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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
John 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-7

John 12:1-2. Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper;

It was in the house of Simon the Leper; a near acquaintance, perhaps a relative of this beloved family, for we find that Martha served, but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. The two families had coalesced for this festival, and well they might, for one case someone had been healed of leprosy, and in the other case Lazarus had been raised from the dead. It was a holy, happy feast.

John 12:2-3. And Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus.

The other evangelist said “anointed his head.” And they are both right. She anointed his head and his feet.

John 12:3. And wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.

Everybody perceived and enjoyed it, and understood what costly ointment it must be which loads the air with so delicate a perfume.

John 12:4. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him.

I wonder whether he was son of that Simon the Leper, and whether a spiritual leprosy did cleave to him. That, we know, was the case.

John 12:5-6. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Observe that the sharpest critics of the works of good men are very often no better than they should be. This Judas is indignant with what Mary does, and claims that he cares for the poor, but all the while he is thief. Whenever a man is very quick, condemning gracious men and women, you may be quite as quick in condemning him. He is a Judas usually.

This exposition consisted of readings from John 8:29-59. Mark 14:1-9. John 12:1-7.


Verses 1-8

John 12:1-2. Then Jesus, six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper, and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.

Martha served: she had not given that up. She was a wondrous housewife, and she did well to keep to her occupation. Lazarus had been dead, and had been raised again. But he was not the center of interest: “He that raised him up was there.”

John 12:3-7. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

Somebody or other always seemed to object to Mary. If Martha does not do it, Judas will. To be found guilty of excess of love to Christ is such a blessed criminality that I wish we might be executed for it. It were sweet to be put to death for such a crime. It was that that Christ died of. He was found guilty of excess of love.

John 12:8. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

It is not every day that you can do something personally and distinctly for Christ himself, and therefore, whenever the occasion serves you be sure to be there to avail yourself of it. True, you can serve him indirectly by aiding his poor saints. Still, something for him — for him himself — should often be devised as Mary devised this service that day.

This exposition consisted of readings from Psalms 63.; Luke 10:38-42; and John 12:1-8.


Verses 1-43

John 12:1. Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

The days Christ was to spend upon the earth were getting to be very few so he paid another visit to that Bethany home where he was always so welcome, and more so than ever since he had raised Lazarus from the dead.

John 12:2-3. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

All the members of the re-united family were present, Martha busy as usual with the domestic duties which fell to her share, Lazarus in close attendance upon the Master who had wrought so great a miracle upon him, and Mary in her own sweet and gracious way pouring out the wealth of her affection in honour of the Master.

John 12:4-6. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

The question of Judas was a most unworthy one, but the motive that prompted the question was worse still. Little did he care for the poor; but if he could have had the selling of that very costly ointment of spikenard, he would have made that an opportunity of enriching himself.

John 12:7-8. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you: but me ye have not always.

Christ was himself ever caring for the poor, so he would not discourage any effort on their behalf, but just then, one of his most devoted disciples desired to render to him special honour, and he would not let her be rebuked; but on the contrary, he pointed out the deep symbolical meaning of her loving action.

John 12:9. 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.

Their curiosity was but natural, for few of them could have seen anyone who had been raised from the dead. It is well when a saved soul, who has been spiritually raised from the dead, becomes a center of attraction together with the Lord who has wrought such a miracle of mercy upon him.

John 12:10-11. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

They would have committed a double murder if it had been possible, and would have put to death both Jesus and Lazarus, who was a living witness to the wonder-working power of the Christ whom they would not receive as the promised Messiah. When men hate Christ, they also hate those whom he has blessed, and will go to any lengths in seeking to silence their testimony.

John 12:12-13. On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

It is significant that John is the only one of the four Evangelists who mentions the palm fronds that were carried by the people in this triumphal procession in honour of Christ, and it was to John that the vision was given of the “great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” who “stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

John 12:14-16. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

It is strange that Christ’s own disciples did not at once remember this plain prophecy when it was so literally fulfilled, yet, before we condemn them, let us recollect how “slow of heart” we also have been “to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”

John 12:17. The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.

