Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1-8. six days before the passover--that is, on the sixth day before
it; probably after sunset on Friday evening, or the commencement of
the Jewish sabbath preceding the passover.
2. Martha served--This, with what is afterwards said of Mary's way
of honoring her Lord, is so true to the character in which those two
women appear in
as to constitute one of the strongest and most delightful confirmations
of the truth of both narratives. (See also on
Lazarus . . . sat at the table--"Between the
raised Lazarus and the healed leper (Simon,
the Lord probably sits as between two trophies of His glory"
3. spikenard--or pure nard, a celebrated aromatic
anointed the feet of Jesus--and "poured it on His head"
The only use of this was to refresh and exhilarate--a grateful
compliment in the East, amidst the closeness of a heated atmosphere,
with many guests at a feast. Such was the form in which Mary's love to
Christ, at so much cost to herself, poured itself out.
4. Judas . . . who should betray him--For the reason
why this is here mentioned, see on
5. three hundred pence--between nine and ten pounds sterling.
6. had the bag--the purse.
bare what was put therein--not, bare it off by theft, though that he
did; but simply, had charge of its contents, was treasurer to Jesus and
the Twelve. How worthy of notice is this arrangement, by which an
avaricious and dishonest person was not only taken into the number of
the Twelve, but entrusted with the custody of their little property!
The purposes which this served are obvious enough; but it is further
noticeable, that the remotest hint was never given to the eleven of His
true character, nor did the disciples most favored with the intimacy of
Jesus ever suspect him, till a few minutes before he voluntarily
separated himself from their company--for ever!
7. said Jesus, Let her alone, against the day of my burying hath she
done this--not that she thought of His burial, much less reserved any
of her nard to anoint her dead Lord. But as the time was so near at
hand when that office would have to be performed, and she was not to have that
privilege even alter the spices were brought for the purpose
He lovingly regards it as done now.
8. the poor always . . . with you--referring to
but me . . . not always--a gentle hint of His approaching departure.
"She hath done what she could," a noble testimony, embodying a
principle of immense importance. "Verily, I say unto you, Wheresoever
this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also
this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her"
"In the act of love done to Him she had erected to herself an eternal
monument, as lasting as the Gospel, the eternal word of God. From
generation to generation this remarkable prophecy of the Lord has been
fulfilled; and even we, in explaining this saying of the Redeemer, of
necessity contribute to its accomplishment" [OLSHAUSEN]. "Who but Himself had the power to ensure to
any work of man, even if resounding in his own time through the whole
earth, an imperishable remembrance in the stream of history? Behold
once more here, the majesty of His royal judicial supremacy in the
government of the world, in this, Verily I say unto you" [STIER]. Beautiful are the lessons here: (1) Love to
Christ transfigures the humblest services. All, indeed, who have
themselves a heart value its least outgoings beyond the most costly
mechanical performances; but how does it endear the Saviour to us to
find Him endorsing the principle as His own standard in judging of
character and deeds!
|What though in poor and humble guise
Thou here didst sojourn, cottage-born,
Yet from Thy glory in the skies
Our earthly gold Thou didst not scorn.
For Love delights to bring her best,
And where Love is, that offering evermore is blest.
Love on the Saviour's dying head
Her spikenard drops unblam'd may pour,
May mount His cross, and wrap Him dead
In spices from the golden shore.
(2) Works of utility should never be set in opposition to the
promptings of self-sacrificing love, and the sincerity of those who
do so is to be suspected. Under the mask of concern for the poor at
home, how many excuse themselves from all care of the perishing heathen
abroad. (3) Amidst conflicting duties, that which our "hand
(presently) findeth to do" is to be preferred, and even a less duty
only to be done now to a greater that can be done at any time.
(4) "If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that
a man hath, and not according to that he hath not"
--"She hath done what she could"
(5) As Jesus beheld in spirit the universal diffusion of His Gospel,
while His lowest depth of humiliation was only approaching, so He
regards the facts of His earthly history as constituting the
substance of this Gospel, and the relation of them as just the
"preaching of this Gospel." Not that preachers are to confine
themselves to a bare narration of these facts, but that they are to
make their whole preaching turn upon them as its grand center, and
derive from them its proper vitality; all that goes before this in the
Bible being but the preparation for them, and all that follows
but the sequel.
9-11. Crowds of the Jerusalem Jews hastened to Bethany, not so much
to see Jesus, whom they knew to be there, as to see dead Lazarus alive;
and this, issuing in their accession to Christ, led to a plot against
the life of Lazarus also, as the only means of arresting the triumphs of
--to such a pitch had these chief priests come of diabolical
determination to shut out the light from themselves, and quench it from
12. On the next day--the Lord's day, or Sunday (see on
the tenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, on which the paschal lamb was
set apart to be "kept up until the fourteenth day of the same month,
when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel were to kill it
in the evening"
(Ex 12:3, 6).
