and Trench, Synonyms . νάρδος , “the head or spike of a fragrant East Indian plant belonging to the genus Valeriana , which yields a juice of delicious odour which the ancients used in the preparation of a most precious ointment”. Thayer, πιστικῆς is sometimes derived from πίστις , and rendered “genuine,” γνήσιος , δόκιμος . Thus Euthymius, ἀκράτου καὶ καταπεπιστευμένης εἰς καθαρότητα , unadulterated and guaranteed pure. But πιστός is the common form; cf. Θηρικλέους πιστὸν τέκνον , Theopomp. in Com. Frag . Some suppose it indicates the name of the place where the nard was obtained. Thus Augustine: “Quod ait ‘pistici,’ locum aliquem credere debemus, unde hoc erat unguentum pretiosum”. Similarly some modern scholars derive it from Opis (sc. Opistike), a Babylonian town. In the Classical Review (July, 1890) Mr. Bennett suggests that it should be written πιστακῆς , and that it refers to the Pistacia Terebinthus , which grows in Cyprus, Chios, and Palestine, and yields a turpentine in such inconsiderable quantities as to be very costly. The word is most fully discussed by Fritzsche on Mark 14:3 , who argues at great length and with much learning for the meaning “drinkable”. He quotes Athenaeus in proof that some ointments were drunk, mixed with wine. πιστός is the word commonly used for “potable,” as in Aesch., Prom. Vinct. , 480, where Prometheus says man had no defence against disease οὔτε βρώσιμον , οὐ χριστὸν , οὔτε πιστόν . And Fritzsche holds that while πιστός means “qui bibi potest,” πιστικός means “qui facile bibi potest”. The weight and nature of the ointment are specified to give force to the added πολυτίμου ; see John 12:5 . ἤλειψε τοὺς πόδας τοῦ Ἰησοῦ , Mt. and Mk. say “the head,” which was the more natural but less significant, and in the circumstances less convenient, mode of disposing of the ointment. κα ἐξέμαξεαὐτοῦ , “and wiped High feet with her hair”. Holtzmann thinks this an infelicitous combination of Mark 14:3 and Luke 7:38 ; infelicitous because the anointing of the feet which was appropriate in the humbled penitent was not so in Mary’s case; and the drying with her hair which was suitable where tears had fallen was unsuitable where anointing had taken place, for the unguent should have been allowed to remain. This, however, is infelicitous criticism. In Aristoph., Wasps , 607, the daughter anoints her father’s feet: ἡ θυγάτηρτὼ πόδʼ ἀλείφῃ ; and if, as Fritzsche supposes, the ointment was liquid, there is nothing inappropriate but the reverse in the wiping with the hair. ἡ δὲ οἰκία ἐπληρώθη ἐκ τῆς ὀσμῆς τοῦ μυροῦ , at once attracting attention and betraying the costliness of the offering.

Verse 4

John 12:4 . Hence the οὖν in John 12:4 , λέγει οὖν εἶςπτωχοῖς ; “one” of His disciples. Matthew (Matthew 26:8 ) leaves all the disciples under the reproach, which John transfers to Judas alone. On the designation of Judas see John 6:71 . Westcott, however, with a harmonising tendency, says “Judas expressed what others felt”. But this is contradicted by the motive which John ascribes to Judas, John 12:6 . Διατίδηναρίων . Three hundred denarii would equal a day labourer’s wage for one year.

