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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
John 12

 

 

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Verses 1-8

Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

For the exposition of this portion, see the notes at Mark 14:3-9, and Remarks 1 to 8 at the close of that section.


Verse 9

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.


Verse 10

But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;

But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;


Verse 11

Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. Crowds of the Jews of Jerusalem hastened, it seems, to Bethany (scarcely two miles distant), not so much to see Jesus, whom they knew to be there, as to see the dead Lazarus who had been raised to life. This, as was to be expected, issued in immense accessions to Christ (John 12:19); and, as the necessary means of arresting these triumphs of the hated One, a plot is laid against the Life of Lazarus also: to such a pitch had these ecclesiastics come of diabolical determination not only to shut out the light from their own minds, but to extinguish it from the earth!

For Remarks on these three verses, see those on John 11:1-57.


Verses 12-19

On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,

For the exposition, see the notes at Luke 19:29-40.


Verse 20

And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

And [or, 'Now' de (G1161)] there were certain Greeks , [ Helleenes (Greek #1672)] - not Grecian Jews [ Helleenistai (Greek #1675)] but Greek or Gentile proselytes to the Jewish faith, who were wont to attend the annual festivals, and particularly this primary one-the Passover.


Verse 21

The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

The same came therefore to Philip, which was of [or 'from' apo (G575)] Bethsaida. Possibly they came from the same quarter.

And desired ('requested' or 'prayed') him saying, Sir, we would see Jesus - certainly with far higher objects than Zaccheus (Luke 19:3). Perhaps our Lord was then in that part of the temple-court to which Gentile proselytes had no access. These men from the west, as Stier says, represent, at the end of Christ's life what the wise from the east represented at the beginning: only these come to the Cross of the King, while those came to His Manger.


Verse 22

Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. As fellow-townsmen of Bethsaida, these two seem to have drawn to each other.

And again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus - or, according to the reading adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles, 'Andrew and Philip come and tell Jesus,' [ erchetai (Greek #2064) Andreas (Greek #406) kai (Greek #2532) Filippos (Greek #5376), kai (Greek #2532) legousin (Greek #3004) too (Greek #3588) Ieesou (Greek #2424)] The minuteness of these details, while they add to the graphic force of the narrative, serve to prepare us for something important to come out of this induction.


Verse 23

And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

And [or, 'But de (G1161)] Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified: - q.d., 'They would see Jesus, would they? Yet a little moment, and they shall see Him so as now they dream not of. The middle wall of partition that keeps them out from the commonwealth of Israel is on the eve of breaking down, "and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men unto Me:" I see them "flying as a cloud, and as doves to their cots," and a glorious event for the Son of Man will that be, by which this is to be brought about.' It is His death He thus sublimely and delicately alludes to. Lost in the scenes of triumph which this desire of the Greeks to see Him called up before His view, He gives no direct answer to their petition for an interview, but sees that cross which was to bring them in gilded with glory.


Verse 24

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.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain [or 'grain' kokkos (G2848)] of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone , [ autos (Greek #846) monos (Greek #3441) menei (Greek #3306)] - 'by itself alone,'

But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. The necessity of His death is here brightly expressed, and its proper operation and fruit-life springing forth out of death-imaged forth by a beautiful and deeply significant law of the vegetable kingdom. For a double reason, no doubt, this was uttered-to explain what He had said of His death, as the hour of His own glorification, and to sustain His own spirit under the agitation which was mysteriously coming over it in the view of that death.


Verse 25

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

(See the notes at Matthew 16:21-28). Did our Lord mean to exclude Himself from the operation of the great principle here expressed-self-renunciation the law of self-preservation; and its converse, self-preservation the law of self-destruction? On the contrary, as He became Man to exemplify this fundamental law of the Kingdom of God in its most sublime form, so the very utterance of it on this occasion served to sustain His own spirit in the double prospect to which He had just alluded.


Verse 26

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: If any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Jesus, it will be observed, here claims the same absolute subjection to Himself as the law of men's exaltation to honour, as he yielded to the Father.


Verse 27

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

Now is my soul troubled. He means, at the prospect of His death, just alluded to. Strange view of the Cross this, immediately after representing it as the hour of His glory! (John 12:23.) But the two views naturally meet, and blend into one. It was the Greeks, one might say, that troubled Him: 'Ah! they shall see Jesus, but to Him it shall be a costly sight.'

