Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, July 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
John 12

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors


John 12:0


The Anointing at BethanyThe Anointing at BethanyThe Anointing at BethanyJesus is Anointed at BethanyThe Anointing at Bethany
John 12:1-8John 12:1-8John 12:1-8John 12:1-6John 12:1-8
John 12:7-8
The Plot Against LazarusThe Plot to Kill Lazarus The Plot Against Lazarus
John 12:9-11John 12:9-11John 12:9-11John 12:9-11John 12:9-11
The Triumphal Entry Into JerusalemThe Triumphal EntryPalm SundayThe Triumphal Entry Into JerusalemThe Messiah Enters Jerusalem
John 12:12-19John 12:12-19John 12:12-19John 12:12-13John 12:12-19
John 12:14
John 12:15
John 12:16
John 12:17
John 12:18-19
Some Greeks Seek JesusThe Fruitful Grain of WheatJesus' Public Ministry ConcludesSome Greeks Seek JesusJesus Foretells His Death and Subsequent Glorification
John 12:20-26John 12:20-26John 12:20-26John 12:20-21John 12:20-28a
John 12:22-26
The Son of Man Must Be Lifted UpJesus Predicts His Death on the Cross Jesus Speaks About His Death
John 12:27-36aJohn 12:27-36John 12:27-36aJohn 12:27-28a
John 12:28bJohn 12:28b
John 12:29John 12:29-32
John 12:30-33
John 12:33-36a
John 12:34
John 12:35-36a
The Unbelief of the JewsWho Has Believed Our Report? The Unbelief of the People
John 12:36-43 John 12:36-43John 12:36-38John 12:36b
Conclusion: The Unbelief of the Jews
John 12:37-41 John 12:37-38
John 12:39-40John 12:39-40
John 12:41John 12:41
Walk In the Light John 12:42-43John 12:42-50
Judgment by Jesus' WordsJohn 12:42-50 Judgment by Jesus' Words
John 12:44-50 John 12:44-50John 12:44-50



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. All four Gospels record the anointing of Jesus by a woman. Therefore, this event must have held significance to the Gospel writers. However, Mark 14:3-9; Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, and John 12:2-8 identifies her as Mary of Bethany, Lazarus' sister, while Luke 7:36-50 identifies her as sinful woman in Galilee.

B. Chapter 12 closes the public ministry of Jesus (cf. John 12:29). He had tried over and over again to bring the Jewish leaders to faith. Chapter 11 was His attempt to bring the townspeople of Jerusalem to faith.

C. There are five groups of people mentioned in this chapter.

1. the crowd who witnessed Lazarus' resuscitation, John 12:17

2. a crowd from Jerusalem, John 12:9

3. the crowd of pilgrims coming to the Passover, John 12:12, John 12:18, John 12:29, John 12:34

4. possibly a crowd of Gentiles, John 12:20

5. possibly a crowd of Jewish leaders who believed in Him, John 12:42


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Mary, Lazarus' sister, anoint Jesus' feet?

2. Why are Matthew, Mark and John slightly different in their accounts of this incident?

3. What was the significance of the crowd meeting Jesus with palm branches and the quote from Psalms 118:0?

4. Why was Jesus so moved by the Greeks' request to speak with Him?

5. Why was Jesus' soul so deeply troubled? (cf. John 12:27)

6. Explain why John uses "believe" in several senses.

Verses 1-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 12:1-8 1Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. 3Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5"Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?" 6Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 7Jesus therefore said, "Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me."

John 12:1 "six days before the Passover" This is a different chronological sequence from Matthew 26:2. It must be remembered that the primary focus of the Gospels is not chronology, but representative actions of Jesus that reflect truth about His person and work. The Gospels are not biographies but evangelistic tracts to target groups.

John 12:2 "they" This seems to refer to the townspeople of Bethany, who gave the supper for Jesus and His disciples in honor of raising His Lazarus. However, in Matthew 26:6, this takes place in the home of Simon the Leper.

