John Chapter 12: Spikenard Mary, Jealousy of the Scribes and Pharisees

Dec 22nd, 2009 | By | Category: John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

John Chapter 12: Spikenard Mary, Jealousy of the Scribes and Pharisees

John 12:1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

The time frame is significant: six days before the Passover feast. The emphasis by the nation had shifted from the killing of the lamb to the seven-day feast that followed. Jesus was in Bethany at this time.

John 12:2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.

The Diaglott shows they were reclining at the table, lying on their sides with their feet stretched out behind them. By mentioning that Lazarus was one of those so reclining, the account seems to indicate that he now may have consecrated or at least was progressing to that point.

It would seem that the house did not belong to Lazarus but to Mary and Martha because they were doing the serving. Mary and Martha could take the liberty of seating Lazarus at the table with Jesus, for the family had this prerogative. Because of Lazarus’ raising, it was only natural that he would want to be as close as possible to Jesus. And this was definitely a turning point in Lazarus’ relationship with the Master. Previously there was a close rapport and Jesus liked Lazarus, but now the relationship was even closer.

The custom at that time was to seat men guests at the table, but we do not know for sure if that custom was followed here. The important thing is that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were all there, and supper was being served when an incident occurred. And the account stresses that Lazarus sat at the table next to Jesus.

John 12:3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

John 12:4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,

John 12:5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

Mary had saved up a treasure of spikenard. Whatever her original purpose, she devotedly expended all of it on this one occasion to anoint Jesus’ feet. The cost was 300 pence (about a year’s salary). Judas, seeing this use of costly spikenard, considered such use a waste of money.

However, Mary’s act was more important by far than to consider the spikenard from a commercial application and value. The point is that a great value was expended at a moment’s notice, and to natural reasoning, this was a waste.

What was the purpose of spikenard back there? It was used as a perfume, as a medium of exchange if trouble got severe and money was worthless (some collect diamonds or gold for this purpose today), as a dowry, and as a fumigant to kill and disguise odors for such things as burial purposes.

“The house was filled with the odour.” The fragrance permeated the whole house to become almost overbearing. From this standpoint, the disciples reasoned, “Mary, couldn’t you have used just a little?” Hence the spikenard seemed to be both a waste of money and a waste in the sense of overusage.

Judas’s remark, “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for 300 pence and given to the poor?” sounded very noble, but it was not his real reason. His argument seemed to be sensible, for 300 pence could have helped a lot of poor people, but we must watch lest we do similarly in our reasoning. Jesus cannot be equated with the poor. Jesus said, “The poor are with you always,” but he would not be there with them always (Matt. 26:11 paraphrase). Hence Judas made a false appraisal. He was the treasurer—he held “the bag” (John 12:6)—but he was a thief as well and hence was really looking for ways to benefit himself. Nevertheless, his reasoning sounded very plausible.

Sometimes Christians also use false reasoning. For example, some are very magnanimous with the property and possessions of other people. They are only too willing to sacrifice the property of others, not the property of self. They will control the lives of others, write their wills, etc.

This is greed, yet their arguments sound good. “Why not write your will for the Lord’s cause?” they ask. But each individual should make up his own mind in regard to his own responsibility.

There are extenuating circumstances in the life of every individual. Each is a steward of his own time, money, and talents. Therefore, we should not tell others what to do. What each person does is between him and the Lord. Not only should we not sacrifice the things of others, but we should beware lest we are either the originator or the beneficiary of such suggestions. Motives must be carefully guided.

This is where Judas had a flaw in his character. Of the twelve original apostles, Judas probably had the greatest potential. He was at the top in capabilities, but the flaw in his character was devastating—it brought him to ruin. The Apostle Paul, who had the same basic personality traits, took his place. Paul also had great potential capabilities, but he was wholly devoted to the Lord’s service according to the Lord’s will.

John 12:6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Judas did not even care for the poor, but he used that pretense. He held the money bag but was a thief. Perhaps he even dipped his own hand in the bag and stole some of that money.

Notice that neither Martha nor Lazarus protested about wasting money, and Mary had used family “money” (spikenard) to anoint Jesus’ feet. The absence of protest was to their credit.

Q: Two Reprint articles (Nos. 5540 and 5552) mention sums of money. One article said that the 300-pence value of the spikenard was equivalent to a year’s salary. It also said that using the ointment on Jesus’ feet instead of converting it to money helped incite the greed of Judas. The companion article a few pages later said that the 30 pieces of silver Judas transacted for were worth $200 to $300. If this thinking is correct, would the 30 pieces of silver have been equal to many years of labor?

A: No, the 30 pieces of silver were not that valuable. One pence equaled a day’s labor. One piece of silver was worth more than one pence, but how much more? Certainly the 30 pieces of silver were more valuable than a year’s labor but probably not too much more, based on some Old Testament Scriptures, such as the price of a servant who was purchased.

Consider the logistics. Those who were eating at the table reclined with their feet extending outward. Mary would have anointed Jesus’ feet in a very humble way. She was in the background, and no one would have noticed until the aroma filled the air. Only Jesus would have known what was going on. Mary wiped his feet with her hair, and hair symbolizes consecration.

