A word for the heart

with Alan Bailey

John 12:1-24 - The Gospel of John

Bible study


Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.

John 12:1-24

In our studies of the book of John, we have reached the last week of Christ’s life. We will now see touching scenes as He teaches His disciples and prepares them for His departure. Then John relates in detail the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus which follow.

Verses 1 & 2 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.

In chapter 11 we read about that amazing event, the raising of Lazarus from death. After it took place, Jesus went north with His disciples to a quiet area and remained until He returned to Bethany six days before the Passover, a feast which was held annually in Jerusalem. Again, He was in the house of His friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who were sisters and brother. No doubt the feelings of unity and affection familiar to them had returned.


Verse 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

We can imagine that Mary had kept this special container of ointment as one of her prize possessions. It was made from the stems and roots of a spikenard plant which was grown in India. As an indication of her devotion to Jesus, she gave it all to Him. In Matthew and Mark, we read that she poured it on His head as well as His feet. In verse seven we will see that Jesus relates the anointing to His imminent death. The atmosphere of the house was permeated by a strong and pleasant odour.

Verses 4 & 5 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

This mean reaction to a generous act came from a person who could only see the expense involved. For Mary, nothing was too good for Jesus, but for Judas, no-one deserved such a luxury. So he objected, saying that a year’s wage for a workman could have been raised by selling the spikenard and the money given to the poor. But his statement lacked genuine concern and failed to appreciate the moment. For John goes on to say:

Verse 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

This comment shows the character of the man. He was greedy for money. He was treasurer for the group of disciples but embezzled the funds. He was even guilty of betraying the Master he followed for thirty pieces of silver, as we shall see in chapter 13.
As a disciple of Christ, he was not the genuine article.

Verses 7 & 8 But Jesus said “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

Jesus defends the action of Mary. He realized that she had kept this precious oil for a special occasion and so she used it. In no way was what she did out of place. It was very much in order as His death lay immediately ahead. Yes, the poor are always there for us to help. Judas probably never did a thing for them. The other Gospels tell us that Jesus said at this point that what she had done would be remembered and told wherever the Gospel went. And that is just what has happened.

Verse 9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.

It is not surprising that news about the raising of Lazarus had gone far and wide. Jews of some influence in Jerusalem were quite perturbed about such reports and wanted to come and check things out for themselves. So something of a crowd of people was about the place in Bethany, trying to discover what they could. But there was a sinister motive behind them.

Verses 10 & 11 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

John is saying that after the raising of Lazarus, there were quite a number of witnesses who were convinced about Jesus and believed in Him. This displeased the Jewish leaders. They wanted now not only to kill Jesus, but Lazarus also. Why? To get rid of the evidence. If Lazarus could be done away with, they could then spread the idea that he was never raised at all; it was only a rumour.

Verses 12 & 13 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!”

Seeing this was a special time in Jerusalem, people had gathered there from all over the country. As word got out that Jesus was arriving, a movement began to give Him a welcome. So they lined the road with palm fronds in their hands, calling out a word of praise “Hosanna” and greeting Him as a king. It is a cause of wonder that in a week’s time the crowds in Jerusalem would be crying out for His blood.

Verses 14 & 15 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.”

Other Gospels tell us that Jesus borrowed this animal from a friend. In riding into Jerusalem in this way, He was fulfilling a prophecy from the Old Testament book of Zechariah (Chapter 9, verse 9). This is what John refers to in saying “as it is written.”

Verse 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

This is a note of explanation. John is saying that when this triumphant entry to Jerusalem took place, the followers of Jesus (perhaps including John himself) didn’t recognize the fulfilment of a forecast made by Zechariah around 400 years earlier. But after the Lord had risen from death and ascended to heaven, it all became clear to them.

Verses 17 & 18 Therefore the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of His tomb and raised Him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign.

The explanation continues. John is pointing out that the fame of Jesus went before Him because those who saw the raising of Lazarus had talked about it everywhere. The result was that the crowd formed, ready to receive Him as a King.

Verse 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after Him!”

The last thing the Pharisees wanted was for Jesus to be popular among the masses. They wanted the opposite so that their plans to kill Him might materialise. So they were dismayed to see this demonstration of acclaim from the crowd.

Verses 20-22 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

A number of people from other races followed the religion of the Jews and were present for the Passover. These Greeks had heard of Jesus and wanted to see Him. Both Philip and Andrew were disciples of Jesus and so passed on the request. It would appear that John included this incident to record Jesus’ answer which we now read.

Verses 23 & 24 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.

The Greeks were curious and wanted a glimpse of this person of repute. But the Lord was bringing His enquirers down to earth and focusing on the immediate future by speaking of His death and resurrection. The way forward for Him meant walking into betrayal, trial, crucifixion and death; to be followed of course by His triumphant rising and eventual ascension to the Father. He likened this course of events to the sowing of a seed of grain, giving up its life in order to produce much more grain.

For consideration

Early in this Gospel, John says “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Throughout this book we see constant rejection of Christ by the Jews. One encounter after another shows their unbelief in Him as Messiah. This is despite all the evidence, even the raising of a dead man. Now we approach the final act of rejection when the leaders and the people cry out for Him to be crucified. Even the Roman, Pilate, could see their twisted motivation when he asked “Why, what evil has he done?”

We are faced with questions, also. What are we doing with Jesus? Do we believe, and embrace Him as our personal Saviour and Lord? Or do we hold Him at arms length, or perhaps, like the Pharisees, reject Him completely? These are questions that demand an answer.

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