They could not help testifying in his favor after they had seen him work such a notable miracle as the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

John 12:18-19. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? Behold, the world is gone after him.

When they saw our Lord riding in state through the streets, and the people waving palm branches and shouting in his honour, they said, “The world is gone after him.” That was only very partially true, and for a very short time; but the day will come when the whole world shall go after him Christ’s divine attractions shall be felt throughout the earth, and all the Pharisees then in the world will not be able to prevent the people from going after him; and-

“Come what may To stand in the way That day the world shall see.”

John 12:20-21. And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

They were proselytes, who had learned to worship Jehovah. Something more than mere curiosity must have moved them to want to see Jesus. Having heard of his raising the dead, they had a desire, and a very proper desire, to know more of him, so they asked to be introduced to him by one who, though not a Greek, had a Greek name, and who may therefore have served as a kind of bridge for these Greeks to reach the Saviour.

John 12:22-23. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.

Christ’s passion and death were getting very near when these Gentiles came to him, and he saw, in that company of Greeks, the vanguard of that great army that shall yet come to him out of every nation under heaven. In the prospect of that great ingathering, he looked beyond the impending shame and suffering, and spoke even of the hour of his death as the time when he should be glorified.

John 12:24. 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.

This was Christ’s way to glory, and it must be our way to glory too. The grain of wheat must fall into the ground, and die, or else it cannot bring forth fruit. Just so must it be with you and with me, and in proportion as we learn to die to self we shall live to the glory of God.

John 12:25. He that loveth his life shall lose it.

If you keep yourself to yourself, you will lose yourself.

John 12:25. And he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Brethren and sisters in Christ, if we are really to glorify Christ on the earth, we must be willing to lose our reputation, our good name, our comfort, and indeed everything that we have, for Christ’s sake. This is the only way truly to live. If, for your own sake, you begin to keep back anything from Christ, that is the way to die. You would then be like the grain of wheat that is laid by, and preserved, and which, therefore, can never grow or multiply. Surrender yourself; be willing to be nothing; be willing to die if only the truth may live. Care nothing about honour and glory for yourself; care only about the honour and glory of your Master. Learn the meaning of the Master’s paradox. As you bury yourself, you will multiply yourself. As you are put out of sight, like a grain of wheat that is sown in the ground, you have your only opportunity of growth and increase; heavily-laden ears of corn shall spring up from the grain which has been buried in the earth.

John 12:26-28. 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. 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. Father, glorify thy name.

In the 27th verse, our Saviour asked himself the question, “What shall I say?” here he gives his own answer, “Father, glorify thy name.” When you know not what to pray for, you can always safely pray, “Father, glorify thy name.” As you stand where the cross-roads meet, and you ask, “Which way shall I choose?” pray, “Father, glorify thy name.” This incident seems like a rehearsal of Christ’s passion. Here we see that natural fear of death which came across the Saviour’s mind because he was so really and truly man. If his pains had not been real pains, but had been pleasant and congenial to him, there would have been no self-sacrifice in his suffering; but the fact that they cast upon his spirit the dark shadow of death only proves to us what sharp pains they were; but instead of asking for a way of escape from them, he surrendered himself to them, gave himself up as a willing victim with this prayer upon his lips, “Father, glorify thy name.” And now see what happened.

John 12:28-29. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

This was one of the three occasions on which testimony was openly borne to Christ by his Father; first at his baptism, then at his transfiguration, and now here at the rehearsal of his great sacrifice. We learn, from this narrative, that the voice of God is not understood by everybody. Some of those that stood by said that it thundered, and others said that an angel spake to him. It is necessary that you should be a child of God if you are to know your Father’s voice. Though God is speaking, at this moment in the clearest tones, none will recognize his voice, or understand his words, but those who are taught by his Holy Spirit.

