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Jesus vindicates Mary anointing his feet. The people flock to see Lazarus: the chief priests consult to kill him. Christ rideth into Jerusalem. Certain Greeks desire to see Jesus: he foretelleth his death. The Jews are generally blinded: yet many chief rulers believe, but do not confess him: therefore Jesus calleth earnestly for confession of faith.
Anno Domini 33.
John 12:1. Then Jesus—came to Bethany,— This was in his way to Jerusalem; and he might choose to stop here, in order to renew the idea of the resurrection upon the minds of his disciples, by carrying them once more to the house of one who had been raised from the dead by him; and this was the more necessary, as the time was very near, when he should put their faith to the proof with respect tothis article, by his own death.
John 12:2. There they made him a supper,— It was customary for the Jews to entertain their friends in a more noble manner than usual, about six or seven days before the passover; and it was in compliance with this custom, as well as out of a particular respect to Jesus, whom they most highly reverenced and loved, and who had conferred so great a blessing on them, that Lazarus and his sisters made this entertainment. It was no derogation to Martha that she served at table; for it was not usual with the women to sit at table with the men at entertainments of this kind. Besides, it was incumbent upon her—a peculiar mark of esteem and reverence, on account of the miracle that he had wrought in favour of her family. The sitting of Lazarus at the table, served to shew the reality of the miracle wrought at his tomb; that it was not a spectre or illusion which then presented itself to their sight; and that Lazarus was not only restored to life, but likewise to perfect health.
John 12:3. Then took Mary a pound of ointment— This supper is supposed by many to have been the same with that mentioned Mat 26:6 and Mar 14:3 but upon examination, they will appear to have been different. This happened in the house of Lazarus, that in the house of Simon the leper: at this, Mary the sister of Lazarus anointed our Lord's feet, and wiped them with her hair; at that, a woman, not named, poured the ointment on his head. Here Judas only found fault with the action; there he was seconded by some of the rest. It seems, all the disciples but Judas suffered this first anointing to pass without censure; but when theysaw so expensive a compliment repeated, and that within a few days the one of the other, they joined with him in blaming the woman, and might think themselves warranted to do so, as they knew that their Master was not delighted with luxuries ofany kind. After the anointing mentioned by St. Matthew, Judas went and bargained with the priests to deliver his Master into their hands; yet two days before the passover they consulted among themselves how theymight take him by subtlety. This deliberation was absolutelyunnecessary, if the anointing mentioned by St. Matthew had been the same with that in St. John; for the anointing being expressly fixed by St. John to the sixth day before the passover, the bargain which Judas struck with the priests to betray his Master, is of course fixed to the same day, having happened immediately after the anointing: if so, the priests, six days before the passover, knew of a method to take Jesus by subtlety, and therefore had no occasion formally to consult about it two days before the passover. In fine, the place in the history which St. Matthew has assigned to his anointing, implies that it happened two days before the passover; whereas the anointing mentioned by St. John is expressly said to have been six days before that feast. Compare Matthew 26:0 l-4 and 14. Thus it evidently appears, that our Lord was anointed with spikenard three different times during the course of his ministry; once in the house of Simon the Pharisee, once in the house of Lazarus, and once in the house of Simon the leper. That this mark of respect should have been shewn him so often, need not be thought strange; for in those countries it was common, at entertainments, to pour fragrant oils on the heads of such guests as they designed to distinguish with marks of extraordinary respect. The custom is alluded to Psalms 45:7. God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Where this piece of civility was shewn, it was an expression of the highest complacency, and generally produced great gladness in the person who was the object of it. Hence, besides the emblematical reason of the ceremony, it was fitly made use of at the instalment of persons into high offices: and therefore, because the only-begotten Son of God was to sustain greater dignities, and execute more important offices than ever were sustained or executed among men, and was fitted for them by more extraordinary endowments than men possessed, having the Spirit given him without measure; he had the name of the Messiah, or the anointed one, appropriated to him by way of eminence; he was anointed with the oil of gladness, infinitely above his fellows,—the other kings, and priests, and prophets, whom God from time to time had raised up and honoured with the title of his anointed ones.
John 12:5. Sold for three hundred pence,— The Roman penny, which is here spoken of, was equal to seven-pence half-penny of our money; three hundred of these pence therefore amounted to about nine pounds, seven shillings, and six-pence sterling. From the value of the ointment it would appear, that Lazarus and his sisters were persons of a better station than ordinary, (see on Ch. John 11:1.) otherwise they could not have afforded so costly a present, nor would Jesus probably have accepted it at their hands.Besides,this conjecture is confirmed by the kind of company which came from the city to comfort the two sisters on the death of their brother. The evangelist calls them the Jews, a word which he commonly makes use of to denote the principal inhabitants of Jerusalem. The action of Mary, and the office which Martha sustained at this feast, are by no means inconsistent with their supposed station; for they must think that they could not put sufficient honour on one whom they esteemed so highly, and to whom they were so much indebted. If the station of Lazarus was, as we suppose, better than common, the miracle of his resurrection must for that reason have been the more illustrious.
John 12:6. And bare what was put therein.— And carried off what was put into it. Elsner; who refers to John 20:15.Matthew 3:11; Matthew 3:11; Mat 8:17 for instances of such an use of the word; εβασταζεν : but it by no means appears that the word is ever used in a bad sense. The meaning here seems to be, not only that Judas had the keeping of the bag at that time, but that it was his stated office to take care of it, and manage its stock. Dr. Heylin renders the clause very well thus: And bearing the purse, had in his keeping what was put into it.
John 12:7. Against the day of my burying, &c.— The Jews first washed the corpse all over with water, after it was laid out, Act 9:37 and then anointed it with liquid spices, or odours, as appears from this apology which our Lord makes for Mary; for the full import whereof, see the note on Matthew 26:10.
