For an introduction to this series, click here.
May 11, 2007
This is a great chapter. It covers a wide range of topics. It starts with Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointing Jesus with the ointment. This is a different episode than when the former prostitute came in to anoint Jesus. This time it occurred at a supper at Lazarus' house. The other time it happened at the home of Simon, a Pharisee. Judas criticizes Mary, saying "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" (12:5) John immediately points out: "He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it." (12:6) Remember that a denarius was the standard wage for a laborer, so in our money that would make it about $50. So this vial of ointment was worth about $15,000, at least by Judas' evaluation.
The next section reveals the degeneracy of the human heart: "When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus." (12:9-11) Talk about wicked people.
Scenes such as this one are why it is important that we understand the culture of Bible times. There was very little privacy, even in one's own home. If something was going on, people just came right in to see it. That's how Jesus could draw huge crowds just by coming to visit someone's home. Also remember that most people lived in what could be described as family compounds. When another son got married, he would add another set of rooms onto the complex that was usually situated around a courtyard with a gate at the far end from the head of the family's house. It was the height of rudeness to keep the gate locked during the daytime, and even at night if there was a big event, such as the banquet Jesus was attending, you were expected to allow people to come in and see the guests and listen to the conversation. Thus Mary's act of devotion and Jesus' words would have been seen and heard by quite a number of people, which was the reason for the religious leaders' consternation.
John only briefly mentions the triumphal entry, or Palm Sunday. But John does give us some insight into why the people celebrated Jesus' entry: "The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign." (12:17-18)
The next section includes the famous statement by Jesus, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (12:32) John points out that Jesus said this to show how He was going to die. Many of the people refused to believe, and John says this is a fulfillment of prophecy: "Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 'Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?' Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.' Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him." (12:37-41, ESV)
Notice that very last verse. The last quotation from Isaiah is from Isaiah 6:10, immediately after Isaiah's vision of God. Note that John states that Isaiah not only saw God, but uses the pronoun "him" referring to Jesus. This is an excellent passage to prove Jesus deity. Isaiah clearly says in chapter 6 that he saw God, and John here says that Isaiah saw Jesus.