John 12:3 "pound" This was a Latin term that referred to the Roman pound, which equaled 12 ozs. This expensive spice may have been Mary's wedding dowry. Many unmarried women wore this type of perfume in containers around their necks.

NASB"a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard" NKJV"a pound of very costly oil of spikenard" NRSV"a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard" TEV"a whole pint of a very expensive perfume made of pure nard" NJB"a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard"

There has been much conjecture over the adjective's meaning: (1) pure; (2) liquid; or (3) a place name. The perfume itself was from an aromatic-Himalayan root which was very expensive. See James M Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 379-380.

"anointed the feet of Jesus" Other Gospel accounts of this same event (possibly Mary's thankfulness for raising Lazarus, John 12:2) speak of the woman anointing His head. Apparently Mary anointed His whole body, beginning with His head and going clear to His feet. The reason Jesus' feet were exposed was that He was reclining on His left elbow at a low table.

This is one of John's double entendres. This spice was used for preparing a body for burial (cf. John 19:40). Mary may have understood more of Jesus' message about His imminent death than the disciples did (cf. John 12:7). See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANOINTING IN THE BIBLE (BDB 603)at John 11:2.

"and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume" What a graphic eyewitness (editorial) detail. John clearly remembers the moment!

John 12:4 "Judas Iscariot" The term "Iscariot" has two possible etymologies: (1) a city of Judah (Kerioth cf. Joshua 15:25) or (2) the term for "assassin's knife." Of all the Gospel writers, John has the harshest statements about Judas (cf. John 12:6). See full note at John 6:70-71.

"betray" This is another editorial comment. This term normally does not have this connotation. It literally means "to hand over" or "deliver up" in a judicial sense or to entrust something to another. See note at John 18:2.

John 12:5 "Three hundred denarii" A denarii was a day's wage for a soldier and a laborer, therefore, this was almost a year's wage.

John 12:6 This verse is another editorial comment. John, more than any other Gospel, condemns Judas.

NASB, NKJV"the money box" NRSV"the common purse" TEV"the money bag" NJB"the common fund"

This word means "a small box." It was originally used by musicians to carry their mouth pieces.

"he used to pilfer what was put into it" The Greek term is "carry." It is used in two different senses: (1) he carried the box but (2) also he carried off the contents of the box. This statement may have been included to show that Judas' concern for the poor in John 12:5 was really an excuse to steal for himself.

John 12:7 This is a strange verse. It obviously links this act of generosity and devotion to a similar procedure done at one's burial (cf. John 19:40). This is another of John's prophetic statements.

John 12:8 "For the poor you always have with you" This is related to Deuteronomy 15:4, Deuteronomy 15:11. It was not a disparaging remark concerning the poor but an emphasis on the Messiah's presence of Jesus (cf. John 12:35; John 7:33; John 9:4). The OT is unique among the literature of the Ancient Near East on the rights of and mandated care for the poor.

Verses 9-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 12:9-11 9The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.

John 12:9 "The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there" This is an unusual use of the term "Jews" in John. Usually it refers to the religious leaders in opposition to Jesus. However, in John 11:19, John 11:45; John 12:17, it seems to refer to the townspeople of Jerusalem who were friends of Lazarus and had come to his funeral.

John 12:10 "the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also" They wanted to remove the evidence! Their motives were fear (cf. John 11:48) and jealousy (cf. John 11:48; John 12:11).

They must have thought Jesus' act of resuscitation was an isolated, rare event. The blindness and bias of these Jewish leaders reflect the darkness of fallen humanity.

John 12:11 This relates back to John 11:45. See Special Topic: John's Use of the Verb "Believe" at John 2:23.

Verses 12-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 12:12-19 12On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel." 14Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15"Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey's colt." 16These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. 17So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him."

John 12:12-19 This is John's version of Jesus' triumphant entry to Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-38).

