The Gospel of John: Chapter 12
Then, six days before the Passover
Very time specific.
Jesus goes to Bethany 6 days before the PASSOVER.
(It was at Bethany in the last chapter Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead)
THERE IS A TIME GAP from the time Jesus raises Lazarus to this chapter where Jesus heads to Bethany again to prepare for the passover.
53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.
55 And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?” 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.
MATTHEW AND LUKE reveal that this takes place at the house of Simon the Leper.
Lazarus is the honored guest.
It was most likely on a Saturday night after sunset when the sabatth was over.
THE CROWD here were intimate friends and supporters of Jesus. (Jesus was keeping low from the general population to avoid a disruption of His ultimate purpose)
PASSOVER is in a week. It is the ULTIMATE purpose Jesus had come to earth.
THIS PASSOVER He would fulfill the plan of God.
THIS EVENING, was a last friendly, gathering with those who had supported Him and had been with Him.
Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.
In Chapter 11 we just read an entire chapter describing the Lazarus scene- WHY WOULD THIS EXPLANATION BE NEEDED IMMEDIATELY AT THE OPEN OF CHAPTER 12?
(This shows the compiling OF THE gospel of John. Several written accounts…written at different intervals, compiled together progressively, at different times, until a complete Gospel was finished.)
3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
A balm made from a plant with its roots in ancient India.
found in tombs of ancient Egypt…thus used for embalming.
Used by the Jews to anoint the bodies of their loved ones.
ALSO used by the ancient Romans to spice wine and in perfumes.
SONG OF SOLOMON mentions it’s use as a perfume.
IT WAS VERY AROMATIC.
A roman pound, about 11 ounces were broken open and unsealed….so powerful that the entire house was filled with the aroma.
- It was powerfully aromatic
- It was very expensive
About 1 year’s wages for a common worker.
- Lazarus, mary and martha were most likely wealthy…and thus could afford it.
- Some posit that this was meant for Lazarus…but since He was raised from the grave, Mary now turns it towards Jesus as an act of gratitude.
THE ACT OF WORSHIP:
This is a famous scene. The other Gospels record Jesus saying that what Mary did here would become a Memorial to her for all generations.
In song, in art, in sermons…her act is indeed a memorial.
IT IS AN ACT OF DIRECT WORSHIP TO JESUS.
- He raised her brother from the grave….while others put on a dinner to celebrate…Mary chooses the more direct and intimate.
- She does the act of a servant…anointing His feet.
- She has no regard for the cost of the spikenard…
- She could have used a towel…but instead she used her own hair to dry His feet…..a selfless act…
AS THE GOSPEL OF JOHN tends to apply the SPIRITUAL and the SPIRIT to most of the symbols, and moments recorded…WE CAN SAFELY USE THIS as an example of TRUE WORSHIP.
Mary is indeed worshiping.
HERE IS THE POWERFUL IMAGERY:
In the Tabernacle there was an altar of incense.
Every morning the priest would light incense on it. (Ex. 30)
The incense represented prayer/worship.
The aroma rose up in the presence of God as a pleasing aroma….a symbol of WHAT WORSHIP SHOULD BE.
THE INCENSE could only be lit by a coal off of the altar of sacrifice.
this was to ensure that sacrifice had been offered and that sin had been taken care of.
(Nadab and Abihu tried it there own way….)
COMING IN HIS DIRECT PRESENCE HOLY.
COMING IN HIS DIRECT PRESENCE WITH WORSHIP THAT IS A PLEASING AROMA.
**We see this image again in the Book of Revelation, in the actually throne room of God we see a GOLDEN ALTAR and on it INCENSE which John is told are the prayers of the saints.
PRAYER…OUR PRAYER….RISING LIKE INCENSE IN THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD!
OUR TRADITION: demonstrative, physical, vocal and yes emotional worship…
HEARTFELT: out of gratitude…overwhelming love…profound joy…etc…is allowed in our circles…
IT IS NOT WITHOUT CRITICS:
- all of that is just emotionalism.
- Physicality in worship was for the OT, spirituality in worship is for the NT.
- Physical, audible, emotional expression in worship is “out of order”
MARY had her critics:
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And [b]Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
MARTHA (according the other gospels) complained to Jesus, because Martha was serving (John notes), and she needed help. She tattles on Mary to Jesus, expecting Him to agree with her.
SHOULDN’T MARY BE HELPING ME?
THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO, DOESN’T MARY CARE?
THIS DINNER CANT’ BE A SUCCESS IF I HAVE TO DO IT ON MY OWN!
WE often emphasis the business that needs to be done..
the Jobs that no one is helping with…
the order and structure that needs attention…
AND THE REFOCUS: taking time for intimate worship at His feet.
JUDAS was a critic:
4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
HIS critic was the cost.
Worship was too costly….poorly directed…misdirected even.
ISNT SHE WORRIED about the budget?
What? Those instruments of worship cost us 1,000$?
What, worship lasted into offering time?
HIS TRUE MOTIVE John reveals.
Many discuss the nature of Judas’ betrayal…but only John reveals that the whole time he was with them…he handled the money as was taking some off the top for himself.
JUDAS had a covetous, materialistic spirit.
9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.
A KEY TRANSITION STATEMENT:
the raising of Lazarus catapulted the plot of the Gospel.
Leaders needed Jesus dead.
Jesus now is wildly known, talked about and popular.
Lazarus becomes a local celebrity.
