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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

John 12

Verse 1

Jesus therefore (Ιησους ουν). Here ουν is not causal, but simply copulative and transitional, "and so" (Bernard), as often in John (John 1:22, etc.).

Six days before the passover (προ εξ ημερων του πασχα). This idiom, transposition of προ, is like the Latin use of ante, but it occurs in the old Doric, in the inscriptions and the papyri. See Amos 1:1 for it also (cf. Moulton, Proleg., pp. 100ff.; Robertson, Grammar, pp. 621f.). If the crucifixion was on Friday, as seems certain from both John and the Synoptics, then six days before would be the Jewish Sabbath preceding or more probably the Friday afternoon before, since Jesus would most likely arrive before the Sabbath. Probably we are to put together in one scene for the atmosphere John 11:55-57; John 12:1; John 12:9-11.

Came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead (ητλεν εις Βηθανιαν, οπου ην Λαζαροσ, ον ηγειρεν εκ νεκρων Ιησους). Each phrase explains the preceding. There is no reason for thinking this a gloss as Bernard does. It was a place of danger now after that great miracle and the consequent rage of the Sanhedrin (John 12:9-11). The crowd of eager spectators to see both Lazarus and Jesus would only intensify this rage.

Verse 2

So they made him a supper there (εποιησαν ουν αυτω δειπνον εκε). Here again ουν is not inferential, but merely transitional. This supper is given by Mark (Mark 14:3-9) and Matthew (Matthew 26:6-13) just two days (Mark 14:1) before the passover, that is on our Tuesday evening (beginning of Jewish Wednesday), while John mentions (John 12:2-9) it immediately after the arrival of Jesus in Bethany (John 12:1). One must decide which date to follow. Mark and Matthew and Luke follow it with the visit of Judas to the Sanhedrin with an offer to betray Jesus as if exasperated by the rebuke by Jesus at the feast. Bernard considers that John "is here more probably accurate." It all turns on John's purpose in putting it here. This is the last mention of Jesus in Bethany and he may have mentioned it proleptically for that reason as seems to me quite reasonable. Westcott notes that in chapter 12 John closes his record of the public ministry of the Lord relative to the disciples at this feast (John 12:1-11), to the multitude in the triumphal entry (John 12:12-19), to the world outside in the visit of the Greeks (John 12:20-36), and with two summary judgements (John 12:36). There is no further reason to refer to the feast in the house of another Simon when a sinful woman anointed Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). It is no credit to Luke or to John with Mark and Matthew to have them all making a jumble like that. There were two anointings by two absolutely different women for wholly different purposes. See the discussion on Luke for further details.

And Martha served (κα η Μαρθα διηκονε). Imperfect active of διακονεω, picturing Martha true to the account of her in Luke 10:40 (πολλην διακονιαν, διακονειν as here). But this fact does not show that Martha was the wife of this Simon at all. They were friends and neighbours and Martha was following her bent. It is Mark (Mark 14:3) and Matthew (Matthew 26:6) who mention the name of the host. It is not Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36), but Simon the leper (Mark 14:3; Matthew 26:6) in whose house they meet. The name is common enough. The Simon in Luke was sharply critical of Jesus; this one is full of gratitude for what Jesus has done for him.

That sat at meat (των ανακειμενων). "That lay back," reclined as they did, articular participle (ablative case after εκ) of the common verb ανακειμα. Perhaps Simon gave the feast partly in honour of Lazarus as well as of Jesus since all were now talking of both (John 12:9). It was a gracious occasion. The guests were Jesus, the twelve apostles, and Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.

Verse 3

A pound (λιτραν). Latin libra, late Koine (Polybius, Plutarch) word with weight of 12 ounces, in N.T. only here and John 19:39. Mark (Mark 14:3) and Matthew (Matthew 26:7) have alabaster cruse.

Of ointment of spikenard (μυρου ναρδου πιστικης). "Of oil of nard." See already John 11:2 for μυρου (also Matthew 26:7). Nard is the head or spike of an East Indian plant, very fragrant. Occurs also in Mark 14:3. Πιστικης here and in Mark 14:3 probably means genuine (πιστικος, from πιστος, reliable). Only two instances in the N.T.

Very precious (πολυτιμου). Old compound adjective (πολυς, much, τιμη), in N.T. only here, Matthew 13:46; 1 Peter 1:7. Mark has πολυτελους (very costly). Matthew (Matthew 26:7) has here βαρυτιμου of weighty value (only N.T. instance).

Anointed (ηλειψεν). First aorist active indicative of αλειφω, old word (Mark 16:1).

The feet (τους ποδας). Mark (Mark 14:3) and Matthew (Matthew 26:7) have "his head." Why not both, though neither Gospel mentions both? The Latin MS. fuldensis and the Syriac Sinatic do give both head and feet here.

Wiped (εξεμαξεν). First aorist active indicative of εκμασσω, old verb to wipe off already in John 11:2; Luke 7:38; Luke 7:44.

With her hair (ταις θριξιν αυτης). Instrumental plural. It is this item that is relied on largely by those who identify Mary of Bethany with the sinful woman in Luke 7 and with Mary Magdalene. It is no doubt true that it was usually considered immodest for a woman to wear her hair loose. But it is not impossible that Mary of Bethany in her carefully planned love-offering for Jesus on this occasion was only glad to throw such a punctilio to the winds. Such an act on this occasion does not brand her a woman of loose character.

