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Bible Commentaries
John 12

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-8

John 12. The Final Scenes in the Public Manifestation.

John 12:1-8 . The Anointing.— The scene is the same as that recorded by Mt. and Mk. Luke 7:36-50 represents a different incident, or at least a widely divergent tradition, from which, however, some details in Jn. may be borrowed. The date, six days before the Passover, may by different methods of calculation be identified with Nisan 8, 9, or 10. The last is the most probable. Apparently the author deliberately corrects the “ two days” of Mark 14:1. Allegorists see in the alteration an intentional reference to the setting apart of the lamb on Nisan 10 ( Exodus 12:3). The feast is in the house of the sisters, unless they are helping in the house of a friend ( cf. Mark 14:3, where the host is named Simon the leper). Mary, as in Luke 10:40, leaves the serving to her sister, and taking a pound of spikenard ( Mark 14:3 *), genuine (?) and costly, anoints Jesus’ feet, perhaps a natural detail considering the custom of reclining at meals. Judas ( cf. the “ some” of the Synoptists) protests against the waste. The author adds that his motive was greed. He was a dishonest steward. Jesus answers, “ Let her keep” (? what remains, the whole could hardly have been used) “ for my burial. The poor will be with you longer than I.” He thus uses the incident to prepare His friends by significant hints for the coming tragedy. In the Synoptists this anticipation of the future is attributed to Mary. The Lord’ s saying can be interpreted more in accordance with this view. “ Let her keep it. Such was her purpose. Let it not be thwarted.” As interpreted above, the whole incident is natural, and used by the Lord, after His custom, as the occasion of teaching.

Verses 9-19

John 12:9-19 . The Triumphal Entry.— If the story of Lazarus is historical it is quite probable that people in Jerusalem should come out to Bethany, to satisfy themselves as to what would happen at the Feast, and that the ruling classes determined to deal with Lazarus as well as with Jesus. The Synoptic and Johannine accounts of the entry differ in details, but the account in our gospel is not in itself improbable. The Feast pilgrims, Galileans and possibly Judæ ans, but not Jerusalemites, learning from those who had been out to Bethany that Jesus intends to come up to the Feast, take palm branches (contrast Mark 11:8) and go out to meet Him. They greet Him with what was perhaps the ordinary greeting to strangers coming up to the Feast ( Psalms 118:26), to which is added “ the King of Israel.” The title refused in Gaiilee is pressed on Him again. He accepts their homage, and by an acted parable teaches them the true character of the kingdom and the King, as Zechariah had depicted Him ( John 9:9; cf. Matthew 21:4). The author assumes that the rest of the story is known to his readers. He simply adds that it was in the light of later events that the disciples learned the significance of their action. It should be noticed that this account explains, as the Synoptic does not, the sudden change by which the pilgrimage to the Feast becomes a triumphal procession. The Fourth Gospel also accounts for the presence in and near Jerusalem of so many friends on whose help the Lord can depend.

Verses 20-36

John 12:20-36 . The Request of the Greeks.— This incident is chosen to illustrate the Lord’ s consciousness that only through death could the final success of His work be brought about. If it was invented to gain His authority for the admission of the Gentiles, it must again be confessed that it is very badly done. The Greeks are apparently not even admitted to His presence. The mention of Philip and Andrew is natural if their home Was Bethsaida ( John 1:45), in a region largely Hellenic in population. The incident seems to bring before the Lord’ s mind the vision of a wider mission accomplished without the dreaded sacrifice. But it is put aside. The seed must “ die” if it is to bring forth fruit. On earth He was confined to Judaism; only through death could the wider mission be accomplished. And if His disciples would serve they must follow even through death, to gain the support of His presence in their true life and work. But this insight does not come without a real human struggle ( cf. Luke 12:50). He is troubled, He is in doubt, He prays. And the answer to prayer is clearer vision and the assurance of success. The judgment of the world is near, and the overthrow of its Prince. Christ’ s elevation through death to the glory destined for Messiah will enable Him to draw all men unto Him. In these words the author sees a prediction of the crucifixion. The crowd are perplexed. Messiah is to appear suddenly from heaven, and abide for ever. Who is this “ Son of man” who is to be lifted up? After a final appeal to use their last opportunity Jesus retires into hiding.

Verses 37-43

John 12:37-43 . Failure in Judæ a.— The many signs have failed to convince. The author explains this by the prediction in Isaiah 53:1, the “ arm of the Lord” being interpreted of Messiah. And the ultimate cause is also dealt with in Isaiah 6:9 ff. The rule of God’ s working is that there comes a time when those who will not obey lose the power of doing so. The situation is similar to that foretold in the story of Isaiah’ s call. It was the Word of God, now incarnate in Jesus Christ, that appeared to the prophet. But disbelief was not universal, though fear made men keep silence.

Verses 44-50

John 12:44-50 . Final Summary of Jesus’ Public Teaching.— This summing up of what was most important in the teaching of Jesus throws interesting light on the author’ s method of recording the “ speeches.” Belief in Jesus is identified with belief in God. He is for men the final revelation of the Father. He came to enlighten, to dispel moral and spiritual darkness. His chief purpose was not to execute the Messianic judgment of men, as some had thought, and rejected Jesus in consequence. Salvation, not judgment, was the object of His coming. But the rejection of Him and His message involved judgment. Refusal to accept His words would condemn men at the last day. For the message was not self-taught. In substance and method of teaching He carried out God’ s command who sent Him. What He spake, He spake as God told Him. [87]

[87] [J. M. Thompson (Exp., Aug. John 19:15) would transpose 37– 43 and 44– 50, and round off the ministry narrative with the last two verses of ch. 20.— A. J. G.]

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on John 12". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/john-12.html. 1919.
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