John 12:30-31. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

See how the eye of faith reads things differently from the eye of sense. You and I would have said, “Now is Christ coming to his lowest point. Now is his name to be cast out from among men, and his cause to be crushed as the result of his death.” But Christ reads the signs of the times very differently. “Now,” saith he, “in the hour of my shame, and suffering, and death, is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” It was only by Christ being apparently conquered that Satan could be really vanquished, and there is often no way of victory for a saint except through defeat. When self is slain, then do we truly live.

John 12:32-33. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.

The Pharisees said, “The world is gone after him;” but Jesus says, “No not while I am riding in state through the streets of Jerusalem; but when I am lifted up, and hung upon the cross, then shall it indeed be true, ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’” The crucified Christ of Calvary is the mighty magnet that is to attract multitudes of trembling, doubting, ruined sinners, who by grace shall be drawn unto him, and find eternal life in him.

John 12:34-35. 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? 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.

What a sad condition to be in, not to know where you are going! Are there not some of you, whom I am now addressing, who do not know where you are going? Yet, if you would but take the trouble to look, you might easily know that, so long as you continue in the paths of sin, you are going down to the chambers of death. Oh, that God’s Holy Spirit would give you sufficient light to enable you to see where you are going! You surely do not want to take “a leap in the dark.” Oh, that you may have the grace to turn from the downward way, and to seek the heavenward road!

John 12:36-41. 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. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: 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? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 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. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

You know that wonderful sixth chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy, and you know how wonderfully he has spoken there of the glory of Christ; but what a terrible thing it is that even Christ should be driven to blind men’s eyes, to take the light away from them because they proved themselves unworthy of it! May that never be the case with any of us; but while we may see, let us see; and may God give us more light!

John 12:42-43. 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: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

What a shameful thing that was! Yet you will still find that there are many persons who, even though they believe the truth, dare not own it, but must hide in obscurity until the times grow easier. However, Christ’s death fetched out many who had been his disciples in secret. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus could not keep in the background any longer and, doubtless, the thoughts of many other hearts were then revealed.


Verses 12-36

John 12:12-15. On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they beard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion · behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.

Even in the little glory of a temporal kind, which was given to the Lord Jesus Christ when he was “here among men” as Mrs. Luke’s hymn puts it, his humility and meekness were very manifest, thus fulfilling the prophecy recorded in Zechariah 9:9 : “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Oh, that all his people would always be of such a lowly spirit, not seeking great things for themselves, but condescending to men of low estate, remembering that it was their Master who said to his disciples, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

John 12:16. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

I wonder whether, when Christ comes back to earth, in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, we also shall not understand a great many things which are complete mysteries to us now. Peradventure, it will be said of us then, “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.” That first glory of his ascension to heaven shed a flood of light upon the life of Christ, as doubtless the greater glory of his second advent will shed a yet brighter light upon our understanding of the things of Christ which quite surpass our comprehension now.

John 12:17-19. The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.

No doubt many of his disciples thought so too, yet how mistaken were both the friends and the foes of Christ, for you recollect, brothers and sisters, that Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was followed, within less than a week, by a far different scene, when the same crowd that cried “Hosanna!” shouted “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” The world, that was supposed to have gone after him, nailed him to the cross; so short-lived is human popularity. So short-lived also is the admiration of Christ by carnal minds, for they do admire him after a fashion, they cannot help doing so. There have been written lives of Christ, which have been full of admiration of him, yet equally full of opposition to his Deity. We must not always regard it as an encouraging sign when men praise Christ; for very soon, if the root of the matter be not in them, and they do not accept him as their Lord and Master, they will change their note, and instead of “Hosanna!” it will be “Away with him, crucify him!”

John 12:20-21. And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir we would see Jesus.

I do not know why these Greeks went to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, unless it was because he had a Greek name. Yet Andrew and Peter also had Greek names. If I went to Paris, and wanted to see the President, and knew that there was somebody in the cabinet who had an English name, I should probably say, “Well, either he is an Englishman, or he comes of English parentage, so he may take an interest in me, and get me the introduction I want.” Perhaps that was the reason why these Greeks came to Philip. I cannot think of any other; but I know that, if you want to get to Christ, you will always find some way of doing it, and that the reason why so many people do not get to him, is because they do not want to do so. You may all come to Jesus Christ if you will. But, alas! until his grace controls it, and changes it, your will inclines you to stay further away from Christ rather than to come to him.

