John 12

John 12:1

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

(a) Bethany was a village about two miles from Jerusalem; see entry for John 11:18.

(b) Lazarus of Bethany was a dear friend of Jesus (John 11:3, 36); see entry for John 11:1.

(c) Raised from the dead; see John 11:43.

John 12:2

So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.

(a) A supper. In whose house was Jesus eating? We might conclude it was Martha’s house since she was serving. But in the other gospel accounts, Jesus was anointed in the house of Simon the Leper (Matt. 26:6–7, Mark 14:3). One possibility is that Martha and her siblings were close friends or relatives of Simon’s, and this is why they were in his house. Another possibility is that Simon was their deceased father and that his house was their house.

(b) Martha; see entry for Luke 10:38

(c) Martha was serving again; see entry for Luke 10:40.

John 12:3

Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Costly perfume; see entry for Matt. 26:7.

John 12:13

took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.”

The King of Israel. Many people in scripture recognized Jesus as a king. These people included the magi (Matt. 2:2), the disciples (Luke 19:38), the palm-waving people of Jerusalem (John 12:13), Paul and Silas (Acts 17:7), the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:32-33), and the seventh angel (Rev. 11:15). However, during his earthly ministry, Jesus rarely referred to himself in such royal terms (see verse 15).

John 12:15


(a) The daughter of Zion is a poetic name for Jerusalem (Is. 10:32, Zec. 9:9).

Historically, Zion was a hilltop fortress captured by David and renamed the City of David (2 Sam. 5:6–7). The hill became the heart of the city of Jerusalem (Ps. 135:21).

(b) Behold, your king. This was one of those rare occasions where Jesus referred to himself as a king. See entry for Matt. 21:5.

John 12:25

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.

(a) His life. There are two different words for life in this verse. The original word for the first life (psuchē) usually refers to soul-life. (The word psychology comes from the word psuchē.) It is the life we inherit from Adam. It is the life of the flesh.

(b) Loses it. Live for the appetites of the flesh and you will lose your true self. Run after the inferior pleasures of the world and you will lose your soul. What profit is that (Matt. 16:26)?

(c) Hates his life. To hate your life is to live without care and making no provisions for the flesh, not because you are ascetic, but because you have found a greater Supply. “Do not worry about your life (psuche) – your Father will take care of you” (Matt. 6:25).

(d) Life eternal. The original word for life (zoe) is commonly described as spirit life. This is the life that God has. When Jesus says he is the life, he is referring to zoe-life of the spirit (John 14:6). The eternal life we receive from God is not more of the same old thing but something completely new. See entry for New Life.

John 12:28

“Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

(a) Father, glorify Your name. Before Jesus, no one called God Father. After Jesus, every Christian did. The name that Jesus wants glorified is not God but Father.

The first time Jesus called God “Father” in public, he said “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). When you pray, you are not just praying to the Almighty Creator and the Ancient of Days. You are praying to our heavenly Father who cares for you and knows your needs (Matt. 6:31–32). Abba Father is the name of God who loves you as much as he loves Jesus (John 17:23).

(b) I have both glorified it. To glorify means to magnify, honor, and extol. Jesus says, “God, make your Father-heart widely known.” And the Father replies, “I’m doing it right now, through you Son.”

John 12:31

“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.

(a) Judgment is upon this world. It was payback time for the devil.

In Genesis 3 God warned the serpent that his head would be crushed by the Seed of the woman. In this passage the Seed (Jesus) announces that he has come to deliver on God’s promise.

(b) The ruler of this world. God gave the earth to Adam and Adam handed the keys to the devil. Ever since then Satan had been referred to as the ruler or god of this world (John 14:30, 16:11, 2 Cor. 4:4). But he was a usurper and now the true Lord of all had arrived to put him in his place.

(c) Cast out, condemned, and stripped of all power (John 16:11, Col. 2:15).

John 12:32

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

(a) If I am lifted up from the earth in a crucifixion (see next verse).

(b) All men. Jews and Gentiles. Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, but his death was for all of us.

John 12:33

But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.

The kind of death. Those who followed the vicious dealings of the Sanhedrin might have expected Jesus to buried under a barrage of stones, much as Stephen was (Acts 7:58). But Jesus foresaw a different kind of death, not one where he would be knocked down, but one where he would be lifted up on a cursed tree or cross (Gal. 3:13, 1 Pet. 2:24).

John 12:34

The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”

The Law. The crowd is quoting from Psalm 89:36-37 or Isaiah 9:6-7 or Micah 4:7. The Psalms and the prophets do not form part of the Law of Moses or the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). The crowd is referring to the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament. For similar examples, see John 10:34, 15:25, and 1 Cor. 14:21.

John 12:36

“While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”
These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.

(a) The Light of the world is Jesus (see entry for John 9:5).

(b) To believe in the Light is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the chief takeaway of the new covenant; see entry for John 3:16.

John 12:39–40


(a) They could not believe because their hearts were dull (calloused and hardened; Matt. 13:15). Like hard ground, a hard heart cannot receive the seed of the gospel.

We are not born insensitive to the things of God, but we become corrupted by the deceitful desires of the old self (Eph. 4:22), the pollutions of this world (2 Pet. 2:20), and law-based religion (2 Cor. 3:15). God draws all of us, but if we persist in rejecting his overtures, he will eventually give us over to the rotten desires of our hearts. He will never force his love upon us.

(b) Isaiah. John quotes Isaiah 6:9–10. When Jesus and Paul quote this prophecy, they do not say “he has blinded their eyes” or “he has hardened their hearts.” Instead, they say “their hearts have become hardened and they have closed their eyes” (Matt. 13:14–15, Acts 28:26–27).

(c) Blinded… hardened. They shut their eyes and hardened their hearts to the goodness of God.

Read out of context, Isaiah’s prophecy can convey the sense that God picks and chooses who gets to believe in him, but God loves the whole world (John 3:16). He is not willing that any perish but desires all to come to repentance and be saved (2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4). Never did God turn away someone who came to him with a soft and tender heart. Even when many of the religious leaders were actively opposing Christ, there many priests who came to him in faith and were numbered in the early church (Acts 6:7).

John 12:46

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

Light. The Light of the world and the Light of Life and the Light of men and the True Light are all names for Jesus (John 1:4, 9, 8:12, 9:5).

Adam’s fallen race lives in the valley of the shadow of death. Into this dark valley comes Jesus with the bright and shining revelation that God offers us a new life.


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