Verse 6

John 12:6 . Εἶπε δὲ τοῦτοἐβάσταζεν . “This he said, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief.” Before John could make this accusation, he must have had proof; how or when we do not know. But the next clauses, being in the imperfect, imply that his pilfering was habitual. τὸ γλωσσόκομον , “the bag,” better “the purse,” or “box,” “loculos habens,” Vulgate. In the form γλωσσοκομεῖον (which Phrynichus declares to be the proper form, see Rutherford, p. 181) the word occurs in the Bacchae of Lysippus to denote a case for holding the tongue pieces of musical instruments ( γλῶσσαι , κομέω ). Hence it came to be used of any box, chest, or coffer. In Sept [79] it occurs in 2 Samuel 6:11 (Codd. A, 247, and Aquila) of the Art of the Lord; in 2 Chronicles 24:8 of the chest for collections in the Temple. This chest had a hole in the lid, and the people cast in ( ἐνέβαλον , cf. τὰ βαλλόμενα here) their contributions. (Further see Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek , p. 42, and Field’s Otium Norvic. , 68.) τὰ βαλλόμενα ἐβάσταζεν . The R.V [80] renders “took away what was put therein”. Certainly, to say that Judas had the money box and carried what was put therein is flat and tautological. And that ἐβάσταζεν can bear the sense of “take away” or “make away with” is beyond dispute. The passages cited by Kypke and Field (Soph., Philoct. , 1105; Josephus, Antiq. , ix. 2; Diog., Laert. , iv. 59) prove that it was used of “taking away by stealth” or “purloining”; and cf. the use of φέρειν in Eur., Hec. , 792. Liddell and Scott aptly compare the Scots use of “lift” in “cattle-lifting” and so forth. Mary found a prompt champion in Jesus: Ἄφες αὐτήν , “let her alone”. R.V [81] renders: “Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying”; and in margin: “Let her alone: it was that she might keep it”. This Westcott understands as meaning “suffer her to keep it this was her purpose, and let it not be disturbed for my preparation for burial”. But, however we understand it, there is a palpable absurdity in our Lord’s requesting that which had already been poured out to be kept for His burial. On the other hand, if the reading of [82] adopted in T.R. τετήρηκεν was the original reading, it might naturally be altered owing to the scribe’s inability to perceive how this day of anointing could be called the day of His ἐνταφιασμός , and how the ointment could be said to have been kept till that day ( cf. Field, Otium Norvic. , p. 69). τετήρηκεν is opposed to ἐπράθη (John 12:5 ); she had not sold, but kept it; and she kept it, perhaps unconsciously, against the day of His entombment or preparation for burial. ἐνταφιασμός is rather the preparation for burial than the actual interment. Vide especially Kypke on Mark 14:8 . This anointing was His true embalming. Mary’s love was representative of the love of His intimate friends in whose loyal affection He was embalmed so that His memory could never die. The significance of the incident lies precisely in this, that Mary’s action is the evidence that Jesus may now die, having already found an enduring place for Himself in the regard of His friends. It is possible that Mary herself, enlightened by her love, had a presentiment that this was the last tribute she could ever pay her Lord.

[79] Septuagint.

[80] Revised Version.

[81] Revised Version.

[82] Codex Alexandrinus of the fifth century, a chief representative of the “Syrian” text, that is, the revised text formed by judicious eclectic use of all existing texts, and meant to be the authoritative New Testament.

Verse 8

John 12:8 . As for Judas’ suggestion, He disposes of it, τοὺς πτωχοὺςἔχετε . “For the poor ye have always with you,” and every day, therefore, have opportunities of considering and relieving them, “but me ye have not always,” and therefore this apparent extravagance, being occasional only, finds justification. Occasional lavish expenditure on friends is justified by continuous expenditure on the real necessities of the poor.

Verse 9

John 12:9 . Ἔγνω οὖν ὄχλος πολὺς ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων . A great crowd of the Jews”; ὄχλος is generally used by John in contrast to the Jewish authorities, and R.V [83] renders “the common people”. When they knew that Jesus was in Bethany they went out from Jerusalem to see Him and Lazarus: an easily accessible and undoubted sensation. The result was that many of the Jews, on identifying Lazarus, believed on Jesus. Accordingly ἐβουλεύσαντοἀποκτείνωσιν . The high priests, being Sadducees, could not bear to have in their neighbourhood a living witness to the possibility of living through death, and a powerful testimony to the power of Jesus. And so, to prevent the people believing on Jesus, they made the monstrous proposal to put Lazarus, an entirely innocent person, to death. In Mary John has shown faith and devotion at their ripest: in this devilish proposal the obduracy of unbelief is exhibited in its extreme form.