John 12:22. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

Andrew and Philip appear to have been staunch friends and fellow-labourers; and it is always well when Christian men can work for Christ with congenial companions. My poor perplexed brother, if you cannot get to Jesus Christ by yourself, it will be a good thing for you to say to some Philip, “Sir, I would see Jesus.” Perhaps Philip will tell his friend Andrew, and then Philip and Andrew will go together, and tell Jesus, and so you will get to him. It is a great help in prayer, when you are yourself unable to pray, to get someone, whom you know to be a Christian, and who has sympathy with you, to come and pray with you.

John 12:23-24. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, —

“Amen, amen,” —

John 12:24-25. 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 He that loveth his life shall lose it;

Or, as it should be rendered, “He that loves his life loses it “ That is not the true way to live; and in his selfish attempt to live to himself, he is losing his life.

John 12:25-26. And he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me;

The best service you can render to Christ is to imitate him. If you want to do what will please him do as he did.

John 12:26. And where I am, there shall also my servant be:

You cannot expect better lodgings than that; so, as Christ had to live here amid sorrow, and sin, and shame, you must be willing to do the same; but, as Christ was afterwards exalted to indescribable honour, so shall it be with you if you are his true servant

John 12:26. If any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

For such is the Father’s love to his Son, that he delights to honour all those who become his Son’s faithful servants.

John 12:27. 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.

There was a conflict in the Saviour’s heart, — the weakness of his true manhood — striving with the strength of his infinite affection to his people, and also to his Father. We must never forget that He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” If it had been no pain to him to die as the Substitute for sinners, there would have been no atoning sacrifice in his death; and if no dread had overtaken him at the thought of death, it would have proved that he did not die as we do; and, therefore, he would not have been able to take our place as he did. Notice how the Saviour speaks of the struggle that was going on in his soul. “What shall I say?” Do you ever have to ask that question when you are trying to pray? If so, do not be astonished, for even your Lord and Master said the same. “What shall I say?” — as if he paused to consider what form his prayer should take, — “shall I say, Father save me from this hour? No; but I will say, For this cause came I unto this hour.”

John 12:28. Father, glorify thy name.

That is a grand answer to the Saviour’s question, “What shall I say?” And, when you do not know how to pray, you may always present that petition, “Father, glorify thy name.” You have some dear one at home very ill; you would be glad if the precious life might be spared, yet you are not sure whether you may ask for it? Well then, say, “Father, glorify thy name.” Possibly, you are passing through a great trial, and you would be glad to escape from it; yet you do not know whether it is the divine will that you should do so. Well then, you may, at any rate, put up this prayer, “‘Father, glorify thy name.’ Whatever is most for thy glory, let that be my will as it is thy will.”

John 12:28 Then came there a voice from heaven, —

An audible voice, for those who stood by could hear it: “There came a voice from heaven,” —

John 12:28-30. Saying, 1 have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

“You needed to be strengthened as to the divine character and authority of my mission; you required to be comforted with the full assurance that I shall indeed be glorifying my Father even when I die upon the cross of Calvary.”

John 12:31. Now is the judgment of this world:

This is a wonderful sentence, — as if, in Christ’s death, the world was judged, and condemned; and so it was; nothing ever so convicted the world of high treason against God as when men said of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s well-beloved Son, “This is the Heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” The shedding of the blood of Christ upon the cross is the crimson evidence of the deep transgression of human nature: “Now is the judgment of this world.” There is another rendering of this text, retaining the Greek word, “Now is the crisis of this world

John 12:31. Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

Thank God for that! His throne was shaken to its fall when Christ died on Calvary. All the powers of darkness suffered eternal defeat in the hour that men and devils fancied they had gained the victory.

John 12:32-33. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.

Yet they did not understand it, even then, clear as it now appears to us that he spake concerning his lifting up upon the cross.

