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Bible Commentaries
John 12

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-11

The Anointing of Jesus at Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13 , Mark 14:3-9 ) John 12:1-11 tells us the story of how Mary anointed the feet of Jesus Christ and wiped them with her hair.

John 12:1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

John 12:1 Comments - This Passover is the third Passover feast that John refers to in his Gospel. John’s comment of these three Passovers are used to estimate that Jesus spent about three years on earth from His baptism until His resurrection.

John 12:3 Comments John records the story of Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus with costly perfume and wiping them with her hair (John 12:3), and he mentions this sacrificial offering before it happens, at the time Jesus raised Lazareth her brother from the grave. Thus, it is easy to conclude from the context of these two stories (John 11:1 to John 12:11) that are recorded together that Mary was making an offering unto God for the resurrection of her brother.

Luke records a similar incident when a sinful woman washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and wiped them with her hair, then anointed his feet with perfume (Luke 7:37-38). Matthew and Mark record the incident of a woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ head (Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3).

Luke 7:37-38, “And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”

Matthew 26:7, “There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.”

Mark 14:3, “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.”

Richard Trench reflects a popular view that these stories record variations of the same event. [229] This view has its origin in the hermeneutical principle of approaching the four Gospels as a collection of primarily the same events, but from different perspectives by their respective authors. However, there is no justification in assuming that these four accounts are the same event. I approach the four Gospels with the principle that each Evangelist offers a testimony of Jesus as the Son of God with different emphasis and each one chose events as their narrative material by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that fit their theme. For example, Jesus Christ visited many synagogues on the Sabbath and many have read from the book of Isaiah on numerous occasions, as recorded in Luke 4:14-30. Jesus could have preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) a number of times, as recorded in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49). Today many travelling ministers of the Gospel in the field ministry repeat their sermons as they travel to various churches. Jesus may have cleansed the Temple on at least two occasions (Matthew 21:12-17, John 2:12-22).

[229] Richard Trench says, “It may be taken as agreed on by all that the two earlier Evangelists and the last, in their several records of the anointing of Christ by a woman, refer to one and the same event (Matt. xxvi. 7; Markxiv. 3; John xii. 8).” See Richard Chenevix Trench, Notes on the Parables of Our Lord (London: Kegan Paul, 1906), 297.

Comments Pliny the elder tells us that ancient perfumes were valuable commodities and stored in vessels of lead or alabaster boxes because of their ability to preserve the perfumes from decay and corruption. He also mentions the practice of sprinkling perfumes on the feet of the wealthy. [230] An alabaster box of perfume is also mentioned by Claudius Aelian. [231]

[230] Regarding the storage of perfumes, Pliny writes, “Unguents keep best in boxes of alabaster…unguents, too, improve with age; but the sun is apt to spoil them, for which reason they are usually stowed away in a shady place in vessels of lead…” ( Natural History 13.3) Regarding the value of perfumes, Pliny writes, “These perfumes form the objects of a luxury which may be looked upon as being the most superfluous of any…” ( Natural History 13.4) Regarding the sprinkling of the feet, Pliny writes, “We have known the very soles even of the feet to be sprinkled with perfumes; a refinement which was taught, it is said, by M. Otho to the Emperor Nero.” ( Natural History 13.4) Pliny also writes, “This stone is called ‘alabastrites’ by some, and is hollowed out into vessels for holding unguents, it having the reputation of preserving them from corruption better than anything else.” ( Natural History 36.8) See Pliny, The Natural History of Pliny, vol. 3, trans. John Bostock and H. T. Riley, in Bohn’s Classical Library, ed. Henry G. Bohn (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1855), 166-167; Pliny, The Natural History of Pliny, vol. 6, trans. John Bostock and H. T. Riley, in Bohn’s Classical Library, ed. Henry G. Bohn (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1857), 329-330.

[231] Aelian writes, “On a time Venus came to him, desiring to pass over: he received her courteously, not knowing who she was, and with much care conveyed her whither she desired; for which the Goddess gave him an Alabaster Box of Ointment, which Phaon using, became the most beautiful of men, and the Wives of the Mitylenæans fell in love with him.” ( Various History 12.18) See Thomas Stanley, trans., Claudius Aelianus His Various History (London: Thomas Dring, 1665, Thomas Basset, 1670, 1677) 212-257.

John 12:6 Comments - Judas had been given the responsibility of carrying the moneybag. At some point in time, he gave place to the devil and began to steal out of the money (John 12:6). After repeatedly giving place to the devil, Judas opened the door in his life for Satan to enter him (Luke 22:3). At this point, Satan was able to control his thoughts and moved him to betray the Lord (John 13:2).

Luke 22:3, “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.”

