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John 12:1-26 (web)

Lazarus: Part III - the Effect

1  Then six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
2  So they made him a supper there.
Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him.

3  Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious,
and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair.
The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.
4  Then Judas Iscariot, Simonís son, one of his disciples, who would betray him, said,
"Why wasnít this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?"
6  Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor,
but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it.
7  But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of my burial.
For you always have the poor with you, but you donít always have me."

9  A large crowd therefore of the Jews learned that he was there,
and they came, not for Jesusí sake only,
but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
10  But the chief priests conspired to put Lazarus to death also,
11  because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

12  On the next day a great multitude had come to the feast.
When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
13  they took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet him, and cried out,
"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!" (Ps 118:26)
14  Jesus, having found a young donkey, sat on it. As it is written,
15  "Donít be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Behold, your King comes, sitting on a donkeyís colt." (Zech 9:9)
16  His disciples didnít understand these things at first, 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 multitude therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb,
and raised him from the dead, was testifying about it.
18  For this cause also the multitude went and met him,
because they heard that he had done this sign.
19  The Pharisees therefore said among themselves,
"See how you accomplish nothing. Behold, the world has gone after him."

20  Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast.
21  These, therefore, came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee,
and asked him, saying, "Sir, we want to see Jesus."
22  Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn, Andrew came with Philip, and they told Jesus.
23  Jesus answered them,
"The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24  Most assuredly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
25  He who loves his life will lose it.
He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life.
26  If anyone serves me, let him follow me.
Where I am, there will my servant also be.
If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Discussion Questions

vs 2-3 How are Mary and Martha's roles here also reflected in their meeting with Jesus in Luke 10:38-42?
And how might Mary's actions also be related to that of the sinful woman of  Luke 7:37-38?
vs 4-6 Considering Judas's words and motivations here what kind of person might he represent today?
vs 9-11 Considering the conclusion to the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus as stated in Luke 16:31, and given the resurrection of Lazarus, why did these religious leaders not believe?
vs 12-19 What do you suppose were the expectations of the crowd?
vs 20-26 How did Jesus react to the popularity?
Why was it when informed that Greeks wanted to meet him did he speak of his impending death?
How does what he says concerning dying and bearing fruit relate to real life?
What does it mean to follow him?


vs 2-8 Here we see somewhat of a reflection of the roles Martha and Mary played in Luke 10 in which Martha served and Mary spent time with the Lord. Martha is a very active person and did recognize and ackowledge Jesus as Christ, which is quite commendable. But Mary was more reflective and came out with an even more profound application of her faith.

Though much of the motivations behind her actions must be inferred, yet I would say that in pouring oil on his feet and wiping his feet with her hair she was reflecting that which was done by the sinful woman of Luke 7:37,38 who did this as an act of repentance. Indeed that Mary may have been that woman depending on how we interpret John 11:2.  In any case I would say Mary may have identified with that woman and was saying that she too was a sinful woman in need of forgiveness. Now Jesus also states that she did this in preparation for his burial. But why just annoint the feet? And furthermore in what sense did she view Christ's impending death? Was it simply that she forsaw that since people were out to kill him eventually he would killed? Or was it something more? I think she recognized him not only as Christ, but as the Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Animal sacrifices were central to Jewish worship. But it makes no sense that an animal, something which is lower than man, can pay for the sins of people. The righteous would have to infer that these are but symbolic of that which was to come - the sacrifice of Christ himself - which is of much greater value. Mary's annointing of the Lord was not an embalming, but rather a pouring of oil on the sacrifice, which was a common practice under the Mosaic Law. For example: "you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oiló an offering made to the LORD by fire, a pleasing aromaó and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine."Lev 23:12,13 The oil Mary used was nard "the head or spike of a fragrant East Indian plant belonging to the genus Valerianna, which yields a juice of delicious odour which the ancients used (either pure or mixed) in the preparation of a most precious ointment." OLB

Judas saw this as a waste. And here's a rare instance in which he unveils his true nature. For Judas was as a tare among the wheat. Or as Jesus said of him previously, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) John 6:70,71 Thus be aware that when other "Christians" criticize you for wasting yourself on your manner of devotion to Christ, they may also be revealing their true nature as wolves among the flock. Others may criticize you for spending too much on spiritual matters and not enough on material matters. And while there is a balance of these, the unspiritual tend to completely devalue the spiritual and even concerning the material demand of others what they don't demand of themselves. Here we see that Judas, while pretending to appear to have concern for the poor, only wanted to get a hold of the money. Paul also warns of greedy people in the Christian community. "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit."  2Cor 2:17 And particularly in choosing overseers, they should not be greedy. 1Tim 3:3,8; Titus 1:7 Yet Jesus chose Judas to be in such a position of authority despite this fact. But he probably did this to represent the fact that wolves will exist among the religious leaders in the Christian community, as also Paul affirms, "I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." Acts 20:29,30

But concerning the poor, there are always opportunities to meet their needs (See also the Charity page) But all things have their time. Jesus was only briefly on earth in human form to carry out his mission. That was the priority at the time. So also there is a priority even concerning the poor. For in vain do we provide for their physical needs if in the end they go to hell. Thus while both physical and spiritual needs must be met, the priority is on the spiritual.