John 12:9-11. Much people of the Jews therefore— Bethany being within two miles of Jerusalem, the news of the arrival of Jesus soon reached the city, and drew out great numbers of the citizens; for they had a laudable curiosity to see the man who had been raised from the dead, and the still more wonderful man who had raised him. When they came and saw Lazarus, many of them believed, that is to say, were convinced both of Lazarus's resurrection, and of the divinity of Christ's mission. But the news of their believing, together with the reason of it, being currentlyreported in Jerusalem, came to the ears of the chief priests, and incensed them to such a degree, that they resolved to kill, not Jesus only, but, if possible, Lazarus also. They went away, John 12:11. means, "from Jerusalem to Bethany."
John 12:12. Much people that were come to the feast, &c.— The news of our Lord's approach having reached the city, great numbers of the people who were come from the country to attend the feast, and who had a favourable opinion of his character, went forth with palm-branches in their hands, the usual emblems of victory and triumph, to welcome him as the Messiah to the capital. See the notes on the parallel places.
John 12:14. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon, &c.— 'Ευρων δε . Now Jesus having found a young ass, sat, &c. For the evangelist does not mean that Jesus was saluted by the multitude from Jerusalem before he mounted; but his meaning is, that Jesus was riding when they saluted him: or, because Jesus sent for the ass, the word 'Ευρων may be translated having procured; in which sense the verb ευρισκειν is sometimes used.
John 12:16. These things understood not his disciples— Though the disciples believed him to be the Messiah, yet there were many occurrences of his life, which they understood not at the time when they happened, to be foretold of the Messiah; but which, after his ascension, they found exactly to quadrate with, and to be accomplishments of those predictions.
John 12:17-18. The people therefore, &c.— Because the forwardness which the multitude now shewed to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, was altogether extraordinary, the evangelist assigns the cause thereof. The witnesses of the resurrection of Lazarus zealously bestirred themselves on this occasion; they had published the miracle far and near; they were many in number, and persons of reputation. Hence their report gained universal belief, and drew out an innumerable multitude to meet Jesus—a circumstance which gave credit to the miracle, to which they bare record, or gave their testimony, as it proved what sense the people of the age and country where it was performed had of it. Some would render these verses, Now the multitude that was with him bare record, that (οτι ) he called Lazarus from the grave, and raised him from the dead; and upon this account the multitude met him, because they heard that he had done this miracle.
John 12:20. And there were certain Greeks— After the conquest of Darius by Alexander, all his successors of different nations were called Greeks, whence came the name of "the Grecian monarchy," otherwise called "the Syro-Macedonian." Thus Antiochus Epiphanes is said to have reigned in the hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks, Malachi 1:10; Malachi 1:10. St. Paul likewise often distinguishes all other nations from the Jews by the name of Greeks, Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9; Rom 10:12 and the greater part of Syria was, in our Saviour's time, called Greece by the Jews. Hence, when he was in the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and a woman besought him to cast the evil spirit out of her daughter, she is called a Greek, a Syro-phoenicean by nation, Mar 7:26 and these Greeks who were desirous to see Jesus, were probably of the same nation, and known to Philip, who is here said to have been a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, a neighbouring country, for which reason they might particularlyapply themselves to him. As all the Gentiles were thus named by the Jews Ελληνες, it denoted their religion, rather than their country; but in the present instance, the persons called Greeks were not idolatrous Gentiles; for their business at the feast, which was to worship, shews that they were proselytes to the Jewish religion, and that they cherished expectations of the Messiah. See Acts 2:5; Acts 8:27; Acts 13:43.
John 12:21. We would see Jesus.— This transaction appears to have been in the passover-week, when Christ taught daily in the temple, but retired to Bethany in the evening with his disciples. So that by seeing him, ιδειν, cannot barely be meant seeing his person, which they might have done with the rest of the multitude while he was teaching them; and consequently there could be no reason for them to apply to Philip on that account, or for him to inform Andrew, and for them again to acquaint Jesus with such a request. However, it is not improbable, from the circumstances of the narrative, that thisrequest was made in the temple, upon their meeting with Philip there; and that what they desired, was an admission to Jesus in such a manner, as to hear him perfectly, and be fully informed of his doctrine. It is not indeed expressly said whether this request was granted or not; but it is very reasonable to suppose that it was: for as it was not the effect of mere curiosity, whenever our Saviour met with a disposition in any persons to receive his instructions, he was always ready to encourage it.
John 12:22. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew, &c.— From Philip's not venturing to introduce the men himself, it seems probable that there was some difficulty in the case. Perhaps they were only "proselytes of the gate," who, according to custom, could not be admitted into the company of Jews. See Acts 10:28.
John 12:23-24. And Jesus answered them,— If we suppose that our Lord spoke these words as the Greeks were introduced to him, the following discourse will discover many a latent beauty. Our Lord might enlarge perhaps on some of the hints in this discourse; and if his hearers took a due notice of them, and made a proper report on their return home, it might prepare the way for the apostles, when they came, by their preaching, more fully to unfold and illustrate these important doctrines. Our Lord here declares, that the appointed time was now at hand, when he should be honoured by the conversion of the Gentiles, an earnest whereof they now had in the approach of the present Greeks: at the same time he told them, that he was to suffer death before he arrived at this glory; and illustrated the necessity of his dying by the similitude of grain cast into the earth, John 12:24. "As the only way to make grain produce fruit, is to bury it in the ground; so the grand primary method of bringing about the conversion and salvation of all that believe is, that I die and be buried." Our Lord's resurrection, (to omit other things,) that grand miracle on which the truth of Christianity in a very considerablemeasuredepends,andbywhichthesalvationof the faithful was effected, happened in consequence of his death. Dr. Heylin renders the 24th verse more clearly thus: If the grain of wheat that falls into the ground dieth not, it remains there a single grain; but if it die, it becometh very fruitful.
