Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 12

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John 12

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  1, 19 -- 12, 50 (continued)

3.  Conflicts with the Jews  7, 1 -- 12, 50 (continued)

12, 1-11:  The Anointing at Bethany.  This event is given a different connection by Matt. (26, 6-13) and Mark (14, 3-9), who place it immediately before the Last Supper.  Their aim is to associate it more closely with the betrayal by Judas.  See Commentary on Matt.    1.  Cf. Luke 18, 35 (Matt. 19, 1; Mark 10, 1).  Six days does not conflict with the "two days" in Matt. 26, 2 and Mark 14, 1; these rather date the betrayal.    2.  Matthew and Mark tell us that Simon the Leper was Jesus' host on this occasion.    3.  A pound: twelve ounces.  Genuine nard: or spikenard, a fragrant ointment derived from an Indian plant.  The great value of the ointment, the prodigality of it use, her hair serving as towel, all manifest Mary's ardent devotion.    4 f.  One of his disciples: Matthew and Mark say, "the disciples."  The sentiment was probably general, but Judas expressed it.  The contrast is between Mary's generosity and his disposition.    6.  Judas' motive became evident to John later.  The purse: Judas kept what money the group possessed.  Used to take: indicating that Judas had been dishonest for some time.  His avarice was to lead to the betrayal of his Master.    7.  Our Lord's answer has been variously understood.  A pause may be assumed after "Let her be!"  The rest of the statement requires some completion; e.g., she did not sell it, that she might keep it; or, this has occurred that . . .   Mary had offered an act of homage such as might be associated with solemn burial; our Lord reveals its ultimate significance, hidden now both from her and from the disciples.  Cf. Matt. 26, 12; Mark 14, 8 f.    8.  This calls special attention to His burial.    9-11.  The divergent attitudes are emphasized.

12, 12-19:  Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  Cf. Matt. 21, 1-11; Mark 11, 1-11; Luke 19, 29-45.  The Synoptics must be read for other details.  John's purpose is to bring into stronger relief the two dispositions of belief and unbelief.    12.  Many of  those present had not seen the miracle at Bethany.    13.  Branches of palms: cf. 1 Mach. 13, 51; 2 Mach. 10, 7.  These were a symbol of victory and joy, brought from the Jordan valley as decorations for the feast.  The cry was a recognition of Jesus as the Messias, and it expressed the hope that His kingdom might now be established.  The words are from Ps. 117, 25 f.  Hosanna: an exclamation of joy and blessing, whatever its original meaning.    14 f.  With the Synoptics John sees here the fulfillment of prophecy (Zach. 9, 9), and hence the justification of this Messianic cry.    16.  Cf. 2, 22; 20, 9.  Only after the Resurrection did the disciples recognize this fulfillment of the prophecy.  Cf. 16, 13.    17 f.  The raising of Lazarus was the cause of this popular demonstration.  Bore witness: i.e., raised the jubilant cry of welcome to Jesus as the Messias.  Cf. Matt. 21, 9.    19.  Cf. Luke 19, 39-41.  The Pharisees did not share the enthusiasm; rather, their purpose was confirmed.

12, 20-36:  Last Words of Jesus to the People.    20-22.  Gentiles: better, "Greeks," half-proselytes who could enjoy a limited share in the feast. Their interest suggests the extension of Christ's kingdom beyond the confines of Israel; cf. 10, 16; Ps. 21. It is likely that they approached Philip only by chance. His need of consulting with Andrew is a further indication of his character.

23-33: The real triumph of Christ will be His death.    23.  Jesus replied may mean, in general terms, "continued" His discourse to the people.  His real triumph is not the recent entry into the city; the hour of His glory is that of His death.  Cf. 7, 30; 8, 20; Luke 24, 26.  For the present this thought transcends all else.    24 f.  Under the symbol of the grain of wheat our Lord announces His death and resurrection.  His guiding principle is the sacrifice of earthly life for that which is eternal.  Cf. 1 Cor. 15, 36.  This principle is also the guide for those who would share in His glory.  Cf. Matt. 10, 39; 16, 21-25; Mark 8, 31-35; Luke 9, 22-24; 14, 27; 17, 33.    26.  To be Christ's associate, one must be ready to follow Him through everything, even death, to share in the honor which the Father grants.  Cf. Matt. 10, 32; Mark 8, 35; Luke 12, 37.

