THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
CHAPTER 12 – Part I
BETHANY and JERUSALEM – THE LAST WEEK

The scepter shall not pass from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute be brought him [until Shiloh (he who is sent) come] and the peoples render him obedience.  He tethers his donkey to the vine, to its stock the foal of his she-donkey.  He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of the grape.  
Jacob/Israel's prophecy to Judah on his deathbed: Genesis 49:10-11d

Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!  Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem!  Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zechariah 9:9

+ + +

(day 6 before the Passover) Jesus in BETHANY in JUDEA
THE LAST WEEK:
6 days before the PASSOVER SACRIFICE (John 12:1-11)
 
  C.  Jesus and the Apostles stay the night at Bethany 12:1-11
                 1.  Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus 12:3-8
                 2.  Crowds gather to see Jesus and Lazarus 12:9-11
(day 5 before)
Nisan 10
VI.  THE FINAL OPPOSITION AT JERUSALEM 12:12-22
A.  The King of Kings enters Jerusalem, Palm (Passion) Sunday 12:12-15
  B. "The whole world has gone after Him!" 12:16-19

BOOK 4 – THE PREPARATION OF THE DISCIPLES
BY THE SON OF GOD 12:23-17:26

Just before PASSOVER #3

THE LAST WEEK (first day of Passover is always Nisan 14)

(days
 4 – 2)
Nisan
11-13
I.  THE MESSIAH TEACHES IN THE TEMPLE: 12:20-50
               A. "The hour has come!" 12:20-36
               B.  The unbelief of the Jews 12:37-50

Chapter 12 begins the countdown to the Passion of the Christ. The chapter begins with a dinner in Bethany, a village at the foot of the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. It is a dinner in honor of the Messiah and His disciples who have come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of the holy week of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

Please read John 12:1-11: The Anointing at Bethany
12:1Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was whom he had raised from the dead. 2They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table.  3Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.  4Then Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him, said, 5'Why has this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?'  6He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contents.  7So Jesus said, 'Leave her alone; let her keep it for the day of my burial.  8You have the poor with you always; you will not always have me.' 9Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.  10Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, 11since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

John: 1-2: Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was whom he had raised from the dead.  They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table.

It is significant that John places this event 6 days before the Passover sacrifice.  He began his Gospel with a one-week period of time from Jesus' preexistence to the wedding at Cana, which occurred on the 7th day and now the countdown to Christ's passion begins in the last week of His earthly life.

Question: Can we determine on what day of the week this dinner occurred?  Hint: Take into account that the next day will be Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the Messiah.
Answer: Tradition ascribes Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on a Sunday[Catechism of the Catholic Church #560].  The Church calls this day Palm or Passion Sunday.  From the earliest surviving writings of the Church this day has always been identified as a Sunday.  Accepting this tradition as accurate then the dinner in Bethany took place on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. According to Jewish tradition, the Sabbath meal began at the 6th hour Jewish time, or 12 noon in our time (Josephus, Life 54).

Question: If the dinner at Bethany occurred on the Sabbath, Saturday, and the Passover is 6 days later, then can we determine the day of the week that the Passover sacrifice took place?  This would be the day that would be the 14th of Nisan [Abib/Aviv] as prescribed by the Law in Exodus chapter 12 as the day of the Passover sacrifice. Hint: There was no concept of zero as a mathematical place value in Jesus' time; therefore, any sequence in ancient times always begins with the number one.  This is why the Gospels record that Jesus was in the tomb 3 days from Friday to Sunday instead of the way we would count the days as at the most one and a half days in the tomb (see Christianity and the Roman Empire, page 282).
Answer: If Saturday is day "one" of the 6 days before Passover, then the 14th of Nisan would have fallen on Thursday as day six.  Counting as the ancients counted from the Saturday meal in Bethany as day #1, then day #2 is Sunday (the day of Jesus' entry into the city of Jerusalem), day #3 is Monday, day #4 is Tuesday, day #5 is Wednesday, and day #6, the day of the Passover sacrifice, is Thursday.   The identification of Thursday, the day before Jesus' crucifixion, as the day of the Passover sacrifice is in complete agreement with the Synoptic Gospels and with Church tradition.