Was filled with the odour of the ointment (επληρωθη εκ της οσμης του μυρου). Effective first aorist passive of πληροω and a natural result.

Verse 4

Judas Iscariot (Ιουδας ο Ισκαριωτης). See ο Ισκαριωτης in John 14:22. See John 6:71; John 13:1 for like description of Judas save that in John 6:71 the father's name is given in the genitive, Σιμωνος and Ισκαριωτου (agreeing with the father), but in John 13:1 Ισκαριωτης agrees with Ιουδας, not with Σιμωνος. Clearly then both father and son were called "Iscariot" or man of Kerioth in the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:25). Judas is the only one of the twelve not a Galilean.

One of his disciples (εις των μαθητων αυτου). Likewise in John 6:71, only there εκ is used after εις as some MSS. have here. This is the shameful fact that clung to the name of Judas.

Which should betray him (ο μελλων αυτον παραδιδονα). John does not say in John 6:71 (εμελλεν παραδιδονα αυτον) or here that Judas "was predestined to betray Jesus" as Bernard suggests. He had his own responsibility for his guilt as Jesus said (Matthew 26:24). Μελλω here simply points to the act as future, not as necessary. Note the contrast between Mary and Judas. "Mary in her devotion unconsciously provides for the honour of the dead. Judas in his selfishness unconsciously brings about the death itself" (Westcott).

Verse 5

Sold (επραθη). First aorist passive indicative of πιπρασκω, old verb to sell (Matthew 13:46).

For three hundred pence (τριακοσιων δηναριων). Genitive of price. Same item in Mark 14:5, while in Matthew 26:9 it is simply "for much" (πολλου). But all three have "given to the poor" (εδοθη πτωχοις). First aorist passive indicative of διδωμ with dative case πτωχοις (note absence of the article, poor people), real beggars, mendicants (Matthew 19:21; Luke 14:13). But only John singles out Judas as the one who made the protest against this waste of money while Mark says that "some" had indignation and Matthew has it that "the disciples" had indignation. Clearly Judas was the spokesman for the group who chimed in and agreed with his protest. The amount here spent by Mary (ten guineas) would equal a day labourer's wages for a year (Dods).

Verse 6

Not because he cared for the poor (ουχ οτ περ των πτωχων εμελεν αυτω). Literally, "not because it was a care to him concerning the poor" (impersonal imperfect of μελε, it was a care). John often makes explanatory comments of this kind as in John 2:21; John 7:22; John 7:39.

But because he was a thief (αλλε οτ κλεπτης ην). Clearly the disciples did not know then that Judas was a petty thief. That knowledge came later after he took the bribe of thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus (Matthew 26:15), for the disciples did not suspect Judas of treachery (John 13:28), let alone small peculations. There is no reason for thinking that John is unfair to Judas. "Temptation commonly comes through that for which we are naturally fitted" (Westcott). In this case Judas himself was "the poor beggar" who wanted this money.

And having the bag took away what was put therein (κα το γλωσσοκομον εχων τα βαλλομενα εβασταζεν). This is the correct text. This compound for the earlier γλωσσοκομειον (from γλωσσα, tongue, and κομεω, to tend) was originally a receptacle for the tongues or mouth-pieces of wind instruments. The shorter form is already in the Doric inscriptions and is common in the papyri for "money-box" as here. It occurs also in Josephus, Plutarch, etc. In N.T. only here and John 13:29 in same sense about Judas. Βαλλομενα is present passive participle (repeatedly put in) of βαλλω, to cast or fling. The imperfect active (custom) of βασταζω, old verb to pick up (John 10:31), to carry (John 19:17), but here and John 20:15 with the sense to bear away as in Polybius, Josephus, Diogenes Laertes, and often so in the papyri.

Verse 7

Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying (Αφες αυτην, ινα εις την ημεραν του ενταφιασμου μου τηρηση αυτο). This reading (ινα τηρηση, purpose clause with ινα and first aorist active subjunctive of τηρεω) rather than that of the Textus Receptus (just τετηρεκεν, perfect active indicative) is correct. It is supported by Aleph B D L W Theta. The ινα can be rendered as above after αφες according to Koine idiom or more probably: "Let her alone: it was that," etc. (supplying "it was"). Either makes good sense. The word ενταφιασμος is a later and rare substantive from the late verb ενταφιαζω, to prepare for burial (Matthew 26:12; John 19:40), and means preparation for burial. In N.T. only here and Mark 14:8. "Preparation for my burial" is the idea here and in Mark. The idea of Jesus is that Mary had saved this money to use in preparing his body for burial. She is giving him the flowers before the funeral. We can hardly take it that Mary did not use all of the ointment for Mark (Mark 14:3) says that she broke it and yet he adds (Mark 14:8) what John has here. It is a paradox, but Jesus is fond of paradoxes. Mary has kept this precious gift by giving it now beforehand as a preparation for my burial. We really keep what we give to Christ. This is Mary's glory that she had some glimmering comprehension of Christ's death which none of the disciples possessed.

Verse 8

Ye have always (παντοτε εχετε). Jesus does not discredit gifts to the poor at all. But there is relativity in one's duties.

But me ye have not always (εμε δε ου παντοτε εχετε). This is what Mary perceived with her delicate woman's intuition and what the apostles failed to understand though repeatedly and plainly told by Jesus. John does not mention the precious promise of praise for Mary preserved in Mark 14:9; Matthew 26:13, but he does show her keen sympathetic insight and Christ's genuine appreciation of her noble deed. It is curiously μαλ-α-προπος surely to put alongside this incident the other incident told long before by Luke (Luke 7:35) of the sinful woman. Let Mary alone in her glorious act of love.