John 13:2, “And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;”

This series of events reveals the way people become demon possessed without intending to do so from the beginning. Sin leads people down a path that may look appealing at first, but it ends in bondage, then condemnation and eventually destruction, as when Judas hanged himself out of guilt.

Matthew 27:3-5, “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Acts 1:18, “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”

Verses 1-50

The Seventh Miracle (Glorificatin): The Witness of the Old Testament Scriptures - The seventh miracle is the miracle of the Resurrection, found in John 11:55 to John 20:29, which offers God’s children the resurrection and future glorification. This passage of Scripture serves as the strongest testimony of the deity of Jesus Christ. Embedded within this seventh miracle narrative are seven events of Christ’s Passion that were predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures. Each of these events is supported by Old Testament quotations declaring their fulfillment.

John 11:55 to John 20:29 offers nine references as a testimony that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures (John 12:13; John 12:15; John 12:38; John 12:40; John 13:18, John 15:25, John 19:24; John 19:36-37). These nine references are structured with two pairs, so that there are seven distinct Old Testament Scripture witnesses to the Passion of Jesus Christ. Although the first eleven chapters of John also make two references to Old Testament fulfillment (John 1:23, John 2:17), these two statements do not serve the same structural role as the seven testimonies given in the last section of miracles. Therefore, this passage places much emphasis on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy as a testimony to the deity of Jesus. After the first Old Testament prophecy, the author of John explains the importance of recording these testimonies from the Old Testament to testify that His Passion was a fulfillment of Scripture (John 12:16).

John 12:16, “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him , and that they had done these things unto him.”

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Prologue to the Last Passover Feast John 11:55-57

2. His Anointing at Bethany John 12:1-11

3. His Triumphant Entry & Last Public Appearance John 12:12-50

4. The Last Supper John 13:1 to John 17:26

5. Jesus’ Betrayal and Arrest John 18:1-11

6. Jesus’ Trials John 18:12 to John 19:16 a

7. Jesus’ Crucifixion & Burial John 19:16-42

8. Jesus’ Resurrection (The Seventh Miracle) John 20:1-29

Verses 12-50

His Triumphant Entry and Last Public Appearance John 12:12-50 records Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and His last public appearance among the Jews before His Passion.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. First Scripture Fulfilled: Triumphant Entry John 12:12-19

2. Jesus Testifies of His Glorification John 12:20-36

3. Second Scripture Fulfilled: Rejection by the Jews John 12:37-41

4 Jesus’ Last Testimony: The Light of the World John 12:42-50

John 12:12-19 First Scripture Fulfilled: His Triumphant Entry (Matthew 21:1-11 , Mark 11:1-11 , Luke 19:28-40 ) In John 12:12-19 John the apostle records the first Old Testament prophecy fulfilled during Jesus’ Passion, which is the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

John 12:12 “On the next day much people that were come to the feast” Comments - We are told in John 11:55 that many people came to Jerusalem the week before the Passover in order to purify themselves. Thus, there were many people in the city at this time.

John 12:13 “Took branches of palm trees” - Comments - In Africa today, people will find leafy branches, especially large banana leafs, and carry them in a parade. They will tie them to their automobiles and to their waists. They will wave them in the air as they march. This is a way of hailing an important figure or event. It is a way of expressing praise and rejoicing. It is a way for this person or this vehicle to identify himself with the purpose of the march, since such an event attracts many bystanders who are just there to watch. Oh, what joy in the eyes of those who are a part of this celebration.

John 12:12-13 Comments - Hosanna - The words that the children of Israel are singing in John 12:12-13 come from Psalms 118:25-26. The English words “save now” ( KJV) in Psalms 118:25 are translated from two Hebrew words ( יָשַׁע ) (H3467) and ( נָא ) (H4994), which used together are pronounced “Hosanna.”

Psalms 118:25-26, “ Save now , I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD : we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.”

They are rejoicing with this messianic Psalm because the king is about to enter the gates of righteousness in the city of Zion. See:

Psalms 118:19-20, “Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.”

John 12:15 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - This verse is a quote from Zechariah 9:9.

Zechariah 9:9, “ Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion ; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass .”

John 12:16 Comments - After the first Old Testament prophecy is given in John 12:15, the author of John explains the importance of recording these seven testimonies from the Old Testament Scriptures so that the early Church would understand why these events took place in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Thus, John 12:16 reveals the four major division of John’s Gospel, which is the testimonies from the Scriptures.

John 12:20-36 Jesus Testifies of Glorification John 12:20-36 records the story of how some of the Greeks who were in Jerusalem during the Passover requested to see Jesus. He responded, not with a quick welcome and acceptance to their request, but rather, with a final testimony to the Jews that He would now be lifted up. This is the testimony of His glorification. For the hope of the Greeks and other Gentiles was not a meeting with Jesus, but rather, His glorification. Thus, a key verse in this passage of Scripture is Jesus’ comment regarding His glorification (John 12:23).