John 12:25-26. He that loveth his life, &c.— He told them further, that as he, their Master, was tosuffer before his exaltation, so must they, his disciples, expect the like; for which reason they were to expect persecution, firmly resolving to lose even life itself, after his example, when called to do so; and in that case he promised them a share in his crown and glory—thus tacitly insinuating, that the strangers should be greatly disappointed, if their desire of conversing with him proceeded from a hope of recommendingthemselvestoearthlyprefermentsthroughhisfavour.Bytheindefinite expressions which our Lord here makes use of, "If any one would serve me, would wish to be of my household, let him follow, &c." he strongly intimates, that his kingdom was to be of a very extensive nature; and that not only the proselytes of righteousness, or of the gate, but even the idolatrous Gentiles themselves, might, on their believing the gospel, be admitted to its privileges. See the passages in the Margin, and on Luke 14:26.
John 12:27-28. Now is my soul troubled:— Having taken a view of his own sufferings, and proposed them as an example to his disciples, the prospect moved him to a great degree, and he discovered to them the conflict which he felt in his bosom: "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour? (for so the passage evidently should be read and pointed) No, I will not say this, since for this very cause I came unto this hour." Our Lord's application to his heavenly Father, on this occasion, shews us what is the best method of easing the mind in deep distress. At the same time that he expressed an entire resignation to the will of his heavenly Father, he has taught us, that although the weakness of human nature may shrink at the first thoughts of suffering, his disciples are not to yield, but ought to fortify themselves through divine grace by just reflections on the wisdom of God, and on the happy end that he proposes by their afflictions. Our Saviour adds, "Father, glorify thy name;" which was a further expression of resignation, importing that he was willing to submit to whatever the Father should judge necessary for the manifestation of his perfections: "For this cause came I unto this hour; therefore, O Father, do to me as it shall seem good to thy divine wisdom, for the glorification of thy name in the redemption of mankind." But the words were no sooner spoken, than a voice from heaven was heard, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. "I have glorified it by the miracles which thou hast already performed, and will continue to glorify it by other miracles yet to be performed." The further glorification of God the Father promised to Jesus by the voice, signified the honour which should accrue to the Father from the new proofs wherewith his mission would be adorned; particularly the great miracles of his resurrection from the dead, of the effusion of the Spirit, and of the conversion of the Gentile world to the Christian religion.
John 12:29. The people therefore—said that it thundered:— The sound of this voice was evidently supernatural, being strong and loud as thunder; but at the same time so articulate that all who heard Jesus address the Father, heard also the words. The word rendered voice, and that rendered thunder, are used promiscuously by the inspired writers, according to the Hebrew idiom, wherein the word koloth, voices, usually signifies thunder. Thunder frequently attended a voice from heaven: in allusion to which, perhaps, the voice itself was called by the ancient Jews bath-kol, or "the daughter of the voice," being ushered in with thunder, and as it were produced from it. This will serve to explain the different sentiments of the people concerning this circumstance. Some of them said, It thunders; and others, that an angel spake; each of them declaring the truth so far as there was thunder joined with the voice from heaven; though that voice was of one much greater than an angel. See Revelation 4:5; Rev 8:5 and Matthew 3:17. Dr. Lightfoot has well observed, that our Saviour had thrice the testimony of a voice from heaven;first, when he entered on his public ministry, as the high priest of our profession at his baptism; Mat 3:17 the second time, when a command was given to hear him, as the great Prophet of the church, at his transfiguration; Matthew 17:5. And now again when he had made his public entry into Jerusalem as a king.
John 12:30. This voice came not because of me, &c.— Dr. Heylin renders this better, This voice came not for my sake, but for yours. It is literally, This voice came not for me, but for you—"not to assure me of the love of my Father, but to confirm you in the belief of my mission; that you may not be offended at the treatment I shall meet with, or quit your hope in me, on account of the sufferings which are coming upon me."
John 12:31-33. Now is the judgment of this world:— The subject of our Lord's address to the Father, and the answer which he received, naturally led him to meditate on the happy effects of his coming into the world; namely, the destruction of Satan's kingdom,andtheexaltationofthe faithful with himself into heaven. These grand events afforded a prospectvery reviving, amid the melancholy thoughts which now afflicted his soul. Wherefore, that his disciples might share with him in the comfort of them, he foretold them, as the necessary effects of his sufferings, "Now is the judgment of this world; the time of the destruction of wickedness is come: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. The devil who has so long reigned in the hearts of the children of disobedience, is about to be dethroned: (compare Eph 2:2 and 2 Corinthians 4:4.) And I, if I be lifted up, &c. John 12:32."—Our Lord cannot be supposed in this passage to talk of his own death as a thing uncertain; and therefore the original, εαν υψωθω, should be translated, when I am lifted up; a sense which the word εαν sometimes bears. See Deuteronomy 7:1.Judges 6:3; Judges 6:3. LXX. Dr. Heylin gives a somewhat different interpretation of this passage. "It appears from Joh 12:27 says he, that our blessed Saviour had been in great trouble on account of his approaching sufferings, by which he was to redeem the world." He was now about to accomplish that great work; therefore he saith, Now is the crisis of this world; wherein its fate would be decided, the usurper ejected, and the Redeemer established in the acquisition that he makes of it by his death. When I shall be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself. To be lifted up from the earth, is a Hebraism to signify dying; we have met with it twice before in this gospel; and that it was then familiar, and commonly understood, appears from the immediate answer of the Jews, who use it in the same sense. "We are taught by the law, say they, that the Christ is to live for ever. Why then do you say, that the Son of man must be lifted up; that is to say, die." They meant only death in general; for that was all that the phrase imported.