John 12:7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

John 12:8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

This—Jesus’ appraisal—is the proper equation of value, yet from an earthly standpoint, it could not have been worse. Jesus’ words give us a guiding principle and a safeguard against following or advocating a social gospel. Our first priority is to do the Lord’s work, not to help the poor. However, this principle does not rule out our helping on an individual basis. A group effort—as a movement—should not be to alleviate the poor. The main mission of the Church is to preach the gospel and to learn and understand the gospel before we preach it. We preach what we do know, not what we do not know.

Jesus’ words also show his foresight—that this condition of poverty would prevail throughout the entire Gospel Age. Many, especially youth, have a utopian goal to eliminate poverty, but that will not occur until the Kingdom.

Mary had been saving up this spikenard for another purpose but then changed that purpose and used the spikenard on Jesus. The fact that she had saved up such a quantity shows it was not being expended bit by bit but was intended for a specific long-term goal. Using the spikenard on Jesus was an evidence of her respect and love for the truth as seen in the person of Jesus.

Jesus knew Mary’s heart condition. She had been saving the ointment all along for another purpose, but an overwhelming outpouring of love for him resulted in her going contrary to her original purpose. We know she was not saving the ointment to pour on his feet in preparation for his burial because none of the disciples fully comprehended that he must die. For two reasons, God may have put this thought into her heart and mind at this point, knowing she would heed it, namely, to show (1) her loving heart condition and (2) the evil disposition of Judas.

John 12:9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.

John 12:10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;

John 12:11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

The primary concern of the people was to see Lazarus, the one who had died and was now alive. The wording seems to emphasize Jesus first, but that is not the thought. Lazarus had been dead for four days; hence his resuscitation attracted many. They wanted to see if he was real, hear him speak, etc. Next they would turn to Jesus, who had performed the miracle.

It is interesting that at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, when he was about to die, the chief priests even plotted to slay Lazarus. John’s Gospel is the only one that recorded this fact. John knew of this evil intention because he had contact with some of the priests. When the disciples fled in the Garden of Gethsemane, John and Peter followed Jesus. It was John who was on the inside of the priestly home and opened the door for Peter to enter. Hence we know that John was related to the priestly family, probably through marriage. As such, he was privy to secret information.

The planning to kill Lazarus was dropped, however, probably because the chief priests became so engrossed in dispatching Jesus. Also, they could not put Lazarus to death without Pilate’s knowing about it—and then a charge would be needed. Lazarus had simply been raised from the dead. Capital punishment had to be cleared through the occupying power: Rome.

Jesus said in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus that even if the Jews saw one raised from the dead, they would not believe—and they didn’t. The parable indicates that Jesus knew in advance that Lazarus would be raised. In fact, the Gospels can be studied from this standpoint, for Jesus knew much more in advance than we usually realize. In some way—perhaps in his prayer life—he received information we are not aware of, except as we see certain things crop up here and there. For example, Matthew 24 indicates that Jesus clearly knew much about the whole Gospel Age—probably even the year—but the day and hour he did not know. He knew about the wise and faithful servant, about the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins and what would be involved with that experience, etc. And certainly he knew that the Gospel Age would be a long period of time. His foreknowledge was startling.

John 12:12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,

John 12:13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

“On the next day” was five days before the Passover feast (see John 12:1), which was the day after Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with the spikenard. This is an important time clue, for it was necessary that Jesus be presented to Jerusalem as the Passover Lamb on the fifth day before his death, for in the type, the Passover lamb was selected on the tenth day of Nisan and slain on the 14th day at 3 p.m.

The words “first,” “second,” ”third,” etc., can be confusing in the sense that January 1, 1987, means only 1,986 years have elapsed plus a few hours. When the year 1987 is used, are we referring to the beginning, middle, or end of the year? Hence the designation “sixth” or “fifth” day before the Passover feast does not indicate what hour unless we read the detail.

Verses 12 and 13 would make more sense if the following changes were made. A period should be placed after the word “feast.” A new sentence would then start with the word “When,” and it would include verse 13. “On the next day much people were come to the feast. When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Many people would be at the feast regardless of whether Jesus was there, but when they heard he was coming, they excitedly took palm branches and went forth to meet him.

Today Jerusalem has few palm trees. In past ages, however, this was a fertile area with many trees. Also, there was much vegetation on the way down to Jericho. In AD 70, so many trees were cut down that along the city wall, there was no more room to crucify Jews. The land has been deforested, and today millions of trees are being planted to try to restore productivity.

The cry of the people “Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” shows the subordination of Jesus to the Father. Since the King of Israel came in the name of Jehovah, Jesus is subordinate to the One who sent him. “Jehovah” is not used in the New Testament, but some uses of “Lord,” as here, refer to Him.

“Palms” are a symbol of victory. A custom in other lands was to strew palm branches before a returning victorious general. This custom showed honor and appreciation and kept the general from sullying his feet by contact with the ground. (Sir Walter Raleigh did this for the Queen of England with his coat.)

John 12:14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,

John 12:15 Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.

John 12:16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

John was not aware of the fulfillment of this prophecy at the time. Just like the others, he was in ignorance. However, years later when he wrote his Gospel, he did understand. Thus he wrote in effect, “We did not understand at the time, including myself, but now, in writing the Gospel, I am recording the event as a fulfillment of prophecy.”