Verse 9

The common people (ο οχλος πολυς). This is the right reading with the article ο, literally, "the people much or in large numbers." One is reminded of the French idiom. Gildersleeve (Syntax, p. 284) gives a few rare examples of the idiom ο ανηρ αγαθος. Westcott suggests that οχλος πολυς came to be regarded as a compound noun. This is the usual order in the N.T. rather than πολυς οχλος (Robertson, Grammar, p. 774). Mark (Mark 12:37) has ο πολυς οχλος. Moulton (Proleg., p. 84) terms ο οχλος πολυς here and in verse John 12:12 "a curious misplacement of the article." John's use of οχλος is usually the common crowd as "riff-raff."

That he was (οτ εστιν). Present active indicative retained in indirect discourse after the secondary tense (εγνω, second aorist active indicative of γινωσκω). These "Jews" are not all hostile to Jesus as in John 5:10; John 6:41, etc., but included some who were friendly (verse John 12:11).

But that they might see Lazarus also (αλλ' ινα κα τον Λαζαρον ιδωσιν). Purpose clause with ινα and second aorist active subjunctive of οραω. Motive enough to gather a great crowd, to see one raised from the dead (cf. verse John 12:1 for the same phrase, "whom he had raised from the dead"). Some of the very witnesses of the raising of Lazarus will bear witness later (verse John 12:17). It was a tense situation.

Verse 10

The chief priests took counsel (εβουλευσαντο ο αρχιερεις). First aorist middle indicative of βουλευω, old verb, seen already in John 11:53 which see. The whole Sanhedrin (John 7:32) had decided to put Jesus to death and had asked for information concerning him (John 11:57) that might lead to his arrest, but the Sadducees were specially active now to accomplish the death of Lazarus also (ινα with first aorist active subjunctive of αποκτεινω as in John 11:53). Perhaps they argued that, if they should kill both Jesus and Lazarus, then Lazarus would remain dead. The raising of Lazarus has brought matters to a crisis. Incidentally, it may be observed that here we may see the reason why the Synoptics do not tell the story of the raising of Lazarus, if he was still living (cf. the case of Malchus's name in John 18:10).

Verse 11

Because that (οτ). Causal use of οτ.

By reason of him (δι' αυτον). "Because of him," regular idiom, accusative case with δια.

Went away (υπηγον). Cf. John 6:67 for this verb. Inchoative imperfect active of υπαγω, "began to withdraw" as happened at the time of the raising of Lazarus (John 11:45) and the secession was still going on.

And believed on Jesus (κα επιστευον εις τον Ιησουν). Imperfect active of πιστευω (note aorist in John 11:45). There was danger of a mass movement of the people to Jesus.

Verse 12

On the morrow (τη επαυριον). Locative case. Supply ημερα (day) after the adverb επαυριον ("on the tomorrow day"). That is on our Sunday, Palm Sunday.

A great multitude (ο οχλος πολυς). Same idiom rendered "the common people" in verse John 12:9 and should be so translated here.

That had come (ο ελθων). Second aorist active participle, masculine singular of ερχομα agreeing with οχλος, "that came."

When they heard (ακουσαντες). First aorist active masculine plural participle of ακουω, construction according to sense (plural, though οχλος singular).

Was coming (ερχετα). Present middle indicative of ερχομα retained in indirect discourse after a secondary tense. It is a vivid picture. What they heard was: "Jesus is coming into Jerusalem." He is defying the Sanhedrin with all their public advertisement for him.

Verse 13

Took (ελαβον). Second aorist active indicative of λαμβανω.

The branches of the palm-trees (τα βαια των φοινικων). Φοινιξ is an old word for palm-tree (Revelation 7:9 for the branches) and in Acts 27:12 the name of a city. Βαιον is apparently a word of Egyptian origin, palm branches, here only in N.T., but in the papyri and I Macc. 13:51. Here we have "the palm branches of the palm-trees." The use in 1 Macc. 13:51 (cf. II Macc. 10:7) is in the account of Simon's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Bernard notes that to carry palms was a mark of triumphant homage to a victor or a king (Revelation 7:9). Palm-trees grew on the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:8) on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. The crowds (one in front and one behind, Mark 11:9; Matthew 21:9; John 2:18) cut the branches as they came (Matthew 21:8).

To meet him (εις υπαντησιν αυτω). Literally,

for a meeting (υπαντησις, late word from the verb υπανταω, Matthew 8:28; John 11:20; John 11:30; John 12:18, in the papyri, but only here in the N.T.) with him" (αυτω, associative instrumental case after υπαντησιν as after the verb in verse John 12:18). It was a scene of growing excitement.

And cried out (κα εκραυγαζον). Imperfect active of κραυγαζω, old and rare verb (from κραυγη) as in Matthew 12:19; John 19:15.

Hosannah (Hωσαννα). Transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning "Save now." The LXX renders it by Σωσον δη (Save now).

