Chapter 12


Serving Christ in Worship and in Testimony


12:1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom he had raised from the dead.


Not long after the events of chapter 11, Jesus returned to Bethany where Lazarus lived whom he had raised from the dead. There were now only six days to go before the most significant Passover of Jesus' life. The Passover was the Jewish feast which celebrated how the angel of death passed over the whole land of Egypt, killing the first born son in every home save for those who had killed a lamb and smeared the door posts of the house with its blood. When the angel saw the blood it passed by (Exodus 11-12). At this Passover, Christ would give Himself for the sins of the world, a sacrifice that would remove God's wrath from all who believe in him forever.


12:2 So they prepared a dinner for Jesus there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was among those present at the table with him.


In Matt. 26:6 and Mark 14:3 we are told that this special supper was held in the house of Simon the Leper whom Jesus had probably healed.  It was held in honour of Jesus as a means of giving thanks for what He had done for Lazarus. The fact that Lazarus was present emphasizes that he truly had been raised from the dead and was fit and well, a complete work had been done by Jesus. Our first example of serving Jesus is Martha, who was busy waiting at the table.


The Lord does not rebuke her on this occasion -she is expressing her heartfelt gratitude in practical ministry to the Lord. Jesus appreciated her practical ministry of hospitality. Billy Graham's wife had a sign above the kitchen sink "divine service will be done here three times a day." In serving her husband practically, she was serving Christ, allowing him to concentrate more fully on his appointed task of preaching.


12:3 Then Mary took three quarters of a pound of expensive aromatic oil from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus. She then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.


Her sister Mary on the other hand chose to show her gratitude and devotion to Christ by taking the most expensive thing she owned (worth a years wages) - a pound weight of very fragrant perfume called spikenard - and pouring it on Jesus feet as an act of worship. Then she showed her loving affection for Christ by wiping his feet with her hair. Mary was prepared to sacrifice and humble herself in order to serve Jesus. She held nothing back. If Martha demonstrates the practical side of serving the Lord then Mary shows the deeper, spiritual side of serving Him. Both of these should be combined in our service for the Lord. Our ministry should be practical and spiritual, an act of worship and love for Jesus.


12:4-6 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, "Why wasn't this oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?" (Now Judas said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box, he used to steal what was put into it.


However, one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, rebuked Mary for what he thought was a waste of money. Imagine thinking that pouring out all you have for Jesus is a waste! Isn't he worth it? Judas didn't think so, for he valued the Lord at thirty pieces of silver. He maintained that it would have been better to sell the perfume and give the money to the poor. His comments, however, were not made out consideration for the poor, but because he had his fingers in the money bag out of which offerings for the poor were made.


12:7-8 So Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial. For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me!


Jesus rebuked Judas, revealing that the reason why Mary anointed Him was to prepare His body for burial. It should be pointed out that Mary was not aware of the deeper significance of her act of love and worship.


12:9-11 Now a large crowd of Judeans learned that Jesus was there, and so they came not only because of him but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to kill Lazarus too, for on account of him many of the Jewish people from Jerusalem were going away and believing in Jesus.


Lazarus had become by virtue of his testimony an attraction to the Jews who lived near Bethany. The fact that he had been dead and raised to life again by Jesus had become well known and many Jews came to see the proof for themselves. As a result, many believed in Jesus, a fact which angered the Pharisees. His testimony was so effective that the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus as well. Our testimony is that the Lord has saved our souls. This may not be as dramatic as Lazarus', but it can be just as powerful. We will meet opposition but as we continue to be faithful others will come to Jesus. There is no evidence that the chief priests were able to carry out their plans against Lazarus.


We serve the Lord with practical service, our loving worship and the testimony of our lives.


Serving Christ with Our Praise


These verses show the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah to Jerusalem (Psalm 118:26 and Zech. 9:9) This was the last time that Jesus would enter the city before being betrayed and then led out to be crucified (Heb. 13:12). Many people, when they heard that Christ was approaching cast caution to the wind, not fearing priests or Roman soldiers, as they united openly to give Jesus the praise and honour due to a king. They had heard from others that he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and on the strength of this evidence were prepared to welcome him as the Messiah (John 12:17-18)


12:12-13 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him. They began to shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the king of Israel!