It has always been the tradition of the Church that the Last Supper fell on a Thursday, which the Church calls "Holy Thursday."  We can also arrive at determining this day of the week from the information in the Gospels that Jesus died on "Preparation Day" which is Friday:  (Mark 15:42) It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day, that is the day before the Sabbath'there came Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus"  [also see Matthew 28:62; Luke 27:50-54; and John 19:31].

Holy Friday was from sundown the night of the Passover Feast to sundown after the afternoon of Jesus death on the cross.  That makes the day of the Passover sacrifice, the 14th of Nisan, a Thursday.  That St. John's Gospel identifies Thursday, the day before Jesus' Passion, as the day of the Passover sacrifice agrees with the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke [see Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:1, 12-16; Luke 22:1, 7-15]: On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to him, 'Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?' (Mark 14:12).

Some scholars have suggested that the Jewish Passover sacrifice did not take place on Thursday of Passion Week but on the Friday that Jesus was crucified and that on Thursday Jesus celebrated a non-traditional Passover meal with His disciples.  They have interpret the words "Preparation Day" in John 19:14 to refer to the day before the Passover sacrifice and the Feast of Unleavened Bread when all the necessary preparations for the sacrificial meal and the removal of leaven from the homes of the faithful, must take place.  No where in the Gospels is this term "Preparation Day" associated with the feasts except in John 19:14.  In every other case the term "Preparation Day" is associated with preparation for the Sabbath.  The scholars who support Friday as the day of the Passover sacrifice have pointed out that a holy feast was celebrated like a Sabbath.  That may be so, however, once again in the Gospels the "day of preparation" is associated in every verse except John 19:14 with the Sabbath.  It seems an unsupportable assumption to claim that the Gospels don't really mean the literal 7th day Sabbath, but instead refer to the preparations of the Passover sacrifice.

The Gospel of John mentions that the day Jesus was taken to be judged by the Roman governor Pilate was "the day of Preparation" in John 19:14, but St. John is identifying that Friday before the Sabbath which fell within the week long celebration of the holy feasts.  Later in 19:31 St. John defines "Preparation Day" as Friday, the day before the Saturday Sabbath: It was the Day of Preparation, and to avoid the bodies' remaining on the cross during the Sabbath'since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity..."  St. John identifies "that Sabbath" as a special solemnity because it was the Sabbath that fell within the Holy Week of Passover and the week long Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The day after "that Sabbath" was the Feast of Firstfruits [Leviticus 23:11-14], which from the time of the Sinai Covenant always fell on a Sunday, and counting 50 days (as the ancients counted) from the Feast of Firstfruits yielded the date of the Feast of Weeks, called Pentecost in Jesus' time [Leviticus 23:15-21].

Gospel Passages which mention the phrase "Preparation Day" include:

Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, and John 19:31 clearly identify "Preparation Day" as the Friday before the Sabbath.

In the Jewish tradition the Friday before the Sabbath [Saturday] is designated the day of preparation for the Sabbath observances.  It was forbidden to shop or to cook or light a fire, in fact, it was forbidden to do any work on the Sabbath, therefore, all preparations for the necessities of the Sabbath had to be carried out on the day before the Sabbath (Mishnah: Shabbat 1:1-24:5), hence the term "Preparation Day" was applied to the Friday before the Sabbath, which began at sundown [the Jewish day began at sundown].  Friday, the day after the Passover sacrifice was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the day of Jesus crucifixion, would have been the 7th day.  Counting backward that identifies the dinner at Bethany as a Saturday.  Jesus enjoyed a Sabbath dinner with His Apostles and His dear friend.

John 12:2: They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table.  Most Biblical scholars assume that since Judas is mentioned by name in the account of the dinner in John 12:2-11 that all the Apostles were present at this gathering along with the family Jesus loved: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus of Bethany.  You will remember that in chapter 11 Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead as His sixth "sign."

