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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

John 12

Verse 1

1 Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem, and was the scene of some of the most personal experiences of Jesus. The significance of mentioning the case of Lazarus will be seen later in this chapter.

Verse 2

2 According to Mat 26:6, this supper was in the house of "Simon the leper," who evidently had been healed by Jesus. Made him a supper denotes that Jesus was the honor guest, but his disciples also were present. Martha served, even as she did in her own house on another occasion (Luk 10:38-40). Lazarus was one of them.. The supper was had in honor of Jesus, but Lazarus was given special mention because of the miracle that had been performed upon him.

Verse 3

3 This anointing should not be confused with the one in Luk 7:37-50. That was done by a woman from the outcast ranks and was known as a "sinner," but the present case was by the sister of Lazarus, who was one of the personal friends of Jesus.

Verse 4

4 Should betray him is translated, "was about to deliver him up," by the Englishman's Greek New Testament. The statement was made to explain the actions of Judas here and elsewhere as they pertained to money.

Verse 5

5 Three hundred pence. Weights and measures, as well as money values, changed from time to time and in different places. But in any way it is estimated, the value Judas placed on this ointment was great, which agrees with the statement of John (verse 3) that it was very costly.

Verse 6

6 No doubt Judas sincerely regretted seeing this valuable product used in this way, but it was not because of his interest in the poor. He was covetous and it hurt him to see that much value bestowed upon another. Had the bag means Judas was the treasurer for the group, and hence he •was especially interested in anything that looked like money value. Bare is from BASTAZO, and Thayer defines it at this place, "To bear away, carry off." The general meaning of the word is to have charge of the money, but the more specific meaning applies to Judas according to Thayer's definition. In chapter 13:29, 30, the bag was still in the hands of Judas just as he was ready to leave the group. He went out with the bag and was never again with Jesus and the other apostles, so that he truly "carried off" the treasury as the specific definition states, and verifies the charge of John that he was a thief.

Verse 7

7 Against the day of my burying. It was an old custom to anoint the dead and use spices at the time of burial. (See 2Ch 16:14; Joh 19:40; Luk 23:56.) Mar 14:8 quotes Jesus as saying, "She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying."

Verse 8

8 Poor always . . . with you. Jesus did not criticize the idea of giving something to the poor, for he regarded that as a good work. He instructed the rich young man (Mat-they 19:21) to give his possessions to the poor. But this statement was about the idea of using present opportunities that are soon to pass. He was soon to leave the world and that would stop all chances of doing him a bodily favor, while they would never cease having opportunities for helping the poor.

Verse 9

9 The presence of Jesus only would have brought the people out to Bethany, but they had a sepcial interest in seeing Lazarus alive, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. This was a visible evidence of the power that Jesus possessed, for the deed had been done in that very place where Lazarus had lived, and there could be no question about his identity.

Verse 10

1 It would be difficult to form a just description of minds as wicked as those possessed by the chief priests. We frequently hear of witnesses being slain or otherwise removed to prevent their testifying in an important case. But generally it is done on behalf of a felon who is about to be brought to trial for his crimes. Lazarus was only enjoying his natural right to live after having been restored from the dead by the Lord. And the motive for removing him was to destroy a visible but silent testimony in favor of Jesus, who had incurred the wrath of these priests by exposing their hypocrisy. No wonder such people could find it in their hearts finally to cause the death of the Teacher they hated.

Verse 12

2 Bethany was near Jerusalem, and the movements of Jesus were being made known in the city. The news evidently came back by the ones who had gone out to Bethany, mentioned in verse 9.

Verse 13

3 It was an ancient custom to honor an approaching dignitary by making a carpet of garments and the foliage of trees on which he might proceed. The season of the Passover was at hand, and great numbers of Jews from all over the world were at Jerusalem to attend it. That is why the preceding verse mentions much people. Hosanna is a Greek word and Robinson defines it, "Save now, succor now, be now propitious." He says further that it is from a Hebrew word that means "a joyful acclamation." Thayer's definition agrees with this but is more condensed. The passage denotes an expression of good will to Him who is able to save others because he is coming in the Lord's name.

Verse 14

4 Found a young ass. The accounts of Mark, Luke and John, leave out all mention of the mother of the colt, and the reader may be somewhat confused over it. The subject is fully discussed in the comments on Matthew's account (chapter 21:1-7), and I urge him to see that place.

Verse 15

5 The passage cited is in Zec 9:9. The prophet not only predicted the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, but said he would come "having salvation." It would be useless repetition to say this means "saving himself," as the margin renders it, for that truth is included in the fact of his riding triumphantly into the city. But Jesus was coming into the capital of the Jewish nation to bring salvation to all people in the world, whether they be Jew or Gentile.