John 12:34-36. The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayeth thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? 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. 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.


Verses 19-43

Our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead; and this miracle made a great sensation among the people. They came to meet Jesus, waving palm branches before him, and all Jerusalem was on a stir.

John 12:19-22. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

These were probably Gentiles, who were staying at Jerusalem; perhaps, proselytes who had come up to the feast. They were touched by the common feeling; they desired to see this wonderful Man who had raised to life one who had been dead four days. They proceeded courteously; they went to one of Christ’s disciples who, coming from Galilee of the Gentiles, would be likely to sympathize with them, and they sought an introduction to Jesus. This Philip obtained for them with the help of Andrew.

John 12:23. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

He knew that the hour was come when he must die. Looking through the dark glass of death, he saw what its result would be, and he called it glory. These few Greeks were the advance guard of the great Gentile army of the Lord; he regarded their coming in that sense.

John 12:24. 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.

Telling them that the source of his glory would be his death. The reason why the people would hear of him, and come to him, was that he would be hanged on the cross. The grain of wheat, when put into the ground, if it remains as it is, will never increase; it must die if it is to bring forth fruit. What is death? The end of existence? None but thoughtless persons imagine that. Death is the resolution of any living substance into its primary elements. It is the division of the soul from the body; originally, it was the division of the soul from God. In a grain of wheat, death is the separation of the particles of which it is composed, that the life-germ may feed upon that which was provided for it. “If it die,” in the true sense of the word, in being separated into its constituent elements, then “it bringeth forth much fruit.” Christ’s way to glory was through the grave he must go down that he might mount to the throne.

John 12:25. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Live for this world, and you shall lose this world and the next, too; live for the world to come, and you shall in the highest sense gain both worlds.

John 12:26. If any man serve me, let him follow me;

That is the best kind of service; to do what Christ did, and to do what Christ bids you do: “If any man serve me, let him follow me.”

John 12:26. And where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Follow Christ, then, to the cross; follow him to the grave; follow him in his humiliation; and then the Father will honour you even as he honoured his Son.

John 12:27. Now is my soul troubled;

Or, puzzled. This hour of his glory was the hour of his passion, too.

John 12:27. And what shall I say?

Such sorrow was in his heart that he asked, “What shall I say?” Great trouble brings astonishment, amazement, bewilderment with it; and the human soul of Christ felt as ours feels when in great agony.

John 12:27. Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

Nature suggests the cry, “Father, save me from this hour.” Grace comes behind the flesh, being a little slower to speak; but it corrects the errors of the flesh, and says, “For this cause came I unto this hour.”

John 12:28. Father, glorify thy name.

What a prayer! Jesus swallows up his temptation to escape the cup by this all-absorbing petition, “Father, glorify thy name.”

John 12:28-29. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered:

They only heard the sound, and it was like thunder in their ears.

John 12:29. Others said, An angel spoke to him.

They distinguished the sound of some one speaking; but they did not recognize the voice of God.

John 12:30. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

“To make you believe that God is with me, and that I am his Son.”

John 12:31-34. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die. 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?

As if it could not be true that Christ, in his divine nature, abides for ever, and yet, as Man, could be lifted up to die. It was a sneering question, “Who is this Son of man?” Our Lord did not answer it, thus teaching us that some people are not worth answering. Instead of replying to their question, Jesus gave them a practical admonition.

John 12:35-36. 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. 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.

When people determine to reject Christ, he leaves them; why should he tarry where he is rejected? He “departed, and did hide himself.”

John 12:37-41. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him; 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? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 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. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

Christ is in the Old Testament in many places where, as yet, even we have never seen him. I doubt not that he lies hidden away in many a Psalm, and many a prophetic utterance that has not yet been fully expounded, or even comprehended by our finite minds. Oh, for eyes to see him where he sits in his ancient state: What a solemn fact this is, though, that God does allow men to be given over to blindness of eyes and hardness of heart! I sometimes fear that it is so with this age. Men will not see; they will not believe; they are desperately set on skepticism. It has become a fashion with them. Like a torrent, it sweeps through the very churches that bear the name of Christ. My fear is God in his wrath may give up our land to this curse, and then where will our hope be?