Even so, from the day of this solemn entry into Jerusalem, "Christ our
Passover" was virtually set apart to be "sacrificed for us"
16. when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things
were written of him, &c.--The Spirit, descending on them from the
glorified Saviour at Pentecost, opened their eyes suddenly to the true
sense of the Old Testament, brought vividly to their recollection this
and other Messianic predictions, and to their unspeakable astonishment
showed them that they, and all the actors in these scenes, had been
unconsciously fulfilling those predictions.
20-22. Greeks--Not Grecian Jews, but Greek proselytes to the Jewish
faith, who were wont to attend the annual festivals, particularly this
primary one, the Passover.
The same came therefore to Philip . . . of
Bethsaida--possibly as being from the same quarter.
saying, Sir, we would see Jesus--certainly in a far better sense
Perhaps He was then in that part of the temple court to which Gentile
proselytes had no access. "These men from the west represent, at
the end of Christ's life, what the wise men from the east
represented at its beginning; but those come to the cross of the King,
even as these to His manger" [STIER].
22. Philip . . . telleth Andrew--As follow townsmen of
these two seem to have drawn to each other.
Andrew and Philip tell Jesus--The minuteness of these details, while
they add to the graphic force of the narrative, serves to prepare us for
something important to come out of this introduction.
23-26. Jesus answered them, The hour is come that the Son of man should
be glorified--that is, 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 cotes"--a glorious event that will be for the Son of man, by
which this is to be brought about. It is His death He thus sublimely
and delicately alluded 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 the cross
which was to bring them gilded with glory.
24. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth
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.
25. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his
life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal--(See on
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.
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--Jesus here claims the same absolute subjection to Himself,
as the law of men's exaltation to honor, as He yielded to the Father.
27, 28. 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!
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 betwixt two. The death of the
cross was, and could not but be, appalling to His spirit. 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 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," &c.--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--"Nevertheless for this cause came I
unto this hour." The sentiment conveyed, then, by the prayer, in both
cases, is twofold: (1) that only one thing could reconcile Him to the
death of the cross--its being His Father's will He should endure it--and
(2) that in this view of it He yielded Himself freely to it.
What He recoils from is not 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
28. Father, glorify thy name--by a present testimony.
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 this promise was a present and sublime
testimony, which would irradiate the clouded spirit of the Son of man.
29-33. The people therefore that stood by, said, It thundered; others,
An angel spake to him--some hearing only a sound, others an articulate,
but to them unintelligible voice.
30. Jesus . . . said, This voice came not because of me, but for your
sakes--that is, probably, to correct the unfavorable impressions which
His momentary agitation and mysterious prayer for deliverance may have
produced on the by-standers.
31. Now is the judgment of this world--the world that "crucified the
Lord of glory"
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.
32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto
me--The "I" here is emphatic--I, taking the place of 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 truly, 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 Ghost, possesses 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. What lips
could venture 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?
33. This he said, signifying what death he should die--that is, "by
being lifted up from the earth" on "the accursed tree"
(Joh 3:14; 8:28).
34. We have heard out of the law--the scriptures of the Old Testament
(referring to such places as
Ps 89:28, 29; 110:4;
Da 2:44; 7:13, 14).
that Christ--the Christ "endureth for ever."
and how sayest thou, The Son of Man must be lifted up, &c.--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.
35, 36. Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have
the light, &c.--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
have it in the midst of them, that they 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 on
36. 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. (The parallels are:
37-41. It is the manner of this Evangelist alone 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.
though he had done so many miracles--The word used suggests their
nature as well as number.
38. That the saying of Esaias . . . might be fulfilled--This unbelief
did not at all set aside the purposes of God, but, on the contrary,
39-40. Therefore they could not believe, because Esaias said again, He
hath blinded their eyes, that they should not see, &c.--That this
expresses a positive divine act, by which those who wilfully 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 [as OLSHAUSEN], though many of them think it necessary to
contend that this is in no way inconsistent with the liberty of the
human will, which of course it is not.
41. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of
him--a key of immense importance to the opening of Isaiah's vision
and all similar Old Testament representations. "THE SON is the King Jehovah 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" [OLSHAUSEN].
42, 43. among the chief rulers also--rather, "even of the rulers";
such as Nicodemus and Joseph.
because of the Pharisees--that is, the leaders of the sects; for
they were of it themselves.
put out of the synagogue--See
Joh 9:22, 34.
43. they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God--"a
severe remark, considering that several at least of these persons
afterwards 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" [WEBSTER and
44-50. Jesus cried--in a loud tone, and with peculiar solemnity.
and said, He that believeth on me, &c.--This seems to be a
supplementary record of some weighty proclamations, for which there had
been found no natural place before, and introduced here as a sort of
summary and winding up of His whole testimony.