And what shall I say? He is in a strait between two. The death of the Cross was, and could not but be, appalling to His soul. But to shrink from absolute subjection to the Father, was worse still. In asking Himself, "What shall I say?" He seems as if thinking aloud, feeling His way between two dread alternatives, looking both of them sternly in the face, measuring, weighing them, in order that the choice actually made might be seen, and even by Himself be the more vividly felt, to be a profound, deliberate, spontaneous election.

Father, save me from this hour - To take this as a question, 'Shall I say, Father, save Me', etc.-as some eminent editors and interpreters do, is unnatural and jejune. It is a real petition, like that in Gethsemane, "Let this cup pass from Me;" only, whereas there He prefaces the prayer with an "If it be possible," here He follows it up with what is tantamount to that --

But for this cause came I unto this hour. The sentiment conveyed, then, by the prayer, in both cases, is two-fold: First, that only one thing could reconcile Him to the death of the Cross-its being His Father's will that He should endure it-and, next, that in this view of it He yielded Himself freely to it. He recoils, not from subjection to His Father's will, but to show how tremendous a self-sacrifice that obedience involved, He first asks the Father to save Him from it, and then signifies how perfectly He knows that He is there for the very purpose of enduring it. Only by letting these mysterious words speak their full meaning do they become intelligible and consistent. As for those who see no bitter elements in the death of Christ-nothing beyond mere dying-what can they make of such a scene? and when they place it over against the feelings with which thousands of His adoring followers have welcomed death for His sake, how can they hold Him up to the admiration of men?


Verse 28

Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

Father, glorify thy name - by some present testimony.

Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it - referring specially to the voice from heaven at His Baptism, and again at His Transfiguration,

And will glorify it again - that is, in the yet future scenes of His still deeper necessity; although even this very promise was a present and sublime testimony, which would irradiate the clouded spirit of the Son of Man.


Verse 29

The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

The people [`the multitude' ochlos (G3793)] therefore that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake [`hath spoken' lelaleeken (G2980)] to him - some hearing only a sound; others an articulate, but to them unintelligible, voice. Our Lord now tells them for whom that voice from heaven had come, and then interprets, in a strain even more exalted than before, that "glorification of His name" which the voice announced was yet to take place.


Verse 30

Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

Jesus answered, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes - [ ou (Greek #3756) di' (Greek #1223) eme (Greek #1691), alla (Greek #235) di' (Greek #1223) humas (Greek #5209)] - 'not for My sake, but for your sakes:' probably to correct, in the first instance, the unfavourable impressions which His momentary agitation and mysterious prayer for deliverance may have produced on the beholders; and then to procure a more reverential ear for those sublime disclosures with which He was now to follow it up-disclosures which seem to have all at once dilated His own soul, because He utters them, it will be seen, in a kind of transport.


Verse 31

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

Now is the judgment of this world - the world that "crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8), considered as a vast and complicated kingdom of Satan, breathing his spirit, doing his work, and involved in his doom, which Christ's death by its hands irrevocably sealed.

Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. How differently is that fast-approaching "hour" regarded in the kingdoms of darkness and of light! 'The hour of relief from the dread Troubler of our peace-how near it is! Yet a little moment, and the day is ours!' So it was calculated and felt in the one region. "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out," is a somewhat different view of the same event. We know who was right. Though yet under a veil, He sees the triumphs of the Cross in unclouded and transporting light.


Verse 32

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

And I [ kagoo (G2504)], if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. The "I" here is emphatic: I, in contrast with the world's ejected prince. "If lifted up," means not only after that I have been lifted up, but, through the virtue of that Uplifting. And does not the death of the Cross in all its significance, revealed in the light, and borne in upon the heart by the power, of the Holy Spirit, possess an attraction over the wide world-to civilized and savage, learned and illiterate alike-which breaks down all opposition, assimilates all to itself, and forms out of the most heterogeneous and discordant materials a kingdom of surpassing glory, whose uniting principle is adoring subjection "to Him that loved them"? - "Will draw all men 'UNTO ME,'" says He [ pros (Greek #4314) emauton (Greek #1683)], or 'to Myself,' as it might more properly be rendered. What lips could presume to utter such a word but His, which "dropt as an honeycomb," whose manner of speaking was evermore in the same spirit of conscious equality with the Father?


Verse 33

This he said, signifying what death he should die. (This he said, signifying what death , [ poioo (Greek #4169) thanatoo (Greek #2288) rather, 'what kind' or 'manner of death'] he should die)}-that is, His being "lifted up from the earth" was meant to signify His being uplifted on the accursed tree (John 3:14; John 8:28).