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (ευλογημενος ο ερχομενος εν ονοματ κυριου). Perfect passive participle of ευλογεω. Quotation from Psalms 118:25, written, some think, for the dedication of the second temple, or, as others think, for the feast of tabernacles after the return (Ezra 3:1). It was sung in the processional recitation then as a welcome to the worshippers. Here the words are addressed to the Messiah as is made plain by the addition of the words, "even the king of Israel" (κα ο βασιλευς του Ισραηλ) as Nathanael called him (John 1:49). Jesus is here hailed by the multitudes as the long-looked for Messiah of Jewish hope and he allows them so to greet him (Luke 19:38-40), a thing that he prevented a year before in Galilee (John 6:14). It is probable that "in the name of the Lord" should be taken with "blessed" as in Deuteronomy 21:5; 2 Samuel 6:18; 1 Kings 22:16; 2 Kings 2:24. The Messiah was recognized by Martha as the Coming One (John 11:27) and is so described by the Baptist (Matthew 11:3). Mark (Mark 11:10) adds "the kingdom that cometh" while Luke (John 19:38) has "the king that cometh." "It was this public acclamation of Jesus as King of Israel or King of the Jews which was the foundation of the charge made against him before Pilate (John 18:33)" (Bernard).

Verse 14

Found (ευρων). Second aorist active participle of ευρισκω. Through the disciples, of course, as in Mark 11:2-6 (Matthew 21:2-3; Matthew 21:6; Luke 19:30).

A young ass (οναριον). Late diminutive of ονος, in Epictetus and the papyri (even the double diminitive, οναριδιον), only here in the N.T. See discussion of Matthew 21:5 where κα has been wrongly rendered "and" instead of "even." Rightly understood Matthew has Jesus riding only the colt like the rest.

Verse 15

Daughter of Zion (θυγατηρ Σιων). Nominative form (instead of θυγατερ) but vocative case. The quotation is from Zechariah 9:9 shortened.

Thy King cometh (ο βασιλευς ερχετα). Prophetic futuristic present. The ass was the animal ridden in peace as the horse was in war (Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14; 2 Samuel 17:23; 2 Samuel 19:26). Zechariah pictures one coming in peace. So the people here regarded Jesus as the Prince of Peace in the triumphal entry.

Sitting on an ass's colt (καθημενος επ πωλον ονου). Matthew (Matthew 21:6) does speak of both the ass and the colt having garments put on them, but he does not say that Jesus "sat upon" both animals at once, for επανω αυτων (upon them) probably refers to the garments, not to the colts. When John wrote (end of the century), Jerusalem had fallen. Jesus will lament over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). So "Fear not" (μη φοβου).

Verse 16

Understood not (ουκ εγνωσαν). Second aorist active indicative of γινωσκω. Another comment by John concerning the failure of the disciples to know what was happening (cf. John 2:22; John 7:39).

At the first (το πρωτον). Adverbial accusative, as in John 10:40; John 19:39.

Was glorified (εδοξασθη). First aorist passive indicative of δοξαζω, to glorify, used of his death already in John 7:39 and by Jesus himself of his death, resurrection, and ascension in John 12:23; John 13:31.

Then remembered they (τοτε εμνησθησαν). First aorist passive indicative of μιμνησκω. It was easier to understand then and they had the Holy Spirit to help them (John 16:13-15).

Were written of him (ην επ' αυτω γεγραμμενα). Periphrastic past perfect passive of γραφω with neuter plural participle agreeing with ταυτα (these things) and singular verb, though the plural ησαν could have been used. Note the threefold repetition of ταυτα in this verse, "clumsy" Bernard calls it, but making for clarity. The use of επ' αυτω for "of him" rather than περ αυτου is unusual, but occurs in Revelation 10:11; Revelation 22:16.

They had done (εποιησαν). First aorist active indicative of ποιεω, simply, "they did."

Verse 17

Bare witness (εμαρτυρε). Imperfect active of μαρτυρεω. This crowning triumph of Jesus gave an added sense of importance to the crowds that were actually with Jesus when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead. For this description of this portion of the crowd see John 11:45; John 12:1; John 12:9-11.

Verse 18

The multitude (ο οχλος). The multitude of verse John 12:13, not the crowd just mentioned that had been with Jesus at the raising of Lazarus. There were two crowds (one following Jesus, one meeting Jesus as here).

Went and met him (υπηντησεν αυτω). First aorist active indicative of υπανταω, old compound verb (υπο, ανταω) to go to meet, with associative instrumental case αυτω. Cf. John 4:51.

That he had done this sign (τουτο αυτον πεποιηκενα το σημειον). Perfect active infinitive in indirect discourse after ηκουσαν (first aorist active indicative of ακουω, to hear) (instead of a οτ clause) with the accusative of general reference αυτον (as to him) and another accusative (σημειον, sign) the object of the infinitive. Clearly there was much talk about the raising of Lazarus as the final proof that Jesus in truth is the Messiah of Jewish hope.

Verse 19

The Pharisees therefore laid among themselves (ο ουν Φαρισαιο ειπαν προς εαυτους). Graphic picture of the predicament of the Pharisees standing off and watching the enthusiastic crowds sweep by. As people usually do, they blame each other for the defeat of their plots against Jesus and for his final victory, as it seemed.

Behold how ye prevail nothing (θεωρειτε οτ ουκ ωφελειτε ουδεν). It was a pathetic confession of failure because the rest of the plotters had bungled the whole thing. "Ye help nothing at all" by your plots and plans.