vs 9-11 I wonder how popular Jesus would be if he hadn't done miracles. Perhaps he would be no more popular than the ordinary Christian today. More likely, having offended the religious elite, he'd probably be reckoned a heretic and be shunned. But he certainly earned clout from his miracles. Who wouldn't want to come to talk with a man who was raised from the dead and with the man who raised him? But the chief priests were a little unclear on the concept. Why would they seek to destroy the evidence if they were concerned for the truth? Actually their attitude is not uncommon even in the Christian community. For there are many caught up in human dogma on various issues and would overlook, or try to slander the actual facts, even falsifying their own facts to promote their own dogma.

In his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Jesus' main point is given in Luke 16:31 "If they donít listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead." And here we see the application. And in John 5:46 he said, "For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me." The problem with the unbelieving Jews is not that they didn't have sufficient evidence presented to them, but that they didn't believe Moses and the Prophets. Jews today who reject Christ as the Messiah simply do not believe Moses and the Prophets in the way God intended. They do not read them in the sense in which God intended them to be read. "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, even as they also did, but the word they heard didnít profit them, because it wasnít mixed with faith by those who heard." Hebrews 4:2 But why didn't they listen? The main reason why both Jews and Gentiles disbelieve, even after having sufficient evidence presented to them, was simply because "men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil." John 3:19 And "furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind"Romans 1:28 Thus they became irrational and unreasonable, their conscience also being corrupted.

vs 12-19 The feast was the feast of the Passover. This incorporated two events. It started with the sacrifice of the passover lamb followed by a 7 day feast of unleavened bread. Depending on the context, "Passover" may refer to the first day in which the lamb is sacrificed and eaten, or to the 7 days following that. Mary provided her offering of oil poured on the sacrifice. But another type of sacrifice instituted under the Law of Moses was known as the "wave offering". It was not used to atone for sin but rather for thanksgiving. Waving their palm branches the people were giving acknowledgement and thanks to God for the coming King. But what they may not have realized is that they were also presenting a wave offering for the sacrifice to be made to God. We can see such a practice in the book of Revelation as well, 'After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.   They cried with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation be to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"  Rev 7:9,10 And in Leviticus concerning the Feast of Tabernacles that "On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days." Lev 23:40

Verse 13 incorporates part of Ps 118:26 which goes: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh!" But prophetically in that same Psalm it is also written, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner." Ps 118:22 As well as referencing light, of which Jesus said he was the light of the world, and also referencing a living sacrifice. "Yahweh is God, and he has given us light. Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar." Ps 118:27 (Sacrifices were normally killed before being offered up as a burnt offering and therefore cords were not needed. Therefore this refers to a living sacrifice of whom Christ is the fulfillment.) Or the NIV translation "The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar." Here the boughs would be the palm branches and a procession would be made up to the altar for the sacrifice. In this case the sacrifice was Jesus Christ.

The whole quote in verse 15 goes:
"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Zech 9:9 His riding on a donkey as opposed to a horse, or horse and chariot, was to represent his being gentle and humble. He comes not simply to rule, but the bring salvation.

vs 17 Here we see how the resurrection of Lazarus bought him clout among the crowd.

vs 19 The religious elite felt threatened by his increasing popularity and were kicking themselves for not having taken more direct action against him when they had the chance. Though they would arrest him later under the guise of giving him an impartial judgement, yet they had already made up their minds and would not listen nor consider the implications of the miracles.

vs 20-26 These Greeks were probably among those Jesus spoke of saying, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold." John 10:16  But his earthly preaching ministry was devoted to the Jews as he said, "I wasnít sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel."Matthew 15:24  His ministry to the Gentiles would come after his death, resurrection and ascension in which he would send the Holy Spirit to minister through the believers to bring the gospel to the nations.

Yet we learn something interesting here. For in the peak of his glorification on earth when he was praised by Jew and Gentiles, he spoke of his death. There are those who glory in the things of this life. They become successful, popular, and build buildings and establish institutions to themselves. And many expected Jesus to do just that. They expected him to become King, kill off his enemies, and establish an institutional government. So also Christians have often had a misconception about the ministry and what Jesus has called us to. Jesus has not called us to love our lives, but to hate our lives. And popularity is not a measure of fruitfulness. To be fruitful we need to die to our misconceptions. Death may involve humiliation or death to our expectations. It may mean death to a ministry in allowing others to be successful in our place, as  John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30  And it could even mean physical death as  the saying goes "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." But notice also that taken literally Jesus is not correct in saying  "if it dies, it bears much fruit" If it actually dies, it bears no fruit. But a seed doesn't really die, it germinates and that is what Jesus meant. It died to being just a seed. So let us take in the word of God and let it break out of our shell to nourish others by applying it to our lives. To be a Christian means not simply that we agree with a set of teachings. Rather it means that we follow Jesus. If we claim to be serving the Lord, then we should be following his example.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 15,2020