27.  Father, save me from this hour is by many interpreted as a question, equivalent to a negation: He will not make such a petition.  The more general opinion, on the contrary, sees in the words a prayer for deliverance, which, however, is immediately withdrawn, Christ thus expressing His acceptance of the mission.  In either case this is a brief anticipation, perhaps even the beginning, of the Agony in the Garden of Olives.  Troubled: His human revulsion from this suffering and from the sins which occasion it, and the effort of His will to control the emotion.  Glorify: His death is for the restoration of God's glory; and this is His motive for refusing to ask deliverance from this hour.    28.  Cf. Matt. 3, 17.  The voice answers this prayer.  I have glorified it, in the miracles; I will glorify it, in the Passion and the Resurrection.    29.  The people could not clearly distinguish the words.  Some heard so indistinctly that they thought it thundered; others, recognizing a voice, thought of angels.  Cf. Gen. 16, 9; 21, 17; Judg. 2, 1; 5, 23; etc.  To all it was a sign from heaven.    30.  As such it was a confirmation of our Lord's words, and this sufficed them.

31.  Christ's victory in the Passion is the realization of that judgment often spoken of by the prophets.  Cf. Isa. 2, 12 ff; Rom. 16, 20; Col. 2, 15.  Prince of the world, in John, and generally in rabbinical literature, is the devil.  Cf. 16, 8-11; 2 Cor. 4, 4.    32 f.  Cf. 3, 14; 8, 28.  His death is the salvation of all men; cf. 6, 44.  All things: the Greek text reads "all men."  John explains the expression in 33.    34.  As the Messianic kingdom was to endure forever, so also was the Messias to live forever.  The Jews later modified this, conceiving of the Messianic era as a prelude to "the world to come."  We have heard: in the synagogue services; cf. Luke 4, 16; Acts 13, 15; 15, 21.  Law: again designating Scripture generally.  The expectation could have been based on Isa. 9, 7; Ps. 109, 4; Dan. 7, 13 f; 2 Kgs. 7, 16; Jer. 33, 17 f.  Who is this son of Man? i.e., a different one than we have heard of.    35 f.  Not an answer to their question, but to their hesitation.  The light is Christ Himself, the symbol here recalling the prologue (1, 9) rather than 11, 9 f.  Cf. 7, 34; Pss. 26, 1; 118, 105; Acts 13, 47; 1 Thess. 5, 4.  This is probably our Lord's last exhortation to the people.  To John it is significant as an exhortation to faith, the main theme of the Gospel.    36b.  Our Lord probably retired to Bethany or to the Mount of Olives: cf. Matt. 21, 17; Mark 11, 11; Luke 21, 37.

12, 37-50:  Incredulity.  This exhortation concludes John's evidence from the public ministry of Christ.  Before proceeding to the Passion, he adds some remarks on faith (37-43) and supports them with sayings of our Lord on that theme (44-50).

37-43:  The Evangelist's remarks; incredulity and human prudence.    37.  Cf. 6, 9; 14, 9; 20, 30; 21, 11.  The unbelief of which he speaks is chiefly that of the officials, though the people are not wholly excused; they should have believed because of the miracles.    38-41.  Cf. Rom. 10, 16-21.  John sees in this the fulfillment of two sayings of Isaias.  In the first, Isa. 53, 1, the prophet, about to announce the sufferings of the Messias, declares the fact so marvelous as to challenge belief.  In the other, from Isa. 6, 9 ff, the prophet is told to blind the people (etc.) in punishment of their offenses; this text is cited as fulfilled.  Cf. Matt. 13, 14 f; Acts 28, 26 f.  In both cases John has in mind the guilt of the Jews' refusal to believe.  St. Augustine observes, "God predicted, but did not create this unbelief."    41.  Cf. 12, 45.  The reference is to the vision of Isaias in the temple (6, 1-6).  John identifies Christ with God, who was seen in this vision.    42 f.  Recall the attitude of Nicodemus and of Joseph of Arimathea.  The danger was expulsion from the synagogue.  Cf. 4, 1; 7, 32; 7, 47; 9, 16.22.  The Pharisees were dominant at the time.  Cf. 7, 13; 19, 38.

44-50:  Sayings of Christ on unbelief.  It is probable that the following statements are collected here as pertinent to John's present theme, not as spoken on this occasion.    44 f.  Cf. 1, 14.18; 3, 11.13; 5, 17 f.36 f; 6, 45; 7, 28; 8, 19.42; 10, 30.38; 14, 7-10.    46.  Cf. 1, 4 f; 3, 9; 8, 12; 12, 35 f.    47.  Cf. 3, 17; 8, 15.    48.  Cf. 3, 18; 5, 22.27.29; Mark 16, 16.    49.  Cf. 5, 19 ff; 7, 16; 8, 16.28 f.55.    50.  Cf. 5, 24.40; 6, 40.47.69; 8, 26.