Lo, the world is gone after him (ιδε ο κοσμος οπισω αυτου απηλθεν). Exclamatory use of ιδε and timeless aorist active indicative of απερχομα. The "world" is a bunch of fools, they feel, but see for yourselves. And the Sanhedrin had advertised to "find" Jesus! They can find him now!

Verse 20

Certain Greeks (Hελληνες τινες). Real Greeks, not Greek-speaking Jews (Hellenists, Acts 6:1), but Greeks like those in Antioch (Acts 11:20, correct text προς τους Hελληνας) to whom Barnabas was sent. These were probably proselytes of the gate or God-fearers like those worshipping Greeks in Thessalonica whom Paul won to Christ (Acts 17:4).

To worship at the feast (ινα προσκυνησωσιν εν τη εορτη). Purpose clause with ινα and the first aorist active subjunctive of προσκυνεω, old and common verb to kiss the hand in reverence, to bow the knee in reverence and worship. We do not know whence they came, whether from Decapolis, Galilee, or further away. They found the pilgrims and the city ringing with talk about Jesus. They may even have witnessed the triumphal entry.

Verse 21

To Philip which was of Bethsaida of Galilee (Φιλιππω τω απο Βηθσαιδα της Γαλιλαιας). He had a Greek name and the Greeks may have seen Philip in Galilee where there were many Greeks, probably (Mark 6:45) the Western Bethsaida in Galilee, not Bethsaida Julias on the Eastern side (Luke 9:10).

Asked (ηρωτων). Imperfect active, probably inchoative, "began to ask," in contrast with the aorist tense just before (προσηλθαν, came to).

Sir (Κυριε). Most respectfully and courteously.

We would see Jesus (θελομεν τον Ιησουν ιδειν). "We desire to see Jesus." This is not abrupt like our "we wish" or "we want," but perfectly polite. However, they could easily "see" Jesus, had already done so, no doubt. They wish an interview with Jesus.

Verse 22

Andrew (τω Ανδρεα). Another apostle with a Greek name and associated with Philip again (John 6:7), the man who first brought his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:41). Andrew was clearly a man of wisdom for a crisis. Note the vivid dramatic presents here,

cometh (ερχετα),

telleth (λεγε). What was the crisis? These Greeks wish an interview with Jesus. True Jesus had said something about "other sheep" than Jews (John 10:16), but he had not explained. Philip and Andrew wrestle with the problem that will puzzle Peter on the housetop in Joppa (Acts 10:9-18), that middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile that was only broken down by the Cross of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22) and that many Christians and Jews still set up between each other. Andrew has no solution for Philip and they bring the problem, but not the Greeks, to Jesus.

Verse 23

The hour is come (εληλυθεν η ωρα). The predestined hour, seen from the start (John 2:4), mentioned by John (John 7:30; John 8:20) as not yet come and later as known by Jesus as come (John 13:1), twice again used by Jesus as already come (in the prayer of Jesus, John 17:1; Mark 14:41, just before the betrayal in the Garden). The request from the Greeks for this interview stirs the heart of Jesus to its depths.

That the Son of man should be glorified (ινα δοξασθη ο υιος του ανθρωπου). Purpose clause with ινα (not in the sense of οτε, when) and the first aorist passive subjunctive of δοξαζω, same sense as in John 12:16; John 13:31. The Cross must come before Greeks can really come to Jesus with understanding. But this request shows that interest in Jesus now extends beyond the Jewish circles.

Verse 24

Except (εαν μη). Negative condition of third class (undetermined, supposable case) with second aorist active participle πεσων (from πιπτω, to fall) and the second aorist active subjunctive of αποθνησκω, to die.

A grain of wheat (ο κοκκος του σιτου). Rather, "the grain of wheat."

By itself alone (αυτος μονος). Both predicate nominatives after μενε. It is not necessary to think (nor likely) that Jesus has in mind the Eleusinian mysteries which became a symbol of the mystery of spring. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:36 uses the same illustration of the resurrection that Jesus does here. Jesus shows here the paradox that life comes through death. Whether the Greeks heard him or not we do not know. If so, they heard something not in Greek philosophy, the Christian ideal of sacrifice, "and this was foreign to the philosophy of Greece" (Bernard). Jesus had already spoken of himself as the bread of life (John 6:35-65).

But if it die (εαν δε αποθανη). Parallel condition of the third class. Grains of wheat have been found in Egyptian tombs three or four thousand years old, but they are now dead. They bore no fruit.

Verse 25

Loseth it (απολλυε αυτην). The second paradox. Present active indicative of απολλυω. This great saying was spoken at various times as in Mark 8:35 (Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24) and Mark 10:39 (Luke 17:33). See those passages for discussion of ψυχη (life or soul). For "he that hateth his life" (ο μισων την ψυχην αυτου) see the sharp contrasts in Luke John 14:26-35 where μισεω is used of father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, as well as one's own life. Clearly μισεω means "hate" when the issue is between Christ and the dearest things of life as happens when the choice is between martyrdom and apostasy. In that case one keeps his soul for eternal life by losing his life (ψυχη, each time) here. That is the way to "guard" (φυλαξε) life by being true to Christ. This is the second paradox to show Christ's philosophy of life.

Verse 26

If any man serve me (εαν εμο τις διακονη). Condition of third class again (εαν with present active subjunctive of διακονεω, keep on serving with dative εμο).

Let him follow me (εμο ακολουθειτω). "Me (associative instrumental case) let him keep on following" (present active imperative of ακολουθεω).

