Teaching on the Gospel of John by Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton

“The World has Gone After Him”

John Chapter Twelve

In this chapter, we experience what happens after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. From the dinner at Lazarus’ house, here we experience Jesus’ anointing by Mary, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the realization of the hour of his time (death, burial, and resurrection), even while many believed in him, and many did not. 

It was six days before the Passover when Jesus entered the house of Lazarus for dinner. The disciples were there, along with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. While at the dinner table, Mary took a jar of expensive perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume filled the room. Judas, one of the twelve, complained that the perfume should have been sold, so that the monies could be used to feed the poor. Judas was not interested in feeding the poor. He was a thief and wanted the money for himself. Jesus defended the actions of Mary, saying that the perfume was kept for his burial, and that the poor we will have with us always, but that he would not always be with us. According to Boring and Craddock, “the puzzle remains how Mary can keep the ointment for Jesus’ burial after she has already used it for the anointing.”[i] Great crowds came to see Jesus and Lazarus. The chief priests wanted to put Lazarus to death because many Jews believed that he was raised from the dead. 

The next day, the crowd that had gathered heard that Jesus was nearby. They took palm branches and went to meet him, exclaiming, “Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel.” Jesus rode through the crowds on a donkey to fulfill the prophecy which was written, “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” The disciples still did not understand what was happening. Their understanding came to light when Jesus was glorified (crucified and raised from the dead) – then they remembered the things that had been said about him. “It is not just their later commonsense retrospective insight, but the gift of the Spirit, that makes post-Easter understanding possible.”[ii]

Meanwhile, the crowds who had been on the scene when Lazarus was raised from the dead, continued to testify to these things. The Pharisees were upset as they shared, “You see, you can do nothing, the world has gone after him.” The Jewish Leadership is frustrated that many of their own are leaving and following Jesus. On the way to the festival, a group of Greeks inquired of Philip that they wished to see Jesus. “Because they have come to Jerusalem to worship, they are to be understood as Hellenistic Jews, such as Paul, who lived in the Diaspora and had adopted the Greek language and customs.”[iii] Philip told the other disciples, and it spread among them.

This is the first time in the gospel of John that Jesus speaks to the time of his hour to be glorified. He compared the time to a grain of wheat that falls into the ground, producing fruit. “Paul used this story but did not apply it directly to Jesus. Jesus told the story in Mark 4:1-9 and referenced the seed as the word of God. For John, Jesus is the word made flesh who brings life by himself dying and being placed in the earth.”[iv] Jesus compares fruit to the love of life, and what happens when a person loves their life (will lose it), and those who hate their life in this world (not choose to make something else the top priority) will keep it for eternal life .”Following Jesus means not merely admiring his teachings and life,  but adopting the model of unselfish love for others as the orientation of one’s own life.”[v]

Jesus then begins a discourse on the trouble in his soul, and requests that the Father would glorify him in this hour. A voice comes from heaven and declares, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Some said it was thunder, and others said it was an angel. “Here, the Johannine Christ explicitly rejects the portrayal of Jesus who trembles before death and asks to be delivered from it (See the Gethsemane prayers in  Mark 14:34-42; Matt. 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46). Instead, John makes the John 17 prayer into his substitute for the Gethsemane prayer.”[vi] Jesus reminded the onlookers that the voice was not for his benefit, but for theirs. 

And we hear the classic reframe, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” This was an indication of how he would die. “We know the death is crucifixion, that Jesus died as a criminal at the hands of the highest religion and the world’s best government. The Johannine paradox is that this depth of injustice, humiliation, and human suffering is at the same time Jesus glorification as God’s representative.” The crowd wanted to know who is this Son of Man? “This is the only occurrence of ‘Son of Man’ in the gospels on the lips of Jesus.”[vii]  In addition, “this is one of the universalistic passages (all are finally saved) that paradoxically lie side by side with particularistic passages (only believers are finally saved.”[viii]

Jesus uses the metaphor of light and darkness to encourage the crowd to become children of light. He declares that anyone who sees and believes in him would not walk in darkness. “God’s intention is to save, not judge. The coming of the light of God forces an either/or decision between living by the light and remaining in darkness. God wants all people to come to the light but will not force God’s will on those who choose to remain in darkness.”[ix]  Jesus came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The words that he spoke, were the words of the Father and this commandment speaks to eternal life.

Although Jesus performed many signs and wonders, many still did not believe in him. This fulfills the Isaiah prophecy that Jesus would blind eyes and harden hearts as the promise of healing. Many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not testify or confess it for fear of being put out of the Synagogue. Verses 44-50 can be called the summarization of Jesus’ public message and ministry. 

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[i]Boring, Eugene M. and Fred Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary., pg. 328.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid., pg. 329.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid., pg. 330.

[vii] Ibid., pg. 331.

[viii] Ibid., 330.

[ix] Ibid, 331.

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