The Anointing of the King
When chapter 11 ended, we were saying goodbye to a freshly risen Lazarus. At the opening of chapter 12, we are in Bethany yet again six days before Passover. Jesus is at a dinner once again with His friends: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus is reclining at the table with Jesus, Martha is serving (of course), and where is Mary? At the feet of Jesus! While Jesus and the others eat, Mary brings a very expensive bottle of perfume and pours it over Jesus and wipes the excess off with her hair. Talk about devotion! This wasn’t an act that she could hide either, aside from being visible to everyone at the table, the sweet smell of her actions filled the whole house.
Not everyone was impressed with Mary’s actions. We don’t really know much about any of the apostles aside from maybe Peter, but every time we run into Judas, we are left with a bad taste in our mouths. I often wonder if he really was as bad as we tend to portray him or if there really were some good intentions in there somewhere. After all, he was following Jesus. However, here he is not only described as the one who was about to betray Jesus, but also as a thief! Judas complains about Mary’s act, denouncing it as wasteful: “the money could have gone to the poor”. John unmasks Judas’s true intentions as not caring at all for the poor but rather for his own purse. This isn’t the only time that we will see that greed seems to get the better of friend Judas.
We want to condemn wicked Judas here, but what about us? Do we sometimes sneer at other’s offerings to Christ not because the offerings are unworthy or unacceptable but simply because we are greedy or jealous? Maybe someone does something better than you, but instead of being happy and praising God for their talent, we ridicule because we secretly wish that we could do something similar? Or maybe someone else is getting the recognition that you think you deserve? Something to think about…
Jesus rebukes Judas and tells him to leave Mary alone, that she is preparing him for burial. Yet another hint at things to come, which is also misunderstood at the current time only to be remembered later on.
Just after this, we read a little aside that because the raising of Lazarus was so convincing of Jesus’s cause, the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus also and thus try to end his damaging testimony toward who Jesus really was.
Hosanna to the King of Kings
The very next day, John says, Jesus went on to Jerusalem from Bethany and the crowds heard that He was coming. They got ready to welcome Him as before, but this time, it wasn’t any ordinary welcome.
“So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!'” (John 12:13 ESV).
I don’t think there is a coincidence that John juxtaposes Christ’s “anointing” and His entry into Jerusalem with the people hailing Him as King. Christ is God’s anointed, the chosen One of Israel, the eternal King.
John says the reason these crowds were there and acting such was because of the testimony of those who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus. Like the chief priests feared, this testimony was very damaging to them and their desire to defraud and humiliate Jesus.
“So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him'” (John 12:19 ESV).
An interesting thing to note here is that even before the true establishment of the new covenant, Greeks (read “Gentiles”) were seeking Jesus. When His disciples question Him about this, He makes another reference to His coming ordeal and then says “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 ESV). I want to say that when Jesus says “anyone” here, He is including the Greeks that are seeking Him out. Even before His death, Jesus makes an effort to imply that He came to save all humanity, not just a select minority anymore.
Jesus attempts once again to give people a glimpse of upcoming events. This time, He even gets a thundering confirmation from Heaven.
“‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”‘ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said,’An angel has spoken to him’.” (John 12:27-29 ESV).
It’s encouraging to note Jesus’s determined resolution here. He knows what is going to happen soon, but He is determined to face whatever lies ahead for the glory of His Father. May we have the same resolution! It is also interesting to note that “save me from this hour” is fairly close to what Jesus prays in the garden just before His betrayal. Just because we are resigned to something doesn’t necessarily mean that we look forward to it.
Even after all this, there were still some who did not believe Christ.
“Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
‘He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them’” (John 12:39-40 ESV).
However, many did believe, and yet even these did not publically claim him because they were afraid of what people might say. Oh, how like people today!
“And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me’” (John 12:44-50 ESV).
There is only one way to eternal life, that’s through Christ, Himself.