John 12:12 "the large crowd who had come to the feast" There were three required feast days for Jewish males (cf. Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23:0; Deuteronomy 16:16). The lifetime desire of the Jews who lived outside of Palestine (Diaspora) was to attend a feast in Jerusalem. During these set feasts, Jerusalem swelled from three to five times her normal population. This phrase refers to this vast number of curious pilgrims who heard of Jesus and wanted to see Him (cf. John 11:56).

John 12:13 "the branches of palm trees" This is an unusual Greek phrase for palm branches. Some believe that at one time palms grew on the slopes of the Mount of Olives (i.e., Josephus), while others believe they were imported from Jericho. They seem to have been a symbol for victory or triumph (cf. Revelation 7:9). They were used every year in the ritual of the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Leviticus 23:40) and the Passover (tradition from Maccabean period).

"began to shout" This is an imperfect tense which represents (1) repeated action in past time or (2) the beginning of an action in past time.

"Hosanna" This term meant "save now" or "save please" (cf. Psalms 118:25-26). During the Passover ritual the recitation of the Hillel Psalms (cf. Ps. 113-118) occurred while the pilgrims were marching to the Temple. Many of these actions and phrases were repeated every year during the feast of Passover. But this particular year they found their ultimate meaning in Jesus! The crowd sensed this. The Pharisees recognized this.

"He who comes in the name of the Lord" This is exactly what Jesus has been claiming. He was the sent One! He represented YHWH.

NASB"even the King of Israel" NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB"the King of Israel"

This phrase was not part of the Psalm, but was added by the crowd. It seems to be a direct reference to Jesus as the Messianic King promised in 2 Samuel 7:0 (cf. John 1:49; John 19:19).

John 12:14 "a young donkey" Donkeys were the royal military mount of Israel1 Kings (cf. 1 Kings 1:33, 1 Kings 1:38, 1 Kings 1:44). Only the king rode on his donkey, therefore, it was very important that Jesus rode on a donkey that had never been ridden before (cf. Mark 11:2).

John 12:14-15 "as it is written" This is a quote from Zechariah 9:9. The colt of the donkey speaks not only of Messianic kingship but also of humility. Jesus did not come as the conquering military figure of Jewish expectation, but the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:0 riding on the colt of a donkey.

John 12:16 "These things His disciples did not understand at the first" This is another eyewitness, painful memory of John. It is a recurrent theme (cf. John 2:22; John 10:6; John 16:18; Mark 9:32; Luke 2:50; Luke 9:45; Luke 18:34). Only after the Ascension and Pentecost are their spiritual eyes fully opened.

"but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered" This was one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26 and John 2:22).

This verse also shows that the Gospel writers structured their Gospels from personal experience of the resurrected Christ. The Synoptics present Jesus in historical development and hide his glory until the climax of their presentations, but John writes his entire Gospel in light of the glorified Messiah. The Gospels reflect the later memories and faith community needs of these inspired men. Therefore, there are two historical settings (Jesus' and the Gospel writers'), both of which are inspired.

"glorified" See note at John 1:14.

John 12:17 See SPECIAL TOPIC: WITNESSES TO JESUS at John 1:8. See Contextual Insights, C.

John 12:19 "the Pharisees said to one another" This is another prophetic foreshadowing. It relates to (1) Jews, John 11:48; John 12:11 and (2) Gentiles, John 12:20-23. It reflects two historical settings: Jesus' life and the early church.

Verses 20-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 12:20-26 20Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him."

John 12:20 "some Greeks" This was used in the sense of Gentiles, not specifically ethnic Greeks.

"among those who were going up to worship at the feast" The present tense implies they were in the habit of going to the Feast. They were either (1) God-fearers or (2) proselytes of the Gate. The first were regular worshipers at the synagogue and the second had officially become converts to the Jewish faith.

John 12:21 "and began to ask him" This is imperfect tense which means (1) they asked over and over again or (2) they began to ask. They wanted a private interview with Jesus. Apparently this was the last tick on the prophetic clock before Jesus' death (cf. John 12:23).