Matthew's and Mark's Gospels also mention a dinner at Bethany but they place the day of the dinner two days before the Passover.  Many scholars assume John is either in error concerning the day of this dinner or that he has purposely moved the day in order to work out his "Last Week" of events that climax in Jesus' Passion.  Please read Matthew 26:1-16; Mark 14:1-11; and Luke 19:28-38 & 22:1-6.

Question: What are the similarities between the accounts in Matthew and Mark with John's dinner in chapter 12?  The Chart will help you identify similarities and differences between the dinners at Bethany.

John 12:1-15 Matthew 26:1-16 Mark 14:1-11
Six days before Passover and before Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (12:1; 12) Two days before Passover (26:2, 6) and after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (21:4-9) Two days before Passover (14:1) after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (11:1-11)
 

Jesus announces His future arrest and crucifixion to the disciples (26:2) The chief priests and scribes conspire to arrest Jesus and have Him put to death (14:1-2)
Dinner with Lazarus' family; Martha served (12:2) Dinner at the home of Simon the leper (26:6) Dinner at the home of Simon the leper (14:3)
Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus, and the Apostles attend (12:1-3, 4) The disciples and Jesus are guests of Simon (26:6, 8) Those who attend are unnamed with the exception of  Simon and Jesus (14:3)
Mary of Bethany has a jar of pure nard (12:3) Unnamed woman with an alabaster jar of ointment (26:7) Unnamed woman with an alabaster jar of pure nard (14:3)
Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus' feet and wipes His feet with her hair (12:3) A woman anoints Jesus' head (26:7) A woman anoints Jesus' head (14:3)
Judas Iscariot protests the waste (12:4) Disciples indignant over the waste (26:8) Some who were there were indignant (14:4)
Judas says the jar is worth 300 denarii and protests it should be given to the poor (12:5) Could have been sold at a high price and given to poor (26:9) Worth over 300 denarii; should be given to the poor (14:5)
  Jesus says: "You will not always have me with you" (26:9) Jesus says: "You will not always have me with you" (14:5)
Jesus defends Mary saying: "Let her keep it for the day of my burial" (12:7) Jesus defends the woman as doing a good work (26:10) Jesus defends the woman as doing a good work (14:6)
"The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me" (12:8) "For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me" (26:11) "For you always have the poor with you ..; but you will not always have me" (14:7)
  "In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial" (26:12) "She had done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying" (14:8)
  Wherever the Gospel is preached what she has done will be remembered (26:13) Wherever the Gospel is preached what she has done will be remembered (14:9)
Jesus enters Jerusalem (12:12-15) Judas betrays Jesus
(26:14-16)
(Jesus' "hour" has come)
Judas betrays Jesus
(14:10-11)*
(Jesus' "hour" has come)

*Luke also records Judas' betrayal just prior to the Last Super in Luke 22:1-6.  In John's Gospel Jesus' "hour" does not come until John 12:19-22; 5 days after the dinner mentioned in 12:1-8, which would be on Wednesday of Passion Week, just as the Synoptics record.
Answer: The Gospels of Matthew and Mark appear to record the same event:

While the accounts in Matthew and Mark appear to agree, they do not agree with the account of the dinner at Bethany in the Gospel of John:

The differences in the accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark compared to the account in the Gospel of John suggest two different dinners which Jesus attended with His friends in Bethany and two separate anointings (there is a 3rd anointing earlier in Jesus' ministry recorded in Luke 7:36-38).  It is possible that Mary of Bethany was present at both dinners, and both anointings of the Messiah could have been given by her on two separate occasions 5 days apart (as the ancients counted).  It is significant that Jesus tells Mary to keep some of the nard at the first dinner, suggesting a further need for the ointment: Jesus said, 'Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial'  (John 12:7).  However, in both Matthew 26:12 and Mark 14:8 Jesus announces that the anointing is in preparation for His burial: She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying (Mark 14:8). It is possible that Mary of Bethany used a bottle of expensive nard to anoint the feet of Christ on Saturday and then as directed by Jesus used the same bottle of nard two days before the Passover (as the ancients counted), on Wednesday at the dinner party in the home of Simon the Leper, breaking open the jar (Mark 14:3) to get the last of the ointment to anoint Jesus' head in preparation for His Passion. The accounts in the Gospels of Mark and John identify the bottle as costing 300 denarii (Mark 14:5; John 12:5).