The Greeks Request to Meet Jesus - In contrast to the many references about the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, the Gospel of John records a unique passage of how the Greeks received Jesus’ ministry. This passage in John 12:20-26 is not found in the Synoptic Gospels. It indicates that John was writing to a Greek audience more so than to a Jewish audience, most likely the churches of Asia Minor that he oversaw during the latter part of his life.

John 12:24 Comments - It is important to note in John 12:24 that the seed produces the harvest. We could paraphrase John 12:24 to read, “but if it die, it fulfills its destiny.” For the destiny of every seed is to reproduce after itself. That is what it was created for. None of us will fulfill our divine destinies unless we first die to our own will and do the will of our Heavenly Father. For example, Abraham’s destiny was to bring forth a righteous son through his wife Sarah. God took Abraham to mount Moriah to sacrifice his son on the altar in order to bring him to a place of dying to his own way of doing things. Abraham had first appointed Eliezer as his heir. Then he conceived Ishmael as his heir before trusting the Lord to bring his child from Sarah’s womb. However, on mount Moriah Abraham fully relinquished his will to God to do as He willed to do in his life. After this event, we never read about Abraham struggling with God about how His promises would be fulfilled. As God’s children we must take up our cross daily and do the will of the Father. We do this by laying down our will and doing what we understand to be God’s will.

In a broader application of John 12:24 none of us will reap a harvest unless we sow a seed. When we have a need, 2 Corinthians 9:10 teaches that God gives seed to the sower. This is His divine principle of meeting our needs. We read in Genesis 1:29 that God gave Adam dominion over the plant kingdom, a kingdom that operated by the principles of seed-faith and harvest. The harvest of any need we have is in sowing of the seed.

Oral Roberts often teaches on seed-faith. He said that God planted a seed by sending Jesus Christ, His Son, in expectation of a harvest. God gave His Son as a seed knowing that He would reap a harvest of many sons. John 12:24 comes as close as any verse to describing Jesus as a seed from God. [232]

[232] Oral Roberts, Principles of the Seed of Faith [on-line]; accessed 14 June 2011; available from http://www.angelfire.com/sc3/wedigmontana/Faithseed.html; Internet.

John 12:28 Comments According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus had just rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Comments The voice of God the Father spoke from Heaven to mankind on a number of occasions. God spoke to King Nebuchadnezzar when he took his mind from him for a season (Daniel 4:31). God spoke from Heaven at the water baptism of His Son Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). God spoke to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35-36, 2 Peter 1:17-18). God spoke to Jesus when He rode into Jerusalem before His Passion (John 12:28-29). Jesus spoke to Paul from Heaven on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-7).

John 12:32 “if I be lifted up from the earth” - Comments In John 12:32 Jesus refers to His Resurrection and exaltation on high when He says He will be lifted up from the earth. At His resurrection and ascension Jesus was lifted up to His office as King of Kings and set at the right hand of the Heavenly Father. This is not a unique term in the Scriptures. For example, during the time of Joseph, the butler was lifted up and restored to his office as chief butler.

Genesis 40:20-22, “And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand: But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.”

Also, the Scriptures describe the heart of man being lifted up with pride (Deuteronomy 8:14).

Deuteronomy 8:14, “Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;”

“And I…will draw all men unto me” - Comments Although the word “men” is not in the original Greek text of John 12:32, this word is the understood antecedent of the masculine form of the adjective πα ͂ ς (all). Therefore, Andrew Wommack interprets Jesus to say that if He is lifted up, He will draw all judgment unto Himself. [233] In other words, Jesus would be saying that His atonement is unlimited, or His death will pay for the sins of all of mankind. It should be noted that the word judgment ( κρι ́ σις ) is used in the previous verse, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (John 12:31) However, the word κρι ́ σις is the feminine gender, while the adjective πα ͂ ς (all) is used in its masculine form, which matches the masculine word α ̓́ νθρωπος ; thus, weakening the argument for the feminine κρι ́ σις to stand as the antecedent of the masculine adjective πα ͂ ς .

[233] Andrew Wommack, Gospel Truth Conference, Kampala, Uganda, 26 October 2012.

Comments Within the context of John 12:20-36, several Greeks, probably proselytes visiting the Passover feast at Jerusalem, have just asked Philip if they could see Jesus (John 12:20-21). As with the Syrophenician woman (Mark 7:24-30), Jesus Christ did not usually respond to a Gentile’s request since He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24). Thus, Jesus tells His disciples in John 12:32 that when He is glorified after His resurrection, He will be able to draw all men unto Himself.

Matthew 15:24, “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

In John 6:44 the same Greek word ε ̔ λκυ ́ ω is used to say that the Father will draw men unto Jesus.