John 12:22 Phillip (lover of horses) and Andrew (manly) are the only two Apostles to have Greek names. Perhaps this allowed these Greeks (i.e., Gentiles) to feel as if they could approach them.

John 12:23 "The hour has come" This is perfect tense. John often used the term "the hour" to refer to the crucifixion and resurrection as the climatic events of Jesus' mission (cf. John 12:27; John 13:1, John 13:32; John 17:1). Jesus stated that He had come to the lost sheep of Israel (cf. Matthew 15:24). Now His message was reaching Gentiles!

"the Son of Man" This is an Aramaic phrase that simply meant "human being" (cf. Psalms 8:4; Ezekiel 2:1). However, it is used in Daniel 7:13 with the added connotation of Deity. This is Jesus' self-designated title that combines His two natures, human and divine (cf. 1 John 4:1-3).

"to be glorified" Jesus' death is always referred to as "His glory." The term "glory" is used several times in this context (cf. John 12:28 [twice]; 32, and 33). It is often used to designate Jesus' death and resurrection (cf. John 13:1, John 13:32; John 17:1). See note at John 1:14.

John 12:24 "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies" This is phenomenological language or descriptive language, things as they appear to the five senses. One seed can produce many seeds (cf. John 15:2, John 15:4, John 15:5, John 15:8, John 15:16; 1 Corinthians 15:36). His death brought many to true life (cf. Mark 10:45).

"if" There is a series of third class conditional sentences in this context which means potential action (cf. John 12:24, John 12:26, John 12:32, John 12:47).

John 12:25 "He who loves his life loses it" This is a play on the Greek term psychç, which refers to the essence of a human's personality or life force (cf Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24). Once someone trusts Christ, he is given new life. This new life is a gift from God for service, not for personal use. Believers are stewards of this new life. We are freed from slavery to sin to become servants of God (cf. Romans 6:1-6).

The false shepherds of chapter 10 tried to "save" their lives by running. But Jesus lays down His life, so too, must believers do the same (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:12-15; Galatians 2:20).

"loses it" This is a present active indicative. The term (see Special Topic at John 10:10) means "to destroy," another word with two connotations. This is the opposite of "eternal life." If one does not have faith in Christ, this is the only alternative. This destruction is not annihilation, but the loss of a personal relationship with God (which is the essence of Hell).

"hates" This is a Hebrew idiom of comparison. God must be priority (cf. Jacob's wives, Genesis 29:30, Genesis 29:31; Deuteronomy 21:15; Esau and Jacob, Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 10-13; one's family, Luke 14:26).

"life" This is the Greek term zoç. It is used consistently in John to refer to (1) spiritual life; (2) eternal life; (3) new age life; and (4) resurrection life. True life is a freedom from the tyranny of "self," which is the essence of the Fall.

John 12:26 "If" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action.

"he must follow me" This is a present active imperative which speaks of an ongoing relationship (cf. John 15:0). This is the neglected biblical issue of perseverance (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NEED TO PERSEVERE at John 8:31). This issue is often confused by the theological tension between a Sovereign God and human volition. However, it is best to see salvation as a covenental experience. God always initiates (cf. John 6:44, John 6:65) and sets the agenda, but He also demands that mankind respond to His offer in repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21), both as an initial decision and a lifelong discipleship. Perseverance is evidence that we know Him (cf. Matthew 10:22; Matthew 13:20-21; Galatians 6:9; 1 John 2:19; Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:21).

Christian doctrine, being Bible-based, often comes in paradoxical, tension-filled pairs. Eastern literature is characterized by this figurative, contrasting thought patterns. Often modern western readers force the paradoxes into either/or choices when they are meant to be both/and truths.

To illustrate my comments, I have included a section from my Bible Interpretation Seminar entitled Biblical Paradoxes:

Biblical Paradoxes

1. This insight has been the most helpful to me personally as one who loves and trusts the Bible as God's Word. In trying to take the Bible seriously it became obvious that different texts reveal truth in selected, not systematic ways. One inspired text cannot cancel or depreciate another inspired text! Truth comes in knowing all Scripture (all Scripture, not just some, is inspired, cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17), not quoting a single passage (proof-texting)!