The crowd used palm branches as they praised the Lord, a custom taken from Lev. 23:40. Their cries of "Hosanna", mean  "Lord, save us" and acknowledged Christ as the one who would come to save His people. He was a king who would not only rule over the land but "reign in them."


12:14-15 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, "Do not be afraid, people of Zion; look, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt!


Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem to the sound of praise and the waving of palm branches, not riding a white horse as kings should, but on an untamed donkey who had never been ridden on before. A stubborn donkey is difficult to brake in, yet with one touch of Jesus' hand the animal became docile. Christ's choice of a donkey illustrates his humility. Although He was rich for our sakes he became poor (2 Cor. 8:9). Although he was very God he appeared in human form and humbled Himself to die on a cross (Phil. 2:8). We serve the Lord when we offer Him our Praise for who He is and what He has done for us.


12:16 (His disciples did not understand these things when they first happened, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about him and that these things had happened to him.


The disciples did not understand that Jesus actions were in fulfillment of scripture until their eyes were opened to the scriptures by the Holy Spirit who was given to them after Jesus was glorified (John 7:39).


12:17-19 So the crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were continuing to testify about it. Because they had heard that Jesus had performed this miraculous sign, the crowd went out to meet him. Thus the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you can do nothing. Look, the world has run off after him!


The Pharisees on the other hand were horrified that "the whole world" was following Jesus. I wish the whole world was following Jesus. But this made them more desperate to be rid of Jesus.


Serving Christ with Our Lives


In verse 23 we see that the hour that Jesus first spoke of to His mother in the marriage at Cana  had now arrived when He would be glorified.


12:20-23 Now some Greeks were among those who had gone up to worship at the feast. So these approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew, and they both went and told Jesus. Jesus replied, "The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.


It seems as if the fact of Gentile converts to Judaism were seeking for Jesus came as a sign or indication that his time was at hand. It would not be as a King but as a crucified and risen Saviour that Christ would reveal himself to the whole world (John 12:32).


12:24 I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain.


Christ uses a grain of wheat to show the truth concerning His crucifixion.   If a grain of wheat is not sown in the ground it remains a single seed. Only when it is put into the earth and dies does it spring into a new plant which will bear many new grains of wheat.


If Christ did not give Himself to die on the cross then He would remain alone as God's Son. The only one with access into the Father's presence, the only one to share in the Father's glory. But by His death and resurrection Christ is able to bring "many sons to glory". By saving our souls he makes us God's children (Gal. 3:26) having access into God's presence through Him and sharing in God's eternal glory with Christ (Rom. 5:1-2 and Rom. 8:17).


12:25 The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.


To love one's life is to love it apart from Christ, to want it for ourselves. To hate one's life is to let go of it and to allow Christ to have his absolute way in us. It is a matter of who controls our lives. By giving up control to Him, we gain the blessings of eternal life both now and forever.


Christ is not asking us to die for Him (though many have literally given their life in serving Him) but to be completely surrendered to Him. The apostle Paul says "I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in and through me" (Gal. 2:20) and "for me to live is Christ, to die is gain" (Phil.1:21). Jesus wants us to live for him not just "die" for Him.


12:26 If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.


Anyone wishing to serve Jesus must continue each day to follow him, seeking to do His will in all they say and do, remaining steadfastly with Him. We can do this by His grace and by the Holy Spirit who lives in us. When we have faithfully served Him we shall go to our eternal home and receive our eternal reward from the Father. Not only so, but even in this life, God will honour us as his children, in particular by hearing and answering our prayers in the sight of men (Matt. 6:6).


Jesus Predicts His Death


12:27 "Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what should I say? 'Father, deliver me from this hour'? No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour.


Here we see the human side of the Lord Jesus Christ in as much that He was distressed in His soul and He poses the question - should He ask to be delivered from the trial and agony that lay before Him? How often do we question our heavenly Father in this way when we are facing  some traumatic experience in our lives  especially those things that we know we must face up to just like Jesus here. We can face our testing times with the full assurance that because Jesus was also human as well as divine He was tempted in all things such as we are so that He understands and helps us in our time of need (Heb. 2:18). The hour that He had referred to on a number of occasions had now been reached. The purpose for which He came into the world was to give His life as an atonement for the sins of the world.  


12:28-30 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd that stood there and heard the voice said that it had thundered. Others said that an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, "This voice has not come for my benefit but for yours.


