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The Fourfold Gospel

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12:1  Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead1.

  1. Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead. The word "therefore" refers to the decree and consequent dangers just mentioned. Because his "hour" had come, Jesus went to face these dangers. Compare John 2:4. We are told that he came to the house of Lazarus and that he kept near Lazarus because these facts emphasized the great miracle which roused the hatred of the Jews, and caused them more earnestly to seek the death of Christ (John 11:53). Jesus appears to have arrived in Bethany Friday afternoon, March 31, A.D.30.

12:2  So they made him a supper there1: and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at meat with him2.

  1. So they made him a supper there. It is likely that he spent the Sabbath day at that place, and that the supper mentioned below was given him after sunset on Saturday, which, according to Jewish reckoning, would be the beginning of Sunday. This supper is mentioned later by Matthew and Mark, but without any note of time to show that it belongs specifically where they put it (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9). But John gives us a note of time (John 12:12). It was the night before the triumphal entry, and therefore we follow the chronology of John.

  2. But Lazarus was one of them that sat at meat with him. See Mark 14:3.

12:3  Mary therefore took a pound1 of ointment of pure nard, very precious2, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair3: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment4.

  1. Mary therefore took a pound. A "litra", a Greek weight containing nearly twelve ounces avoirdupois.

  2. Of ointment of pure nard, very precious. See Mark 14:3.

  3. And anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. Pliny, speaking of nard, reckons it as an instance of excessive luxury to anoint the feet or ankles with it.

  4. And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Thus the liberality of Mary contributed to the pleasure of all the guests. The odor of a good deed is generally diffusive.

12:4  But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, that should betray him1, saith,

  1. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, that should betray him. See Mark 3:19.

12:5  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred shillings, and given to the poor1?

  1. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred shillings, and given to the poor? See Mark 14:5.

12:6  Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein1.

  1. But because he was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein. It is a singular thing that Jesus permitted a thief to occupy the office of treasurer. It is probable that Judas was honest when he was called to serve, but that same management and spirit of economy which made him fit for the place ruined him when he got it. Thus our strong points are often our weakest.

12:7  Jesus therefore said, Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying.1

  1. Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying. This expression is taken by some as implying that all the ointment was not poured out, and that some of the apostles were endeavoring to persuade Mary to keep and sell what was left, and that Jesus ordered it kept to finish the embalming of his body which Mary had already begun. But there is nothing in the language to suggest such an interpretation. Jesus meant, "Let her use it rightly", using the word "keep" as in the expression "keep the feast", that is, observe the ceremony.

12:11  because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away1, and believed on Jesus2.

  1. Many of the Jews went away. Withdrew from the party headed by the Jewish rulers.

  2. And believed on Jesus. The presence of the resurrected man and the Christ who had resurrected him both at one table greatly excited the curiosity of the multitudes who had come up to Jerusalem to attend the Passover. When word of this supper spread among the people it was natural that they should slip out to Bethany to see the sight, and it was equally natural that seeing it they should believe in Jesus. This deflection of the common people gave a keener venom to the hatred of the rulers.

12:12  On the morrow1 a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,

    JESUS' TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM. (From Bethany to Jerusalem and back, Sunday, April 2, A.D. 30.) Matthew 21:1-12,14-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19

  1. On the morrow. After the feast in the house of Simon the leper (Mark 14:3).

12:13  took the branches of the palm trees1, and went forth to meet him, and cried out, Hosanna: Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.

  1. Took the branches of the palm trees. See Mark 11:8.

12:14  And Jesus, having found a young ass, sat thereon1; as it is written,

  1. And Jesus, having found a young ass, sat thereon. See Mark 11:2.

12:15  Fear not1, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.

  1. Fear not. See Luke 1:30.

  2. Daughter of Zion; behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt. See Matthew 21:5.

12:16  These things understood not his disciples at the first1: but when Jesus was glorified2, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him3.

  1. These things understood not his disciples at the first. The apostles were not conscious that the prophecies were being fulfilled nor did they understand that Jesus was approaching a heavenly rather than an earthly coronation.