2. Most biblical truths (eastern literature) are presented in dialectical or paradoxical pairs (remember the NT authors, except Luke, are Hebrew thinkers, writing in common Greek). Wisdom Literature and Poetic Literature present truth in parallel lines. The antithetical parallelism functions like the paradox. This synthetic parallelism functions like parallel passages. Somehow both are equally true! These paradoxes are painful to our cherished, simplistic traditions!

a. predestination versus human free will

b. security of the believer versus the need for perseverance

c. original sin versus volitional sin

d. Jesus as God versus Jesus as man

e. Jesus as equal with the Father versus Jesus as subservient to the Father

f. Bible as God's Word versus human authorship

g. sinlessness (perfectionism, cf. Romans 6:0) versus sinning less

h. initial instantaneous justification and sanctification versus progressive sanctification

i. justification by faith (Romans 4:0) versus justification confirmed by works (cf. James 2:14-26)

j. Christian freedom (cf. Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33) versus Christian responsibility (cf. Galatians 5:16-21; Ephesians 4:1)

k. God's transcendence versus His immanence

l. God as ultimately unknowable versus knowable in Scripture and Christm.Paul's many metaphors for salvation

(1) adoption

(2) sanctification

(3) justification

(4) redemption

(5) glorification

(6) predestination

(7) reconciliation

m. the kingdom of God as present versus future consummation

n. repentance as a gift of God versus repentance as a mandated response for salvation (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21)

o. the OT is permanent versus the OT has passed away and is null and void (cf. Matthew 5:17-19 vs. Matthew 5:21-48; Romans 7:0 vs. Galatians 3:0)

p. believers are servants/slaves or children/heirs"

"where I am, there shall My servant also be" This theme is repeated in John 14:3; John 17:24; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:17! Christianity is primarily a personal relationship with God! The goal is relational: His presence, His fellowship!

We were created for fellowship with God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Salvation is the restoration of the broken fellowship of the Garden of Eden. John emphasizes that this fellowship is restored now!

Verses 27-36

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 12:27-36a 27"Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, "An angel has spoken to Him." 30Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." 33But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. 34The crowd then answered Him, "We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?" 35So Jesus said to them, "For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.".

John 12:27 "My soul has become troubled" This is a perfect passive indicative. The agent (the Father, Satan, circumstances, etc.) is not expressed. It is a strong term used in several ways in the NT.

a. Herod's fear (Matthew 2:3)

b. the disciples' fear (Matthew 14:26)

c. Jesus' unsettled anxiety (John 12:27; John 13:21; also note Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34)

d. the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:24)

e. false teachers' disruption of the churches of Galatia (Galatians 1:7)

This was John's way of relating Jesus' human struggle with the upcoming trauma of His crucifixion (cf. Mark 14:32ff). John does not record Jesus' agony in Gethsemane, but this is the same occasion.

"save Me from this hour" There is much discussion about the exact meaning of this statement. Is this a prayer (i.e., Matthew 26:39)? Is this a surprised reaction at what should not be done (NET Bible)?

"for this purpose I came to this hour" Jesus' life unfolded according to a divine plan (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28) which Jesus fully understood (cf. Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).

John 12:28 "glorify Your name" The Father responds in John 12:28b. This term "glorify" is very fluid. It can refer to

1. pre-existent glory (cf. John 17:5)

2. Jesus' revelation of the Father (cf. John 17:4)

3. Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection (cf. John 17:1)

See note at John 1:14.

"a voice out of heaven" The rabbis called this a bath-kol. Since the time of Malachi there had been no prophetic voice in Israel. If God's will was to be confirmed, it would be done by a voice from heaven. The Gospels record that God spoke three times during Jesus' life.