But our Lord made use of this, rather than other phrases which were equivalent, because it so well suited the manner of his death on the cross. See the note on Ch. John 6:44.
John 12:34-36. The people answered him,— The people, on hearing Jesus affirm that he was to be lifted up, told him, that was inconsistent with the character of the Messiah, who, according to the law, (so they named the whole of their sacred writings,) was never to die. Who then is this Son of man? "What sort of a Messiah must he be, who is to die, in immediate contradiction to the voice of the prophets? (See Psalms 89:29; Psalms 110:4.Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 9:7. Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14.)—Is he a different person from the Messiah whom we have been taught to expect, under the title of the Son of man?" This was a real and important difficulty; but it was fit that some obscurity should for the present be left upon it, lest the plainness of the prediction should have prevented its accomplishment. Our Lord therefore gave the discourse a useful turn, and a few days more proclaimed the mystery which he had before revealed to his apostles in private, when he sat out on his last journey to Jerusalem. See Matthew 20:18-19. Ch. Joh 8:12 Joh 11:9-10 and Romans 11:25.
John 12:38. That the saying of Esaias the prophet, &c.— So that the saying—was fulfilled, &c. Heylin, Jeffryes, &c. See the note on Isaiah 53:1. The phrase Hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? is thought by some to allude to the habit generally worn by the Eastern people, and especially by persons of rank; which was a long robe without sleeves; so that when the arm was stretched out to perform any action which required strength, it would appear uncovered, Isaiah 52:10. In this connection, it implies, that whenever true faith is produced in the mind, it is always accompanied by a divine energy.
John 12:39-40. Therefore they could not believe,— That is, by the just judgment of God for their obstinate and wilful resistance to the truth, they were so hardened, that the doctrine and miracles of our Lord could make no impression on them, as Isaiah had foretold, Isa 6:9-10 where see the note, and also on Matthew 13:14. The meaning therefore is, not that the prophesy of Isaiah was the cause of their unbelief, but that their unbelief was the accomplishment of Isaiah's prophesy. The evangelist, in this quotation, has not confined himself exactly to the words of the prophet, but the sense is plainly the same; and nothing was more usual with the Jewish rabbies, than to quote scripture in this way.
John 12:41. These things said Esaias, when, &c.— He uttered these remarkable words, when in vision he saw the glory of the Son of God, and the manifestations which he was to make of the divine counsels; and described the effect which these manifestations were to have upon his hearers; for which reason they are a prophetical description of the men of the age in which Jesus lived. We have observed, in the note on Isa 6:1 that from this passage Christ is evidently proved to be the Jehovah: but the reader who may be desirous to see this argument in its full force, is referred, not only to the authors there quoted, but particularly to the excellent Bishop Pearson on the Creed, p. 125.
John 12:44. Jesus cried, &c.— To strengthen the faith of those who believed on him, and to inspire them with courage to confess him, (see John 12:42.) our Lord cried and said in the temple, "Be it known unto you all, that in these extraordinary steps which I take for the reformation of abuses and the vindication of my Father's house, I act by his immediateauthority; and he that cordially believes in me, believeth not in me alone, but in him that sent me, and thereby honours the Father himself. And he that sees me, and regards me with a lively faith, does also in effect see him that sent me, as the perfections of the Father are displayed in me; whereas, he that shuts his eyes against me, excludes the only means of being brought to the true knowledge of him." See the account given by St. Mark, Mar 11:15-17 of which the present discourse of our Lord was the consequence.
John 12:46-48. I am come a light, &c.— "I am the light of the world, sent down from heaven, to dispel the darkness of ignorance, superstition, and wickedness, and to reveal the will of my Father, and the way to eternal life and happiness, clearly and fully. Whosoever therefore believes on me, shall not want sufficient means to direct him in the knowledge of all divine truths, and in the practice of all holiness and righteousness. Nevertheless, they who reject the instructions and the offers of salvation which I give, shall not pass unpunished; for the doctrine that I have preached shall bear witness against them at the day of judgment; and because it has aggravated their sin, it will heighten their punishment." Dr. Heylin translates the 48th verse thus: He who despises me, and does not embrace my doctrine, hath one that judgeth him; or rather, hath that which judgeth him. The doctrine which I have delivered, that shall be his judge at the last day.
Inferences.—We see how happily Mary improved by sitting at the feet of Jesus, and what evidence she gave of her having chosen the better part. Like her, with humble thankfulness, we should bestow our very best on him, who has given us that best, as well as every thing beside. She gladly poured out her choicest ointment on him, whose name is, to every true believer, far more fragrant than ointment poured forth. How does her generous love shame those, who, lavish in every selfish gratification, grudge the least expence in the cause of Christ and their souls!
When we are relieving our necessitous fellow-creatures, we are as it were anointing the feet of Jesus; we are indeed performing a service more acceptable than any thing of this kind could be, in itself. Let us remember, that we have the poor always with us, and that they are permitted to continue among us, that we may do them good whenever we please. Far be it from us to imagine, that what we so spend is waste. They who would not share in the guilt and punishment of Judas, should ever abhor the vile hypocrisy, of making a pretended concern for the poor a cloke for an opportunity of enriching themselves with their spoils; than which nothing can be more infamous, or have a more direct tendency to mingle the curse of a righteous and almighty God with all that a man possesses.
