Bible Commentaries
John 12

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-50

John 12:1 . Six days before the passover. The Hebrew sabbath was kept from sunset to sunset. The worship of the day being closed, the jews indulged in a good supper after the light food of the day. This, the last week or consummation of the Saviour’s labours, was full of glory. Every day we find him in the temple, and sleeping every night in Bethany, except the night of the passover.

As soon as the sabbath was over, the people having heard of his arrival at Bethany, and glowing with ardour to see the great Prophet, who had raised Lazarus from the tomb, went out to see him; and when they met him riding on the ass’s colt, they set no bounds to their joy, but hailed him as Messiah, the Son of David. Matthew 21:9. He had disputations with the Herodians and the Sadducees, and delivered the parables of the gospel supper and the husbandmen.

Monday morning, as he was returning, he saw a figtree, and sought fruit, and found none; but being desirous to give the disciples a figure of the declining state of the jews, he sentenced the tree to wither and die. Matthew 21:18. Mark 11:12-13.

Tuesday, as he went into the city, the disciples showed him the withered figtree, from which he took occasion to strengthen their faith. Mark 11:14. The same evening he sat some time on the mount of Olives, and foretold the destruction of Jerusalem; the persecution of the disciples, the sin which filled up the measure of the jews; the rapid spread of the gospel in that generation through all the Roman world, and his second coming in the clouds of heaven. Here his public labours closed, for he had cleared his blood of the infidel rulers. Matthew 23:0.

The Wednesday was spent in fortifying the disciples by disclosures of his Godhead: John 14:31.

On Thursday he sent two of his disciples before him to prepare and roast the passover. Here he closed the day, till near the midnight hour, in the most divine discourse concerning the Comforter, and all the grace and glory of his future advent. He then retired to the garden to meet the demands of justice, and to wrestle with the powers of darkness. This being done, he surrenders himself as a lamb to the civil tribunals, and dies in triumph on the cross. As a serpent kills by biting the heel, and is often killed by the man he wounds, so in this conflict the wounded Lamb of God crushed the serpent’s powers.

John 12:2 . There they made him a supper. “This supper was prepared at the house of Simon, a kinsman of Lazarus: and it was a custom among the jews, before the passover, to make greater entertainments than ordinary for their friends. This supper was different from that mentioned in Matthew 26:6, and Mark 14:3, because that was in the house of Simon the leper. Here Mary anoints the feet of Christ, John 12:3; there a woman not named, pours ointment on his head. Matthew 26:7. This supper was six days before the passover, John 12:1; that was only two. Matthew 26:2. Mark 14:1. And if the suppers were not the same, the Mary that anointed Christ’s feet here, and the woman that anointed his head there, were not the same.” WELLS.

John 12:20 . There were certain Greeks among them. Dr. Hammond thinks, these Greeks were proselytes of the gate at least, who worshipped the God of the jews, as Creator of heaven and earth. Such were Cornelius, and the treasurer of queen Candace; for these persons used to worship God in the court of the gentiles, and also to offer sacrifice to him. That such did come in Solomon’s time, and would come afterwards, we learn from his petition, that their prayers might be heard which they made in his temple. 1 Kings 8:41. That they offered burnt-offerings appears from Josephus; for when Eleazar the Zealot persuaded the priests not to receive the gift or offering of any gentile, this, says he, was done contrary to the ancient custom of the jews; for the priests produced witnesses, most tenacious of their rights, deposing that all their ancestors received the sacrifices of other nations, and thought it absurd that the jews only should exclude such from worshipping and sacrificing to their God.

John 12:24 . Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die. Our blessed Saviour here arms his disciples against the scandal of the cross, by showing them the great benefit that would redound by his death to all mankind. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone;” that is, as corn unsown, lodged in the barn, or laid up in a chamber, never multiplies nor encreases; but sow it in the field, and bury it in the earth, and it multiplies and encreases, and brings forth a plentiful crop. So if Christ had not died, he had remained what he was, the eternal Son of God, but he had had no church in the world; whereas his death and sufferings made him fructify and produce a plentiful encrease, both of exaltation to himself and of salvation to his people. Our Saviour dealt openly with his followers: he did not deceive them with a vain hope and expectation of temporal happiness, but tells them plainly that all who will be his disciples must prepare for sufferings. They must not think their temporal life too dear to lay down for his sake, when he calls them to it, this being the surest way to secure to themselves life everlasting. “He that loveth his life shall lose it, but he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” Learn hence, that the surest way to attain eternal life, is cheerfully to lay down our temporal life when the glory of Christ and the honour of religion require it at our hand. BURKITT.

John 12:28 . Father, glorify thy name. This is the grand petition for victory in the fight. Then a voice came from heaven, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. This is the third voice which came from the excellent glory. Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:1-8. This is assurance that God would glorify the Saviour by victory, and by his resurrection and ascension to heaven. This prayer also extends the glory to every saint in the hour of death.

John 12:34 . We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever. The law and the prophets had indeed proclaimed this great truth, though the unbelieving jews now urged it as an objection to our Lord’s doctrine. The promise to David was, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations, Psalms 89:4. Of the encrease of his government and peace there shall be no end; it shall be established with judgment and justice from henceforth even for ever. Isaiah 9:7. Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek. Psalms 110:4. But when Moses was read the veil was upon their hearts; they understood not that Christ was to have a spiritual kingdom, which should endure for ever, but fondly imagined that his kingdom was of this world. Their argument, if such it may be called, amounted to this: It was foretold under the law, that Christ, or the Messiah, “abideth for ever;” but thou sayest, “the Son of man must be lifted up,” and die. How then canst thou be the promised Messiah? The answer is, In his state of humiliation unto death, he was lifted up; but in his state of exaltation he abideth for ever. Christ’s being lifted up by death, and his abiding for ever, are perfectly consistent. Both are true of him, the one in his state of humiliation, the other in his state of exaltation.

