St John’s Gospel (31): Jesus Enters Jerusalem (John 12)

Mary Anoints Jesus . . . Again (vv1-11) – The previous chapter makes reference to an anointing of Jesus with costly perfume-oil. But which anointing is the referent (Mt. 26, Mk 14, Lk 7:36, Jn 12)? The puzzling one is in Luke 7:36ff, since it would seemingly be earlier in the ministry of Jesus, perhaps in Galilee (Lk 17:11). The best explanation is not that John “carefully combined details from the two anointing traditions because both stories had details that served his theological purposes” (NIB). Rather, it is like the temple cleansing which fulfills the pattern of cleansing a leprous/unclean House (Lev. 14:33-47; cf. John 2:13), it happened twice. The first anointing in his early ministry pictured forgiveness is fragrant aroma, the second as the basis for forgiveness in a burial fragrance, prior to his final entry into Jerusalem. Note: in Mt, Mk, & Jn it is for “burial,” but in Lk it is about the love arising from forgiveness with no mention of “burial.” This further explains Jn 11:2; this is the Mary who “anointed” Jesus (in the past, aorist vb; e.g., in Lk. 7). It could be objected that “Simon” is also there (in Lk 7), suggesting the same event. However, Simon is very common name (Simon Peter, Simon the Zealot, Simon the half brother of Jesus, Simon Iscariot, Simon the Pharisee*, Simon the leper, Simon of Cyrene, Simon Magus, and Simon the Tanner). The Simon of Luke 7 is “Simon” a Pharisee. The Simon of Mt/Mk/Jn is “Simon the leper.” It is unlikely that a leper is a “pure one” (“Pharisee”). The designation, “Simon the leper” is to distinguish him from the other “Simons” which are legion. With the anointing and “wiping” of Jesus feet, the worshipful Mary does more than sit at his feet to learn, she serves Jesus in the same way Jesus will serve the disciples in the next chapter. Jesus “wipes” (same term) the feet of the disciples. Only Mary, among all of the disciples, “gets” Jesus. This event not only foreshadows Christ’s humble service, it also discloses the haughty disservice traitor Judas. Judas had a “sharp sense of financial values and no appreciation of human values” (EBC). Christ’s proverbial response, “the poor you always have with you…” is an echo of Dt. 15:11, “There will always be poor people in the land.” If one truly desires to serve the poor, there will be abundant opportunity. Christ responds, “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (NIV v7; cf 19:39ff). Word spreads that both Jesus and celebrity, mummy Lazarus were present, so crowds formed, preventing the Jewish leaders from killing both of them for the moment. (Poor Lazarus, how many times does this guy have to die?) This pericope at first glance may seem odd, but is an artful transition from the events of ch. 11 (Lazarus, Martha/Mary, and the plot to kill Jesus) to the events of Holy Week. Don’t Judas-ize, using pious reasons for greed.

Jesus Enters into Jerusalem . . . Again (vv12-36) – John alone provides the “Palm Sunday” chronology (“six days before the Passover” + “the next day” 12:1 & 12:12) embedded in Church Time. John’s “triumphal entry” also provides a strong rationale as to why the crowds hailed Jesus waving branches (unique to Jn), namely the raising of Lazarus (vv17-18). These branches under and waving around him provide a symbolic “riding in the clouds” (on the tops of the trees). This entry provides more fuel for the murderous fires in the Pharisees hearts (v19). They proclaim (rightly, but ironically) that the “world” (cosmos) has gone after Jesus; just at this point a group of cosmopolitan Greeks beseech Him (v20). Christ’s words explain the very heart of his mission: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (v24-25). Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death is for the cosmos. His disciples follow this pattern (v26). Jesus prays, “Father, glorify your name” (in all the cosmos v28). As in his baptism, a voice from the sky responded: “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Christ’s explanation of this powerful word is: the near judgment of the world, the banishment of Satan as coterminous (now is the time) with his being “lifted up to draw all” to himself (v31). Because of the cross, Satan no longer has authority as a “prince” in the world; don’t be a devil-worshiper by believing Satan rules the world. The crowds once again raise doubts and Jesus speaks in “black and white” terms: there is Light in the world now, believe it because soon the darkness is coming. Believe the Light to become sons of Light. Don’t be a devil-worshiper by believing Satan rules the world.

Jesus Summarizes His Teaching . . . Again (vv36-50) – John explains that Jesus spoke these things and then temporarily removed Himself from their clawing grasps (not unlike 6:14ff). John’s summary is that the signs were abundant, but the crowds were faithless. This fulfills the hard words of Isaiah (53) in the rejection of the Servant. He also cites Is. 6:10; God blinded Israel from “seeing” him (Jn 1:11). John emphasizes “seeing” in the quote, cutting out the “hearing” phrases. Seeing is supposed to be “believing” – signs are visible. Amazingly, John identifies Isaiah’s paramount vision of seeing the Lord with seeing Jesus (v41).“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” (Is. 6; Jn 12:41). This qualifies as a superlative example of “Jesus = God” teaching in the NT. Despite this glory, John reports that even Jewish believers lacked courage to confess him (v42). Jesus final words of his public ministry sum up his message (vv44ff): believing in Me is believing in the Father; seeing Me is seeing the Father; rejecting my word is judgment by the Father, whose commandment purposed eternal life. Jesus came not to judge the world, but to save the world (v47). Don’t lie about Jesus’s mission which was to save the world.

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