The Pharisees conspired to kill Lazarus! What a mixture was this of cruelty and folly! What was his crime, or what could be their hope? From what death could not Christ have delivered him, or from what tomb could he not have recalled him? Yet something like this is the madness of all who hate and persecute others, for being the trophies of the Redeemer's victory and grace. But let not his servants fear; their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name; his work is perfect; and the day and hour is approaching, in which his triumph over all his enemies shall be so complete, that his faithful friends shall be for ever secure, not only from being destroyed, but from being alarmed by them. [For Inferences drawn from our Lord's entrance into Jerusalem, see those on Matthew 21:0.]
Who can wonder at the desire which the Greeks expressed, Joh 12:20-21 to see so celebrated a person as Jesus was? We may reasonably believe, that there was much more than mere curiosity in it, and that at length they saw him with believing eyes, and, according to his prediction, glorified him by a cordial acceptance of his gospel. His disciples, we see, were ready to introduce them; and surely every faithful minister of Christ will undertake the talk with pleasure, when he sees souls awakened by divine grace, and inquiring after Jesus with affectionate concern.
Blessed be God, it has already, in multitudes of instances, been seen, that, by the death of Christ, an immortal seed was sown, which has multiplied in all ages, and is still multiplying. O that it might have a greater increase! One would think, that words so gracious as those of our Lord, would promote that increase, and operate upon every heart, to produce a love to him sufficient to conquer every danger and opposition which may be met with in his cause. Behold the promise that he has left upon record; "If any man, be he ever so mean and unworthy, will but faithfully serve and follow me, whatever his former wanderings and rebellions may have been, where I am, there shall also my servant be?" Happy state indeed! not only, like these Greeks, to have a transient sight of Christ, but to be for ever with him!
How admirable is the love and steadfastness of our Redeemer, who procured so great a happiness for us at so dear an expence, and, even when his innocent soul was troubled, in the view of his sufferings, instead of declining them, met them with joy! how should it animate us to renew that general comprehensive petition, than which none can be more suitable to us, with regard to all the divine dispensations, Father, glorify thy name: "Glorify thyself, O Lord; and, to that great end, dispose of us as thou pleasest; for we should abhor ourselves, if we could have any interests separate from thine."
We may be assured as certainly as by a voice from heaven, that this great end shall be answered; and in this we should rejoice. Behold the prince of this world is cast out. Behold, Satan is vanquished by Christ, and Jesus is lifted up on the cross, for a standard to all the nations. Behold the attractive magnet, by which all are to be drawn, by which all his faithful people shall be brought to him, and so raised up to heaven itself. Let us look unto him from the ends of the earth, and labour with our cold hearts to kindle that lively and ardent affection which we owe to him, who was crucified for us.
How necessary is the operation of divine grace to conquer the prejudices of a sinful heart; and how cautious should sinners be, that they do not stop their ears to the joyful sound of the gospel, and shut their eyes against this glorious light, lest God should leave them to their delusions, and in his righteous judgment seal them up under final blindness and impenitence. Then will they never be converted and healed; but die with that poison in all the faculties of their souls, which will make them for ever restless and miserable.
Can we find words sufficient to express the madness of those Pharisees, who, when they were convinced in their consciences that Jesus was the Christ, would not confess that conviction, and publicly pay their homage to him, because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God? Strange infatuation of the human mind, that it should be capable of believing there is a God, and yet of preferring the creatures before him! and should sometimes imagine the vain breath of popular applause or popular censure so considerable, as that God should be offended, to please man; and all the honours and rewards of his heavenly presence lost, to secure a little regard from those who are perishing in their crimes, and will, ere long, be themselves the objects of everlasting shame and contempt.
Most important is that proclamation which our Lord made in the temple, and is still making to us in his word. Believing in him, we believe in the Father; and seeing him, we see the Father. Let us be ready therefore to receive him, out of regard to his divine authority, as well as with a view to our own happiness; for without him we can have no access unto the Father, nor can we ever see him as a reconciled God. The sacred light which he diffuses around him, is not intended merely to amuse our eyes with pleasing speculations, but to animate our hearts with holy affections, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. If we desire therefore to escape an abode in eternal darkness, and to see everlasting light, we must faithfully follow it, otherwise we are condemned already; and that word which he spake, will become to us a savour of death unto death, and will judge us in the last solemn and dreadful day, when it shall sentence those who would not be saved by it. If we are wise, therefore, we shall diligently make that word the rule of our life now, which will then be the rule of judgment; we may most comfortably venture our eternal all on the exact veracity of it. Christ has perfectly fulfilled the commission he received from his Father, as one that was faithful to him who appointed him; and stands so completely approved in his sight, that our only hope is, that we also may be accepted in him, and find mercy and grace for his sake.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have,
1. The visit of Jesus to Bethany. He came there six days before the passover, and took up his lodgings with Lazarus, a person now uncommonly distinguished, as having been dead, and miraculously restored to life by the power of Jesus. Our Lord knew the danger to which he exposed himself; but his hour approached, and therefore he offered himself a willing sacrifice, as the true paschal Lamb who should be sacrificed for us.
2. Lazarus and his sisters gave him a most welcome reception, and, in honour of their guest, made a great supper: and Martha, to do honour to her heavenly visitant, waited herself upon him, while Lazarus sat at the table with him, a living monument of his power and grace.