The key point which supports two dinners is that Judas could not betray Jesus and set the events of Jesus' arrest and crucifixion in motion until Jesus' "hour had come."  There is no mention of Judas' betrayal in the events during or after the dinner recorded in John 12:1-11.  Jesus' "hour" in the Gospel of John does not come until John 12:23 on what would have been Wednesday, His last day teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem.  When the Gentiles ask to speak to Jesus His response is: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified."  The next mention of His "hour" in the Gospel of John is in 13:1: "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."  This passage sets up the events of the Last Supper described in John 13:2-18:1.

Judas betrayed Jesus to the Jewish authorities after the Wednesday dinner at Bethany but before the Passover sacrifice.  The liturgical rites and the sacrifices of the Passover festival began in the Temple on Thursday, Nisan the 14th (the 6th day from the Sabbath dinner in Bethany), and the celebration of the sacrificial meal began that night in the Upper Room at sundown.  At sundown it became the 15th of Nisan and the beginning of the Jewish Friday, the "Preparation Day" for the "Great Sabbath" of Passover Week.

The Gospel accounts all agree that during His last week in Jerusalem, Jesus and the Apostles withdrew to the Mt. of Olives every evening to spent the night and on at least one occasion stayed in the town of Bethany, located on the Mt. of Olives (Matthew 21:17; 24:3; Mark 11:11-12; 13:3; Luke 21:37; 22:39).  It is reasonable to assume that Jesus and the Apostles dined with friends in Bethany on more than one occasion with more than one family bearing the joy, and the expense, of entertaining the Messiah and his Apostles, dining at the Sabbath meal with the family of Lazarus and on Wednesday at the home of Simon.   Note: Simon "the Leper" of Bethany was probably a man healed by Christ. The Dead Sea Scrolls do confirm that a leper colony did live on the outskirts of Bethany at this time [11Q Temple 46:16-18].

John 12:3: Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.

Question:  What is interesting about the descriptions John offers of Lazarus' sisters in verses 2-3?
Answer: The description of the two sisters, Martha serving and Mary worshipping, is once again consistent with Luke's portrayal of these two women in Luke 10:38-42.

Spikenard is fragrant oil derived from the root and spike of hair stems of the nard plant which grows in the mountains of northern India.  It was extremely costly.  A pound of genuine nard in the 1st century would cost approximately 300 denarii as Judas will accurately estimate in verse 5.  A denarius was a day's wage for a common laborer in the first century; therefore, the ointment would have amounted to almost a year's wages.
anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair 
It is not unusual to anoint the head of an honored guest as Jesus rebuked Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:46: You did not anoint my head with oil...,  or to anointed the head of a priest or king as in Exodus 30:30: You will also anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them to be priests in my service.  But it is most unusual to anoint the feet of one who is still living.  Anointing the whole body to include the feet was part of burial practices and in fact Jesus will equate Mary's actions with preparation of His burial in verse 7.  Mary is unconsciously performing a prophetic act by anointing Jesus.

There are in fact 3 different accounts of Jesus being anointed by women in the New Testament.  The other accounts are found in Matthew chapter 26 and Mark chapter 14, which we have already read, but also in Luke 7:36-50.  Please read that account.