  2. But when Jesus was glorified. But after Jesus was glorified, their understandings were spiritually illuminated (John 16:13).

  3. Then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. They not only remembered the prophecy, but saw in what sense it was that Jesus was king, and how badly mistaken they had been when they expected him to antagonize the Romans. The greatness of her king would have removed all cause for fear if Jerusalem had but accepted him.

12:17  The multitude therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him 1from the dead, bare witness.

  1. When he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the
  2. dead. The two parts of the miracle--the calling and the raising (John 11:43,44)--are both mentioned as alike impressive, sublime, and wonderful.

12:18  For this cause also the multitude went and met him, for that they heard that he had done this sign1.

  1. For this cause also the multitude went and met him, for that they heard that he had done this sign. It is evident from this that the testimony of those who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus had enthused the pilgrims in Jerusalem and had sent a large band of them forth charged with that ardent admiration which produced the shouting of the triumphal entry.

12:19  The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Behold how ye prevail nothing: lo, the world is gone after him1.

  1. Behold how ye prevail nothing: lo, the world is gone after him. Again, as at John 11:47-49, we notice the self-confessed impotency of the Pharisees, but the Sadducees, under the determined and more resolute leadership of Caiaphas, did not participate in this despair. The Pharisees speak of the world as if its acquisition by Jesus was their loss.

12:20  Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast1:

    GREEKS SEEK JESUS. HE FORETELLS THAT HE SHALL DRAW ALL MEN UNTO HIM. (In the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.) John 12:20-50

  1. Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast. The language indicates that they were Greek converts to Judaism, such as were called proselytes of the gate. It is also noted that as Gentiles came from the east at the beginning of Jesus' life, so they also came from the west at the close of his ministry.

12:21  these therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee1, and asked him, saying, Sir2, we would see Jesus3.

  1. These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee. See John 1:44. They were possibly drawn to Philip by his Greek name.

  2. And asked him, saying, Sir. The dignity of the Master elevates the disciple.

  3. We would see Jesus. Jesus was evidently still in the court of the women, where the treasury was, and this court, being part of the sanctuary, no Gentile was permitted to enter it.

12:22  Philip cometh and telleth Andrew1: Andrew cometh, and Philip, and they tell Jesus.

  1. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Philip wished another to share the responsibility of the situation.

12:23  And Jesus answereth them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified1.

  1. The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. The humble seeking of these Gentiles formed a striking contrast to the persistent rejection of the Jews. And the occasion forcibly suggested that the gospel invitation, which had hitherto been confined to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, should be extended to the vast throng of waiting Gentiles. But, according to the counsel of God, this extension was not to take place until Jesus had been glorified by his death, resurrection, and enthronement. The demand for extension, therefore, suggested the advisability of a speedy glorification, which accorded with the plans of God.

12:24  Verily, verily1, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit2.

  1. Verily, verily. See John 1:51. With these emphatic words Jesus prepares for a hard saying.

  2. Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit. As the germ of life in the grain of wheat can only pass into other grains by departing from the original grain and leaving it dead, so the life which was in Christ Jesus could only pass into his disciples by his death.

12:25  He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal1.

  1. He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. Though Jesus had his own death in view, yet he shows himself governed by a principle which he had already declared to be of universal application. See Matthew 10:39. If a grain of wheat saves itself, it remains but one grain until it rots; but if it yields up its life-germ as a sacrifice to the law of growth, it multiplies itself thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold and continues its multiplication through an innumerable posterity.

12:26  If any man serve me, let him follow me1; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will the Father honor.

  1. If any man serve me, let him follow me. Jesus here recommends to his disciples that they follow him in fruit-bearing self-sacrifice, promising them the joy of being with him and the honor of the Father. The joy of being with Christ is the chief expectation of the Christian. (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Revelation 21:3; Revelation 22:20).

12:27  Now is my soul troubled1; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause 3came I unto this hour.

  1. Now is my soul troubled. Thus Jesus admits that it was difficult for him to live up to the principle of sacrifice which he had just enunciated. Had it not been thus difficult for him, he would hardly have been a fitting example for his disciples; for certainly it is and has always been difficult for them.