Verse 16

6 The word glorify has several shades of meaning, and the one to apply in any given place must be determined by the context. In verse 23 it is stated that the hour is come (is at hand or very near), when the Son of man was to be glorified. This denotes that as yet He had not been glorified in the sense the word is used in this passage. Furthermore, Joh 7:39 says the reason the Holy Ghost was .not yet given, was because Jesus was not yet glorified, and Joh 16:7-13 shows that the Holy Ghost was not to be given until Jesus had gone to his Father. All of these truths give us the meaning of glorified in this verse to be the eternal form of Jesus in Heaven; the form referred to in 1Jn 3:2. After that great circumstance of the glorification of Jesus, the disciples recalled the many things He had said to them, and the meaning of them became clear to their understanding.

Verse 17

7 These people related what, they had seen and heard on the occasion of the resurrection of Lazarus. Bare record means they made their statements as eye and ear witnesses of the miracle that had so deeply impressed many in the community.

Verse 18

8 The testimony of the witnesses mentioned in the preceding verse, caused many others to believe on Him, which accounts for their actions described in verse 13.

Verse 19

9 World is from KOSMOS, which means the inhabitants of the earth. The statement of the Pharisees was one of envy and fear. Their complaint was among themselves, as if each one thought the other should "do something about it"

Verse 20

0 The question may arise why these Greeks (who were Gentiles) were permitted to worship at the feast, which was primarily a Jewish affair. In 1Ki 8:41-43 is a part of Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple. He predicted that "strangers" (people outside the Jewish nation) would come to the temple to pray, which is one act of worship. Solomon asked God to grant the prayer of these people. Then in chapter 9:3 of that book, the Lord told Solomon that his prayer was heard, which means it was to be granted, and that included what was asked on behalf of the prayers of the strangers. It will help the reader to understand this matter if he will consult the note on "worship" at Mat 2:2. The word has such a wide range of meanings, that it would have been easy for these Greeks to perform some phase of it on the present occasion, without infringing upon any ceremony that was the exclusive right of the Jews.

Verse 21

1 Philip was of Galilee as stated here and in Joh 1:44. It was natural, therefore, for these Greeks to contact him in their inquiry to see the greatest of Galileans. The fame of Jesus had reached so far that these visitors had heard of it.

Verse 22

2 I have not seen any account of the previous association of Philip with Andrew, but they seem to have been close personal friends. Philip passed on to Andrew the request of the Greeks, and together they reported it to Jesus.

Verse 23

3 We have no information as to what was done about the aforementioned request. However, Jesus stated to Philip and Andrew (perhaps in the hearings of these Greeks), that the hour was at hand when the Son of man was to be glorified. The last word is explained in the comments at verse 16. This glorification was to take place in Heaven, which had to be preceded by His death and resurrection. That brought the conversation to the point where it was necessary to say something about the death of Jesus, which will be the subject in the next verse.

Verse 24

4 The original word for corn is defined "grain" in the lexicon. Jesus used the subject to show why his death was necessary. If a grain could be kept alive, it would never be able to grow into another stock of the species. All that its owner would have would be the single grain; no reproduction. Likewise, if Christ had not died, he would never have produced others to share with him in the glorified state.

Verse 25

5 The meaning of this verse is set forth at some length in the comments on Mat 10:39, as it pertains to the two kinds of life. As the word hate is used here, it Is defined by Thayer to mean, "To love less, to postpone in love or esteem, to slight." Robinson defines it, "Not to love, to love less, to slight."

Verse 26

6 Serve is from a different Greek word from the one that suggests a slave. It means to minister to or wait upon, such as serving one with the necessities of life. No one can render such service to Christ today directly. But that kind of service can be given to his disciples as he taught in Mat 25:35-40. On the principle that such service is regarded by Jesus as if it were done for him personally, so the Father will honor that servant for his loving ministry as having been done for his Son. But this material ministration should be considered only as one phase of our service to Christ. We should be even more concerned with rendering service to Him in the great Cause for which he died and "fell into the ground."

Verse 27

7 Troubled means to be agitated, which was the condition of mind that was upon the Saviour. He was beginning to feel the awful emotions that came to him in greater force later in the garden. Save me from this hour was equivalent to his prayer for the removal of the "cup," mentioned in Mat 26:39. More will be said on that subject when we come to Joh 18:11. Jesus asked his Father to save him from this hour (not the cross). When later He prayed "if it be possible" let the cup pass, it meant virtually the same resignation of spirit that is expressed here in the words, for this cause came I unto this Dour. The human nature of Jesus longed for relief from his mental suffering, but his divine knowledge told him that he must endure it.

Verse 28

8 The original word for glorify as used here is defined by Thayer as follows: "To make renowned, render illustrious, i. e., to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged." God answered the prayer of Jesus in an audible voice but in words the people did not understand. This made the third time God spoke with words that could be heard; at the baptism of Jesus (Mat 3:17), and at the transfiguration (Mat 17:5), being the other two. That voice was not heard in audible form again that we have any account of, but the Almighty demonstrated his majesty on behalf of his Son more than once afterward, particularly when he raised him from the dead.

Verse 29

9 The voice from heaven was somewhat indistinct so that the people did not understand it, yet sufficiently different from the noise of thunder that some of them knew it was some form of speech addressed to Jesus in answer to his prayer, and they interpreted it to be the voice of an angel.