Question: We will assume that Matthew and Mark record the same event, the dinner at Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper.  Therefore, compare the three accounts found in Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-38; and John 12: 1-8.  This chart will help you in your assessment.  What are the similarities and differences between Mark's account compared with the account in John 12:1-15 and Luke 7:36-38

Mark 14:3-11 Luke 7:36-50 John 12:1-12
2 days before Passover; in Bethany; after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem During the Galilean ministry probably year 1 of His ministry 6 days before Passover; in Bethany; before Jesus' entry into Jerusalem
At the house of Simon the leper At the house of Simon the Pharisee Not specified whose house but Mary, Martha, & Lazarus are there and Martha is cooking
Anointing by unnamed woman with an alabaster jar of genuine nard Anointing by a woman who is a sinner with an alabaster jar of ointment Mary of Bethany with a pound of genuine nard
Pours nard on Jesus' head Her tears fall on Jesus' feet; dries feet with hair; anoints feet Anoints Jesus' feet; dries them with hair
Some disciples are angry Simon criticizes Jesus; Jesus rebukes Simon Judas is angry
Value of more than 300 denarii No amount given 300 denarii
Jesus defends unnamed woman Jesus defends and forgives the sinful woman Jesus defends Mary
Jesus says: "Leave her alone"
"Poor always with you"
"Your faith has saved you; go in peace" Jesus says: "Leave her alone"  "The poor always with you"

"She has anointed my body before had for its burial"

  "Let her keep it for the day of my burial" ? some left?
Her deed will be told in whole world   Chief priests decide to kill Lazarus
Judas betrays Jesus Jesus' Galilean ministry continues Jesus enters Jerusalem

It is highly unlikely that the sinful woman of Luke's account is Mary of Bethany.  Mary is always presented as a model Christian.  I am inclined to believe that these are 3 different events and possibly 3 different women, although Mary of Bethany could have anointed Jesus on two different nights in Bethany: on Saturday before His entry into Jerusalem and again of the Wednesday before Passover.

Mary Magdalene has come to be associated with the sinful woman in Luke's account although not all scholars make this association.  The Catholic Church honors all 3 as separate women and names them as: the Sinful woman [Luke's account], Mary of Bethany [John's account] and Mary Magdalene [Mark's unnamed woman] in a single Feast Day on July 22.  Clearly Biblical scholars both ancient and modern have not agreed on the identity of the women in the 3 accounts and you must decide for yourself.

It is significant that there are 3 accounts of Christ's anointing just as there are 3 times that He will prophesy His own death [see Matthew 16:21-23; 19:22-23; 20:17-19], and 3 days that He will be in the tomb [Matthew 12:40; etc.].  The number 3 in Old Covenant symbolism signifies great importance and fullness in time, and in the New Covenant the number 3 is the symbolic number of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.  Although He is anointed 3 times [in 4 different accounts; Mark and Matthew being the same event], it is interesting that Jesus speaks of His death and burial on only two occasions:

the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.
It is interesting that John should use up precious space with this little comment.

Question: Do you see any symbolic comparison between the house and the world?
Answer: Perhaps the spread of the sweet odor of the perfume through the whole house can be symbolically compared to the spread of the Gospel filling and transforming the entire world.

John 12:4-7:Then Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him'said, 'Why has this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?'  He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contents.  So Jesus said, 'Leave her alone; let her keep it for the day of my burial.  You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.'

Question: Do you recall the comments about Judas in chapter 6:70-71?
Answer: "Jesus replied to them, 'Did I not choose the Twelve of you?  Yet one of you is a devil.'  He meant Judas son of Simon Iscariot [Iscariot = man of Kariot], since this was the man, one of the Twelve, who was to betray him."

Note: the town of Kariot is in the province of Judea.  Judas name in Hebrew is Yehudah.  It is the name of the 4th son of Israel/Jacob who is the father of the tribe of Judah.  Like Jesus, Judas is of the tribe of Judah.  In each of the lists of the Apostles in the Gospels the note is added that he is a traitor [Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:19; and Luke 6:16].  There is also another Apostle named Judas, a faithful Apostle who is identified as "Judas of James," meaning he is either the son or brother of a man named James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13).  Like the nation of Judah, these two disciples named for the tribe/nation of Judah are split in their response to Jesus: Judas of James accepting Jesus as the Messiah and his Savior and Lord and Judas Iscariot who fails to receive Jesus into his heart and who rejects Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Question: Why is Judas Iscariot protest about the wastefulness of the ointment insincere?
Answer: He does not care about the poor.  He is a thief.  St Thomas Aquinas commented on Judas' indignation at the "waste" of the expensive ointment: Frequently the servants of Satan disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:14-12).  Therefore, (Judas) hid his malice under a cloak of piety." (St Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St John, ad loc., The Navarre Commentary, John, page 163).