1. at Jesus' baptism, Matthew 3:17

2. at the transfiguration, Matthew 17:5

3. here in this verse

John 12:29 "So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying" There are two interpretations of what happened: (1) it was thunder. This was used of God speaking in the OT (cf. 2 Samuel 22:14; Job 37:4; Psalms 29:3; Psalms 18:13; Psalms 104:7) or (2) an angel spoke to Him. This is similar to the confusion about Saul's experience in Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9.

John 12:30 "Jesus answered and said, 'This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes'" This phrase is a Semitic comparison. This means it was not solely for them but primarily for them (cf. John 11:42).

John 12:31 "Now judgement is upon this world" This is a parallel construction with the following phrase ("the ruler of this world will be cast out"). The time when this occurred is not specified (see Special Topic following).

I surely agree with F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (p. 198), that John 12:31 is another example of what C. H. Dodd called "realized eschatology." For John, Jesus has already brought both salvation to believers and judgment to unbelievers. In a sense this is similar to a grammatical form called "prophetic perfect." A future something is so certain that it is expressed as already occurring!

"the ruler of this world" This refers to a personal evil force (cf. John 14:30; John 16:11) known in Hebrew as "Satan" or "adversary" (cf. Job 1-2) or in Greek as "the devil" or "slanderer" (cf. Matthew 4:1, Matthew 4:5, Matthew 4:8, Matthew 4:11; Matthew 13:39; Matthew 25:41; John 6:70; John 8:44; John 13:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). These two names are synonymous in Matthew 4:1-11 and John 13:2, John 13:27. He is cast out of heaven so that he cannot continue to accuse/slander Jesus' followers.


"will be cast out" This is a future passive indicative. Scripture does not indicate the exact time of Satan's fall from heaven. Satan may be discussed in Isaiah 14:0 and Ezekiel 28:0 in a secondary sense. The prophetic passages deal with the prideful kings of Babylon and Tyre. Their sinful arrogance reflects Satan's (cf. Isaiah 14:12, Isaiah 14:15; Ezekiel 28:16). However, Jesus said He saw Satan fall during the mission trip of the seventy (cf. Luke 10:18).

There is a development of Satan throughout the OT. Originally he was a servant angel, but through pride, became an enemy of God. The best discussion of this controversial subject is in A. B. Davidson's Old Testament Theology pp. 300-306.


John 12:32 "and I, if I am lifted up" This is a third class conditional sentence which meant potential action. This term can mean

1. lifted up (cf. John 3:14)

2. crucified (cf. John 8:28)

3. exalted (cf. Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31)

4. highly exalted (cf. Philippians 2:9)

It is this multiple connotation of terms (double entendre) that characterizes John's Gospel.

"will draw all men to Me" This may be an allusion to YHWH's covenant love for Israel in Jeremiah 31:3 which, of course, is the passage on "the new covenant" (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). God woos people by His love for and actions toward them. This same metaphorical use of this term is in John 6:44 and explained in John 6:65.

Here the "all" is the universal invitation and promise of redemption (cf. Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:3; Exodus 19:5; Isaiah 2:2-4; John 1:9, John 1:12, John 1:29; John 3:16; John 4:42; John 10:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:14)!

There is a significant variant in this phrase. The "all" can be masculine, which would be translated "all men" and is found in the ancient Greek manuscripts P75 (VID), אi2, B, L, and W, while the neuter, which would be translated "all things," is found in P66 and א. If it is the NEUTER it would speak of the cosmic redemption of Christ similar to Colossians 1:16-17, which would probably reflect the Gnostic heresy so evident in 1 John. The UBS4 gives the masculine a "B" rating (almost certain).

John 12:33 "He said this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die" This is yet another editorial comment by John. This is related to Deuteronomy 21:23 where hanging on a tree was termed "cursed by God." This was why the religious leaders wanted Jesus crucified, not stoned. Jesus bore the curse of the Law for us (cf. Galatians 3:13).

