Mary pours burial perfume on Jesus
- 12:1 So, Jesus arrived in Bethany six days1 before Passover.2 That’s where Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead.
- 12:2 Martha served him a dinner that the family made for him. Lazarus rested beside him at the dinner table.
- 12:3 Mary opened a 12-ounce3 jar of expensive perfume. It was pure nard.4 Mary poured the perfumed oil onto the feet of Jesus, anointing him. Then she wiped his feet with her hair.5 Fragrance filled the room.
- 12:4 Judas Iscariot spoke up. He was the disciple who later betrayed Jesus.
- 12:5 Judas said, “Why didn’t anyone sell this perfume and give the money to the poor? It’s worth a year’s salary.”6
- 12:6 Judas didn’t care about the poor. He said this because he handled the group’s money. He kept the money bag, and he dipped into it when he wanted something.
- 12:7 Jesus said, “Just back off and leave her alone. She has been keeping this perfume for my burial. It’s time now.”
- 12:8 Look, you’ll always have poor people you can help. You’re not always going to have me.”
- 12:9 Word spread that Jesus had arrived. A crowd of Jews came to see him. They wanted to see Lazarus, too, the man Jesus brought back from the dead.
- 12:10 So the top priests who had planned to kill Jesus added Lazarus to the hitlist.
- 12:11 A lot of Jews had started believing in what Jesus taught after he raised Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem
- 12:12 Jesus left for Jerusalem the next day. A big crowd of people who had come to town for Passover heard that he was on his way.
- 12:13 They pulled leafy branches off palm trees and went out to greet him. They cheered, “Save us!7 Welcome to the one the Lord sent us, the king of Israel!”
- 12:14 Jesus found a donkey. He climbed up on it and sat down, just as the Bible predicted.
“Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.8
Look. Here’s your king.
He comes in peace,
Riding on a donkey’s colt.”9
- 12:16 The disciples didn’t figure out what this meant until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven. After that, they realized that a prophet had predicted what Jesus did. And the prediction is in the Bible.
- 12:17 Some of the people in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus back from the dead and out of the tomb. They couldn’t stop talking about it.
- 12:18 That’s why so many people went to meet Jesus. They had heard about the miracle he did.
- 12:19 Pharisees started grumbling to each other, “It’s hopeless! Everyone is on his side now!”
Greeks ask to see Jesus
- 12:20 Some Greeks had come to town for the Passover celebration.
- 12:21 They approached one of the disciples, Philip, who came from the village of Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Excuse me, sir. We would like very much to meet Jesus.”
- 12:22 Philip took the question to Andrew.10 Then Andrew and Philip together and told Jesus.
- 12:23 Jesus said, “Time’s up. The Son of Humans has to finish his work and receive the honors for it.
- 12:24 It’s a fact, if a kernel of wheat doesn’t fall to the ground and die, it’s going to remain nothing but one lonely kernel. But if it dies, it multiplies into an incredible harvest.
- 12:25 People who love the life they have in this world will lose it. But those who are willing to give up their life in this world will save it for the eternal life to come.
- 12:26 Anyone who wants to work for me needs to go where I’m going. Wherever I am, that’s where my workers will be. My father will honor anyone who does this.
Jesus’ anxiety attack
- 12:27 Anxiety is eating me up right now. What am I supposed to pray? Do I say, ‘Father, save me, and don’t make me go through this?’ Yet what is about to happen to me is the very reason I came here.
- 12:28 Father, may you be honored by this.” A voice answered from heaven: “I have proven myself honorable before I’ll do it again.”
- 12:29 People heard the sound, but some said it was the sound of thunder. Others said, “An angel talked to him.”
- 12:30 Jesus told the people, “The voice you heard wasn’t for my benefit. You’re the ones who needed to hear it.
- 12:31 It’s time to judge this world. It’s time to kick out the one who is been ruling this world.
- 12:32 When I’m lifted off the ground11 I’m going to draw in everyone.”
- 12:33 Jesus said this to give the people a clue about how he was going to die.
- 12:34 People in the crowd reacted with a question. “We’ve heard that the Bible says the Messiah is going to come and stay forever. So why are you telling us that the Son of Humans is going to get lifted out of this world? Who is this Son of Humans you’re talking about?”
Becoming people of light
- 12:35 Jesus told them, “You’re going to have the light for just a little longer. Walk in the light while you have it, so you can stay ahead of the darkness. People who walk in darkness don’t have any idea where they’re going.