John 12:42-43. Nevertheless among the chief riders also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, test they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than, the praise of God.

I wonder whether in this throng there are any of this kind, who do believe in Christ, and yet never come out and confess him because they love the praise of men more than the praise of God. If so, I venture to say that they are found among what are called the more respectable people, the men of light and leading, the chief rulers. Among the common people there is very little of this evil. They will generally confess what they believe, and bravely come forward to declare that they belong to Christ. It is the chief rulers, the gentlemen of the Sanhedrim, who, if they believe in Christ in their hearts, do not confess him, lest they should be put out of society, for they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.


Verses 20-41

Our Lord had raised Lazarus from the dead, and this miracle had excited great attention in Jerusalem. In consequence of this, the people had led him in triumph through the streets, and everywhere there was great excitement. Everybody was speaking of the wonderful miracle which he had wrought.

John 12:20-21. And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: the same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

There is no doubt that these men were Gentiles, — probably proselytes. They had come up to worship at the feast, and their curiosity had been excited, and their interest had been awakened, by what they had seen and heard about Jesus. There appears to have been at least some measure of reverence for him in their minds. Hence they addressed one of his disciples, whose purely Greek name may lead us to suppose that he had some Greek relatives. They said to Philip, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

John 12:22-23. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

They did not expect him to say that. Surely, the coming of a few Greeks to see him was not very much in the way of glorification. But, to him, the coming of these Greeks was a sort of prophecy of the myriads of other Gentiles who would, by-and-by, come to his feet; and, therefore, he looked forward to that death which should be the means of their salvation. Christ came into the world to preach the gospel, but he came on a greater errand than that, namely, to provide a gospel that could be preached; and he knew that the time was approaching when he must provide that gospel by dying upon the cross. See how he proceeds: —

John 12:24. 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.

The preservation of the corn is the prevention of its increase; but the putting of it into the ground, the losing of it, the burial of it, is the very means of its multiplication. So our Lord Jesus Christ must not care for himself, and he did not. He surrendered himself to all the ignominy of the death of the cross, he died, and was buried in the heart of the earth, but he sprang up again from the grave, and ever since then myriads have come to him through his death, even as these Greeks came to him in his life. Now, as it was with Christ, so is it to be with us; at least, in our measure.

John 12:26. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in, this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

His love is ruinous to his true life; but to destroy self-love, to make a sacrifice of ourselves, is the truest way really to preserve ourselves.

John 12:26-27. 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. 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.

This seems to be a sort of rehearsal of the dread scene soon to be enacted in Gethsemane. At the sight of these Greeks, our Saviour seems to have been led specially to think, as we have already said, of that death by which they, and multitudes like them were to be redeemed. Thinking of it, he enters so fully into it, by a sort of foretaste, that he feels something of the same shiver and throe of anguish which came upon him in Gethsemane. He seems to say here, “Father, save me from this hour,” just as he said there, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Yet he says here, “But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name,” — just as he afterwards said in the garden, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

John 12:28-29. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, an angel spake to him.

This was the third time that mysterious voice had been heard; — first, at his baptism; the second time, on the Mount of Transfiguration; and, now a few days before he died upon the cross. The voice of God had been heard on a much earlier occasion, — at Sinai; and then it was attended with thunder, as it was here. Those who had not ears to understand the voice of God only perceived the loudness of its thunder peals; but there were others, like John himself, who understood what the Lord said: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

John 12:30-31. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

The old Roman empire seemed to stand as fast as the eternal hills, but God had come to judge the whole state of affairs as it was then in the world; and, inasmuch as Christ the pure and perfect Son of God was condemned to die, that action condemned the society of that period. Yea, the whole of the ungodly world, in taking its part in crucifying Christ, bore evidence against itself, and pronounced sentence upon itself as being guilty of the death of the Christ of God. “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” The overthrow of the usurper began from that time, and that overthrow of the devil is still going on; and, blessed be God, it will reach its completion one of these days, and we shall yet rejoice in a new heaven, and a new earth, on which the trail of the serpent shall never be traced.