Where ... there (οπου ... εκε). In presence and spiritual companionship here and hereafter. Cf. John 14:3; John 17:24; Matthew 28:20.

Shall honour (τιμησε). Future active of τιμαω, but it may be the kind of honour that Jesus will get (verse John 12:23).

Verse 27

My soul (η ψυχη μου). The soul (ψυχη) here is synonymous with spirit (πνευμα) in John 13:21.

Is troubled (τεταρακτα). Perfect passive indicative of ταρασσω, used also in John 11:33; John 13:21 of Jesus. While John proves the deity of Jesus in his Gospel, he assumes throughout his real humanity as here (cf. John 4:6). The language is an echo of that in Psalms 6:4; Psalms 42:7. John does not give the agony in Gethsemane which the Synoptics have (Mark 14:35; Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42), but it is quite beside the mark to suggest, as Bernard does, that the account here is John's version of the Gethsemane experience. Why do some critics feel called upon to level down to a dead plane every variety of experience in Christ's life?

And what shall I say? (κα τ ειπω;). Deliberative subjunctive which expresses vividly "a genuine, if momentary indecision" (Bernard). The request of the Greeks called up graphically to Jesus the nearness of the Cross.

Father, save me from this hour (πατερ, σωσον με εκ της ωρας ταυτης). Jesus began his prayers with "Father" (John 11:41). Dods thinks that this should be a question also. Westcott draws a distinction between εκ (out of) and απο (from) to show that Jesus does not pray to draw back from the hour, but only to come safely out of it all and so interprets εκ in Hebrews 5:7, but that distinction will not stand, for in John 1:44 εκ and απο are used in the same sense and in the Synoptics (Mark 14:35; Matthew 26:39; Luke 52:42) we have απο. If it holds here, we lose the point there. Here as in Gethsemane the soul of Jesus instinctively and naturally shrinks from the Cross, but he instantly surrenders to the will of God in both experiences.

But for this cause came I unto this hour (αλλα δια τουτο ηλθον εις την ωραν ταυτην). It was only a moment of human weakness as in Gethsemane that quickly passed. Thus understood the language has its natural meaning.

Verse 28

Father, glorify thy name (πατερ, δοξασον σου το ονομα). First aorist (note of urgency) active imperative of δοξαζω and in the sense of his death already in verses John 12:16; John 12:23 and again in John 13:31; John 17:5. This is the prayer of the πνευμα (or ψυχη) as opposed to that of the σαρξ (flesh) in verse John 12:27. The "name" (ονομα) of God expresses the character of God (John 1:12; John 5:43; John 17:11). Cf. Matthew 6:9.

A voice out of heaven (φωνη εκ του ουρανου). This was the Father's answer to the prayer of Jesus for help. See already the Father's voice at the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:11) and at the transfiguration (Mark 9:7). The rabbis called the audible voice of God bath-qol (the daughter of a voice).

I have both glorified it and will glorify it again (κα εδοξασα κα παλιν δοξασω). This definite assurance from the Father will nerve the soul of Jesus for the coming ordeal. Cf. John 11:40 for εδοξασα and John 13:31; John 17:5 for δοξασω.

Verse 29

That it had thundered (βροντην γεγονενα). Perfect active infinitive of γινομα in indirect discourse after ελεγεν and the accusative of general reference (βροντην, thunder, as in Mark 3:17), "that thunder came to pass." So the crowd "standing by" (εστως, second perfect active participle of ιστημ), but Jesus understood his Father's voice.

An angel hath spoken to him (Αγγελος αυτω λελαληκεν). Perfect active indicative of λαλεω. So, when Jesus spoke to Saul on the way to Damascus, those with Saul heard the voice, but did not understand (Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9).

Verse 30

Not for my sake, but for your sakes (ου δι' εμε, αλλα δι' υμας). These words seem to contradict verses John 12:28; John 12:29. Bernard suggests an interpolation into the words of Jesus. But why not take it to be the figure of exaggerated contrast, "not merely for my sake, but also for yours"?

Verse 31

The judgement (κρισις). No article, "A judgement." The next few days will test this world.

The prince of this world (ο αρχων του κοσμου τουτου). This phrase here, descriptive of Satan as in possession of the evil world, occurs again in John 14:30; John 16:11. In the temptations Satan claims power over the world and offers to share it with Jesus (Matthew 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8). Jesus did not deny Satan's power then, but here proclaims final victory over him.

Shall be cast out (εκβληθησετα εξω). Future passive of εκβαλλω. Note εξω, clean out. The Book of Revelation also proclaims final victory over Satan.

Verse 32

And I, if I be lifted from the earth (καγω αν υψωθω εκ της γης). Note proleptic position of εγω (I). Condition of third class (undetermined with prospect) with αν (=εαν here) with first aorist passive subjunctive of υψοω, the verb used in John 3:14 of the brazen serpent and of the Cross of Christ as here and also in John 8:28. Westcott again presses εκ instead of απο to make it refer to the ascension rather than to the Cross, a wrong interpretation surely.

Will draw all men unto myself (παντας ελκυσω προς εμαυτον). Future active of ελκυω, late form of ελκω, to draw, to attract. Jesus had already used this verb of the Father's drawing power (John 6:44). The magnetism of the Cross is now known of all men, however little they understand the mystery of the Cross. By "all men" (παντας) Jesus does not mean every individual man, for some, as Simeon said (Luke 2:34) are repelled by Christ, but this is the way that Greeks (verse John 12:22) can and will come to Christ, by the way of the Cross, the only way to the Father (John 14:6).