[83] Revised Version.

Verse 12

John 12:12 . Τῇ ἐπαύριον , i.e. , probably on Sunday, called Palm Sunday in the Church year [ κυριακὴ τῶν βαΐων , dominica palmarum, or, in ramis palmarum]. Four days before the Passover the Jews were required to select a lamb for the feast. ὄχλος πολὺςἐλθὼν εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν , and therefore not Jerusalemites, ἀκούσαντεςἔλαβον τὰ βαΐα τῶν φοινίκων “took the fronds of the palms,” the palms which every one knew as growing on the road from Jerusalem to Bethany. The βαΐα (from Coptic βαι ) were recognised as symbols of victory or rejoicing. Cf. 1Ma 13:51 , μετὰ αἰνέσεως καὶ βαΐων . So Pausanias (viii. 48), ἐς δὲ τὴν δεξιάν ἐστι καὶ πανταχοῦ τῷ νικῶντι ἑστιθέμενος φοινῖξ . Cf. Hor., Odes , I. i. 5, “palma nobilis”. This demonstration was evidently the result of recent events, especially, as stated in John 12:18 , of the raising of Lazarus.

Verses 12-19

John 12:12-19 . The triumphal entry into Jerusalem .

Verse 13

John 12:13 . εἰς ὑπάντησιν αὐτῷ . “Substantives derived from verbs which govern a dative are sometimes followed by this case, instead of the ordinary genitive.” Winer, 264. They left no doubt as to the meaning of the demonstration, ἔκραζον ὩσαννάἸσραήλ . These words are taken from Psalms 118:25-26 ; written as the Dedication Psalm of the second Temple. Ὡσαννά is the Hebrew הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא , “save now”. The words were originally addressed to approaching worshippers; here they designate the Messiah; but that no mistake might be possible as to the present reference, the people add, ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ .

Verse 14

John 12:14 . Jesus being thus hailed as king by the people, εὑρὼν ὀνάριονὄνου , i.e. , He accepted the homage and declared Himself king by adopting the prediction of Zechariah 9:9 (John 12:15 ), “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion ( χαῖρε σφόδρα instead of μὴ φοβοῦ ), proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold the king is coming to thee, just and saving, He is meek and riding on a beast of burden and a young foal”. The significance of the “ass” is shown in what follows: “He shall destroy the chariots out of Ephraim and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the war-bow shall be utterly destroyed: and there shall be abundance and peace”. By riding into Jerusalem as king but on an ass, not on a war horse, He continued to claim to be Messiah but ruling by spiritual force for spiritual, ends.

Verse 16

John 12:16 . The significance of “His action was not at that time perceived by the disciples: ταῦταπρῶτον , but when Jesus had been glorified, then they remembered that this had been written concerning Him and that the people had made this demonstration in His favour, καὶ ταῦτα ἐποίησαν αὐτῷ

Verse 17

John 12:17 . In John 12:17-18 this demonstration is carefully traced to the raising of Lazarus: “the crowd which was with Him when He summoned Lazarus from the tomb, and raised him from the dead, testified [that He had done so], and on this account the crowd went out to meet Him, because they had heard this testimony”. The demonstration is thus rendered intelligible. In the Synoptists it is not accounted for. He is represented as entering the city with the pilgrims, and no reason is assigned for the sudden outburst of feeling. See Mark 11:1 , etc.

Verse 19

John 12:19 . The effect on the Pharisees is, as usual, recorded by John; they said one to another, Θεωρεῖτεἀπῆλθεν . “Do you see how helpless you are? The world is gone after Him.” For ὁ κόσμος see 4Ma 17:14 and French “tout le monde”. For ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ see 2 Samuel 15:13 .