In the Old Testament, the judges of Israel rode on white asses as they made their rounds to hear cases. This was the origin of the circuit court, where the “court” traveled into a person’s locality for his convenience, although usually only at certain appointed times of the year.

Revelation 19:11-14 pictures Jesus and his victorious followers (tried, proven, and faithful) on white horses. Following the wonderful miracle of Lazarus, here came the King like the judges of old. Truly this was the Messiah! Details are provided in the other Gospels.

The prophecy quoted is Zechariah 9:9. We can picture the excitement. The King was coming, and in the people’s minds, that meant the Roman yoke was about to be broken. Here was Messiah, and he had raised the dead! The people were jubilant—so much so, in fact, that the Pharisees could say, “The [whole] world is gone after him” (John 12:19). The ass’s colt upon which Jesus rode had never before been ridden, showing that Jesus was Lord over the animal creation as well.

John 12:17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.

John 12:18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.

John 12:19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.

Verse 17 shows that these “people,” that is, the eyewitnesses of the miracle with Lazarus, chiefly instigated and aroused the tumultuous recognition. When they saw Lazarus come forth from the tomb, they ran down the road almost berserk with joy, proclaiming the miracle loudly to all in Bethany and Bethphage. They “bare record” that Jesus had done “this miracle.”

The Pharisees reacted, “The world has gone after Jesus.” Their hearts were so hardened that they viewed Jesus’ miracles with suspicion and even wanted to murder him because of his popularity. Envy was the root cause of their opposition because they saw in him an inherent threat to their recognition as leaders before the people.

Hence two classes are enumerated here. One class joyously recognized Jesus, not only for the miracle with Lazarus but for other miracles as well. The other class was plotting his and Lazarus’ death.

John 12:20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

John 12:21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

John 12:22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

These were not Greek Jews but Greeks who had faith in God and “came up to worship at the feast.” Just as this condition was a proof to Jesus that his “hour is come” (John 12:23), so the reverse condition will be proof to us that the feet members are about to be raptured; that is, when Jews seek information from the feet members, the time will be significant.

Jesus’ ministry was directed to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” which means his ministry was primarily focused on the Jews in Israel. The Greeks may have been proselytes, but why did they go to Philip the apostle? In John 1:44, as well as in verse 21 here, John states that Philip was from Bethsaida. To state this twice, John would have considered the fact significant. The tetrarch resident in Bethsaida was called the “tetrarch of Galilee,” and Galilee is called “Galilee of the Gentiles” because many Gentiles were in that area, especially the Romans but also the Greeks. And Greek was more the universal language of the day, whereas Latin was used for legal purposes, the courts, etc. Greek architecture, sculptors, mythical gods, etc., were incorporated into the Roman way of life. Thus a lot of foreigners were in Israel up around the Sea of Galilee. Climate-wise, the area was like a health spa; it was 800 feet below sea level with mild weather year-round.

Evidently, Philip was a more cultured apostle, even though he was more simplistic in some ways than the fishermen. Peter, Andrew, and John were ignorant in the sense of being unschooled, but not Philip. Therefore, the Greeks went to Philip, who in turn went to Andrew.

The fact that the Greeks called Philip “Sir” showed respect, as well as his approachableness. However, even though he was an apostle, he lacked certain seniority, so he went to Andrew, Peter’s older brother, knowing that through Andrew, the Greeks could get the Master’s ear.

That deference was becoming, even for an apostle.

These Greeks were more or less like the Roman centurion. Not only were they natives of a foreign land who lived in Israel, but they had faith in God, as evidenced by their actions. The antitype would be Jews with faith living in Christendom who will approach the feet members for information.

Incidentally, there were two Philips: (1) Philip the apostle of Bethsaida (John 1:44; 12:21) and (2) Philip the evangelist (Acts 6:1-6; 8:5,6,26-40). Both were evangelistic.

John 12:23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

“And Jesus answered them [Philip, Andrew, and probably others].” Jesus was especially saying to the believers that the petition of the Greeks (verses 20 and 21) signaled a marked change in his ministry; namely, he had discharged his responsibility and accomplished his purpose of coming to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The evidence of the fullness of Jesus’ witness was made manifest by the Greeks now desiring an audience with him.

John 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and decays and dies, there will be no grain. By dying, the kernel brings forth a stalk on which are many kernels (fruit). Thus the death of one man would bring forth fruit unto many in its benefits.

Why did Jesus answer this way? He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so his ministry was primarily to the Jews. Now here came the Greeks, and Jesus was saying that his death was necessary before his ministry could be opened up to others. His resurrection was like a sheaf of wheat with kernels (plural), as opposed to the one kernel put into the ground.

Under the Law, the sheaf offering had to precede Pentecost, at which time the Holy Spirit manifested acceptance of the Church, starting with the Jews and progressing to the Gentiles.

John 12:25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

If we subordinate the present life to our spiritual desires, we will receive eternal life in the future. We must love the natural life less than the spiritual life, the latter being superior. The suggestions of the natural heart and mind are not to be heeded.

Jesus came for the very purpose of giving his life a Ransom for many. The kernel of wheat had to die in order to bring forth fruit. Thus Jesus felt it was a necessity on his part to subordinate his life at his First Advent in order to gain life eternal. He included himself in verse 25 because he was about to die. However, his words indicate that his disciples must also be in this attitude of heart readiness to be faithful unto death. The first use of the word “life” in verse 25 is the Greek psuche, meaning soul, being.