Confraternity Bible:

The Anointing at Bethany  1 Jesus therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised to life, had died.  2 And they made him a supper there; and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.

3 Mary therefore took a pound of ointment, genuine nard of great value, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and with her hair wiped his feet dry.  And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.  4 Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he who was about to betray him, said, 5 "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?"  6 Now he said this, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and holding the purse, used to take what was put in it.  7* Jesus therefore said, "Let her be---that she may keep it for the day of my burial.  8 For the poor you have always with you, but you do not always have me."

9 Now the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, and they came, not only because of Jesus, but that they might see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  10 But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also.  11 For on his account many of the Jews began to leave them and to believe in Jesus.

Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem  12 Now the next day, the great crowd which had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13* took the branches of palms and went forth to meet him.  And they cried out,

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, 

The king of Israel!"
14 And Jesus found a young ass, and sat upon it, as it is written,
15* "Fear not, daughter of Sion; Behold, thy king comes,

Sitting upon the colt of an ass." 
16 These things his disciples did not at first understand.  But when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about him, and that they had done these things to him.

17 The crowd therefore, which was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness to him.  18 And the reason why the crowd also went to meet him was that they heard that he had worked this sign.  19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, "Do you see that we avail nothing?  Behold, the entire world has gone after him!"

Last Words of Jesus to the People  20 Now there were certain Gentiles among those who had gone up to worship on the feast.  21 These therefore approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  22 Philip came and told Andrew; again, Andrew and Philip spoke to Jesus.

23 But Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, 25 it remains alone.  But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.  He who loves his life, loses it; and he who hates his life in this world, keeps it unto life everlasting.  26 If anyone serves me, let him follow me; and where I am there also shall my servant be.  If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him.

27* "Now my soul is troubled.  And what shall I say?  Father, save me from this hour!  No, this is why I came to this hour.  28 Father, glorify thy name!"  There came therefore a voice from heaven, "I have both glorified it, and I will glorify it again."  29 Then the crowd which was standing round and had heard, said that it had thundered.  Others said, "An angel has spoken to him."  30 Jesus answered and said, "Not for me did this voice come, but for you.

31 "Now is the judgment of the world; now will the prince of the world be cast out.  32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself."  33 Now he said this signifying by what death he was to die.  34 The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ abides forever.  And how canst thou say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'?  Who is this Son of Man?"  35 Jesus therefore said to them, "Yet a little while the light is among you.  Walk while you have the light, that darkness may not overtake you.  He who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.  36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light."

These things Jesus spoke, and he went away and hid himself from them.

Incredulity  37 Now though he had worked so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him; 38* that the word which the prophet Isaias spoke might be fulfilled,
"Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" 
39* This is why they could not believe, because Isaias said again,
40* "He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts;

Lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their mind,

And be converted, and I heal them." 
41 Isaias said these things when he saw his glory and spoke of him.

42 And yet, even among the rulers, many believed in him; but because of the Pharisees they did not acknowledge it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.  43* For they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God.

44 But Jesus cried out, and said, "He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.  45 And he who sees me, sees him who sent me.  46 I have come a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness.  47 And if anyone hears my words, and does not keep them, it is not I who judge him; for I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.  48 He who rejects me, and does not accept my words, has one to condemn him.  The word that I have spoken will condemn him on the last day.  49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but he who sent me, the Father, has commanded me what I should say, and what I should declare.  50 And I know that his commandment is everlasting life.  The things, therefore, that I speak, I speak as the Father has bidden me."


7: The sense seems to be: "this is not a prodigal expenditure of the precious ointment, but an anointing in preparation for my burial."

13: Ps. 117, 26.

15: Zach. 9, 9.

27: Troubled: this emotion is human fear and sadness, occasioned by the impending Passion.  St. Thomas calls this scene a brief anticipation of the Agony in the Garden.

38: Isa. 53, 1.

39: They could not believe: faith is a gift of God which often cannot be received because of an obstacle which man puts in its way.  The obstacle here is their obstinacy.

40: Isa. 6, 10.

43: Cf. 5, 44.  They preferred rather the approval of man than to render due glory to God.