Verse 20

John 12:20 . Ἦσαν δέ τινες Ἔλληνες ἐκ τῶν ἀναβαινόντων … Among the crowds who came up to worship in the feast were some Greeks; not Hellenists, but men of pure Greek extraction; proselytes belonging to Decapolis, Galilee, or some country more remote.

Verses 20-36

John 12:20-36 . The Greeks inquire for Jesus .

Verse 21

John 12:21 . οὗτοι οὖν προσῆλθον φιλίππῳ , “these came therefore to Philip,” probably because they had learned that he knew their language; or, as indicated in the addition, τῷΓαλιλαίας , because they had seen him in Galilee. Their request to Philip was, Κύριεἰδεῖν . “Sir, we would see Jesus”; not merely to see Him, for this they could have managed without the aid of a disciple, but to interview the person regarding whom they found all Jerusalem ringing. Philip does not take the sole responsibility of this introduction on himself, because, since they, as Apostles, had been forbidden to go to the Gentiles, Philip might suppose that Jesus would decline to see these Greeks. He therefore tells Andrew ( cf. John 1:44 ; John 6:7-8 ), his fellow-townsman, and together they venture to make known to Jesus the request.

Verse 23

John 12:23 . ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτοῖς , “Jesus answers them,” i.e. , the two disciples, but probably the Greeks had come with them and heard the words: Ἐλήλυθενὧρα ἵνα δοξασθῇυἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου . ἔρχεται ὧρα is followed by ὅτε in John 4:21 , John 5:25 , and by ἐν ᾗ in John 5:28 . Burton calls it “the complementary” use of ἵνα . “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” Directly the glorification of the Son of Man or Messiah consisted in His being acknowledged by men; and this earnest inquiry of the Greeks was the evidence that His claims were being considered beyond the circle of the Jewish people.

Verse 24

John 12:24 . But second to the thought of His enthronement as Messiah comes the thought of the way to it: ἀμὴνφέρει , “except the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides itself alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit”. The seed reaches its full and proper development by being sown in the ground and dying. It is this process, apparently destructive, and which calls for faith in the sower, which disengages the forces of the seed and allows it to multiply itself. To preserve the seed from this burial in the ground is to prevent it from attaining its best development and use. The law of the seed is the law of human life.

Verse 25

John 12:25 . ὁ φιλῶναὐτήν , he that so prizes his life [ φιλοψυχεῖν is used in the classics of excessive love of life. See Kypke] that he cannot let it out of his own hand or give it up to good ends checks its growth and it withers and dies: whereas he who treats his life as if he hated it, giving i up freely to the needs of other men, shall keep it to life eternal. φυλάξει , “shall guard,” suggested by the apparent lack of guarding and preserving in the μισῶν . He has not guarded it from the claims made upon it in this world, but thus has guarded it to life eternal.

Verse 26

John 12:26 . This law is applicable not to Jesus only, but to all: ἐὰν ἐμοὶἀκολουθείτω . The badge of His servants is that they adopt His method and aim and truly follow Him. The result of following necessarily is that ὅπουἔσται , “where I am, as my eternal state, there shall also my servant be”. διάκονος is especially a servant in attendance , at table or elsewhere; a δοῦλος may serve at a distance: hence the appropriateness of διάκονος in this verse. The office of διάκονος may seem a humble and painful one, but ἐάν τις [omit καὶ ] … πατήρ , to be valued or honoured by the Father crowns life.

Verse 27

John 12:27 . The distinct and near prospect of the cross as the path to glory which these Greeks called up in His thoughts prompts Him to exclaim: Νῦνψυχή μου τετάρακται , “Now is my soul troubled”. ψυχή is, as Weiss remarks, synonymous with πνεῦμα , see John 13:21 . A conflict of emotions disturbs His serenity. “Concurrebat horror mortis et ardor obedientiae.” Bengel. καὶ τί εἴπω ; “And what shall I say?” This clause certainly suggests that the next should also be interrogative, “Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause (or, with this object) came I to this hour.” That is, if He should now pray to be delivered from death this would be to stultify all He had up to this time been doing; for without His death His life would be fruitless. He would still be a seed preserved and not sown.