John 12:38 . That the saying of Esaias might be fulfilled. The word ινα hina, here rendered that, does not denote the cause, but the event. The meaning then of this place is, it so fell out, or so it came to pass, that the saying of the prophet was fulfilled. God wills not evil; nor does he, by his prophets, foretel it, that it may come to pass; but since the evil dispositions of men will bring it to pass, he foretels it by his prophets, and knows how to bring good out of it. The prophecy therefore is not the cause of the event; but the event corresponding with it shows the exactness and truth of the prophecy. The same word ( that) also denotes not the final cause, but the event, as in Psalms 50:4. 1 Corinthians 11:19, and in many other places.

But because these and the following words seem to contain a very strange and uncomfortable doctrine, namely, that the unbelief, even of God’s own people is to be resolved, not into the perverseness of their wills, or the evil disposition of their hearts, but into the divine predictions, or into a judicial blindness and obduration wrought upon them by a foreign agency, which renders it impossible for them to believe, let the following things be observed.

That our blessed Lord, in the immediate precedent verses, passionately exhorts these very persons to believe, and walk according to the light, a certain evidence that our Lord well knew his Father had not, by any of his actions or predictions, made it impossible for them to believe on him, or walk according to his direction. For if God had so blinded their eyes that they could not see the light, or so hardened their hearts that they could not embrace it, Christ would not seriously have exhorted them to believe, or walk according to it; and that so effectually, that they might “become the children of the light.” Every exhortation to do a thing which we know to be impossible, is utterly vain and futile; and he who would seem desirous that we should do what he knows we cannot must delude us. If he also knows that God hath by some antecedent action rendered the thing impossible to be done, it must also be an exhortation repugnant to the will of God. Now, it is blasphemy to say the exhortations of the Son of God were vain, delusory, or contrary to his Father’s will.

Moreover, our Saviour knew that the jews were capable of mercy and salvation by him; for he expressly says, God sent him into the world, “that the world by him might be saved:” John 3:17. He also makes this declaration, “These things I say unto you that ye might be saved:” John 5:34. That appeal too is fully to the point: “How oft would I have gathered you, and ye would not Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” John 5:40. Luke 13:34.

John 12:41 . Esaias saw his glory, and spake of him. The glory of the Lord Christ, and not as some Socinians contend, the glory of God the Father. The words, his glory, and he spake of him, contain two pronouns which are not in the text of the prophet, but only of the evangelist; and so must be referred to him of whom the evangelist is speaking, namely, to him who had done so many miracles among them; to him in whom they believed not, and in whom they could not believe: John 12:37; John 12:39.

If those words, “These things said Esaias when he saw his glory,” are not to be understood of Christ, what use have they, or to what purpose do they here serve. There is no need surely to tell us, that Esaias saw the glory of God the Father, or that he spake of him. The apostle’s words evidently relate to both the passages produced from Esaias, because he says not this, but these things said Esaias. It is manifest from the apostle Paul’s citing these words in Romans 10:16, and applying them to gospel times, that the first testimony relates to them; and from the contents of the whole fifty third chapter of Isaiah, that they relate to Christ’s sufferings, and his future glory. Of course, the words, “these things spake Esaias,” must induce us to believe that he spake also in the other passage cited from him, of the glory of the same person. Schlictingius therefore answers, that the prophet, by seeing the glory of God, is said to see the glory of Christ, which was to fill the whole earth; for then was the earth replenished with his glory, when God by him did his admirable works; when he raised him from the dead, and placed him at his own right hand, subjecting all things at his feet. When Esaias in the spirit saw his glory, John rightly saw the glory of Christ; the glory of God and of Christ being so inseparably connected, as the means to the end, that the glory of Christ directly tends to the glory of God the Father.

Against this evasion it is observable, that the prophet, in chap. 53., if he speaks at all of the glory of any person, as indeed he does in John 12:10-12, speaks of such a one who “poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors, and bare the sin of many,” words which cannot refer at all to God the Father.

Again, in the sixth chapter he speaks of one whom he then saw, “sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and whose train filled the temple:” John 12:1. One to whom the seraphim cried, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory: John 12:3. He therefore speaks not of any future glory, but of the glory he then saw, and of which the seraphim then sang. And who can reasonably think the prophet should cry out, as in John 12:5, “Woe is me, for I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts,” only because he had seen a vision of a mere man, who had as yet no being. Seeing the prophet has expressly declared, that it was Jehovah Zebaoth, the Lord of hosts, the King Jehovah, whose glory he then saw, and of whose glory the angels then sang, while the evangelist as expressly declares that he spake these things when he saw the glory of Christ; it follows that Christ must be one with this JEHOVAH.

John 12:42 . Among the chief rulers many believed on him. But they did not own or follow him by an open profession, lest they should lose their seat in the senate. In the issue however they lost their families, and all that was dear to them, by being burned up root and branch in the destruction of the city. Whereas, had they trusted God’s word, they would have inherited the promise made to the Rechabites. Jeremiah 35:19. Mark 8:34. They would also have been honoured as confessors in the christian church.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on John 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.