Verse 33

Signifying (σημαινων). Present active participle of σεμαινω, old verb to give a sign (σημειον) as in Acts 25:27, and the whole phrase repeated in John 18:32 and nearly so in John 21:19. The indirect question here and in John 18:32 has the imperfect εμελλεν with present infinitive rather than the usual present μελλε retained while in John 21:19 the future indicative δοξασε occurs according to rule. The point in ποιω (qualitative relative in the instrumental case with θανατω) is the Cross (lifted up) as the kind of death before Christ.

Verse 34

Out of the law (εκ του νομου). That is, "out of the Scriptures" (John 10:34; John 15:25).

The Christ abideth forever (ο Χριστος μενε εις τον αιωνα). Timeless present active indicative of μενω, to abide, remain. Perhaps from Psalms 89:4; Psalms 110:4; Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 37:25; Daniel 7:14.

How sayest thou? (πως λεγεις συ;). In opposition to the law (Scripture).

The Son of man (τον υιον του ανθρωπου). Accusative case of general reference with the infinitive υψωθηνα (first aorist passive of υψοω and taken in the sense of death by the cross as Jesus used it in verse John 12:32). Clearly the crowd understand Jesus to be "the Son of man" and take the phrase to be equivalent to "the Christ." This is the obvious way to understand the two terms in their reply, and not, as Bernard suggests, that they saw no connexion between "the Christ" (the Messiah) and "the Son of man." The use of "this" (ουτος) in the question that follows is in contrast to verse John 12:32. The Messiah (the Son of man) abides forever and is not to be crucified as you say he "must" (δε) be.

Verse 35

Yet a little while is the light among you (ετ μικρον χρονον το φως εν υμιν εστιν). Χρονον is the accusative of extent of time. Jesus does not argue the point of theology with the crowd who would not understand. He turns to the metaphor used before when he claimed to be the light of the world (John 8:12) and urges that they take advantage of their privilege "while ye have the light" (ως το φως εχετε).

That darkness overtake you not (ινα μη σκοτια υμας καταλαβη). Purpose (negative) with ινα μη and second aorist active subjunctive of καταλαμβανω. See this verb in John 1:5. In 1 Thessalonians 5:4 this verb occurs with ημερα (day) overtaking one like a thief.

Knoweth not whither he goeth (ουκ οιδεν που υπαγε). See John 11:10 for this idea and the same language in 1 John 2:11. The ancients did not have our electric street lights. The dark streets were a terror to travellers.

Verse 36

Believe in the light (πιστευετε εις το φως). That is, "believe in me as the Messiah" (John 8:12; John 9:5).

That ye may become sons of light (ινα υιο φωτος γενησθε). Purpose clause with ινα and second aorist subject of γινομα, to become. They were not "sons of light," a Hebrew idiom (cf. John 17:12; Luke 16:8 with the contrast), an idiom used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8. It is equivalent to "enlightened men" (Bernard) and Jesus called his disciples the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

Hid himself from them (εκρυβη απ' αυτων). Second aorist passive indicative of κρυπτω, late form (in LXX) for old εκρυφη, "was hidden from them," as in John 8:59. This part of verse John 12:36 begins a new paragraph.

Verse 37

Though he had done so many signs before them (τοσαυτα αυτου σημεια πεποιηκοτος εμπροσθεν αυτων). Genitive absolute with perfect active participle in concessive sense of ποιεω.

Yet they believed not on him (ουκ επιστευον εις αυτον). No "yet" in the Greek. Negative imperfect active of πιστευω, "they kept on not believing on him," stubborn refusal in face of the light (verse John 12:35).

Verse 38

That might be fulfilled (ινα πληρωθη). It is usually assumed that ινα here with the first aorist passive subjunctive of πληροω has its full telic force. That is probable as God's design, but it is by no means certain since ινα is used in the N.T. with the idea of result, just as ut in Latin is either purpose or result, as in John 6:7; John 9:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:4; Galatians 5:17; Romans 11:11 (Robertson, Grammar, p. 998). Paul in Romans 10:16 quotes Isaiah 53:1 as John does here but without ινα. See Romans 10:16 for discussion of the quotation. The next verse adds strength to the idea of design.

Verse 39

For this cause they could not believe (δια τουτο ουκ εδυναντο πιστευειν). Τουτο (this) seems to have a double reference (to what precedes and to what follows) as in John 8:47. The negative imperfect (double augment, εδυναντο) of δυναμα. John is not absolving these Jews from moral responsibility, but only showing that the words of Isaiah "had to be fulfilled, for they were the expression of Divine foreknowledge " (Bernard).

Verse 40

He hath blinded (τετυφλωκεν). Perfect active indicative of τυφλοω, old causative verb to make blind (from τυφλος, blind), in N.T. only here, 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 2:11.

He hardened (επωρωσεν). First aorist active indicative of πωροω, a late causative verb (from πωρος, hard skin), seen already in Mark 6:52, etc. This quotation is from Isaiah 6:10 and differs from the LXX.