John 12:34 "The crowd then answered Him. . .the Christ is to remain forever" This may be an allusion to Psalms 89:4, Psalms 89:29, Psalms 89:35-37. The OT expected only one coming of the Messiah and His establishing of a Palestinian reign of world peace (cf. Psalms 110:4; Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 37:25 and Daniel 7:14). For "forever" see Special Topic at John 6:58.

"Son of Man" The crowd (see Contextual Insights, C) must have heard Jesus teach/preach (possibly in John 12:23-24 for the title and John 12:30-32 for the verb "lift up") because they use His unique self-designation. This is the only place it is used by others. It was not a standard title or Messianic designation within Judaism.

John 12:35 "Walk while you have the Light" Jesus is urging His hearers to respond immediately to His words. His time on earth was limited. He was about to enter His last week on earth. His predestined hour had come (John 12:23).

In a sense this phrase (as so much in John) has a historical referent and an existential referent. What Jesus said is true for everyone who hears the gospel (i.e., the Parable of the Soils).

This is the metaphorical use of "walk" as lifestyle (cf. Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:15). This is a present active imperative, which continues Jesus emphasis on belief as an ongoing relationship and discipleship, not just an initial decision (cf. John 12:44-46).

John 12:36 This theme of Jesus as the light of the world was a major recurrent emphasis in John (cf. John 1:4, John 1:5, John 1:7, John 1:8, John 1:9; John 3:19, John 3:20, John 3:21; John 5:35; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 11:9, John 11:10; John 12:35, John 12:36, John 12:46). Darkness and light were also contrasting spiritual realities in Jewish Wisdom Literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Verses 36-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 12:36-43 36bThese things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" 39For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40"He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them." 41These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. 42Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

John 12:37 What a sad comment. Spiritual blindness is terrible (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). This verse characterizes the unpardonable sin (see Special Topic at John 5:21).

John 12:38 "the word of Isaiah the prophet" This is a quote from the suffering servant passage of Isaiah 53:1.

John 12:39-40 These are difficult verses. Does God harden people so that they cannot respond? I have inserted my comments from Isaiah 6:9-10 and Romans 11:7 (see www.freebiblecommentary.mobi).

Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 6:9-10Isaiah 6:9-10 As YHWH reveals His purpose for Isaiah's ministry, He also reveals to Isaiah the response his message will have on Judah.

1. go, Isaiah 6:9, BDB 229, KB , Qal imperative

2. tell, Isaiah 6:9, BDB 55, KB , Qal perfect

3. keep listening, Isaiah 6:9, Qal imperative and Qal infinitive absolute of BDB 1033, KB 1570

4. but do not perceive, Isaiah 6:9, BDB 106, KB 122, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Isaiah 1:3; Isaiah 5:21; Isaiah 10:13; Isaiah 29:14

5. keep looking, Qal imperative and Qal infinitive absolute of BDB 906, KB 1157

6. but do not understand, Isaiah 6:9, BDB 393, KB 380, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

7. render the hearts of this people insensitive (lit. "fat"), Isaiah 6:10, BDB 1031, KB 1566, Hiphil imperative

8. their ears dull, Isaiah 6:10, BDB 457, KB 455, Hiphil imperative

9. and their eyes dim, Isaiah 6:10, BDB 1044, KB 1612, Hiphil imperative

These imperatives are followed by the consequences (three imperfects of previously used verbs, "see," "hear," and "perceive"). God knows (either by His foreknowledge or His hardening of their already wayward hearts/minds) that they will not respond and be saved.

1. lest they repent, BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal perfect negated

2. lest they be healed, BDB 950, KB 1272, Qal perfect negated

Isaiah will preach and though some may respond, the vast majority of his people/his society will not (cf. Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26, Romans 1:28; Ephesians 4:19) or cannot respond (cf. Isaiah 29:9, Isaiah 29:10; Deuteronomy 29:4; Matthew 13:13; Romans 11:8)! Isaiah is not an evangelist here, but a prophet of covenant disobedience/consequences (cf. Matthew 13:13; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10). His message of hope is for a future day, not his day!