In addition, a dispensational aspect is suggested. Just as Jesus at the end of the Jewish Age gave his life for the life of the world and for his Church, so at the end of this age, the feet members must also suffer and die. In the near future, there will be a test as to whether we love the natural life to such an extent that we shun or shirk responsibility. “He that loveth his [natural] life shall lose it [the spiritual life]”; that is, he will lose everything—all life. To a certain extent, the Great Company will shun responsibility at the end of the age by not entering into the responsibilities of the hour as wholeheartedly as the Little Flock. In the Gideon picture, only 300 participated initially in the routing of the enemy by breaking their pitchers, etc. Later many others joined in the battle, showing that at heart the Great Company class are not cowards, but they must be forced to make a decision. The scapegoat was brought by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness to die. The Lord’s goat was a more willing sacrifice, but in the final analysis, even the Great Company class will make the right decision—they are just a little slow to do so.

The point is that the decision to lay down life unto death must be made in order to get life at all, but the swiftness with which this is done may make a difference as to which class one belongs to. Elijah did the smiting initially; later Elisha did a smiting work too. The Lord’s goat died a sacrificial death; later the scapegoat died. The suggestion in verse 25 is that those who are cowards when the chips are down could lose everything. In regard to the world too, cowards will not get life; they are described as “the fearful” in Revelation 21:8.

Thus a dispensational aspect is implied. Just as Jesus realized he must die, so at the end of the Gospel Age, there will be a cutting off of the last members of the Church. Moreover, “two parts” must be cut off (the Little Flock and the Great Company), and the “third” part (Israel) will be left therein (Zech. 13:8). However, the two parts will not be cut off at the same time.

John 12:26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

When Jesus said, “If any man serve me,” he was not just speaking of Jews but included Gentiles too. “If any man serve me, let him follow me [unto death].” “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Heb. 13:13). Death is the portal through which we enter to be with Jesus. This is shown by the second veil, the entrance into the Most Holy.

The Father will honor those who faithfully serve Jesus. Again, here, Jesus brought in the Father as superior—and as a separate being. We must have this conviction if we are confronted in the future and are not able to enter into the semantics of explanation because of the circumstances then existing. Our confidence should be such that we can BOLDLY state our belief in Jesus and the Father as two separate beings, even if we cannot rationalize all the arguments thrust against us. We must oppose the Trinitarian view. If we cannot answer one Scripture but know there are hundreds we have already answered in our heart, that is sufficient. If we cannot meet a particular exigency that arises, so be it—suffer it—but our faith should be secure and rockbottom.

To the extent of our ability, we should try to give a reason for the faith that we entertain.

Sometimes the element of fear results in our being a scatterbrain, but if our faith is solid, we do not have to unduly worry about giving an eloquent reply. Of course we like to testify to the best of our ability and pray that by God’s grace, these circumstances can be met with full assurance of heart and the joy of doing so properly.

John 12:27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

“Now is my soul troubled.” These words are very comforting, for if Jesus was troubled, then certainly the feet members will have this experience too. And if he overcame, we, too, can overcome if our faith holds fast. He will succor us at that time.

The hour of Jesus’ death was drawing closer; it was only five days away. Suppose we knew that we would die on Friday and that it would be the climax of our mission. Each day that passed would be like a countdown. We would be very sober-minded.

Jesus’ soul was troubled, even though he had come with dedication and determination for the purpose of dying. “How am I straitened until this baptism be accomplished!” he said, yet as the hour approached, moments of trepidation arose (Luke 12:50). Jesus had ups and downs at the end of his ministry, and these were to be expected, especially since he had seen crucifixions. Even if he had not seen them as a man, he would have seen them as a spirit being looking down. He knew what awaited him.

The shock started: “Have I been faithful?” The coming of the Greeks marked the end of his public ministry, so now the manner in which his ministry would be fulfilled became a concern. “Have I rendered perfect obedience?”

How remarkable that we are given insight into Jesus’ very thoughts—his innermost thoughts— in verses 27 and 28a! Why are we so informed? The reason is that we, too, will have ups and downs, also asking, “Have I been faithful?” Doubts will arise just as they did with John the Baptist. He introduced Jesus, yet asked later, “Are you really the Messiah?” In the near future, tests will make us wonder and doubt too, but remembering this Scripture (and others) will bring reassurance. If he who is perfect had this experience, then we, in our imperfections, must expect the same. We should not be alarmed but must hold onto our faith structure!

“What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour”? No! Jesus was in such close communion with his Father that he was more or less praying here. He was conscious that the Father was watching him. Thus prayer life can be other than always kneeling down. Prayers can come suddenly under strange circumstances out in public. “Pray without ceasing” indicates a continual attitude.

John 12:28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

Jesus continued, “Father, glorify thy name”; that is, “Thy will be done. By my submitting to your will, you will be glorified.”

“Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The people actually heard Jehovah’s voice. The Father’s name was previously glorified with the raising of Lazarus (John 11:4,40), and it would be glorified again with the raising of Jesus.

There will be an antitypical dispensational fulfillment. Jesus had wavered a little, then he was stabilized, and now came Jehovah’s voice. The feet members will have mixed experiences and then be strengthened by Scripture.