  2. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. In his trouble Jesus raises the question as to what prayer he shall offer to the Father.

  3. But for this cause . For this purpose of imparting life through a sacrificial death.

  4. Came I unto this hour. Thus Jesus proposes a prayer for deliverance, but repudiates it as contrary to the very purpose of his life.

12:28  Father, glorify thy name1. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, [saying], I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again2.

  1. Father, glorify thy name. Having refused to ask for deliverance, Jesus prays that he may glorify the Father by suffering according to his original statement contained in John 12:23,24. Two two prayers are counterparts to the two offered in Gethsemane (Luke 22:42). The prayer here is the climax of the thought begun at John 12:23. Then that discipleship is so glorified (John 12:25,26), and this prayer shows that our Lord himself is glorified by the same rule.

  2. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, [saying], I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The Father had glorified his name in the Son. By words of commendation at his baptism (Mark 1:11) and at his transfiguration (Mark 9:7), and by the performance of miracles (John 11:40), and he would glorify it again by the preaching of the universal gospel, and by making Jesus head over all to the church and the final judge of all men.

12:29  The multitude therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it had thundered: others said, An angel hath spoken to him.

  1. The multitude . . . said that it had thundered. Those who thought that it thundered were nervous persons who were so startled as not to distinguish the words.*

    *NOTE.--I dissent here, as in the case of a similar passage found at soul's capacity for hearing it, as appears from Saul's conversion (Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9; Acts 24:13). To the mass, therefore, the voice was a mere sound; to others, the utterance was articulate though incomprehensible, while to John, and perhaps to all the disciples, the voice communicated a thought. Says Godet,

    "Thus the wild beast perceives only a "sound" in the human voice; the trained animal discovers a "meaning"; a command, for example, which it immediately obeys; man alone discerns therein a "thought"."

    --Philip Y. Pendleton

12:30  Jesus answered and said, This voice hath not come for my sake, but for your sakes1.

  1. This voice hath not come for my sake, but for your sakes. The voice was not spoken to encourage Jesus in his hour of suffering, but to aid the Jews to believe on him, and to warn them of the coming judgment which would follow their disbelief, and make them partakers in the condemnation of Satan.

12:31  Now is the judgment of this world1: now shall the prince of this world be cast out2.

  1. Now is the judgment of this world. The Greek word for "judgment" survives in our English word "crisis", but conveys much more meaning, since it embraces also the idea of final settlement and adjudication. The crucifixion of Jesus was the crisis in the contest between Satan and God. See Genesis 3:15. Says Barnes,

    "The meaning of it may be thus expressed: Now is approaching the decisive scene, the eventual period--"the crisis"--when it shall be determined who shall rule this world."

  2. Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. In the long conflict which had hitherto been carried on, Satan had earned for himself "prince of this world", and it was no empty title (Matthew 4:8,9 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:12); but by his approaching death Jesus would break down the power of Satan, and cast him out, not suddenly, but by the advancing power of a superior kingdom. The kingdom of darkness recedes before the kingdom of light as the night withdraws before the rising sun.

12:32  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself1.

    John 12:32,33

  1. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. Jesus thrice speaks of his death as a lifting up, a euphemism for being crucified. While the distinctions between the three statements are not to be insisted upon, yet they suggest that (1) the first is a saving sacrifice, a priestly work (John 3:14); (2) the second is mentioned as the convincing credential that he is the prophet sent from God, speaking the message of God (John 8:26-28); (3) and in the passage before us, he is evidently the king who shall wrest his kingdom from the usurping Satan.

12:34  The multitude therefore answered him, We have heard out of the law1 that the Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up3? who is this Son of man4?

  1. We have heard out of the law. The term "law" is used loosely for the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures. See John 10:34.

  2. That Christ abideth for ever. The people were persuaded by certain passages such as Isaiah 9:6,7; Psalms 89:36; Psalms 110:4; Daniel 7:13,14; Ezekiel 37:25 that the Messiah would abide forever.

