Reading the Gospel of John (14) Day Fourteen
John Chapter 12
John chapter 12 describes the end of Jesus’ public ministry. It begins with Mary anointing Jesus’ feet for His burial and the Jewish leaders’ plot to kill Lazarus because of the power of his testimony. Jesus enters Jerusalem for the final time, surrounded by crowds who continued to bear witness to Jesus’ last miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.
An important part of this chapter is John’s analysis of the Jewish leaders’ unbelief (John 12:27-43). Many Jews were leaving their religion and believing in Jesus; even many of the religious leaders believed in Him, but they could not publicly confess their faith because of fear of the Pharisees. At the same time, unbelief continued to grow, and John explains their unbelief as Jesus ends His public ministry.
Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany (John 12:1-8)
The time is six days before the Passover. Jesus has come to Bethany, to the home of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead, and his sisters, Mary and Martha.
Mary’s devotion to Jesus gives her deep insight into His passion and the meaning of His impending crucifixion. Jesus is not only preparing to appear before the high priest and Pilate; He is ready now to appear before the judgment throne of God, to bear the sins of the world.
Notice the great expense of Mary’s offering and Judas’ response. Mark in his Gospel brings out the deep meaning more than John. Read Mark 14:6-9 and see how Jesus interprets Mary’s anointing.
What is the motive behind Judas’ outrage at this anointing? Remember that he controls the moneybag.
How does this anointing show Jesus that His Father is in total control?
The Plot to Kill Lazarus (John 12:9-11)
Consider the reasons the Jews have decided that they must kill Lazarus.
Jesus Enters Jerusalem In Triumph (John 12:12-19)
Large crowds have gathered to welcome Jesus, believing that the King of the Jews has arrived. They are familiar with Psalm 118, and they welcome Jesus with the words of this psalm. They cry out, “Hosanna!” which means, “give salvation now.”
But the crowds are excited not because of their personal faith in Jesus, but because they believe that their nationalistic hopes are being fulfilled. They may have been thinking of the prophecy in Zephaniah 3:14-20. Jesus rides on a donkey, which causes them to question His kingship. Perhaps Jesus wants them to remember, later after His crucifixion, the words of Zephaniah
The Holy Spirit leads the Pharisees to make a prophecy that went far beyond their own understanding. Look, the world has gone after Him! Consider why the Spirit had them say this, and the great meaning of their confession.
Greeks seek Jesus (John 12:20-36)
Notices the way the Greeks are able to approach Jesus, through Philip and then through Andrew. Consider the way they expressed their desire. The whole world already is beginning to seek Jesus, fulfilling the Pharisee’s unwitting prediction.
Think about Jesus’ response when Philip and Andrew introduced the Greeks. Notice that Jesus is becoming more radical and absolute in His demands to those who wish to follow Him. Yet He gives a great promise to those who will give up everything and serve Him. What is it? (John 12:26)
Jesus begins to pray to His Father in the presence of the crowds, and His Father answers Him. Jesus tells the crowd that God spoke aloud for their benefit, not for His.
Jesus now gives His final promise and warning (John 12:31-36)
What does Jesus say about judgment of this world? What does He promise to do for “all people”? How will He do it?
What is His final warning to the people who continue to question Him? (John 12:35-36)
John’s Analysis of the Jews’ Unbelief (John 12:37-50)
After Jesus had spoken the words to the crowd, He departed and hid Himself from them. (John 12:37)
Two signs in this chapter have pointed to the fact that the Gospel goes beyond Judaism. First, the Pharisees themselves prophesied, “the world has gone after Him!” (John 12:19) Then, some Greeks came saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus!” (John 12:20-21)
Yet the Jewish people as a whole did not believe in Him. John analyzes their unbelief. The problem is a paradox: God’s divine sovereignty and man’s freedom.
Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah, but the Jewish leaders did not receive Him. You may wish to refer again to the Prologue to understand more fully. The Greek connecting words help us to understand John’s argument. John’s argument is that because the Jewish leaders did not believe, they ultimately could not believe.
John 12:37 — There was overwhelming evidence both in the number and quality of Jesus’ signs. These signs were done publicly, so their unbelief was not the result of the lack of evidence.
The Greek connecting word is important here. de (even though) . . . yet they still did not believe. The Greek verb is the imperfect tense, which means, “They continued to not believe.”
John 12:38 — “so that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled.” The connecting word is hina . . . and it can mean either “so that,” or “in order that” . . . it can also mean “with the result that” they could not believe.
John 12:39 — Another connecting word is dia touto . . . “therefore”, or “for this reason” they could not believe.
If we connect John 12:37 with John 12:39, John is telling us in 12:37 that the Jewish religious leaders refused to believe in spite of the great amount of evidence. Their unbelief was a matter of the will. John is telling us that we have the freedom to believe or not to believe.
John tells us that the result of their refusal to believe was that they could not believe. John is telling us that unbelief is not an intellectual or metaphysical impossibility. It is a problem of the will. Man is free to choose, but God remains sovereign.
The Jewish religious leaders persisted in their unbelief. They would not believe. But they came to a point where they could not believe.
Have you met people like this, who refuse to believe for so long that eventually they are unable to believe even though they want to do so? What can you say to them to give them hope?
Isaiah understood this (Isaiah 6:10) Paul also understood this truth. (Acts 28:26-27)
This may be why the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre remarked that “hell is a sign of how free we really are!” God finally gives His “awful permission” to our choice.
Jesus public ministry is now ended. John closes this section by re-affirming the truth that Jesus Christ came into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world.