John 12:29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

The people did not hear the actual words with distinctness. Nevertheless, the “thunder” was a definite response to Jesus’ words “Father, glorify thy name.” The people associated the sound of thunder from heaven as being a response to Jesus’ request.

Verse 29 is a clue as to what the Heavenly Father’s voice sounds like—deep, resonant tones.

Zephaniah 3:17 mentions the time when the Father will sing. To hear Him sing would far surpass the most beautiful earthly voice we could think of.

God’s voice was also heard on the Mount of Transfiguration when He said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5).

John 12:30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

Jesus said the voice came for the people’s sakes.

John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

The fate of the world hung in the balance of Jesus’ being faithful unto death. Moreover, the very act of manipulating the Crucifixion sealed Satan’s doom so that he would be cast out. And Jesus, by being faithful, would have the power to ultimately destroy Satan, sin, and death. “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” Jesus made this statement with confidence. Just four verses earlier he had said, “Now is my soul troubled,” and he would have this experience several times. Therefore, it is wrong to imply that a faithful Christian has confidence steadily and consistently right up to the end of his course. We should not judge brethren emotionally.

Some have a “salesman” personality from birth, and when they become a Christian, they are still confident. Such confidence does not prove one is of the Little Flock.

Consider Jesus’ words: “now is” versus “now shall.” At this critical juncture in earth’s history, Jesus came to die as the Messiah. At Jesus’ crucifixion, Satan’s doom was sealed for his future destruction. It is one thing to be in sin, and it is another thing to go beyond the point of no return. Beyond that point, it is impossible to repent, no matter how many tears are shed. Satan had manifested a wrong disposition ever since the fall of Adam, but as soon as Jesus was put to death through Satan’s machinations, his doom was sealed beyond the point of retrieval.

John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

John 12:33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

Jesus was referring to the manner of his death—crucifixion—but through this very means, he would be able to offer life to all people in due time. During the Gospel Age, God does the drawing. In the Kingdom Age, Jesus will do the drawing—of “all men.” Verse 32 is a reminder of the serpent on the pole in Moses’ day. To be delivered from the serpents’ bites (sin), the people had to look at the brass serpent on the pole, which Moses had made (Num. 21:7-9).

In verses 31 and 32, Jesus contrasted the fate of Satan (Second Death) with his own fate (Savior). Satan desires to deceive and destroy; Jesus desires to save.

John 12:34 The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

Verse 34 is the people’s response to Jesus’ statement “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

Q: What does the term “Son of man“ mean, as opposed to “Son of God”?

A: The term refers back to Adam: “The Son of [the] man [Adam]”; it has a direct relationship to the fact that Jesus could pay the Ransom price for Adam. The Scriptures say that no clean thing can come out of an unclean thing; that is, man cannot redeem himself (Job 14:4). Verse 34 is presented from the standpoint of the male. In generating life, the male must be perfect in order for his offspring to be perfect. In other words, a perfect offspring can come from a perfect man and an imperfect woman, but not from the reverse. However, other Scriptures say that the Redeemer would arise of the human race, of David; that is, irrespective of what seems to be a contradiction, the Messiah would be born of the line of David.

Jesus is the only one of Adam’s offspring who is perfect. This perfection was achieved because God is the Father of Jesus. God was the perfect Father, Mary was the imperfect mother, and Jesus, the result, was the perfect offspring. In order for Jesus to be perfect, the male generation as a human being had to come from outside the human race, but he still had to be identified with Adam’s race, so he was made flesh. By being introduced from outside the human race, Jesus is “the [promised] Son of man.” The term is a title: “The Son [referring to Jesus] of [the] man [referring to Adam, that is, of Adam’s race].”

Jesus was of Adam’s race through the mother. Thus he is of Adam’s race as a foster son, through the Father. Because Jesus had to be directly related through the mother, the mother’s genealogy is actually more important than the Joseph line, although Jesus was of David through both Mary and Joseph. The title, in a nutshell, means that of Adam’s race, a Messiah would be raised up to deliver the human race.

The Jews did not think of a Messiah in terms of a vicarious sacrifice—that someone had to die for Adam—even though this is taught in the Law. They merely thought of a Redeemer who would deliver through conquest or some other heroic means and thus break the yoke of Roman bondage. Actually, however, the deliverance is far greater, for Jesus will break the bondage of sin and death.

The people were not accustomed to the title “Son of man” as applying to the Messiah.

However, Isaiah 9:6 emphasizes the thought of the Son of man, as opposed to the Son of God: “For unto us [mankind] a child is born, unto us a son is given.”

Jesus was actually transferred from spiritual to human form—he became a human being. John said we can identify the Antichrist by the teaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh (1 John 4:3). Roman Catholics say that Jesus was incarnate (half God, half man).

By their response (verse 34), the people indicated that they knew Jesus was referring to crucifixion. The Law said Christ would abide forever, but Jesus said the Son of man would be lifted up (crucified). The seeming contradiction was puzzling to the people. The Jews thought Messiah would abide forever, yet Jesus said earlier that the Pharisees were planning to put him to death (John 8:40).