He turns to His Father and does not pray to be spared from what lies  ahead but that God would honour and lift up His Name through it. The answer to His prayer comes forth immediately in confirmation that God has glorified His Son  by the many miracles He had done and that He would further honour Him even in the death of the cross.  The people heard the voice of God and Jesus tells them it was for their benefit that God spoke audibly not for His.  


12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.


The time has now arrived when the sins of the world would be judged and the devil be defeated (Heb. 2:14 and 1 John 3:8).


12:32-33 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (Now he said this to indicate clearly what kind of death he was going to die.


This would and could only be done by Jesus being lifted up on the cross (Rom. 8:3). Through His death on the cross all peoples (Jew and Gentile) would be drawn to Him (John 6:44). However, the cross is the great division between people, all are drawn by it, some believe and are saved and receive eternal life, others reject and are lost and receive death (1 Cor. 1:18).


12:34 Then the crowd responded, "We have heard from the law that the Christ will remain forever. How can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?


The people clearly understood that Jesus was saying that He would be crucified. They were not prepared to  accept this for it did not go along with their interpretation of the scriptures. They would not accept that the Christ, the Messiah, could die (Mic. 5:2).  Was He not the eternal one the promised deliverer whose kingdom would know no end? (Psa. 145: 13). No one could take His life!   Of course they were right in one sense but they chose to forget the scriptures that speak of the suffering Messiah (Psa. 22 and Isaiah 53:8-12).


12:35 Jesus replied, "The light is with you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.


Jesus tells them that there is not much time left for Him to show them the Father and the way to Him therefore they should take advantage of it before spiritual darkness overcome them and they are lost forever.  


12:36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light." When Jesus had said these things, he went away and hid himself from them


If they believe and receive Him then they would become children of the light and be filled with the light.   He then not only leaves but hides himself from them. There are times when enough has been said and the wisest thing to do is to retire; this can apply to our witnessing and counselling.


Spiritual Blindness


12:37 Although Jesus had performed so many miraculous signs before them, they still refused to believe in him.


Even though they had seen with their own eyes the many miracles Jesus had done, healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out demons, yet the majority did not believe that He was the Son of God, the Saviour of their souls.


12:38-40 So that the word of Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled. He said, "Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said, "He has blinded their eye and hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and turn to me, and I would heal them.


The reason for this unbelief is found in the scriptures (Isa. 53:1 and Isa. 6:9-10)  which may be very difficult for us to understand.   At the time that God spoke these words through His prophet Isaiah , the people of Israel were backslidden; they had fallen from grace and had become hard and indifferent to God. They were like this in the time of Jesus.  God in His foreknowledge knew that Jesus would be rejected by His own people and that they would shout for Him to be crucified (John 1:11). God used this hardness and blindness and rejection of His Son in His great plan of salvation not only for the Jews but that all people through Christ might believe and be saved and enter the kingdom of God and have everlasting life.  


12:41 Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ's glory, and spoke about him.


Isaiah prophesied these things after he had seen the Lord high and lifted up (Isa. 6:1).


12:42 Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.


In spite of all this many of the rulers believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ but they were afraid to come into the open because of the Pharisees and they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue (John 9:22).


12:43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.


They also preferred to have the approval and praise of men more than the praise of God.


Only Believe


12:44-45 But Jesus shouted out, "The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me, and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me.


Jesus states clearly that He and the Father are one for He says that to believe on Him is the same as believing on God and whoever has seen Him has seen God. Jesus is God manifest in the flesh; He is very God shown to us in an human body (Phil. 2:6 and John 10:30).


12:46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness.


Here again Jesus emphasises the fact that He has come as a light to the world. The Light that shows all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and that He is "the way, the truth and the life." He has come to break the power of sin and darkness  and take it from the lives of all that come and believe in Him that they may live in the light.  


12:47-48 If anyone hears my words and does not obey them, I do not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day.


Jesus has not come to judge anyone but  to bring salvation. It is the rejection His words, the refusing to accept His teachings, that He is the Son of God and accepting Him as Saviour that will be judged in that day when unbelievers shall stand before the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15).  


12:49-50 For I have not spoken from my own authority, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told me.


This is because the words that He spoke right from the commencement of His ministry were not His own or given by His own authority but what  He was given by His Father and commanded to speak before all the people.    The word that the Father gives is eternal life and that is why He speaks it so that all may have an opportunity of hearing, believing  and receiving this free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

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