Verse 34

The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

The people [`The multitude' ochlos (G3793)] answered him, We have heard out of the law - meaning the Scriptures of the Old Testament: referring, no doubt, to such places as Psalms 89:28-29; Psalms 110:4; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14.

That Christ (the Christ,' the promised Messiah), abideth forever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? How can that consist with this "uplifting?" They saw very well both that He was holding Himself up as the Christ, and a Christ to die a violent death; and as that ran counter to all their ideas of the Messianic prophecies, they were glad to get this seeming advantage to justify their unyielding attitude.


Verse 35

Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Then ('Therefore') Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you, Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for-rather, 'and' [ kai (Greek #2532)] "he that walketh in darkness knoweth not where he goeth."


Verse 36

While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.

While ye have ('the') light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. Instead of answering their question, He warns them, with mingled majesty and tenderness, against trifling with their last brief opportunity, and entreats them to let in the Light while they had it in the midst of them, that themselves might be "light in the Lord." In this case all the clouds which hung around His Person and Mission would speedily be dispelled, while if they continued to hate the light, bootless were all His answers to their merely speculative or captious questions. (See the note at Luke 13:23.)

These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. He who spake as never man spake, and immediately after words fraught with unspeakable dignity and love, had to "hide Himself" from His auditors! What then, must they have been? He retired probably to Bethany. (See Matthew 21:17; Luke 21:37).

It is the manner of our Evangelist alone, as has been frequently remarked, to record his own reflections on the scenes he describes: but here, having arrived at what was virtually the close of our Lord's public ministry, he casts an affecting glance over the fruitlessness of His whole ministry on the bulk of the now doomed people.


Verse 37

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

But though he had done so many miracles [ seemeia (G4592)] before them (which were all but so many glorious "signs" of a Divine Hand in the doing of them), yet they believed not on him:


Verse 38

That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake (Isaiah 53:1) Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? - q.d., 'This unbelief did not at all set aside the purposes of God, but, on the contrary, fulfilled them.'


Verse 39

Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,

Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again (Isaiah 6:9-10).


Verse 40

He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. That this expresses a positive divine act, by which those who willfully close their eyes and harden their hearts against the truth are judicially shut up in their unbelief and impenitence, is admitted by all candid critics-Olshausen, for example-though many of them think it necessary to contend that this is no way inconsistent with the liberty of the human will, which of course it is not.


Verse 41

These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spoke of him. A key of immense importance to the opening of Isaiah's vision (Isaiah 6:1-13), and all similar Old Testament representations. 'THE SON,' says Olshausen 'is "The King Yahweh" who rules in the Old Testament and appears to the elect, as in the New Testament THE SPIRIT, the invisible Minister of the Son, is the Director of the Church and the Revealer in the sanctuary of the heart.'


Verse 42

Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:

Nevertheless among the chief rulers also , [ kai (Greek #2532) ek (Greek #1537) toon (Greek #3588) archontoon (Greek #758)] - rather, 'even of the rulers,' such as Nicodemus and Joseph,

Many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees - that is, the leaders of this sect; because they were of it themselves

They did not confess [him] - or 'confess it' [ oux (Greek #3756) hoomologoun (Greek #3670)], did not make an open confession of their faith in Jesus,

Lest they should be put out of the synagogue. (See the notes at John 9:22; John 9:34.)


Verse 43

For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. A severe remark, as Webster and Wilkinson justly observe, considering that several at least of these persons afterward boldly confessed Christ. It indicates the displeasure with which God regarded their conduct at this time, and with which He continues to regard similar conduct.


Verse 44

Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

Jesus, [ Ieesous (G2424) de (G1161), rather, 'But Jesus'] cried - expressive of the louder tone and special solemnity with which He was wont to utter such great sayings as these (as John 7:37).

And said. This and the remaining verses of the chapter seem to be a supplementary record of some weighty proclamations, which, though recorded in substance already, had not been set down in so many words before; and they are introduced here as a sort of summary and winding up of His whole testimony.

He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.


Verse 45

And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me , [ theooroon (Greek #2334) ... theoorei (Greek #2334)] - or 'beholdeth,' in the emphatic sense of John 6:40. But what a saying is this! Even the Eleven, so late as at the Last Supper, were slow to apprehend the full reality of it (John 14:7-9). The glory of it they could but partially discern until Pentecostal light irradiated the Person and Mediation of Jesus in the eyes of His apostles.