Verse 28

John 12:28 . Therefore He prays: Πάτερ δόξασόν σου τὸ ὄνομα . “Father, glorify Thy name.” Complete that manifestation of Thy holiness and love which through me Thou art making; complete it even at the cost of my agony. Ἦλθεν οὖν φωνὴδοξάσω . “There came, therefore, a voice out of heaven: I have both glorified it and will again glorify it.” However Jesus might seem in the coming days to be tossed on the sea of human passions, the Father was steadily guiding all to the highest end. The assurance that His death would glorify God was, of course, that which nerved Jesus for its endurance. He was not throwing His life away.

Verse 29

John 12:29 . Ὁ οὖν ὄχλοςλελάληκεν . The mass of the people which was standing by and heard the voice did not recognise it as a voice, but said it thundered. Others caught, if not the words, yet enough to perceive it was articulate speech, and said that an angel had spoken to Him.

Verse 30

John 12:30 . ἈπεκρίθηἸησοῦς . Jesus, hearing these conjectures, explained to them that not on His account but on theirs this voice had been uttered. It was of immense importance that the disciples, and the people generally, should understand that the sudden transition from the throne offered by the triumphal acclamation of the previous day to the cross, was not a defeat but a fulfilment of the Divine purpose. The voice furnished them against the coming trial.

Verse 31

John 12:31 . It was a trial not so much of Him as of the world: νῦν κρίσις ἐστὶ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου . In the events of the next few days the world was to be judged by its treatment of Jesus. Cf. John 3:18 , John 5:27 . Calvin, adopting the fuller meaning given to the Hebrew word “judge,” thinks that the restoration of the world to its legitimate rule and order is signified. A fuller explanation follows in the clauses, νῦνἄρχωνἐμαυτόν . Two rulers are represented here as contending for supremacy, the ruler who is spoken of as in possession and Jesus. The ruler in possession, Satan, shall be ejected from his dominion by the cross, but Jesus by the cross shall acquire an irresistibly attractive power. “Si quis roget, quomodo dejectus in morte Christi fuerit Satan, qui assidue bellare non desinit, respondeo ejectionem hanc non restringi ad exiguum aliquod tempus, sed describi insignem illum mortis Christi effectum qui quotidie apparet.” Calvin. The πάντας is a general expression looking to the ultimate issue of the contention between the rival rulers. ἐλκύσω Hellenistic for Attic ἕλξω .

Verse 32

John 12:32 . ὑψωθῶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς is explained as indicating or hinting, σημαίνων , “by what death He was to die,” i.e. , that He was to be raised on the cross. Cf. John 3:14 . It was the cross which was to become His throne and by which He was to draw men to Him as His subjects. In ὑψωθῶ therefore, although the direct reference is to His elevation on the cross, there is a sub-suggestion of being elevated to a throne. “ σημαίνειν notat aliquid futurum vaticinando cum ambiguitate quadam atque obscuritate innuere.” Kypke. So Plutarch says of the Oracle, οὔτε λέγει οὔτε κρύπτει ἀλλὰ σημαίνει .

Verse 34

John 12:34 . The crowd apparently understood the allusion to His death, for they objected: Ἡμεῖς ἠκούσαμενἀνθρώπου ; “we have heard out of the law,” i.e. , out of Scripture ( cf. John 10:34 , John 15:25 , and Schechter, Studies in Judaism , p. 15: “under the word Torah were comprised not only the Law, but also the contributions of later times expressing either the thoughts or the emotions of holy and sincere men”), “that the Christ abides for ever”; this impression was derived from Psalms 110:4 , Isaiah 9:7 , Ezekiel 37:25 , Daniel 7:14 . A different belief was also current. Their belief regarding the Messiah seemed so to contradict His allusion to death that it occurred to them that after all “the Son of Man” might not be identical with “the Messiah” as they had been supposing. So they ask, τίς ἐστιν οὗτοςυἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ; This among other passages shows that the “Son of Man” was a title suggestive of Messiahship, but not quite definite in its meaning and not quite identical with “Messiah”.