  3. And how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? They knew that Christ in his triumphal entry had received honors which they thought belonged to the Messiah, but when they hear him use words indicating that he should die, and thus (as they construed) NOT abide forever, they felt that he was openly disavowing all claim to Messiahship.

  4. Who is this Son of man? Having heard him style himself the Son of man (John 12:23), they now catch it as if Jesus had used it to distinguish himself from the true Messiah, and ask with more or less contempt, "Who is this Son of man"? Thus blinded by their preconceived opinions and misconstructions of Scripture, the people wavered in their loyalty of Jesus, and Watkins well says,

    "This question came midway between the "Hosanna" of the entry into Jerusalem and the "Crucify him" of the trial."

12:35  Jesus therefore said unto them, Yet a little while is the light among you1. Walk while ye have the light2, that darkness overtake you not: and he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

    John 12:35,36

  1. Yet a little while is the light among you. The phrase "little while" stands in contrast with "abideth for ever" (John 12:34).

  2. Walk while ye have the light, etc. Jesus did not reply to their question, because it was asked contemptuously and not seriously, and because any effort to make their carnal mind grasp the idea that he could be lifted up, and yet still abide, would have resulted in more contempt. He therefore speaks a solemn warning to them, counseling them to make use of his presence while they had it, even if his fleshly abiding with them was but brief; and promises that a proper use of the light then given them would make them sons of light.

12:37  But though he had done so many signs before them, yet they believed not on him1:

  1. But though he had done so many signs before them, yet they believed not on him. The multitude had long oscillated between belief and unbelief, but, despite all his past miracles and the marvelous wisdom shown on this the day of hard questions, they settled down in unbelief.

12:38  that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report1? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

  1. Lord, who hath believed our report? etc. See Isaiah 53:1.

12:40  He hath blinded their eyes1, and he hardened their heart; Lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, And should turn, And I should heal them.

  1. He hath blinded their eyes, etc. See Isaiah 6:10. See Matthew 13:14. The quotation from Isaiah is not exact, for there God enjoins on the prophet the duty of hardening the people's hearts, while here it is spoken of as God's own act. Had God, however, hardened their hearts by a direct act and without any reference to their moral or spiritual condition, they could not have been held morally responsible for their disbelief. But this God did not do. He hardened their hearts and blinded their eyes by the manner in which he approached them through the person of his Son, Christ Jesus. Jesus so came, so loved, and so taught that those who hungered for godliness are drawn to him and enlightened by him, while those who despise the grace and love of God are repelled and blinded. John here recognizes that the type (Isaiah) should be fulfilled in the antitype (Christ). If Isaiah was to preach that the wicked would be blinded, then Christ in his ministry should likewise so teach and preach as to produce similar results.

12:42  Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess [it], lest they should be put out of the synagogue1:

  1. Lest they should be put out of the synagogue. As to expulsion from the synagogue, see John 9:22. On the synagogues, see Mark 1:39.

12:43  for they loved the glory [that is] of men more than the glory [that is] of God1.

  1. For they loved the glory [that is] of men more than the glory [that is] of God. These members of the Sanhedrin believed with the head rather than with the heart (Romans 10:10), their hearts already being occupied with the love of praise or man-glory. Their disbelief accorded with the words of Jesus (John 5:44).

12:44  And Jesus cried and said1, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

  1. And Jesus cried and said. The words were of course spoken before the departure mentioned in John 12:36. They are placed here to bring out in stronger light the final unbelief of the Jews and the patient, persistent effort which Jesus had made to win those who were the better inclined.

12:47  And if any man hear my sayings, and keep them not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world1.

  1. I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. See John 3:17 and see John 8:16.

12:49  For I spake not from myself; but the Father that sent me, he hath given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak1.

    John 12:49,50

  1. For I spake not from myself; but the Father that sent me, he hath given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. The Father had sent the Son into the world to bring life and immortality to light in the gospel. Jesus therefore here declared that men will be tried by the gospel law and that some will be saved and some condemned by it.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 12". "The Fourfold Gospel". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/tfg/view.cgi?book=joh&chapter=012>. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.  

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