John 12:32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

Christ on the cross draws all men up to himself. I have heard this text quoted as if it referred to Christ being extolled in preaching. Well, it is true that, when Christ is lifted up in the ministry, there is an attractive power; but that is not the first meaning of the text. Let us read on: —

John 12:33. This he said, signifying what death he should die.

He alluded to his crucifixion, which is the great attractive center of mankind.

John 12:34-35. 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? 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. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.

It is always well to use the light that we already have. If any man will use the light he already has, God will be sure to give him more. That is a good saying of an old Puritan, “If thou hast starlight, thank God for it, and he will give thee moonlight; and when thou hast moonlight, give thanks to God for it, and he will give thee sunlight.” And so it shall be. Nothing is worse than sinning against light. If it is only the light of conscience, even if you know it is not perfect, yet, nevertheless, never sin against it; for, if you do-you will quench it, and to quench the light you have, is the way to effectually prevent your having any more: “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.”

John 12:36-41. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: 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? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 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. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

There is such a thing as judicial blindness. If men can see, and yet will not see, God is at last so provoked by their wickedness that he takes away the light altogether, and removes from them the very faculty of sight. It is not surprising that it should be so, for it was so with the generation in which Christ lived. They had so long rejected the true prophet, — so long refused to listen to the voice of God, that, at last, he abandoned them to their own ways; and nothing worse can happen to a man than to be abandoned of God. If God casts thee off, thou art lost indeed.


Verses 20-50

Our Lord had gained a sudden popularity through raising Lazarus from the dead, and the people had attended him with great enthusiasm as he rode through the streets of Jerusalem. For the time, things looked very bright with him, but he knew that he was soon to suffer and to die, and the overshadowing of that great eclipse was already upon his heart. Note how he looked forward to it, and how he spake concerning it.

John 12:20-22 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

Probably these persons were proselytes to the Jewish faith. They had renounced their idols, and they had come to worship the only true God; and now they had a wish to see Jesus,-not out of idle curiosity, but because they felt a certain degree of respect for him. They wanted to know more of his teaching, and to learn whether he was indeed the promised Messiah. The disciples encouraged these seekers; they would not have brought mere curiosity-mongers to their Master, but they saw that there was something better in these Greeks; so they consulted together, and their opinion was that they must tell Jesus about them.

John 12:23. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour has come that the Son of man should be glorified.

He was about to die, yet he speaks of his death as being glorified. For the joy that was set before him, he seems to overlook the intervening humiliation in the prospect of the glory that would come of it through the salvation of multitudes of strangers from the very ends of the earth. He looks on these Greeks as the vanguard of a great army of Gentiles who would continue to come to him, and pay him homage. Hear what he says next:-

John 12:24. 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.

He knew that he must die, for his living, and preaching, and miracle working would never produce such results as his death would accomplish. He must go down into the ground, out of sight, and there must lie like a buried grain of wheat, that out of him there might spring a great harvest to the glory of God; and these Greeks were like a first handful, a wavesheaf unto God, a promise of the great harvest that would be the result of his death: “If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

John 12:25-26. He that loveth his life shall lose it: and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 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.

It is an honour to be allowed to serve Christ, but God will bestow still further honour upon those who faithfully serve him.

John 12:27-29. 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. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

How ready they were to find an explanation for that “voice from heaven” which they could not comprehend! Some “said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.” But here is Christ’s own interpretation of the mystery:--

John 12:30-31. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

Satan may have thought that he had triumphed when Christ was crucified, but that death upon the cross was the death-blow to the devil’s usurpation.

John 12:32-33. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.

There is no magnet like the death of Christ. He is able still to draw men unto him because of the attractive force of his atoning sacrifice.

John 12:34-36. 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? 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. 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.