Among others, the following Old Testament Scriptures indicate that Messiah will abide forever: Isaiah 9:6,7; Psalm 45:6,7; 89:4,29; 110:4; Daniel 2:44; 7:13,14; and 2 Samuel 7:12,13. The problem was that the people were applying Second Advent Scriptures to the First Advent. Because they were blinded, they overlooked Scriptures showing that the Redeemer must die. This shows that if one is prejudiced on a subject and will not give due consideration to all the texts on that subject, he can be blinded.

In their puzzlement, the people asked, “Who is this Son of man?” Not only did Jesus use this expression repeatedly in referring to himself, but also the people knew that Jesus thought of himself as the Messiah, so they were confused. They thought, “The Law says that Messiah will live forever. You call yourself Messiah but say you will be crucified. What do you mean by the title ‘Son of man’?”

The people reacted differently, as seen earlier. Some firmly believed Jesus was the Messiah, some thought he was of Beelzebub, and still others were uncertain—but all were Jews, familiar with the Old Testament. And they had difficulty harmonizing some of Jesus’ statements in regard to his being the Messiah. They could not comprehend that Messiah must be lifted up.

Suppose we were a sincere Jew listening to Jesus and hearing him say, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.” In the type, there was a plague in which the people were bitten by fiery serpents and were dying. As an antidote, the Lord instructed Moses to go through the camp with a brazen serpent on a pole. All who looked upon the serpent lived (Num. 21:4-9). Now Jesus was giving the people information about his crucifixion by saying in effect, “The lifting up of the serpent back there in the wilderness represents that the Messiah must be a curse, and cursed is he who hangeth upon a tree.” In other words, Jesus had to assume the curse on Adam and thus take his place. For example, just as Adam hid naked behind a tree in the Garden of Eden, so Jesus had to hang naked in front of a tree (the Cross). This aspect of Jesus’ being made sin is just as important as the life-rights aspect in which he had to obey the Law perfectly in order to get the reward of the Law: life. The Law promised life to whoever could keep it perfectly.

Thus Jesus was the Redeemer from two standpoints. (1) He was made a curse by taking Adam’s curse upon himself. God “laid [up]on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). “With his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). (2) He had human life rights to give over to Justice to offset the penalty of death on the human race. Both credentials were necessary to substantiate his being the Messiah.

John 12:35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Jesus is “the light”—plus his message. Not only is Jesus the light, but he has information. He is the way, the truth, and the life. What Jesus says, what he does, and his instruction are all enlightenment. He was a light to those who listened with humility and sincerity. Those who were prejudiced were turned off; they did not like his criticism.

“Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you” is a principle. In other words, if one does not react to light, instruction, and information but procrastinates, debates, and delays decision making, he is increasingly less likely to respond. This is not an irrevocable rule, but it is a general rule. The longer one procrastinates on an issue, the more difficult it is to respond.

“Walk,” that is, progress, continue. Incidentally, back there one had to literally walk around and accompany Jesus in order to hear him. Those who hungered after truth were tenacious.

From a dispensational standpoint, Jesus’ words to those at the First Advent alluded to the short time he had yet to live before his crucifixion and death: “darkness.” His public ministry was about to close. When it closed, the darkness, or night, set in.

“He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” When we have Jesus’ instruction, we can see the path to take. In darkness, without his instruction, we stumble. “If therefore the light that is in thee be[come] darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23). Some who once had considerable light have gone into considerable darkness. Some turn against the very things they stood for earlier.

Some of the Jews were on the fence back there, not sure about whether Jesus was the Messiah. But if we are not sure about a matter, we should search more and more to know whether a matter is true or false. It is better to try to resolve a doctrine if possible—and the sooner, the better. If a matter cannot be resolved right away, we should keep it on the shelf and always be desirous of conviction. Unless the issue is special dispensational truth not yet due, such hunger is rewarded sooner or later, generally speaking. “Light [truth] is sown for the righteous” (Psa. 97:11). The Father and Jesus want the “children of light” to be enlightened (John 12:36; 1 Thess.5:5). It is good to think on these profound principles privately. Even Jesus’ seemingly casual remarks have great depth.

Jesus was also implying that he was like the sunlight. He is the “Sun” as well as the “Son.” The more “Sunlight” that is absorbed, the better it is in the darker periods of life. We should be “phosphorescent,” as it were. After the Sun shines on us, we should phosphoresce all night. When we first come into the truth, the Lord blesses us in opening doors of understanding and knowledge, but the time comes when we have clouds of darkness. While instructional opportunities are available, we should take as much advantage of them as possible to help us through the later period of wind, storms, and chills. The more we grow during the sunlight and the gentle rain, the deeper our roots will go—and, as a result, the better we can survive cold winds and storms. If we do not take advantage of such seasons, our roots will be shallow and spring up. In the Parable of the Sower, some heard the Word of God with gladness, and anon the birds came and plucked the seed away. Some appreciated truth, but because they did not lay hold upon it, the Adversary was right there to distract them and disrupt their life so that they forgot the truth they had heard. The principle of walking or continuing in the light becomes very important and essential in connection with our destiny. That principle must be followed.

John 12:36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.

