John 12 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of John 12)

Verse 2

[2] There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.

It seems Martha was a person of some figure, from the great respect which was paid to her and her sister, in visits and condolences on Lazarus's death, as well as from the costly ointment mentioned in the next verse. And probably it was at their house our Lord and his disciples lodged, when he returned from Jerusalem to Bethany, every evening of the last week of his life, upon which he was now entered.

Verse 3

[3] Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

Then Mary, taking a pound of ointment — There were two persons who poured ointment on Christ. One toward the beginning of his ministry, at or near Nain, Luke 7:37, etc. The other six days before his last passover, at Bethany; the account of whom is given here, as well as by St. Matthew and Mark.

Verse 7

[7] Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

Against the day of my burial — Which now draws nigh.

Verse 10

[10] But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;

The chief priests consulted, how to kill Lazarus also — Here is the plain reason why the other evangelists, who wrote while Lazarus was living, did not relate his story.

Verse 12

[12] On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,

The next day — On Sunday.

Who were come to the feast — So that this multitude consisted chiefly of Galileans, not men of Jerusalem. Matthew 21:8.

Verse 13

[13] Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Luke 19:36.

Verse 15

[15] Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.

Fear not — For his meekness forbids fear, as well as the end of his coming. Zechariah 9:9.

Verse 16

[16] These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

These things his disciples understood not at first — The design of God's providential dispensations is seldom understood at first. We ought therefore to believe, though we understand not, and to give ourselves up to the Divine disposal. The great work of faith is, to embrace those things which we knew not now, but shall know hereafter.

When he had been glorified — At his ascension.

Verse 17

[17] The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.

When he called Lazarus out of the tomb — How admirably does the apostle express, as well the greatness of the miracle, as the facility with which it was wrought! The easiness of the Scripture style on the most grand occurrences, is more sublime than all the pomp of orators.

Verse 18

[18] For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.

The multitude went to meet him, because they heard — From those who had seen the miracle. So in a little time both joined together, to go before and to follow him.

Verse 20

[20] And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

Certain Greeks — A prelude of the Gentile Church. That these were circumcised does not appear. But they came up on purpose to worship the God of Israel.

Verse 21

[21] The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

These came to Philip of Bethsaida in Galilee — Perhaps they used to lodge there, in their journey to Jerusalem. Or they might believe, a Galilean would be more ready to serve them herein, than a Jew.

Sir — They spake to him, as to one they were little acquainted with.

We would see Jesus — A modest request. They could scarce expect that he would now have time to talk with them.

Verse 23

[23] And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified — With the Father and in the sight of every creature. But he must suffer first.

Verse 24

[24] Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Unless a grain of wheat die — The late resurrection of Lazarus gave our Lord a natural occasion of speaking on this subject. And agreeable to his infinite knowledge, he singles out, from among so many thousands of seeds, almost the only one that dies in the earth: and which therefore was an exceeding proper similitude, peculiarly adapted to the purpose for which he uses it. The like is not to be found in any other grain, except millet, and the large bean.

Verse 25

[25] He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

He that loveth his life — More than the will of God; shall lose it eternally: and he that hateth his life - In comparison of the will of God, shall preserve it. Matthew 10:39.

Verse 26

[26] If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Let him follow me — By hating his life: and where I am - In heaven.

If any man serve me — Thus, him will the Father honour.

Verse 27

[27] Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

Now is my soul troubled — He had various foretastes of his passion.

And what shall I say? — Not what shall I choose? For his heart was fixed in choosing the will of his Father: but he laboured for utterance. The two following clauses, Save me from this hour - For this cause I came - Into the world; for the sake of this hour (of suffering) seem to have glanced through his mind in one moment. But human language could not so express it.

Verse 28

[28] Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

Father, glorify thy name — Whatever I suffer. Now the trouble was over.

I have glorified it — By thy entrance into this hour.

And I will glorify it — By thy passing through it.

Verse 29

[29] The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

The multitude who stood and heard — A sound, but not the distinct words - In the most glorious revelations there may remain something obscure, to exercise our faith.

Said, It thundered — Thunder did frequently attend a voice from heaven. Perhaps it did so now.

Verse 31

[31] Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

Now — This moment. And from this moment Christ thirsted more than ever, till his baptism was accomplished.

Is the judgment of this world — That is, now is the judgment given concerning it, whose it shall be.

Now shall the prince of this world — Satan, who had gained possession of it by sin and death, be cast out - That is, judged, condemned, cast out of his possession, and out of the bounds of Christ's kingdom.

Verse 32

[32] And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

Lifted up from the earth — This is a Hebraism which signifies dying. Death in general is all that is usually imported. But our Lord made use of this phrase, rather than others that were equivalent, because it so well suited the particular manner of his death.

I will draw all men — Gentiles as well as Jews. And those who follow my drawings, Satan shall not be able to keep.

Verse 34

[34] The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

How sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? — How can these things be reconciled? Very easily. He first dies, and then abideth for ever.

Who is this Son of man? — Is he the Christ? Psalms 110:4.

Verse 35

[35] Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Then Jesus said to them — Not answering them directly, but exhorting them to improve what they had heard already.

The light — I and my doctrine.

Verse 36

[36] While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.

The children of light — The children of God, wise, holy, happy.

Verse 37

[37] But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

Though he had done so many miracles before them — So that they could not but see them.

Verse 38

[38] That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

The arm of the Lord — The power of God manifested by Christ, in his preaching, miracles, and work of redemption. Isaiah 53:1.

Verse 39

[39] Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,

Therefore now they could not believe — That is, by the just judgment of God, for their obstinacy and wilful resistance of the truth, they were at length so left to the hardness of their hearts, that neither the miracles nor doctrines of our Lord could make any impression upon them.

Verse 40

[40] He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Acts 28:26.

Verse 41

[41] These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

When he saw his glory — Christ's, Isaiah 6:1, etc. And it is there expressly said to be the glory of the Lord, Jehovah, the Supreme God.

Verse 44

[44] Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

Jesus said with a loud voice — This which follows to the end of the chapter, is with St. John the epilogue of our Lord's public discourses, and a kind of recapitulation of them.

Believeth not on me — Not on me alone, but also on him that sent me: because the Father hath sent the Son, and because he and the Father are one.

Verse 45

[45] And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

And he that seeth me — By the eye of faith.

Verse 47

[47] And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

I judge him not — Not now: for I am not come to judge the world. See, Christ came to save even them that finally perish! Even these are a part of that world, which he lived and died to save.

Verse 50

[50] And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

His commandment — Kept, is life everlasting - That is the way to it, and the beginning of it.