Although we are only a little more than halfway through John’s Gospel, we are less than a week away from Jesus’ death and resurrection. John will dedicate the rest of his Gospel to the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, except for the last two chapters on his resurrection.
As Chapter 12 opens, we see an intimate gathering where Jesus shares koinonia with some of his closest friends, knowing that soon He will go to the cross. Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
Here is another one of John’s references to what day it was. As usual, we will see John has a good reason for this.
2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Pastor Jon Courson notes that here we have three important components of the church: a.) Martha working, b.) Lazarus witnessing, and c.) Mary worshiping. (1)
First let us look at a.) working. Martha had the gift of helps (1 Cor 12:28). That may be a bit of a stretch, since the Holy Spirit was not yet given, but nevertheless, helps is a great gift. When a church has people volunteering to help out there is a vibrant atmosphere of koinonia that blesses the community in a powerful way.
Next, we have b.) witnessing. We do not have any of Lazarus’ words recorded, but his presence alone was a witness (vv 9, 11). It should be so with us. People should see new life in a Christian that it is a witness for Jesus. Witness is not only a verb, but a noun as well: But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. The word witness is translated from the Greek word, martus, where we get our word ‘martyr’. Your life should be a witness for Jesus and if necessary, your death too.
Finally, we have c.) worship. Mary’s act of worship is also recorded in Matthew 26 and Mark 14, where we learn that this scene takes place in the home of Simon the leper. We also learn that Mary not only anointed Jesus’ feet but his head as well. In that day, 300 pence (v 5; Lat denarii) was worth about a year’s wages for an average working man. According to Strong, one silver denarius weighed 53 grams in Nero’s time. At today’s silver prices, 300 denarii would be worth about US $13,588. Why did Mary not use her box to prepare Lazarus’ body for burial the week before? Because she was saving it for Jesus’ burial (v 7). When Jesus spoke of his impending death (John 8:28 et al) his disciples did not understand, even when He spelled it out for them (Luke 9:45). But Mary understood. Mary understood a great deal. She wiped his feet with her hair, which went against the social conventions of that day. It was considered immodest for a Jewish woman to let down her hair in public. Mary does not care though. She lays her glory at his feet (1 Cor 11:15). She wants to give Jesus her best, and she is criticized for it, by none other than the disciples (v 5; cf Matt 26:8)! If you give your all for Jesus, do not be surprised if a pastor or someone else in leadership criticizes you. They criticized Mary too, but Jesus said Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. The same thing likewise happened to David when he wanted to give his all for the Lord. His wife criticized him for it. (2 Sam 6) As a result, she was barren unto the day of her death. Contrary to what the critics said, Jesus defended Mary and received her worship:
…..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. Matthew 26:1
This box of ointment may have even been something that was supposed to be kept for Mary’s dowry. In worshiping Jesus, Mary gave what was probably her life savings. In turn, it blessed not only Jesus, but the odour, or fragrance, filled the house and blessed all who were present. J Vernon McGee commented that we as Christians ought to break our alabaster boxes (Matt 26:6) as well. If we step out in faith and give our best for Jesus as Mary did, we will not only bless the Lord, but ourselves and others as well.
4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,
5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, 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 bag, and bare what was put therein.
7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.
8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
10 ¶ But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;
Is it any wonder Jesus called them children of the devil? (John 8:44) Even his rebuke was an act of love. He was showing tough love, which was exactly what they needed. Many of the priests eventually believed. (Acts 6:7; cf 15:5)
11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.
12 ¶ On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
Above we are told that Jesus arrived in Bethany six days before the passover. After the sunset, it would have been the next day. So when we read about the dinner party at the house of Simon the leper, that would have been five days before the Passover. Now it was the next day after that, four days before the Passover, or the 10th of Nisan, also known as ‘Lamb Selection Day’ (Ex 12:1-3).