Jesus hid himself because he had to die on Friday at 3 p.m., and he did not want to precipitate his death sooner. He knew the religious element was plotting to kill him. Of the mixed group listening to him, some of the scribes and Pharisees were always eavesdropping, for they had put out a contract on his life. They would not kill him in the Temple precincts, in the sacred house of God, but if he was too familiar with them and showed them every place he went, then after sunset, they would go and apprehend him. However, Judas knew it was Jesus’ custom to go out to the Mount of Olives at night (“as he was wont”—Luke 22:39). The night that Jesus was betrayed and apprehended, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane according to his custom. Thus Jesus hid himself not through fear but in order to adhere to the time schedule God had set for him.

This situation with Jesus suggests that at the very end of the age, as events and time progress and draw closer and closer to reality, the feet members will see matters clearer and clearer.

They will know what is happening and what is about to happen.

Jesus’ actions could seem puzzling. The fact that he hid (John 8:59; 12:36), avoided (John 7:1; 11:54), fled, etc., could be misconstrued. He was absolutely fearless in calling the scribes and Pharisees vipers, whited sepulchers, hypocrites, etc., but now that he knew they were trying to apprehend him in a very specific manner, he was wise as a serpent until the due time (Matt. 10:16). Jesus was fearless when he was apprehended. In fact, he said he could call for legions of angels to protect him, but he did not do so, for he willingly submitted to his capture.

John 12:37 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

John 12:38 That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

John 12:39 Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,

John 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

John 12:41 These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

Generally speaking, the nation of Israel believed not, although there were exceptions. For example, “many” chief rulers believed on Jesus but remained silent for fear of the Pharisees (verse 42). However, while “many” believed, the majority of the chief rulers did not. If, for instance, 35 out of 150 believed, the 35 would be a minority. Hence the word “many” did not mean a majority.

Verses 38 and 40 quote from Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10, respectively. The sixth chapter of Isaiah speaks of the seraphim and the Lord’s train filling the Temple. In the vision, the Prophet Isaiah saw the Lord God seated as a great being with seraphim underneath Him. This throne scene in a Temple setting showed the glory of the Lord. The Temple shook from the resonance of God’s voice. There is a distinction, however, for Isaiah 6 refers to Jehovah, and in John 12:41, the principle is used in regard to Jesus. We are reminded of Jesus’ statement “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). The message Jesus brought is the Father’s message. The things Jesus said were not of himself but of the Father.

Verse 40 is saying, “Unto them it is not given lest they see.” The disciples asked Jesus, “Why don’t you speak plainly to the multitudes as you do with us?” Jesus replied, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. 13:11).

Those who hunger, thirst, and search are rewarded. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). We are to search for truth “as for hid treasures” (Prov. 2:4). We diligently study with the hope of being rewarded.

John 12:42 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:

John 12:43 For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Gamaliel was probably one of the chief rulers who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, as well as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, plus others we do not know about. The “many” were a minority of the chief rulers who “believed on him.”

A counterpart today for the Pharisees who believed on Jesus but did not confess their belief until later would be those who, after truth is seen, decide to stay in Babylon because of the numbers, respect, and influence of the nominal systems. Such individuals love the praise of men more than that of God. And there is another point; namely, the coming out of Babylon is not the final picture but a degree of overcoming. The question is, How much further progress is made after leaving Babylon? There are three classes: Little Flock, Great Company, and Second Death.

Verse 37 might seem to be saying that none believed on Jesus. This was true in the general, overall sense but not in every individual case, for verse 42 shows that a minority did believe. Of this minority, a still smaller minority not only believed but acted on their belief. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were two who acted. They publicly, at the worst possible psychological moment, espoused the cause of Christ by requesting his body from Pilate and taking it down from the Cross. No matter what their past had been (such as Nicodemus’s fearfulness at night), this act took tremendous courage at a time when even the apostles were at a low ebb.

Most of the minority of chief priests believed quietly and/or secretly. When a vote was taken earlier, Joseph of Arimathea would not consent to Jesus’ death; this was the first concrete action recorded in regard to the chief priests (Luke 23:50,51).

Sometimes there is a danger in remaining silent. In a vote pertaining to principle, disagreement should be voiced. The Great Company fear death all their life. However, for them to get life, a point in time must come where the flesh is destroyed so that the spirit may be saved. A decision has to be made. The scapegoat did die, but it took the Lord’s pressure to bring that about. The scapegoat class will be given over to the Adversary for the destruction of the flesh so that, presumably, they will be saved. “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12:25). At the end of the age, some will be very willing sacrifices, while others will delay their decision until the decision is forced on them.

Making a decision—forced or otherwise—is a prerequisite for getting life. The feet members at the end of the age will be put to death by the nominal systems; the Great Company will be put to death by the world (the “wilderness,” hence a radical element—Lev. 16:10,20-22).

Verse 43 shows a test in regard to loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. This Scripture is soul-searching. The Bible teaches that we should react a certain way, but for fear of men or fear of the loss of their praise and esteem, do we fail to obey? We are tested similarly.

Who are we—man pleasers or God pleasers? In the final analysis, all who get life (Little Flock and Great Company) must be God pleasers.

Many, on their deathbeds, regret that they have neglected to do many things they should have done. Subconsciously they know they were remiss in many areas, for example, in not fellowshipping regularly. Their reaction shows contrition and decision making—a recognition of having failed. (These comments do not pertain to one who wonders if he made the Little Flock. Rather, the application is to one who knows he was negligent.) For such individuals, hard experiences at the end of life make them humble and contrite. This is a good sign, for it probably means they will get life. The Great Company have problems that they do not deal with properly during their life.