Verse 46

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.


Verse 47

And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

And if any man hear my words, and believe not , [ pisteusee (Greek #4100)]. The true reading here, beyond doubt, is, 'and keep them not' [ fulaxee (Greek #5442)],

I Judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. See the note at John 3:17.


Verse 48

He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. This in substance will be found said repeatedly before.


Verse 49

For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

For I have not spoken [`spake not' elaleesa (G2980)] of [ ex (G1537)] myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.


Verse 50

And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said [or 'hath said' eireeke (G4483)] unto me, so I speak. See the notes at John 8:28; John 8:38; John 8:47; and similar sayings, emphatically teaching what is here expressed in such terms of majestic dignity.

Remarks:

(1) Once and again have we been led to consider what portion of this wonderful History most transcends the powers of human invention. And ever as we seem to have found it, some other portion rises to view and claims the preference. But certainly, of the present section it may fearlessly be said that, to be written, it, at least, must of necessity first have been real. For who, sitting down to frame such a Life-or what is much the same in relation to powers of invention, to construct it out of a few fragments of fact-would have thought of meeting the desire of those Greeks to see Jesus with such an answer, taking no direct notice of it, but carrying His hearers into the future glorious issues of His death, yet couching even this in such enigmatic terms as to be scarcely half intelligible to the best instructed of His own disciples? Or, if we are to suppose this possible, who would think of interrupting this strain by a sudden inward agitation of the Speaker arising from no outward cause, but the pure result of what was passing in His own mind; and not only so, but of His telling His uninstructed and prejudiced audience that His soul was then agitated, and, amidst conflicting emotions, that He was at a loss what to say; uttering an audible prayer to be saved from His dread approaching "hour," but yet adding that to go through with that hour was just what He had come to it for? Who would have ever put so apparently damaging a thing down in a work which he expected to make way for itself by nothing but its naked truth? And then, after the prayer for glorification, with the immediate answer to it, and the explanation of that answer-as if relieved in proportion to the previous sinking-who could have thrown such gleams of exalted, sublime transport into the utterances that follow, and on which only the subsequent history of Christendom has set the seal of full truth? And let it be borne in mind, that if the truth of the History here is thus self-attested, it is the History precisely as it stands; not 'the substance' or 'spirit of it'-as some now talk-but this Evangelical Record, just as it here stands; because entire it must stand entire, or fall entire.

(2) On the bearing of this agitation of the Redeemer's spirit in the prospect of His "hour," of His prayer for deliverance from it, and yet His submission to it, upon the penal character of His sufferings and death, we need but refer the reader to the remarks on that feature of His Agony in the Garden-of which this scene was a kind of momentary anticipation. See the notes at Luke 22:39-46.

(3) How affecting is the intimation that, just after the utterance of one of the most solemn and compassionate warnings-holding out, almost for the last time, in that spot at least, the sceptre of mercy, but at the same time the danger of closing their eyes upon the Light yet shining on them-He "departed, and did hide himself from them!" What must have been the exasperation of His audience to render that necessary. The Evangelist himself seems saddened at the thought of it, and can find relief under it for himself and his believing readers only in the judicial blindness and hardness which they had been long before taught by prophecy to expect. Nor are those who, in analogous circumstances, have to hold up in vain the glory of Christ, and all day long to stretch out their hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people, precluded from finding the same sad relief; but on the contrary, with their adorable Master, they may confidently say to them that believe not-when conscious that they are pure from the blood of all men, having not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God - "But I said unto you that ye have even seen Him, and believe not: All that the Father giveth Him shall come to Him, and him that cometh to Him He will in no wise cast out."

(4) Though a timid policy on the part of real believers is often over-ruled to the getting in of some faint dissent and some feeble protest against extreme measures on the part of those enemies of it to whose society they still adhere-as in the case of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea-that timid policy itself is highly offensive to God, and injurious to their own spiritual growth, springing as it does from a greater concern to stand well with men than with God.

(5) The eternal condition of all who have heard the Gospel, whatever other elements may be found to affect it, will be found essentially to turn on the state of their minds and hearts toward Christ-in the way either of cordial subjection to Him or of disobedient rejection of Him. "He that is not with Me is against Me," will be the spirit of the decisions of "That Day" on all that have been brought within the pale of the Gospel.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 12:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-12.html. 1871-8.

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Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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