Thousands and thousands of lambs were pouring into the city of Jerusalem. According to Abraham Mutholath, the Passover lamb was usually taken to Jerusalem by way of Bethphage. Jesus likewise entered Jerusalem by way of Bethphage (Matt 21:1 et al), as He is the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. As worshipers from across the empire were selecting their lambs for the Passover, Jesus was presenting Himself to the nation of Israel as the Passover Lamb. The lamb had to be perfect and without blemish, and Jesus was so judged. (Luke 23:4)
13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
The people crying Hosanna (lit Save now) are quoting Psalm 118:25, 26. Luke tells us that the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke his disciples, but He replied I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. The Bible says that we Christians are stones, living stones (1 Pet 2:5). When they stop giving glory to Jesus it is up to us to cry out.
Matthew tells us that after Jesus entered Jerusalem, children continued to cry Hosanna in the temple. This caused the Pharisees to be sore displeased (Matt 21:15), but Jesus said Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,
15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.
16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.
18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.
19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. [Cf Pr 27:4]
Jesus fulfilled Zecharaiah 9:9 when He rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, but what about those palm branches? According to the apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, 200 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem the palm branch was a symbol of national pride and triumph over tyranny. After Judas Maccabee liberated Jerusalem from Antiochus Epiphanes, a type of the antichrist, the people waved palm branches in celebration after the temple was cleansed. (2 Macc 10:7)
In other words, not only was Judas Iscariot following Jesus under false pretenses, using his position to embezzle funds from the treasury, but the people singing Hosanna were worshiping Jesus for the wrong reason. They were expecting Him to deliver them from Caesar Tiberius just as Judas Maccabee delivered them from Antiochus Epiphanes. Jesus will eventually crush Rome (MYSTERY BABYLON) and they will wave palm branches in heaven in celebration. (Rev 7:9) At this time, however, Jesus does not intend to overthrow Rome. The crowd is not going to be pleased. In four days, they will change their cry of Hosanna to Crucify him.
In closing, Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world. The kingdoms of this world are destined to fail. Jesus is the ROCK cut without hands, that will smash the kingdoms of this world, reducing them to dust like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors. Jesus’ kingdom will be like a mountain that fills the earth. (Dan 2:34f) Jesus’ kingdom will last forever. The best we can hope for until then is the freedom to share the gospel and live in peace. This freedom is being severely threatened in our day but Jesus tells us not to worry. He is still in control. The people in our passage above were under the yoke of Rome. They saw their Saviour crucified but God was in control. He quickly turned that situation around. It has been said that at Calvary, Satan did his worst, and God did his best. God turned the tables and used it for his glory. Things may look dark in our day, but God can turn the tables for his glory today just as He did then. Just as then, we may need to brace for the worst before God does his best. Time will tell. Meanwhile, we need to keep working, witnessing, and worshiping.
Finally, what if you have never received the free gift of everlasting life? (John 3:16) You don’t have to look like one of these lovely people in our text. In Luke 7, a woman who was a notorious sinner did the same thing that Mary did, brought an alabaster box of precious ointment to Jesus. She washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Jesus received her just as He did Mary and He will receive you too. All He asks is that you repent, which means to change your mind. If you want the free gift, pray this prayer:
Father, forgive me. I receive your Son as my personal Saviour; Lord Jesus, please come into my heart. Take control of my life. Thank You for the precious blood You shed for me on Calvary. I pray this in your holy and precious name. Amen.
Magog Update: If you are a regular reader of these notes, you have observed that we regularly keep tabs on the players listed in Ezekiel 38, 39. In these two chapters, Ezekiel predicts that an invasion of Israel will take place that will be led by Russia (Magog) and her leader (Gog). Russia is joined by an alliance that includes Iran (Persia) and a host of other Islamic nations. The one player that does not seem to fit is Cush, translated as Ethiopia in the KJV. However, as I have previously noted, Ethiopia has been engulfed in a civil war and the situation is fluid. Today, the US began evacuating US personnel from Ethiopia, as it looks like the capital may soon fall to the TPLF, a far-left military organization (along with other military organizations that have recently signed a pact of alliance with the TPLF in Washington DC). It is believed (and supported by Scripture) that the Magog Invasion is post-rapture (more here). Therefore, the more the chessboard seems to be positioning for the Magog invasion, the closer we are to the rapture of the church. We will keep an eye on Ethiopia to see how the situation develops.
(1) Courson, Tree of Life Bible Commentary John 7-13, pp 128-133.