- 12:36 While you have the light with you, trust it. Become children of light.” After Jesus said that, he slipped away to spend some time alone.
Why some Jews rejected Jesus
- 12:37 Some Jews rejected Jesus despite the miracles they saw him do.
- 12:38 This fulfilled the prophecy by Isaiah:
“Lord, who believed what we said
Even among the people who saw God’s power?”12
- 12:39 Isaiah, in another place in his prophecy, predicted why the people couldn’t believe Jesus.
“The Lord blinded them
and armored them with callous hearts.
If he hadn’t, they would have seen what was going on,
they would have felt it in their hearts,
then they would have come to him for healing.”13
- 12:41 Isaiah said these things because long ago he saw the glorious coming of the Messiah.
- 12:42 Many people believed Jesus. That included some of the top Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it publicly because they were afraid the Pharisees would kick them out of the synagogue.
- 12:43 They loved the respect people gave them more than the respect God would have given them.
Jesus’ words are the Father’s words
- 12:44 Jesus raised his voice above the crowd and said, “Anyone who believes in me also believes in the one who sent me.
- 12:45 Anyone who sees me also sees the one who sent me.
- 12:46 I came into this world as light. Anyone who believes in me steps out of the darkness.
- 12:47 As for the people who hear what I say but don’t do what I say, I’m not here to judge them. I didn’t come to judge the world. I came to save the world.
- 12:48 People who reject me and my teachings already have a judge. On Judgment Day, the very words I spoke will judge them.
- 12:49 I haven’t told you anything based on my own authority. Everything I said comes from the Father. He gave me orders about what to say.
- 12:50 The very existence of eternal life comes from the Father’s orders. So, I say exactly whatever he tells me to say.
It’s not clear what day Jesus arrived in Bethany. Some say Saturday, which it seems would have had him traveling on the Jewish day of rest. Not hard to imagine, perhaps, given that he broke other laws of the Pharisees. The Bible doesn’t say Jews can’t travel on the Sabbath. That was a law of the Pharisees. It’s hard to figure out the day Jesus arrived because the writer doesn’t say if he’s including Passover in the six days. Also, it’s hard to tell if Passover started on Friday evening, as many scholars say they think it did, or on Thursday, when Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples on the night Jewish authorities arrested him. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke seem to agree that Passover had already started when Jesus ate that Thursday evening meal. But in the Gospel of John, Passover seems to begin a day later, at sundown, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath on Friday night.
See note for 11:55.
Nard was a lavishly expensive, imported perfume made from the roots and stems of spikenard plants that grow in India, China, and the Himalayas of Nepal. People in the ancient Middle East considered it a rare luxury. Merchants selling it in the Jewish homeland may have carried it some 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to market. People often bought perfumes and kept them on hand for someone to anoint their bodies for burial. The strong perfume masked the odor of decomposition. Nard has a deep earthy smell, some say like cyprus wood. Open a flask of it and the aroma quickly fills a room.
Similar versions of a woman anointing Jesus with perfume show up in Mark 14:3-9 and Luke 7:36-38. When we pull together details from all those stories, we get the suggestion that Mary had a bad reputation in town and that she broke open an alabaster flask to pour oil on both the head and feet of Jesus. With 12 ounces (almost half a liter) of perfume, she would have had enough to anoint his head and feet. When she wiped his feet with her hair, she was able to carry away at least some of the fragrance with her.
Judas put the value at 300 denarii. Romans seemed to consider one denarius an appropriate salary for a day’s labor. That salary shows up frequently in first-century writings.
The word is “hosanna.” It literally means “Oh save.” It later evolved into a term used in worship services to express praise, perhaps a bit like the “Hallelujah!” that people sometimes whisper in worship services today when a preacher finishes the sermon.
Literally, “The daughter of Zion.” “Zion” was a nickname for the city of Jerusalem.
Zechariah 9:9. For Matthew’s version, which suggests Jesus rode a donkey and a donkey’s colt, see Matthew 21:7 and the footnote.
Andrew also came from Bethsaida.
Many Bible experts say Jesus was talking not only about the crucifixion that lifts him above the ground and leaves him hanging there to die. It’s also a reference to his resurrection and then again to his ascension into heaven. So, he was lifted three times. By dying and rising again, he gave people confidence that what he said about eternal life was true. The Christian movement was born, and eternal life was made available to everyone willing to embrace the welcoming Jesus.
Isaiah 53:1. It’s unclear exactly what this meant, both in the original Isaiah passage and in John’s application of it. The paraphrase here is one suggestion of what John may have meant.