At first sight, this may not seem to have been an answer to their question, “Who is this Son of man?” Yet it was a very direct answer, for he was “the Light of the world;” and as the light was soon to be withdrawn from them, there was all the greater need of Christ’s injunctions, “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.”

John 12:37-41. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: 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? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 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. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

Isaiah was sent upon a painful errand, to tell the people that they should hear, but they should not understand; that they should see, but they should not perceive; and so it happened to Israel as a nation, and to this day Israel rejects the true Messiah. Oh, that none of us may imitate their evil example by negligence and contempt of the revelation of God, lest after playing with Scripture, and trifling with the Christ of God, the Lord should at last in anger declare that we should see, but should not perceive, that we should hear, but should not understand.

John 12:42-43. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Are there any here who believe in Christ, but who have never confessed him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue, and lose the praise of men? Are you afraid of your family, your father, or your husband; or is there some friend who would be angry with you if you confessed Christ? If so, be no longer such a coward, I pray you, but come out boldly, and confess him who will not be ashamed to confess you before his Father and the holy angels.

John 12:44-50. Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my word, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 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. For I have not spoken of myself, but thy Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what l should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.


Verses 37-50

John 12:37. But though he had done so many miracles before then, yet they believed not on him.

They had an opportunity of seeing with their eyes; what the Christ could do. He had even raised the dead in the midst of them, and yet this is the sorrowful statement.

John 12:38-40. 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? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 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.

This passage is very frequently quoted in the Old Testament: it was so exceedingly apropos to the condition of the unbelieving Jews. They were wilfully blinded. They could see it; they were forced to hear it; there was much that even touched their hearts; but they hardened their heart against it, and to this day they remain the same.

John 12:41-43. These things said Esaias, when he was his glory, and spake of him. 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; For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

And this is a common disease to this day. There are many who know the truth, who, nevertheless, keep very quiet about it. They do not like to be despised; they cannot endure to seem to be separate from their fellowmen; it is not respectable to be decided for Christ, and to come out from among them, so they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.

John 12:44. Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

Faith in Christ is faith in God, he that trusts the Son hath accepted the witness of the Father.

John 12:45. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

Wonderful expression. Perhaps, we never fully realize it. Christ is seeable. God is not, but when we see the Christ, we do virtually see all of God that we may desire to see: the Invisible hath made himself visible in Christ — in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

John 12:46. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

True faith in Christ sheds light on everything concerning which light is desirable. You shall understand things when you have come unto the right standpoint, when you have gotten to believe in Christ. I wonder not that those who doubt concerning him, doubt about everything; if they will not have this light, how shall they see?

John 12:47. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

Under this present dispensation, it is not the time of judgment. The Lord leaves you that are unbelievers to yourselves. He does not come as yet to judge you; there is a second coming, when he will be both judge and witness, and condemner, of those who have rejected him; but at present it is a dispensation of pure mercy. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him.” There is a great God above who reckons this to be among the greatest of all human crimes, that they reject his Son. We speak of unbelief very lightly, and there are some who trifle with it as if it had no moral quality at all, but God doth not so.

John 12:48. 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.

Look, ye, to that, the gospel which you refuse will judge you at the last day. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ shall judge the world, saith Paul, “according to my gospel,” and he that sins against the gospel of love will certainly involve himself in the most solemn condemnation. He perishes that sins against the law, he dieth without mercy at the mouth of one or two witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy that sins against love, and rejects the Saviour?

John 12:49. 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.

God at the back of Christ. Omnipotence supporting love. The expostulations of Christ, not left to our will to do as we like with them, but solemnly sanctioned by the royalties of God, so that to refute them is treason against the majesty of heaven.

John 12:50. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

The eternal authority of God is at the back of the testimony of Christ. Oh! that men would not be so unwise as to reject it Now in our reading at the 41st verse we met with these words: “These things, said Esaias, when he saw his glory and spake of him.” Now let us read the passage which gives us an account of Isaiah’s seeing the glory of Christ.

This exposition consisted of readings from John 12:37-50; Isaiah 6. John 12:37-50.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 12:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/john-12.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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