John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

We know that Philip lifted up Christ when he preached the Gospel in Samaria:

Acts 8:5, “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.”

We see how Paul first preached Jesus’ redemption for sins to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;”

This is why the next verse of this passage of John 12:20-36 tells us that the lifting up of Jesus refers specifically to His death on the Cross.

John 12:34 Comments - The form of punishing a criminal on the Cross has it purpose in displaying the victim to as many people as possible, in an attempt to humiliate the victim and to instill fear in those who observe this horrible means of death.

John 12:34 “who is this Son of man” - Comments - Jesus answers their question in the next verse by telling them that He is the Light of the World, a title that is woven throughout the Gospel of John.

John 12:35 “Yet a little while is the light with you” Comments - Jesus is the Light. He is answering the question that the people asked in the previous verse, “Who is this Son of man?”

John 12:36 Comments - John tells us that on at least four occasions Jesus withdrew Himself away quietly in order to avoid a conflict with the Jews.

John 5:13, “And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.”

John 8:59, “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”

John 10:39, “Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,”

John 12:36, “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.”

Jesus knew that His time was not yet, and so He deliberately avoided them.

John 7:30, “Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.”

John 8:20, “These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.”

However, when His time had come, He willingly gave Himself over into the hands of man.

John 12:37-41 Second Scripture Fulfilled: Rejection by the Jews In John 12:37-41 John the apostle records the second Old Testament prophecy fulfilled during Jesus’ Passion, which predicted His rejection by the Jews. This is one of many passages found throughout the Gospel of John that points out His rejection by His own nation.

John 12:38 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - This quote is taken from Isaiah 53:1.

Isaiah 53:1, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?”

A part of this passage in Isaiah 53:1 is also quoted in Romans 10:16.

Romans 10:16, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?”

John 12:40 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - This verse is a quote from Isaiah 6:10.

Isaiah 6:10, “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”

John 12:41 “These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory” Comments John 12:41 is not a quote from the Old Testament. However, it is interesting to note that it is an exact quote from the Jewish Targumic paraphrase of Isaiah 6:1. This could have happened because it was the Jewish tradition to have a priest read the Hebrew text in the synagogue followed by an oral paraphrase in the Aramaic, which was the local vernacular of the New Testament period. We see this dual reading instituted when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity. At that time, the Jews began to speak Aramaic while the Scriptures were initially in Hebrew followed with an interpretation (Nehemiah 8:8). Therefore, it was entirely possible that this Aramaic paraphrase was as well-known as the Hebrew text, and was thus used in this quote by John the apostle. [234] The same type of paraphrase occurs in Mark 4:12 and Ephesians 4:8.

[234] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), 37.

Nehemiah 8:8, “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”

Mark 4:12, “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”

Ephesians 4:8, “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

John 12:41 “when he saw his glory, and spake of him” Comments - That is to say, Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus, and thus he spoke concerning Jesus. Isaiah saw Jesus in all the glory that He had before the world was. Note:

John 17:5, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”

Scripture References - Also,

John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory , the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 2:11, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory ; and his disciples believed on him.”

2 Thessalonians 1:9, “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power ;”

2 Thessalonians 2:14, “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 1:3, “ Who being the brightness of his glory , and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”

John 12:39-41 Comments Prophecy of the Jews Rejecting Jesus as Their Messiah - John 12:39-41 explains prophetically why the Jews did not believe Jesus’ report. This quote is taken from Isaiah 6:9.

Isaiah 6:9, “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”

John 12:42-50 Jesus’ Last Testimony: The Light of the World John 12:42-50 gives us the last public testimony of Jesus Christ to the Jews before His Passion. In this passage, Jesus tells the Jews that He is the Light of the World.

John 12:42 Comments We must be willing to confess Jesus before men. We must be bold enough to stand for Jesus. We are to fear God more than man (Luke 12:8-9).

Luke 12:8-9, “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.”

We must believe and confess to be saved.

Romans 10:10, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

John 12:47 Comments Throughout the Gospel records, Jesus never condemned the sinner. He always forgave and healed the people. He did rebuke the religious leader because they themselves condemned the sinners. Jesus revealed men’s sins (John 15:22), but He had come to atone for the sins of mankind.

John 15:22, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.”

John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

John 12:48 “the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” Illustration - In grammar school, I was once called out of class to go to the principal’s office. I had not ever been taken there before for misconduct and I did not know what I was being called there for. Therefore, I was a little frighten. On Judgment Day, it will not be like that. We can know now, in advance, the words that will judge us on that day. In the principal’s office, I was just asked a few simple questions about an incident, and then I was let go back to my classroom. I received no judgment that day.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on John 12". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/john-12.html. 2013.
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