Verse 30

0 Jesus did not need the voice of his Father to satisfy Him, but some kind of demonstration was necessary as evidence for the crowd.

Verse 31

1 Now denotes that the time was very near when the great test was to be made. Jesus was soon to be slain as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and thus counteract the work of the prince of this world. Chapter 14:30; 16:11; Luk 4:6; Eph 2:2, shows this prince is Satan.

Verse 32

2 This verse is directly connected with the preceding one, showing that Christ was to be lifted up on the cross to accomplish the sacrifice. Draw all men unto me. Jesus never contradicted himself, and since he taught (Mat 7:13-14) that most people will be lost, he would not here teach that all would come to him. The point is with reference to what person was to be the most important drawing power. Hitherto it had been the influence of Satan and his agents, but the lifting up on the cross of the Son of man would draw men to Him and not Satan.

Verse 33

3 This verse is added to indicate that the lifting up mentioned in the preceding one was to be a literal action upon his body.

Verse 34

4 As usual, the people failed to recognize in Jesus a person who was both human and divine. As a result, they could not understand how he could die bodily, and yet establish a kingdom that would "stand forever."

Verse 35

5 Jesus did not give the people a direct reply, for he had already given them many lessons about his great work in cooperation with his Father, and they seemed to be overlooked by most of them. But he intimated that his personal instructions would soon be ended, and they should make use of them while they could.

Verse 36

6 Jesus gave them one more parting exhortation to walk in the light that had been offered to them, then he disappeared from the crowd.

Verse 37

7 The hardness of men's hearts prevents them from taking a fair view of the plainest evidences. The miracles that Jesus performed were so many and under such varied circumstances, that it should have been more difficult to doubt than to believe.

Verse 38

8 God never did force a man to do wrong; but He knows all about the future, and can see the actions of men for centuries before they are born. With such knowledge of the future, God inspired his prophets to write about it. The common phrase "that it might be fulfilled," means the same as if it said, "and in so doing, it fulfilled," etc. The prophecy of Esaias (Isaiah) cited is in chapter 53:1 of his book.

Verse 39

9 Could not. The first word is from DUNAMAI, and the definitions of Thayer and Robinson agree, but the latter is clearer and I shall quote it as follows: "To be able, I can." He then adds the following explanations: "Both in a physical and moral sense, and whether depending on the disposition and faculties of the mind, on the degree of strength or skill, or on the nature and external circumstances of the case." Upon further consideration, I think it will be helpful to quote Thayer's definition also: "To be able, have power," and his comments are, "Whether by virtue of one's own ability and resources, or a state of mind, or through favorable circumstances." This information from the lexicons teaches us that these people had deliberately closed their eyes and hardened their hearts against the light of God's truth. In such a state of mind they could not believe in the sense of the word as explained by the lexicons. Because that Esaias said means that Esaias (Isaiah) said it because God knew it would happen, and caused the prophet to write it. (See comments, preceding verse.)

Verse 40

0 This verse is to be understood in the light of comments on verses 38. 39.

Verse 41

1 The account of this vision is in Isa 6:1-10. Saw his glory is described in the first four verses of the passage cited.

Verse 42

2 The significance of being put out of the synagogue is set forth at chapter 9:22, 23. But though it was a great privilege to be admitted to these assemblies, neither that nor any other personal advantage should have been counted above the honor of being a believer in Christ.

Verse 43

3 This verse states the motive of the conduct mentioned in the preceding one. It is hard to understand, but perhaps it is because the favor of God is connected with requirement that one shall sacrifice some of his selfish practices.

Verse 44

4 Jesus means that believing on him did not stop there; it includes belief in God also. The truth is that no man can truthfully say he believes on either the Father or the Son without believing on the other.

Verse 45

5 This verse embraces the same principle as the preceding, but the difference is due to the personalities of the two. In order for man to see Jesus, he had to take on himself the fleshly body. But in spirit and purpose they are the same, so that seeing Jesus was virtually equivalent to seeing God.

Verse 46

6 By coming into the world in human form, Jesus was enabled to bring the light of Heaven within the grasp of man, thereby delivering him from spiritual darkness.

Verse 47

7 The original word for judge has several shades of meaning; one of them is, "to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong." The world had already been pronounced wrong or "in unbelief" (Rom 11:32) before Jesus came into it, hence he did not come for that purpose. Instead, He came to provide a plan whereby the world might be saved from its bondage of unbelief.

Verse 48

8 If a man rejects the plan offered by Jesus for his salvation, then God will judge him in the last day. When that day arrives, God will bring condemnation upon the disobedient man, finding him guilty under the words that were spoken by his Son, and using him as the acting judge (Act 17:31).

Verse 49

9 It will be consistent for the Father to judge the unbeliever by the words of Jesus, because He has delivered to mankind the words that his Father gave him.

Verse 50

0 Jesus could speak in this positive manner about the laws of his Father, because he was with Him from the beginning, and had direct and personal knowledge of their eternal character. (See Joh 1:1; Joh 1:14.)
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on John 12". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.