Question: What has led to Judas' downfall?  Hint: See Matthew 26:15; Mark 14:11; Luke 22:3 &5; John 6:70; 12:2 & 27.
Answer: He is led into sin through his love of money and becomes a tool of Satan.

You have the poor with you always...
This statement by Jesus is often misinterpreted by people who excuse themselves from providing for the poor with the excuse that Jesus said there would always be poor people and so solving poverty is impossible.  But Jesus is referring to Deuteronomy 15:11.  That passage is concerned with the Laws of the Sabbatical Year in which remission must be granted to any creditor holding a personal pledge of another Israelite.  At the Sabbatical Year the creditor must release the debtor, who is a covenant brother, from his debt.  The passage contains the command that there must be no poor among you.  Those who receive material blessings are required to share their bounty with the less fortunate.  In Deuteronomy 15:10-11 Yahweh says: When you give to him, you must give with an open heart; for this, Yahweh your God will bless you in all your actions and in all your undertakings.  Of course, there will never cease to be poor people in the country that is why I am giving you this command: Always be open handed with your brother, and with anyone in your country who is in need and poor.  The teaching is not to neglect the poor but if there were no poor there would be no opportunities to show how much we love God.  Jesus is not saying that He is more important than the poor but that the passage from Deuteronomy illustrates how we show our love of Him and our appreciation of His forgiveness by how much love and forgiveness we offer to others.

Jesus defends Mary by saying: Let her use it for the day of my burial...

Question: To what event does this statement refer?
Answer: At the end of chapter 11 the Jewish law court known as the Sanhedrin will condemn Jesus to death.  On interpretation of this passage is that Mary's action prepares Jesus' body for the event of His Passion. Another interpretation is that there is some ointment left in the bottle and Jesus forbids Judas to take the rest because Mary will need it a few days to prepare His body for burial.

John 12:8-11: Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.  Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

The "Jews" in verse 9 refers to the crowd of the covenant people present in Jerusalem for the holy week of the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread and not the religious authorities.

Question: What was it that many people believed about Jesus and how was that "belief" related to Lazarus of Bethany?
Answer: They believed that Jesus was a divine Messiah because only God could give life as Jesus has given live back to Lazarus after he had been dead for 4 days and had experienced corruption of the flesh.

Question: How has Jesus' miracle put Lazarus' life in jeopardy and why?  See John 12:17-18.
Answer: As long as witnesses could point to a living, breathing Lazarus there was physical proof of Jesus' power, but if Lazarus was dead the evidence no longer existed.

Please read John 12:12-19:  The Messiah Enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
12 The next day the great crowd of people who had come up for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  13They took branches of palm and went out to receive him, shouting: 'Hosanna!  Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.' 14Jesus found a young donkey and mounted it, as scripture says: 15Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion; look, your king is approaching, riding on the foal of a donkey. 16At first his disciples did not understand this, but later, after Jesus had been glorified, they remembered that this had been written about him and that this was what had happened to him.  17The crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead kept bearing witness to it; 18this was another reason why the crowd came out to receive him: they had heard that he had given this sign.  19Then the Pharisees said to one another, 'You see, you are making no progress; look, the whole world has gone after him!'

John 12:12-13: The next day the great crowd of people who had come up for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  They took branches of palm and went out to receive him, shouting: 'Hosanna!  Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.'

Question: Can you determine the date of this event in the Jewish calendar?  If Saturday was the day before then this day is of course, Sunday but it is also then 5 days before the Passover sacrifice which must always take place on the 14th of Nisan [Abib/Aviv in Hebrew].  If Thursday is the 14th what date is this Sunday and why is that date significant for the crowds of people who have gathered?  Hint: Read Exodus 12:3-6.

