1-8 | Mary anoints Jesus
9-11 | Jesus and Lazarus sought
12-19 | Jesus’ enters Jerusalem (Zec 9:9)
20-26 | Jesus is sought by some Greeks
27-36a | Jesus foretells His death
36b-43 | Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled (Isa 6:10; isa 53:1)
44-50 | Jesus teaches about receiving or rejecting Him and the One who sent Him
There are basically two events in this chapter take place over a two day period. In verse one we see that the first took event, Jesus attending a supper hosted by Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, took place 6 days prior to the Passover. Since the Passover was on Thursday, that would mean that this took place on Saturday.
I don’t know what type of meal this was, whether it was something that was planned or if it was something that Mary, Martha and Lazarus put together quickly upon Jesus’ arrival. I favor the idea that this was something that had been planned in advance. Why? Jesus made it a habit to attend the Passover annually and it seems likely that He probably stayed with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus every time he came to Jerusalem. Also Jesus had just been there a short time before and raised Lazarus from the dead. So they were probably expecting Him.
That being said, Jesus also had a plan to arrive at a particular time for the Passover in order to be able to fulfill the prophecy regarding His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The city was full of visitors because the Passover was one of three required feasts that all Jewish people had to attend.
Today (according to hebrew4christians.com), the typical Sabbath would follow this schedule. Friday evening, there would be a family meal, then on Saturday morning they would attend the synagogue service. There would be an afternoon meal and then the rest of the afternoon would be spent relaxing or some might take a walk in the community and visit friends later in the day. Also some, in particular the children, would be encouraged to spend time studying the Torah.
While at this meal, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with some costly perfume. Jesus understood that Mary was unwittingly preparing His body for burial. Judas however was more interested in being able to extort some of the funds from selling the perfume and protests the action. Jesus rebukes him and explains the real meaning of her actions.
The next day, what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, Jesus traveled to and entered Jerusalem. In doing so He fulfills a prophecy by Zechariah (Zec 9:9) about the King riding on a donkey’s colt. The disciples didn’t understand it all at the time but later they put all the pieces together and understood (v16). The people were thronging around Jesus because they had heard about Lazarus and how Jesus raised him from the dead just a short time prior to this. However, the Pharisees understood how Jesus was really drawing the people away from them and to Him. That is what the gospel does, it draws people to the Savior.
At this time there were some Greeks attending the feast and were seeking Jesus so they found Philip because he was from Bethsaida, who in turn found Andrew, and together they brought the Greeks to Jesus.
Jesus once again foretells His death. In the midst of His explaining that the events that were about to take place was the very reason that He came, a voice came out of heaven declaring, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (John 12:28). This wasn’t just something that only Jesus heard but the whole crowd heard the voice. Jesus explained that the voice wasn’t for His sake but for the people around Him. This is similar to when He prayed prior to calling Lazarus out of the tomb (John 11:41-42).
Jesus explain the type of death He would have and how it would draw men to Him (see two paragraphs up). The people didn’t fully understand the meaning of what He was telling them but this too was a fulfillment of prophecy in Isaiah.
Finally, Jesus tries to explain again how Jesus, the Son, and God the Father are one. Everything that Jesus spoke He received from the Father and that if they believed in Him they would no longer be in darkness but in the Light.
I think one thing that is key out of this chapter is the fact that the disciples didn’t always understand everything about Jesus when He was present with them but only later after His resurrection and ascension. It gives me hope in the times when I don’t always understand the things I read in scripture right away but it gives me hope for the future because I know that God will help me understand it when I am ready.
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus, to explain You to us. We trust that Your Spirit will help us understand the things we read in scripture when we are ready and that we can still walk by faith until that time comes. Thank You Jesus for willingly coming to us in human form and having Your disciples preserve the events of Your life so that we can know You and our Heavenly Father. May the will of the Father be done on earth as it is in heaven, in Jesus’ name. Amen.