John 12:44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

John 12:45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

Jesus “cried,” that is, exclaimed loudly. Previously, he spoke with force so that all could hear (John 12:35,36), but now he raised his powerful voice to an even higher range.

Notice that one who believes on Jesus believes not on him but on God. And one who sees Jesus sees God. Jesus was saying that both his message and his acts were exactly what the Father would have done had He been here. “He that believeth on me” and “he that seeth me” emphasize Jesus’ message and deeds, respectively. Jesus reaffirmed what he had been consistently stating—that he was sent of the Father.

John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

John 12:47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

John frequently used the illustration of light and life in both his Gospel and his epistles. Jesus stressed the concept that he came as a light into the world, but first, he pointed to the Father.

What he said and taught were of the Father (verses 44 and 45). Always the highest glory went to the Father. The Father is the Author of the gospel; Jesus is the announcer of the gospel.

The time was approaching in Jesus’ ministry when he would not teach publicly anymore. From the Memorial on, he spoke to his apostles privately until his arrest and separation from them. Therefore, starting with verse 44, Jesus might have raised his voice because he wanted to finish his public ministry on a positive note. Knowing he would speak publicly no more, he finished on a high level. “This is it! These are my last words to you. I would like you to know that I am the light of the world. However, I did not originate that light. I was sent of the Father. I come in His name and bear His message. If you do not want to abide in darkness but want to follow light, hearken to what I am saying. I am the Messiah!”

“If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not.” What did Jesus not say? (1) “If any man hears my words and believes, I judge him not.” In other words, some people are really blinded by Satan, and Jesus’ light does not penetrate. In differing degrees, the light does penetrate with others. The degree of responsibility is directly proportional to the degree of penetration and understanding. (2) Also, Jesus did not say, “If any man hears my words, and believes not, God does not judge him.” Jesus did not tie the Father’s hands. What the Father does is the Father’s business.

“I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” Isn’t it true that Jesus does judge the world? Yes, but in a different context. He will judge and instruct the world in the Kingdom, and some will be remanded to death during that time period. In those instances, however, Jesus will have the Father’s consent. Therefore, while Jesus was positive, he was careful not to infringe on the Father’s prerogatives.

Jesus came to save the world by paying the Ransom and laying the basis by providing a sin offering. His motivation both during the Gospel Age and in the Kingdom Age is to desire salvation for as many as possible. Therefore, whether or not one is saved (that is, whether or not one gets life) depends on the individual’s response to the Word of God.

John 12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

John 12:50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

Verses 49 and 50 refute the Trinity. In fact, they are a devastating argument against the Trinity, for they clearly show the Father’s superiority. Credit is given to the true source: the Father, who taught Jesus and commanded what he should say. Only by yanking verses out of context can Trinitarians say the Gospel of John proves the Trinity. In addition, verses 48-50 show not only the Father’s superiority to Jesus but also the superiority of the Word to Jesus.

“I know that his commandment is life everlasting.” In other words, obedience to God’s commandment guarantees everlasting life. Stated another way, God’s commandment means everlasting life to those who obey.

“Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.“ The Triune God is supposed to be a three-headed individual, yet if that were the case, then one head does not know what the other head is talking about. For example, only the Father knew the day and the hour; the Son did not: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). If there is a Triune God, one head knows what is happening, and another does not. How absurd! Trinitarians, who have all the weight of scholarship, ask questions like “Do you know Greek and Hebrew?” “Where is your degree?” “By what authority do you speak?” But how nonsensical is their reasoning! We could be very sarcastic. “Do you mean to say that with all your scholarship, you are saying Jesus was God in person down here, yet one part of the Trinity did not know what the other part was teaching or planning?” This type of remark would sting Trinitarians to the quick and make their reasoning look ridiculous. Under the proper circumstance, such words would be “very Christian” to utter. If put on the spot, we should handle the issue this way. We should meet strength with strength, not with weakness.

However, when we are in prison and put on trial, we should not speak too strongly, for we will be ready and hoping for our change. Accordingly, Jesus did not defend himself at his trials before Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate. Rather, he was like a sheep before its shearers at that time (Isa. 53:7). Earlier he spoke a lot, but not in his last moments. When he knew it was time to die, he did not defend himself, which he might well have been able to do to the point of escaping death. Jesus could have made their reasoning look ridiculous.

Hence there is a time to be quiet and submissive and a time when it is mandatory to speak. How do we make such decisions? God grant us the grace to know. We pray that we have a sufficiency of the Holy Spirit and character development to know when to speak. That is something we cannot get from a textbook. We must learn this from the principles in the Bible. “Even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” That was it! From then on, the public heard Jesus no more. As far as the public was concerned, there was a period of silence.

Jesus’ attitude was, “To follow the Father’s commandment will give life everlasting, so that is what I will do.” He used simple logic.

Hebrews 9:28 reads, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Jesus’ appearing “the second time without sin unto salvation” refers to the Kingdom work. His motivation will still be to save but not in the humble capacity of being submissive to the insults of fellow men. At that time, he will come with great authority, and he will speak in a different tone. This is what he did with his apostles after his resurrection; that is, he spoke with different slants before his crucifixion and afterwards.

(1986–1987 Study)

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