Answer: If Thursday is the 14th of Nisan [Abib] than Sunday has to be the 10th.  This is the day, according to the Law, that the lambs for the Passover sacrifice must be chosen. Exodus 12:3, 5, 6: On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock for his family, one animal for each household. [...] It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may choose it either from the sheep or from the goats.  You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it at twilight [literally = between the twilights]

It was not coincidence but Divine Providence that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan. Jesus, identified as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world  by St. John the Baptist in John 1:29, is now coming into the holy city of Jerusalem on the very day the perfect victims are chosen for the Passover sacrifice!  Jesus is the perfect sacrificial victim to be offered up for sacrifice for the sins of man.  Every sacrificial animal offered up as a sin sacrifice for the sake of the people has only been a prefigurement of the Messiah as the sacrificial Lamb of God.  Jesus was the chosen male sacrificial victim, visible for all to judge His perfection.  He was the victim personally selected by the High Priest to die for the sake of the people: But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, 'You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.'  He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad [John 11:49-52].

Question: What is significant about the Scripture verses the people are shouting?  They are quoting from Psalms 118:25-27.  You may recall that this passage is sung on the Feast of Tabernacles and is considered to be a Messianic psalm. Why do the people sing this psalm now and how does this passage relate to Jesus? 
Answer: He is the stone which the "builders", the priests/religious authorities, have rejected [verse 22].  It is Jesus' claim that He comes from Yahweh [Psalm 118:23].  By quoting from Psalm 118:25-26 the crowd is acknowledging Jesus as the promised Messiah and 118:27, he gives us light,  is what Jesus declared Himself to be at the Feast of Tabernacles ,I am the light of the world, a few months earlier [John 8:12].  The "Light" is the promised Messianic Davidic King [2 Samuel 7:16], which is what the people proclaim Jesus to be in the last line of John 12:13: "the king of Israel."

they took branches of palms:  palm branches were used each time the Hallel Psalms [113-118] were sung.  These psalms were traditionally sung during the feasts of Tabernacles, Chanukah (Hanukkah), and Passover. Only John mentions that the crowd acclaims Jesus by waving palm branches [John 12:13a]. Palms did not grow in the heights of Jerusalem and had to be brought in from Jericho.

The waving of palms was a custom associated with the feasts of Tabernacles [Shelters or Booths/ Sukkoth] and Chanukah but was also a custom associated with the celebrating of military victories and the welcoming of national rulers [see 1 Maccabees 13:51; 2 Maccabees 10:7; 14:4; and Josephus The Jewish War 7.100-102].  Palms will also be the symbol on the Judean coins struck by the Jewish rebels during the First Revolt against Rome in AD66-73 and again in the Second Revolt in AD 132-135.  The point is that the crowds are clearly hoping that Jesus will be a nationalist warrior-king prophesized in Daniel 7:13-14 and in Zechariah 9:10.

John 12:14: Jesus found a young donkey and mounted it, as scripture says: Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion; look, your king is approaching, riding on the foal of a donkey.

Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem is also described in Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:7-10; and Luke 19:35-38.

Question: What Scripture passage is John referring to and to what other Old Testament passage does it point?  Hint: see Zechariah 9:9-10 and Genesis 49:8-12
Answer: The reference is to Zechariah 9:9-10: Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!  Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem!  Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  He will banish chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem; the bow of war will be banished.  He will proclaim peace to the nations, his empire will stretch from sea to sea, from the River to the limits of the earth.

All the Gospels describe His entrance on the foal of a donkey, and parts of the passage from the Hallel Psalms 118:25-26.  John's description of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is not as detailed as Matthew's but only John quotes the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 that is fulfilled in Jesus' ride into Jerusalem.Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12-15) was not only a fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, it was also a reenactment of King Solomon's triumphal ride into the city of Jerusalem (1Kings 1:28-40) and ironically illustrated His role as both the promised Davidic King and the sacrificial Lamb.

Zechariah is one of the three post-exile prophets [after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the return 70 years later of the people from the Babylonian captivity in the late 6th century BC], and his prophecies are some of the most important prophetic books concerning the Messiah.  The Book of Zechariah gives detailed Messianic references that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus to include prophecies of events that were fulfilled in the last week of Jesus life in Jerusalem [beginning in chapter 9].