Verse 35

John 12:35 . Εἶπεν οὖνἸησοῦς . In replying Jesus vouchsafes no direct solution of their difficulty. It is as if He said: Do not entangle yourselves in sophistries. Do not seek such logical proofs of Messiahship. Allow the light of truth and righteousness to enter your conscience and your life. “Yet a little while is the light with you.” “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness overtake you” ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:4 ), that is, lest Jesus, the light of the world, be withdrawn. καὶπεριπατῶνὑπάγει , cf. John 11:10 .

Verse 36

John 12:36 . In John 12:36 it becomes evident that under τὸ φῶς He refers to Himself. He urges them to yield to that light in Him which penetrates the conscience. Thus they will become υἱοὶ φωτός , see 1 Thessalonians 5:5 , “children of light,” not “of the Light”. The expression is the ordinary form used by the Hebrews to indicate close connection; see Matthew 8:12 ; Matthew 9:15 , Mark 3:17 , Luke 16:8 , etc. To be υἱοὶ φωτός is to be such as find their truest life in the truth, recognising and delighting in all that Christ reveals. “These words Jesus spoke and departed and was hidden from them.” His warning that the Light would not always be available for them was at once followed by its removal. Where He was hidden is not said.

Verse 37

John 12:37 . Τοσαῦτααὐτόν . The difficulty to be solved is first stated. “Although He had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe on Him.” A larger number of miracles is implied than is narrated, John 7:31 , John 11:47 , John 21:25 . The quality of the miracles is also alluded to once and again, John 3:2 , John 9:32 . They had not been done “in a corner,” but ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν , cf. ἐνώπιον John 20:30 . Yet belief had not resulted. The cause of this unbelief was that the prediction of Isaiah 53:1 had to be fulfilled. Certainly this mode of statement conveys the impression that it was not the future event which caused the prediction but the prediction which caused the event. The form of expression might in some cases be retained although the natural order was perceived. The purpose of God was always in the foreground of the Jewish mind. The prophecy of Isaiah was relevant; the “arm of the Lord” signifying the power manifested in the miracles, and τῇ ἀκοῇ referring to the teaching of Jesus. In the time of Jesus as in that of Isaiah the significance of Divine teaching and Divine action was hidden from the multitude.

Verses 37-43

John 12:37-43 . In the verses which follow, John 12:37-43 , John accounts for the unbelief of the Jews . This fact that the very people who had been appointed to accept the Messiah had rejected Jesus needed explanation. This explanation is suitably given at the close of that part of the Gospel which has described His manifestation.

Verse 39

John 12:39 . Διὰ τοῦτο seems to have a double reference, first to what precedes, second to the ὅτι following, cf. John 8:47 . οὐκ ἠδύναντο , “they were not able,” irrespective of will; their inability arose from the fulfilment in them of Isaiah’s words, John 6:10 (John 12:40 ), Τετύφλωκεναὐτούς . τετύφλωκεν refers to the blinding of the organ for perceiving spiritual truth, ἐπώρωσεν (from πῶρος , a callus) to the hardening of the sensibility to religious and moral impressions. This process prevented them from seeing the significance of the miracles and understanding with the heart the teaching of Jesus. By abuse of light, nature produces callousness; and what nature does God does.

Verse 41

John 12:41 . John’s view of prophecy is given in the words Ταῦτααὐτοῦ . “The Targum renders the original words of Isaiah ‘I saw the Lord’ by ‘I saw the Lord’s glory’. St. John states the truth to which this expression points, and identifies the Divine Person seen by Isaiah with Christ.” Westcott. This involves that the Theophanies of the O.T. were mediated by the pre-existent Logos.