Romans 11:7 "the rest were hardened" This is an aorist passive indicative (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14). The implication is that God hardened them (cf. Romans 11:8-10). The agent of hardening is the evil one (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). "Hardened" (pôroô) is a medical term for callousness or blindness (cf. Romans 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:14; Ephesians 4:18). This same term is used of the Apostles in Mark 6:52. It is a different Greek term from Romans 9:18 (sklçrunô) which is the opposite of mercy (cf. Hebrews 3:8, Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7).

This verse is very clear and is a summary of Romans 11:1-6. Some who were chosen believed, some who were not chosen were hardened. However, this verse was not written in isolation, as a theological slogan. It was part of a sustained theological argument. There is a tension between the truth stated so clearly in this verse and the universal invitations of Romans 10:0. There is mystery here. But the solution is not to negate or minimize either of the horns of the dilemma, the paradoxical poles.

John 12:39 "For this reason they could not believe" This is an imperfect middle (deponent) indicative and a present active imperative. They were unable to continue in a faith relationship with Jesus. His miracles attracted them, but did not lead them into saving faith/trust in Jesus as the Messiah. In John "belief" has levels. All do not attain salvation. See notes at John 8:31-59.

"for Isaiah said again" Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 43:8 refers to the hardness of the Jews' hearts concerning the message of God through Isaiah (cf. Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2; Deuteronomy 29:2-4).

John 12:40 "heart" See Special Topic following.


John 12:41 "These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory" This is an assertion that OT prophets were informed about the Messiah (cf. Luke 24:27). See note on "glory" at John 1:14.

John 12:42 "Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him" Jesus' message did bear fruit (cf. John 12:11; Acts 6:7). See Special Topic at John 2:23.

"they were not confessing Him" See SPECIAL TOPIC: CONFESSION at John 9:22-23.

"for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue" (cf. John 9:22; John 16:2).

John 12:43 This implies that true faith can be weak and fearful, even undeclared! John's Gospel uses believe (pisteuô) in several senses, from initial attraction to emotional response to true saving faith.

Verses 44-50

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 12:44-50 44And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 46I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.

John 12:44 "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me" The goal of faith is ultimately in the Father (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25-27). This is a recurrent theme (cf. Matthew 10:40; John 5:24). To know the Son is to know the Father (cf. 1 John 5:10-12).

John 12:45 What is God like? To see Jesus is to see God (cf. John 14:7-10)!

John 12:46 The world is in darkness since Genesis 3:0 (cf. Genesis 6:5, Genesis 6:11-12; Genesis 8:21; Psalms 14:3; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:9-23).

John 12:47 "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them" This is a third class conditional sentence which speaks of potential action. Continuing obedience is a sign in our continuing personal relationship by faith! Assurance (see Special Topic at 1 John 5:13) is based on a changed and changing life of obedience and perseverance (see Special Topic at John 8:31, cf. the books of James and 1 John).

John 12:47-48 "for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world" Jesus came primarily to redeem the world, but the very fact of His coming forces humans to decide. If they reject Him, they judge themselves (see Special Topic at John 8:31, cf. John 3:17-21).

John 12:49-50 Jesus spoke in God's authority, not His own.

John 12:50

NASB, NKJV"His commandment is eternal life" NRSV, TEV, NET"his command brings eternal life" NJB"his commands mean eternal life" REB"his commands are eternal life" NIV"his command leads to eternal life" Net (footnote)"his commandment results in eternal life"

The first option is the literal Greek text. The others are trying to interpret its meaning.

The NASB has John 6:68 as a parallel passage, while Michael Magill's NT TransLine has John 17:8. The Jerome Biblical Commentary (p. 451) has John 10:18 as the parallel. Obviously the phrase is ambiguous.

In John there is a fluctuation between the singular and PLURAL of "commandment," with no exegetical significance.


Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on John 12". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/john-12.html. 2021.
Ads FreeProfile