3. During the entertainment, Mary, to testify her deep respect for her divine Lord and Master, came with a pound of very costly spikenard, and anointed his feet, wiping them with her hair: and the odour of the ointment filled the house—expressing hereby her faith, love, and deep humility, receiving him as the anointed Messiah, and paying her dutiful homage to him. Note; No fragrance of the sweetest perfume can adequately represent that sweet savour of Christ, and the graces of his Spirit, which fill the believer's soul with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
4. Judas, in heart a traitor, but still in profession ranked among the apostles, pretending charity for the poor, testified indignation at this act of respect shewn to his Master, as if it had been an unnecessary piece of waste: not indeed that this divine grace of charity glowed in his false bosom, but because he was a thief; and, being intrusted with the common purse, he had purloined part of the money which was put in it, and applied it to his own use; and hoped, if this ointment had been sold, and the money brought into their joint stock, some part of it might be easily secreted. Note; (1.) Hypocrites, when they make the most zealous profession, really dislike that serious godliness which they discover in others; and their worldly-mindedness in trifles shews how ready they will be to apostatize, the moment a greater temptation besets them. (2.) Satan transforms himself often into an angel of light, and gilds with specious names and pretences the vilest purposes. Thus worldly wisdom is called rational prudence; and covetousness wears the mask of zeal against the extravagance of others. (3.) The love of money is most fatal to the soul. They who are fond of the bag, will not long be faithful to their Lord.
5. Christ vindicates what Mary did, from the ill construction which Judas had put upon it. Jesus said, Let her alone; neither blame, nor trouble her; against the day of my burying hath she kept this; so divine Providence ordered it, that, though she knew not his approaching death, she thus should embalm him when alive, because she would have no opportunity to perform that kind office when he was dead. Besides, he adds, the poor always ye have with you; such objects would never be wanting, whereon to exercise their charity: but me ye have not always; and therefore, during the short moment of his stay with them, they could not be too sedulous to shew him every token of respect and honour. Note; Opportunities to serve Christ are precious, and must be embraced without delay.
6. Multitudes of people from Jerusalem, flocked to Bethany in order to gratify their curiosity with a sight of Jesus, concerning whom they had heard so much; and also to see Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead, the same of which miracle had been greatly spread.
7. The chief-priests, far from being affected with such an instance of Christ's power, not only persisted in their bloody purpose to murder him, but also consulted to put Lazarus to death, being filled with rage and envy that many of the Jews, struck with the evidence of this miracle, had deserted their party, and joined themselves to Jesus, professing their faith in him as the Messiah. Note; (1.) They who are most eminently distinguished with God's favour, are the objects against whom wicked men level their most malignant enmity. (2.) The stronger the evidence is, the more exasperated do they grow, who obstinately resolve not to be convinced.
2nd, The triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem, is recorded by all the evangelists.
1. A vast crowd, with loudest acclamations and every expression of joy, attended him. A great multitude, who were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, from Bethany, went forth to meet him, and welcome his arrival, with palm-branches in their hands, the emblem of that victory which Jesus was shortly to obtain over sin and Satan, the issue of which conflict was already sure; and with loud hosannas they cried, Blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord. They acknowledge Jesus as the King Messiah, so long expected to sit on David's throne; they wish him all prosperity, success, and happiness; and hail the glad day of his approaching. Note; With greater joy does the sinner welcome the Saviour to the throne of his heart, and wishes him to set up his throne there for ever and ever.
2. He made his entry, not with the pomp of earthly majesty, but, as better suited his state of humiliation, on an ass's colt; that thus also he might fulfil the scriptures, which had said, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, to save thee from all thy spiritual foes, sitting on an ass's colt, that humble supplicants may be emboldened to approach him, and present their petitions. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, and from his throne on high had sent his Spirit into their hearts, to open their understandings, that they might understand the scripture, then remembered they that these things were written of him; and that, though at the time they had no thoughts about the fulfilment of these scriptures, they had done these things unto him, which had been foretold. Note; (1.) Christ is Zion's King, and he must reign till he hath put all his enemies and her's under his feet. (2.) The scriptures are often fulfilled by those who at the time have not the least intention so to do. (3.) Many times the scriptures are read without the least knowledge of their true meaning; but, when God opens the understanding of the believer, the Bible then becomes a book perfectly new, and treasures of wisdom are discovered in it which were utterly unknown before.
3. The reason of so great a multitude coming to usher Jesus into Jerusalem at this time, was, that many of those who beheld the miracle of Lazarus's resurrection had declared what they had seen: and such an astonishing work, attested by so many and credible eye-witnesses, could not but procure general admiration.
4. The Pharisees beheld, with the utmost rage and vexation, the increasing respect paid to Jesus; and said one to another, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? instead of crushing him, all our attempts are baffled, and his rising fame threatens utterly to supplant us in the esteem of the people: behold, the world is gone after him; the generality of our followers have forsaken us, and commenced his disciples. It is high time to put some stop to these proceedings, or the grievance will be past redress. Note; (1.) They who oppose Christ, in vain lift up their impotent arm: against his faithful saints, no powers of earth or hell shall be able finally to prevail. (2.) Obstinate sinners grow more resolute and determinate in sin by the very checks that God gives them, and madly rush on the thick bosses of his buckler.
3rdly, Christ's fame had been spread far and wide. We have,
1. The inquiry of some Greeks after him. They seem to have been devout men, proselytes from among the Gentiles, who came up to Jerusalem to worship; and, having heard so much of Jesus, were greatly desirous to see and converse with him: for which purpose they applied to Philip, with whom probably they might formerly have had some acquaintance. Note; (1.) They who have a real desire after Christ, will seek him, and beg advice and assistance from those who are his ministering servants. It is good to know those who know the Saviour. (2.) The awakened sinner desires to see Jesus to receive out of his fulness of grace and all-sufficiency to save, to obtain an interest in his regard, and be admitted to communion with him.
2. Philip first consulted his brother Andrew, whether it was proper to mention the request of Gentile proselytes to their Master; and, being agreed on the point, they informed Jesus of the matter. Note; In doubtful cases it is wisdom to consult a faithful friend.