Lest they should see (ινα μη ιδωσιν). Negative purpose clause with ινα μη instead of μηποτε (never used by John) of the LXX. Matthew (Matthew 13:15) has μηποτε and quotes Jesus as using the passage as do Mark (Mark 4:12) and Luke (Luke 8:10). Paul quotes it again (Acts 28:26) to the Jews in Rome. In each instance the words of Isaiah are interpreted as forecasting the doom of the Jews for rejecting the Messiah. Matthew (Matthew 13:15) has συνωσιν where John has νοησωσιν (perceive), and both change from the subjunctive to the future (κα ιασομα), "And I should heal them." John has here στραφωσιν (second aorist passive subjunctive of στρεφω) while Matthew reads επιστρεψωσιν (first aorist active of επιστρεφω).

Verse 41

Because he saw his glory (οτ ειδεν την δοξαν αυτου). Correct reading here οτ (because), not οτε (when). Isaiah with spiritual vision saw the glory of the Messiah and spoke (ελαλησεν) of him, John says, whatever modern critics may think or say. So Jesus said that Abraham saw his day (John 8:56). Cf. Hebrews 11:13.

Verse 42

Nevertheless even (ομως μεντο κα). For the old ομως see 1 Corinthians 14:7; Galatians 3:15 (only other examples in N.T.), here only with μεντο, "but yet," and κα, "even." In spite of what has just been said "many (πολλο) even of the rulers" (recall the lonely shyness of Nicodemus in John 3:1). These actually "believed on him" (επιστευσαν εις αυτον) in their convictions, a remarkable statement as to the effect that Christ had in Jerusalem as the Sanhedrin plotted his death. Cf. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

But because of the Pharisees (αλλα δια τους Φαρισαιους). Like the whispered talk in John 7:13 "because of the fear of the Jews." Once the Pharisees sneeringly asked the officers (John 7:48): "Hath any one of the rulers believed on him?" And now "many of the rulers have believed on him."

They did not confess (ουχ ωμολογουν). Negative imperfect in contrast to the punctiliar aorist επιστευσαν. "They kept on not confessing." How like the cowardly excuses made today by those under conviction who refuse to step out for Christ.

Lest they should be put out of the synagogue (ινα μη αποσυναγωγο γενωντα). Cf. John 9:22 where this very word occurs in a purpose clause like this. Only once more in the N.T. (John 16:2), a Jewish word not in profane authors. This ostracism from the synagogue was dreaded by the Jews and made cowards of these "believing elders."

More than (μαλλον ηπερ). They preferred the glory and praise of men more than the glory and praise of God. How απροπος these words are to some suave cowards today.

Verse 44

Cried and said (εκραξεν κα ειπεν). First aorist active indicative of κραζω, to cry aloud, and second aorist active of defective verb ερω, to say. This is probably a summary of what Jesus had already said as in verse John 12:36 John closes the public ministry of Jesus without the Synoptic account of the last day in the temple on our Tuesday (Mark 11:27-12; Matthew 21:23-23; Luke 20:1-21).

Not on me, but on him (ου εις εμε, αλλα εις τον). "Not on me only, but also on," another example of exaggerated contrast like that in verse John 12:30. The idea of Jesus here is a frequent one (believing on Jesus whom the Father has sent) as in John 3:17; John 5:23; John 5:30; John 5:43; John 7:16; John 8:42; John 13:20; John 14:1; Matthew 10:40; Luke 9:48.

Verse 46

I am come a light (Εγω φως εληλυθα). As in John 3:19; John 9:5; John 8:12; John 12:35. Final clause (negative) also here (ινα μη μεινη, first aorist active subjunctive) as in John 12:35. Light dispels darkness.

Verse 47

If any one (εαν τις). Third-class condition with εαν and first aorist active subjunctive (ακουση) of ακουω and same form (φυλαξη) of φυλασσω with negative μη.

But to save the world (αλλ' ινα σωσω τον κοσμον). Purpose clause again (cf. ινα κρινω, just before) with ινα and first aorist active of sozo. Exaggerated contrast again, "not so much to judge, but also to save." See John 3:17 for same contrast. And yet Jesus does judge the world inevitably (John 8:15; John 9:39), but his primary purpose is to save the world (John 3:16). See close of the Sermon on the Mount for the same insistence on hearing and keeping (obeying) the words of Jesus (Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26) and also Luke 11:28.

Verse 48

Rejecteth (αθετων). Present active participle of αθετεω, late Koine verb (from αθετος, α privative, and τιθημ), to render null and void, only here in John, but see Mark 6:26; Mark 7:9.

One that judgeth him (τον κρινοντα αυτον). Articular present active participle of κρινω. See same idea in John 5:45; John 9:50.

The same (εκεινος). "That" very word of Christ which one rejects will confront him and accuse him to the Father "at the last day" (εν τη εσχατη ημερα, this phrase peculiar to John). There is no escaping it. And yet Jesus himself will bear witness for or against the one whose conduct has already revealed his attitude towards the message of God (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8).

Verse 49

He hath given (δεδωκεν). Perfect active indicative. Christ has permanent commission.

What I should say and what I should speak (τ ειπω κα τ λαλησω). Indirect question retaining the deliberative subjunctive (second aorist active ειπω, first aorist active λαλησω). Meyer and Westcott take ειπω to refer to the content and λαλησω more to the varying manner of delivery. Possibly so.

Verse 50

Life eternal (ζωη αιωνιος). See John 3:15; Matthew 25:46 for this great phrase. In John 6:68 Peter says to Jesus, "Thou hast the words of eternal life." Jesus had just said (John 6:63) that his words were spirit and life. The secret lies in the source, "as the Father hath said to me" (ειρηκεν).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 12". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/john-12.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.