Vs 1-3: 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. 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.
Mary is incredibly devoted to Jesus. “The life of Mary is painted for us, in three memorable pictures, in each of which she is at the feet of Jesus.” (Charles Erdman) There were three times we see Mary at Jesus’ feet, one of them was in the previous chapter of John with the death of Lazarus , then again in Luke 10:38-42 where she sits at Jesus’ feet listening to Him teach, and now here in John 12 where she is anointing Him with an oil that is worth about 1 years’ pay.
The first time we see her submitting to Jesus was a time in Luke 10 when her sister Martha thought she should have been working:
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Mary loved Jesus so much that she didn’t want to do anything other than serve Him. In John 11:32, when Lazarus passed away, she fell at His feet in the humble submission of a servant:
Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Mary is a portrait for us, an example of a servant. She loves Jesus so much she submits to Him when she is heartbroken; she loves listening to His words in submissive obedience to Him; she humbly gives her most valuable asset to anoint him; and using what she has available, she washes His feet with her hair! In addition, she does all of this while sitting at His feet in another picture of submission and servant hood.
Vs 4-8: Then 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 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. 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.”
From David Guzik: “In a short time Judas will betray Jesus, and his betrayal is so much darker when contrasted with the light of Mary’s devotion to Jesus. No doubt, Judas objected to Mary’s gift because he was convicted by her simple and powerful display of love. This is the only place in the New Testament where Judas is mentioned as doing something evil other than his betrayal of Jesus, and even this was secret. Judas successfully hid the darkness of his heart from everyone but Jesus.”
Judas was what some today would consider a shrewd (albeit dishonest) businessman. He was the treasurer of the ministry – today’s CFO. Frequently in the working world, we are given opportunities to be dishonest and take advantage of a situation. Whether working for a drug store, on a street maintenance crew, for a restaurant, a bank, or an accounting firm – we’re all given chances to cheat. When we cheat once, it becomes a little easier the next time. Every time we go down that same path of sin, our heart is a little less sensitive to it.
Here Judas provides the ultimate example of greed. Not only was he cheating the ministry and dipping into the offerings regularly, his last selfish and sinful act was to sell out Jesus for some silver coins. Again from Guzik: “Are we like Mary, extravagant in our love for Jesus, or are we like Judas, criticizing others who are?”
Vs 9-11 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. 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.
It is amazing that rather than believing in Jesus and the evidence that He is the Christ, fulfilling the Law and the Prophecy, they would prefer to “get rid of the evidence” and kill Lazarus!
Vs 12-16 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!” 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.” 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.
Palm branches were a symbol of Jewish patriotism, so they were hailing the man they thought would be their King. Yet these folks had no idea this was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 –
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Vs 17-19 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 Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
The people were seeing and hearing about Jesus’ miracles and then believing in Him. We’ve talked about this before: Jesus wants the world to see the miracles that He has done and is doing in us. There are miracles being done in our families, in our own hearts, in our jobs, at school, and in our neighborhoods. We are called to proclaim what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives. We’re to tell others about Him! We’re to pray for the people around us, to pray WITH the people around us for their needs. These things will TESTIFY to others that Jesus saves, that He is God Almighty, that He is on the throne as our King and in control.
Vs 24-26 “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. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”
Is Jesus asking us to “hate our life”? No, what He is asking of us is to know that tis world is not our eternal home. This is our temporary home, and we’re to look to and long for the promised better home.
Hebrews 11:10,13-16 talks about Abraham:
“For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
Jesus makes a few final points here:
Vs 47: “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”
His role in coming to earth as a man was to save every one of us that is willing to be saved.
Vs 48: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”
For those folks that do not believe right up to their last day and last moment on earth, Jesus’ words will condemn them.
Vs 49-50: For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”
These words that Jesus spoke on earth were given to Him to speak by God the Father.