3. Christ took occasion, from this application to him, to discourse on the glorious issue of his undertaking, when the Jews and Gentiles, by the power of his Spirit, should be converted unto him. The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified; when, being lifted up on the cross, and exalted to the throne of his glory, he should draw all men unto him, and be honoured in the salvation of sinners from every nation, without distinction. Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. So, he intimates, must he die, that, having thereby made the atonement, and brought in everlasting righteousness, he might, in his resurrection, become the root and author of spiritual life to innumerable believers, who should be raised by him from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness, and bring forth abundant fruits of grace, the glory of which would be ascribed to him alone. And as those who should believe in him would, for his sake, be exposed to the greatest sufferings, he suggests the most powerful arguments to engage their fidelity. He that loveth his life, and, for fear of losing a temporal being, or the advantages of this world, deserts the cause of Jesus; shall lose it, and perish everlastingly: and he that hateth his life in this world, sitting loose to its honours, ease, and interests, when they stand in competition with Christ, and ready, if need be, to seal his testimony with his blood; he shall keep it unto life eternal, and be made for ever happy with God in glory. So that, if any man serve me, let him follow me perseveringly, my example, the teachings of my word and Spirit, and the directions of my providence; and then, whatever difficulties, dangers, or sufferings he may be exposed to, where I am, there shall also my servant be, inheriting the same glory to which I shall be advanced: if any man serve me, in simplicity, godly sincerity and fidelity; him will my Father honour, seating him at his own right hand, and causing him to sit down on my throne, as I am set down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21.) Note; (1.) They who would faithfully follow Christ, must prepare for sufferings. (2.) When we, by faith, look to and realize the glories of the world above, we cannot but sit loose to every thing here below. (3.) If Christ be our master, and our affections are steadfastly placed upon him, where he is, we shall shortly be. (4.) However dishonoured we may be by a world which lieth in wickedness, we shall find the most abundant recompence in the honour which cometh from God only.
4thly, We have,
1. The address of Jesus to his heavenly Father. Now is my soul troubled, with the prospect of his approaching sufferings, from which humanity shrunk back; and what shall I say, in this distress? Father, save me from this hour? shall I desire to be excused the pains of death which I foresee? No: but for this cause came I unto this hour, according to thy infinitely wise and holy will, to bear the sins and carry the sorrows of sinners; and therefore he desired not to be saved from the sufferings to which he had consented, but to be supported under them. Father, glorify thy name, and, by my death, display, in the most eminent manner, the glory of thy justice, faithfulness, mercy, and every divine perfection. Note; (1.) The remembrance of the distress of the Redeemer's soul should be a relief to us, when our spirits are troubled. He gave his soul an offering for sin, that he might take away the bitterness of it from ours. (2.) Though now for a little moment we feel distress, the time is near, to the faithful, when every trouble shall end in everlasting joy. (3.) When we are under difficulties, we must fly to God, humbly resign ourselves to his will, and beg for strength to glorify him in the fires.
2. The Father answers him by a voice from heaven. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, in the incarnation, obedience, miracles, and doctrine of Jesus; and will glorify it again, by his death, resurrection, and ascension.
3. The people who stood by, heard with astonishment the voice: (see the Annotations.) But Christ declares to them the meaning of what they heard. This voice came not because of me, for my satisfaction merely; but for your sakes, that you might be encouraged by this testimony borne to my divine mission. Now is the judgment of this world; the hour is near, when the Jewish nation shall receive their doom, and a blessed change be wrought in the heathen world, when God shall separate the precious from the vile, and gather his faithful saints to himself, the power of sin and Satan being broken: for now shall the prince of this world be cast out; the devil's usurped dominion over the souls of men shall be destroyed, his oracles in the heathen world be silenced, and, at last, his kingdom shall be finally rooted up; and this by a method which, to human view, may appear the most unlikely. I, if I be, or when I am, lifted up from the earth, on the cross as a sacrifice for sin, will draw all men unto me, Gentiles as well as Jews, who should be made partakers of all the inestimable blessings of his blood-shedding. (This he said, signifying what death he should die, even by crucifixion.) Note; (1.) Satan is now a vanquished foe; since Christ hath died, the head of this old serpent is bruised. (2.) Christ is the glorious centre of unity, the banner under which his faithful people with delight are gathered, and, cleaving to him in faith and love, are made more than conquerors by him over all their enemies. (3.) The cross, or sacrifice of Christ, is the powerfully attractive object; and therein all the glories of redeeming love are most eminently displayed, which powerfully influence the believer's soul.
4. The people, hearing him speak of himself as about to be lifted up and die, object this as a confutation of the character which he assumed as the Messiah, because the scriptures spoke of his continuing a king and priest for ever. But they overlooked what the same scriptures had said concerning his sufferings, and would not attend to the repeated notices which Christ had given of his rising again, and thus entering into his glory; which made his sufferings not at all inconsistent with his everlasting dominion: therefore they insultingly ask, Who is this Son of man? as if he himself could not possibly be the person of whom Daniel prophesied, since he acknowledged that he must be lifted up and die. Note; They cannot but err, who rest a doctrine on one part or text of scripture, without considering its connection and relation with the rest. Thus many pervert the very life-giving truths of God, and make them a savour of death.