This all sets the stage for the next event: HIS FINAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM.
The Triumphant Entry:
With Mary we see a beautiful scene of private, intimate worship.
NOW we see a scene of corporate, public worship.
BOTH had critics.
PALM BRANCHES: at the time a National symbol of Israel.
CRYING HOSSANA: “save now”…..almost prophetic.
BUT they are quoting from the Psalms….118:25-26
Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
THAT JESUS was riding on a donkey was an image of Zechariah 9:9.
NOW Jesus purposely chooses a donkey (had one prepared) for His entry. It was an open declaration to the people of who He was.
though His disciples would not see it until after.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey. Zech 9:9
THE ENTRY, THE VERSES QUOTED would provoke the image of a triumphant general returning home.
BUT Jesus is not a general on a war horse….
HE COMES in peace…on a donkey….used several times in the OT by Kings of Israel…including David, in procession.
the Passover was at hand. It was one of three feast that people were required to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
the city was overflowing with people….
THE TIMING of Jesus’ arrival strategic.
HENCE, the size of the crowd was so huge that the pharisees conclude: “The whole world has gone after Him…”
they are waving palm branches and shouting
Mark says, they laid their own cloaks on the ground in front of Him….(personal sacrifice)
Luke tells us the crowd were rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice.
39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” Luke 19:39-40
Mary, had Martha and Judas criticize her choice to worship.
The crowds had the religious pharisees criticize their choice to worship.
IN BOTH CASES JESUS DEFENDS AND VALIDATES THE WORSHIPER AND THEY MODE OF WORSHIP.
In the crowds case: Jesus makes a strong metaphorical statement about the “rightness” of their emotional, and vocal rejoicing…..if they don’t….the rocks will.
IN A FEW DAYS, the scene will turn from joyful to somber and dark.
17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness.
A MAJOR THEME OF JOHN:
The bearing of “witness”.
John employs the spiritual/legal principle of truth being established by two or three witnesses.
Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. Deuteronomy 17:6
JESUS MAKES IT A NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLE:
But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ Matthew 18:6
PAUL APPLIES IT:
This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” II Corinthians 13:1
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. I timothy 5:19
John’s Gospel uses it….
TAKE NOTE the word “witness” over and over.
Jesus uses it with the Pharisees in a powerful statement on the TRINITY.
“I don’t bear witness of MYSELF, by my Father bears witness to me.
In Him we see the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit bearing witness to Jesus.
WE WILL CONTINUE TO SEE THIS:
THE METAPHOR of a grain of wheat.
this is a response to some hellenstic Jews who inquired about Jesus.
JESUS foreshadows His bigger plan…..He will die and go to the grave…but the result will be multiplication.
Take 1 gain wheat….plant it….but you get entire heads of wheat in return.
THIS IS AN IMAGE OF THE WORK JESUS IS ABOUT TO DO.
Jesus’ prayer. the whole scene is not included, just the part where He cries to the Father as He contemplates what He is about to face.
BEARING WITNESS: Jesus and the Father in relationship.
THE VOICE, not heard clearly nor understood by the common crowds.
32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44
THOSE WHO TEACH that God has predetermined who will be saved and who will not…before time began…that God has determined before your birth whether you are loved by Him or hated by Him….that if you are predestined to be saved, it has nothing to do with your faith, your response or your choice…God will draw you and you can’t resist….. if you have been predetermined to hell by God….He will never draw you….you were born rejected.
THEY LOVE THIS VERSE. It is one of their favorite “proof texts”.
This is the problem with a “proof text”. No scripture stands alone. The only verse that directly speaks of the FATHER drawing…
NOW, Jesus HIMSELF SAYS THAT HE WILL DRAW…
AND NOT JUST DRAW…a preselected handful…..but ALL MEN…
draw: pull, persuade
all men: (not every type), but the WHOLE, inclusive of everyone.
HE IS REFERING TO He being lifted up on the cross.
THE WORK He was about to do would be the message, the outreach to all the world.
THE MESSAGE DRAWS….but it does not force.
THE MESSAGE is an outreach of LOVE…and OFFER of redemption…a call to be saved….BUT IT DOES NOT FORCE ONE TO BE SAVED.
it is clear in the NT church that it is the message of the cross that leads to salvation.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18
bold claim about Isaiah.
ANOTHER VERSE loved by those who claim God pre-choses a small elect to be saved is the hardening of hearts.
THEY TEACH that God hardens the hearts of all those who He has rejected so that they can never be saved….no matter how much they hear the gospel…or are in the presence of the Holy Spirit….or how much they are raised and taught in Church….God hardens their hearts….
THOSE WHO ARE SAVED are only saved because God softened their heart….REGENERATED THEM so they can believe.
THEY USE THIS VERSE:
- We are specifically speaking of the religious leadership in Israel who SAW the signs Jesus did before their very eyes….yet rejected Him.
- This is PAST TENSE and thus does not apply to all of humanity.
- A study of every passage Old and New Testament about hardened hearts or “stiffened necks” will show that 95% of the time it is the individual hardening their own hearts or stiffening their own necks against God and we see God calling on them to not do so.
The handful of times God does the hardening it is with pagan rulers or an ungodly leader…that God hardens the heart of to accomplish His judgement….NEVER WAS IT ABOUT SALVATION.
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but [b]exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
What is in our free will power:
To hear and believe
to accept or reject
49-50 clear working relationship with the Father.