Joh 12:1-11. The Anointing
(See on Mt 26:6-13).
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
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 Lu 10:38-42, as to constitute one of the
strongest and most delightful confirmations of the truth of both
narratives. (See also on Joh 11:20).
Lazarus … sat at the
table—"Between the raised Lazarus and the healed leper
14:3), the Lord probably
sits as between two trophies of His glory" [Stier].
3. spikenard—or pure nard, a
celebrated aromatic (So 1:12).
anointed the feet of Jesus—and "poured
it on His head" (Mt 26:7; Mr 14:3). 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 Mr 14:11.
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
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 (Mr 16:1), He lovingly regards it as done
8. the poor always … with
you—referring to De 15:11.
but me … not always—a gentle
hint of His approaching departure. He adds (Mr 14:8), "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" (Mt 26:13; Mr 14:9). "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
Love on the Saviour's dying head
Her spikenard drops unblam'd may pour,
May mount His cross, and wrap Him dead
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"
8:12).—"She hath done
what she could" (Mr 14:8). (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 Jesus (see Joh 12:19)—to such a pitch had these chief
priests come of diabolical determination to shut out the light from
themselves, and quench it from the earth!
Joh 12:12-19. Christ's
Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
(See on Mt 21:1-9; and Lu
12. On the next day—the Lord's day, or
Sunday (see on Joh 12:1); 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" (1Co 5:7).
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
Joh 12:20-36. Some Greeks
Desire to See Jesus—The Discourse
and Scene Thereupon.
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 than Zaccheus (Lu 19:3). 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"
22. Philip … telleth Andrew—As
follow townsmen of Bethsaida (Joh 1:44), these two seem to have drawn to each
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
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 Lu 9:24). 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!
12:23). But the two views
naturally meet, and blend into one. It was the Greeks, one might say,
that troubled Him. Ah! they shall see Jesus, but to Him it shall
be a costly sight.
and what shall I say?—He is in a
strait 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 of men?
28. Father, glorify thy name—by a
I have both glorified it—referring
specially to the voice from heaven at His baptism, and again at
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
31. Now is the judgment of this
world—the world that "crucified the Lord of glory" (1Co 2:8), considered as a vast and
complicated kingdom of Satan, breathing his spirit, doing his work, and
involved in his doom, which Christ's death by its hands irrevocably
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
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
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
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 Lu 13:23).
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: Mt
21:17; Lu 21:37).
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
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, fulfilled them.
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 (Isa 6:1-13), 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
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,
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 Wilkinson].
44-50. Jesus cried—in a loud tone, and
with peculiar solemnity. (Compare Joh 7:37).
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