But this passage in Zechariah 9:9 also points to an earlier prophesy found in Genesis 49:8-12.  On his death bed Jacob, who God renamed Israel, prophesizes for his fourth son Judah: [beginning in verse 10-11] The scepter shall not pass from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute be brought him [until Shiloh come] and the peoples render him obedience.  He tethers his donkey to the vine, to its stock the foal of his she-donkey.  He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of the grape...  The Jews saw this passage fulfilled in David of Bethlehem, the first King of Israel from the tribe of Judah.  This prophecy was only imperfectly fulfilled in David but perfectly fulfilled in Jesus who is Shiloh "the one who is sent" [by God] who rode into Jerusalem that Sunday on a foal of a she-donkey in perfect fulfillment of the prophecy. [Also see the discussion of the etymology of the Hebrew word shiloh in the lesson on Chapter 8 verse 7].

While Zechariah's and Jacob/Israel's death bed prophecies may not have occurred to the people on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem [see verse 16], another prophetic connection would occur to the people and that would be the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of David's son, the new king, Solomon.  They were looking for the Messiah to be another David, or another Solomon, and this event Palm Sunday would have recalled King Solomon's entry into the Holy City is described in 1 Kings 1:38: "....they mounted Solomon on King David's mule and escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the Tent and anointed Solomon.  They sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted "Long live [Hosannah/ Save us] King Solomon!"  Solomon imperfectly fulfilled Zechariah 9:9 and Genesis 49:11.  He did not ride on the foal of a donkey but on a mule, the breeding of which was forbidden in Israel.  Solomon was the imperfect Messiah but Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of the promised Messiah of Yahweh as prophesized by the Jacob/Israel, the father of their nation!

John 12:16-19: At first his disciples did not understand this, but later, after Jesus had been glorified, they remembered that this had been written about him and that this was what had happened to him.  The crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead kept bearing witness to it; this was another reason why the crowd came out to receive him: they had heard that he had given this sign.  Then the Pharisees said to one another, 'You see, you are making no progress; look, the whole world has gone after him!'

Once again John comments that these events were only fully understood after Christ's resurrection [also see John 2:22].  It is only after the resurrection of the Messiah that the disciples will remember the Biblical prophecies that were fulfilled on that day Jesus rode into the Holy City.

There is an irony to the Pharisee's statement that "all the world has gone after him!"  It will be fulfilled in the commission that Christ will give the Church in Matthew 28:19-20: to baptize and make disciples of all nations.

Question: How has Lazarus' resurrection divided the people?
Answer: Those who witnessed the event see Jesus as the promised Messiah sent by Yahweh and their faith influences many people who have come to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast.  But the Pharisees are still lost in their "blindness" [John 11:53; Isaiah 6:10] and are more determined than ever to seek His death.

The study of John 12:20-50 will be the subject of the next lesson.  The end of chapter 12 will be the conclusion of Jesus' public ministry.  John will conclude the 5 days of Jesus' final teaching in Jerusalem with the departure of "the Light" which will signal the approaching "darkness" and the final struggle which will climax in Jesus' "hour" of glorification!

Resources for John chapter 12:

  1. The Navarre Bible- St. John
  2. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible – the Gospel of John
  3. The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel
  4. The International Critical Commentary
  5. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
  6. The Works of Josephus
  7. Christ is Passing By, St. Josemaria Escriva
  8. St. Augustine – The Gospel of John
  9. The Anchor Bible – The Gospel of John
  10. Christianity and the Roman Empire, Ralph Novak
  11. Catechism of the Catholic Church

Catechism references for chapter 12 [*indicates verse quoted]

12:8 2449 12:37 582*
12:24 2731 12:41 712
12:27 363*, 607 12:42 595
12:28 434* 12:46 2466
12:31 550, 2853 12:48 679*
12:32 542, 662, 786*, 14288, 2795* 12:49 1039*

 

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.