Verse 42

John 12:42 . Although unbelief was so commonly the result of Christ’s manifestation, ὅμως μέντοι , cf. Herodot., i. 189, “nevertheless, however, even of the rulers many believed on Him, but on account of the Pharisees they did not confess Him ( ὡμολόγουν , imperfect, their fear to confess Him was continued) lest they should be put out of the synagogue”. The inherent truth of the teaching of Jesus compelled response even in those least likely to be influenced. Westcott says: “This complete intellectual faith (so to speak) is really the climax of unbelief. The conviction found no expression in life.” This is true of the bulk of those referred to (see John 12:43 ), but cannot apply to all (see John 7:50 , John 19:38-39 ). For ἀποσυνάγωγοι see John 9:22 , John 16:2 . ἠγάπησανΘεοῦ . As in John 5:44 an excessive craving for the glory which men can bestow is noted as the cause of unbelief.

Verse 44

John 12:44 . Ἰησοῦς δὲ ἔκραξε , “but Jesus cried aloud”. δὲ suggests that this summary is intended to reflect light on the unbelief and the imperfect faith which have just been mentioned. ἔκραξε would of itself lead us to suppose that Jesus made the following statement at some particular time, but as John 12:36 has informed us, He had already withdrawn from public teaching. It is therefore natural to suppose that we have here the evangelist’s reminiscences of what Jesus had publicly uttered at a previous time. Ὁ πιστεύωνμε . This sums up the constant teaching of Jesus that He appeared solely as the ambassador of the Father (see John 5:23 ; John 5:30 ; John 5:43 , John 7:16 , John 8:42 ); and that therefore to believe on Him was to believe on the Father.

Verses 44-50

John 12:44-50 . A summary of the teaching of Jesus regarding the nature and consequences of faith and unbelief .

Verse 45

John 12:45 . Here He adds καὶθεωρῶν ἐμὲ θεωρεῖ τὸν πέμψαντά με : “he who beholds me, beholds Him that sent me”; so John 14:9 ; cf. John 6:40 . Jesus was the perfect transparency through whom the Father was seen: the image in whom all the Father was represented.

Verse 46

John 12:46 . ἐγὼ φῶςμείνῃ . “I am come into the world as light,” and in the connection, especially as light upon God and His relation to men. The purpose of His coming was to deliver men from their native darkness: ἵναἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ μὴ μείνῃ , “should not abide in the darkness”; cf. John 1:9 , John 8:12 ; John 3:18-19 , John 9:41 ; also 1 John 2:9 ; 1 John 2:11 .

Verse 47

John 12:47 . But “if any one should hear my words and not keep them I do not judge him, for I came not to judge,” etc. See John 3:17 .

Verse 48

John 12:48 . Not on that account, however, is the unbeliever scatheless: ὁ ἀθετῶνἡμέρᾳ , “he that rejecteth me”; ἀθετεῖν here only in John but used in a similar connection and in the same sense in Luke 10:16 ; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:8 . For the sense cf. John 1:11 . The rejecter of Christ “has one to judge him; the word which I spake, it will judge him in the last day”. Nothing personal enters into the judgment: the man will be judged by what he has heard, by his opportunities and light.

Verse 49

John 12:49 This word will judge him, “because” though spoken here on earth it is divine “I have not spoken at my own instance nor out of my own resources”; ἐξ ἐμαυτοῦ , not as in John 5:30 , John 7:16-18 , ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ , but indicating somewhat more strictly the origin of the utterances. He did not create His teaching, ἀλλʼ ὁ πέμψαςλαλήσω , “but the Father who sent me Himself gave me commandment what I should say and what I should speak”. The former designates the doctrine according to its contents , the latter the varying manner of its delivery. Meyer and Westcott.

Verse 50

John 12:50 . καὶ οἷδαἐστιν . “And I know that His commandment is life eternal,” that is, the commandment which Jesus had received (John 12:49 ) was to proclaim life eternal. This was His commission; this was what He was to speak. He was to announce to men that the Father offered through Him life eternal. “Therefore whatever I speak, as the Father hath said to me, so I speak.”

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Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 12". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.