5. As Christ saw the ill spirit and temper which raised these cavils, he declines a direct answer to their question, and rather chooses to reply by warning them of their danger, if they neglected the present opportunity granted to them. Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you; meaning himself, the Sun of righteousness, now about to set in blood; and also the gospel, which should for a season be continued among them: walk while ye have the light, make use of your day of grace, lest darkness come upon you, as it certainly will, if you neglect the present salvation; you will then be given up to judicial blindness, the light of the gospel will be removed, and you will be left as a man benighted, to stumble and fall into eternal misery; for he that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth, not apprized of the precipice which is before him, and the ruin which approaches. While therefore ye have the light of my presence and gospel, believe in the light, receive me as the Messiah, and walk under the influence of my word; that ye may be the children of light, the children of grace on earth, of glory in heaven, admitted to the inheritance among the saints in light. Note; (1.) Nothing is more conducive to awaken the conscience, than the remembrance of the momentariness of our time, and the infinite importance of that eternity, which depends upon our improvement of it. The day of life is short, the day of grace may be much shorter. To-day therefore, whilst it is called to-day, harden not your hearts. (2.) They who are favoured with the light of the gospel, are under peculiar obligations to know and improve the day of their visitation. (3.) Christ is the light of a benighted world, and out of him there is nothing but blackness of darkness. They who know him not, nor the rich salvation which his great atonement has purchased for us, are walking in the darkness of error and sin, and hastening into that eternal darkness where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. (4.) They only are children of the light, who walk in the light as Christ also walked, habitually looking to him for direction, and desiring to follow his example.
Lastly, Christ, having finished his discourse, withdrew, and did hide himself from them. He knew their wicked designs to apprehend him, and therefore, as his hour was not yet come, he concealed himself, probably at Bethany. Woe to the sinner, from whom Jesus finally departs, and leaves him to his own heart. His ruin is inevitable.
5thly, The miracles and preaching of the Lord Jesus were, we find, ineffectual to the conversion of the Jewish people in general.
1. Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him. In general their hearts were obstinately hardened, and they could not bear to think of acknowledging as their Messiah, concerning whom they had formed such high temporal expectations, one who appeared so mean and poor.
2. Herein the prophesy of Isaiah was eminently fulfilled. Lord, who hath believed our report? the declaration made by Jesus and his ministers; and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? how few have been effectually wrought upon by the power of the Spirit, and brought to the obedience of faith? Therefore they could not believe; they were under, not a fatal necessity, but a moral impotency, from the abuse of that moral liberty which divine grace had in a measure given to them, and would have bestowed upon them in a superabundant measure, if they had been faithful: therefore the prophesy now received its accomplishment, because that Esaias said again, Isaiah 6:9-10. He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, giving them up to follow their own devices; that they should not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them: they would not, and therefore they shall not. He abandons them to their wickedness, and they awfully fulfil the prophetic word. Note; The scriptures must be fulfilled; and they cannot but perish, whom God abandons to their own heart's lusts, in consequence of their own wilful and steady obstinacy against the truth.
3. The evangelist shews that the prophesy he had quoted, looked farther than the times of Isaiah, even to the days of the Messiah, when the prophet saw his own glory, and spake of him. The place referred to is Isa 6:1-10 and contains one of the most glorious visions of the eternal Jehovah in the whole book of scripture, and one of the strongest and clearest proofs of the proper and essential divinity of Jesus our Lord.
4. Though in general Christ was rejected by the Jewish people, Nevertheless, among the chief rulers many believed on him, convinced in their consciences that he was the Messiah, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; the sanhedrim, his inveterate enemies, having thus determined; and, unwilling to take up this reproach of Christ, they were ashamed to own what they felt; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Note; (1.) Many approve in their hearts the truths and practices, which the fear of men and the reproach of the world deter them from professing and following. (2.) They who are ashamed of Christ, and his gospel, may justly expect to be disowned by him in the great day of his appearing.
6thly, Jesus takes his last farewel of them, and leaves his finishing testimony, with earnestness addressing to them his discourse, if so be that at last, in this their day, they might know the things which make for their everlasting peace, before they should be for ever hidden from their eyes.
1. He shews the excellence of faith. Jesus cried, and said, He that believeth on me as the Messiah, the true and only Saviour of lost souls, believeth not on me only, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me by faith in my true character as God, as well as man, and in my office as commissioned from the Father, seeth him that sent me, from whom, as Mediator, I derive my authority, and whose glory and perfections are manifested in and by me: for I am come a light into the world, from heaven, where I shone eternally bright in uncreated glory, that whosoever believeth on me as the Author of eternal salvation, and bringing life and immortality to light by the gospel, expecting to receive from me direction and guidance in the way to glory; should not abide in darkness, in the ways of error and sin. Note; They who walk by faith in Jesus, have the light of life before them.
2. He warns them of the great peril of unbelief. If any man hear my words, and believe not, wilfully rejecting the incontestable evidence of my divine mission; I judge him not, do not yet pass sentence upon him, but give him a longer respite: for I came not to judge the world, to take vengeance upon sinners; but to save the world, to bring to all, Gentiles as well as Jews, the glad tidings of a free salvation. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, making light of the gospel, and despising its offers, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day, shall rise up to witness against his obstinate infidelity, and hardened impenitence. Note; (1.) The great end of Christ's coming into the world, was the salvation of lost souls. They who reject him, sin against their own mercies. (2.) In the judgment-day, nothing will rise up to aggravate more fearfully the guilt of those that perish, than all the means of grace which they have abused, and the word of the gospel preached to them, which they have slighted.
3. He declares the authority on which he acted. For I have not spoken of myself, as a private person, on my own authority; but the Father, which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak, under whose commission I act, and from whom I have received my instructions; and I know that his commandment is life everlasting, the doctrines, which from him I declare unto you, are the only means of leading sinners to eternal blessedness: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak; and acting under his authority, and declaring his will, it would be at their peril if they rejected the truths which from God he delivered to them. Note; (1.) They who would obtain everlasting life, must attend to the word of Jesus. (2.) They who reject the gospel, do it at their peril. Their ruin is inevitable.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 12". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29