Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
As Jesus’ public ministry came to a close it became very clear: He was the kind of person you either loved or you hated. His ministry compelled one to take a stand either for or against Him. One could not halt between two opinions. His person, His visage, His words, His deeds worked faith and love for Himself, or, exposing sin and unrepentance in reprobate men, they hardened sinners. Light has this way about it: it brings out the children of the light who welcome the light with joy, and causes the rats to scurry into their holes.
John 12, being a record of the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, reveals just this point: Jesus is the One you either love or hate. We see this at a certain supper to which Jesus and others were invited on a Saturday night before the passover: people honoring Jesus, others hating Him and all He stood for. We see this when, the next day, Jesus rides into Jerusalem for the last time in His earthly ministry: the King coming, sitting on the colt of an ass.
Do you love Him? Or do you hate Him?
Let us search the Scriptures: with love! Love! For the Lord’s anointed! For the humble and yet triumphant King of our salvation!
Celebrate Jesus with love and honor! Spikenard Saturday! Palm Sunday! Every day!
For Meditation & Discussion
1. Setting: John 12:1.
It was six days before the Jews’ passover. This is the third passover mentioned by John as having occurred during Jesus’ public ministry (the other two are mentioned in John 2:13ff. and 6:4). Unless the unnamed feast of John 5:1 is another passover, the fact that Jesus’ ministry spanned three passovers establishes the length of His earthly ministry at a little over two years. So much done in such little time! Should He not be given more, much more time to accomplish much more? Will it not be a tragedy when the Lord Jesus must die not many days hence?
There are parallel passages: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9. Luke 7:36-38 is similar, but seems to be an altogether separate incident. Make a list of the differences in each report (Matthew, Mark, and John) of the incident recorded in John 12. How are these differences to be harmonized?
2. Love and Hate at Messiah’s Table
Comment on how the following show either love or hate at this supper with Jesus (you will want to compare the parallel passages):
*Martha: v. 2
*Lazarus: v. 2,10-12
*Mary: vv. 3-8
*Judas Iscariot: v. 4-6
*The disciples: Matthew 26:8, 9
*Much people of the Jews: v. 9
*The chief priests: vv. 10, 11
3. Mary, the Spikenard, and the Savior: vv. 3-8.
At this supper with Jesus, Mary took a pound of spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus with it. Matthew 26:7 and Mark 14:3 record that she also poured it on Jesus’ head.
This anointing was the event of the supper. It highlighted the importance of Jesus. It brought out who were for Him, who were confused about Him, and who were against Him.
Spikenard was a fragrant oil extracted from a plant native to northern India. It is still used today as a perfume for hair. It was, in Jesus’ day, very expensive. It would be imported in sealed alabaster boxes which would be opened, and the spikenard used, only on very special occasions (according to the New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, Ed.).
Mary thinks it is a special occasion. She takes a pound of the oil, which according to the reckoning of the day was worth some 300 pence, or denarii (v. 5). That is, the oil Mary poured on Jesus’ head and feet was worth about a year’s wages (figuring the daily wage at 1 pence or denarius: Matthew 20:2). Imagine that! Imagine Mary doing that today: taking something worth $30-40,000 (average yearly salary today), and pouring it on Jesus! What would your reaction have been?
Judas and others (including the other disciples, Matthew 26:8,9) protest! Their argument: it would have been better to sell this precious ointment and give the money to the poor! What was revealed at this time about the nature and establishment of Jesus’ kingdom which caused such indignation at the woman’s deed? What was the difference between the indignation of most of the disciples, and that of Judas (cf. John 12:4-6, Matt. 26:14-16, and Mark 14:10, 11)?
Regarding the reaction of some to Mary’s anointing of Jesus, D.A. Carson, in his commentary on John, writes: “If self-righteous piety sometimes snuffs out genuine compassion, it must also be admitted, with shame, that social activism, even that which meets real needs, sometimes masks a spirit that knows nothing of worship and adoration” (p. 429). Is there evidence today in Christendom of either “self-righteous piety” that snuffs out genuine compassion or of social activism which masks “a spirit that knows nothing of worship and adoration”? How do we guard against either extreme?
Jesus says that Mary, in anointing Him at this time, “wrought a good work” on Him (Mark 14:6), and that against (or “for”) the day of His burying she did this (John 12:7; cf. Matt. 26:12; Mark 14:8). He honors Mary further when He says: “wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matt. 26:13; Mark 14: 9).
What is the significance of this anointing? Is there evidence to suggest that Mary understood, or did not understand, the necessity and significance of Jesus’ death and burial?
4. Triumphal entry and lavish praise: vv. 12-19.
This passage records Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19 complement the inspired John’s record.
From John and the other gospel accounts we learn that from Bethany, where Jesus had His supper with Lazarus and others, Jesus had sent two of His disciples to acquire a donkey for Him to ride upon. From there He would ride the two miles or so to Jerusalem. As He did, a procession of people gathered around Him and rendered great praise.
Lavish praise indeed! The disciples had saddled the coat with their own garments, to comfort their King. A great many gathered and spread their coats on the way in the path of the donkey so that the donkey could walk on them. Others cut off branches of palm trees and waved them and laid them in His path in honor. All the while words of praise were rendered about Jesus and to Jesus. And by a great many people! The Pharisees even cry: “Behold, the world is gone after him” (John 12:19)!
It seems that there were two groups. Some came from Bethany to travel with Jesus to Jerusalem. Another group came from Jerusalem, especially, according to John 12, to see and praise this Jesus who had recently raised Lazarus from the dead. These groups, the one from Bethany, and the other from Jerusalem, apparently met at the top of the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem. There is the climax of praise! There the whole multitude rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen (Luke 19:37).
So lavish the praise given to Jesus, so fervent and frenzied the crowd surrounding Him as Jesus rides into the city, that it is no wonder that the whole city of Jerusalem was moved (Matt. 21:10). It was a movement of seismic proportions! At the entry of the great King, who was riding on a donkey, Jerusalem was shaken in its very soul!
5. Blessed the King of Israel! (v. 13).
How is Jesus the King? List several mighty works which Jesus did to show He is King of Israel, King of the universe!
The words of praise offered at this royal entry into Jerusalem were many. The words recorded in the gospel narratives are:
Matthew 21:9: “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”
Mark 11:9,10: “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.”
Luke 19:38: “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.”
John 12: 13: “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
What Scriptures are quoted in these words of praise? Discuss the significance of these words.
6. Necessary praise (cf. Luke 19:39, 40).
Some of the Pharisees, true to form, urge the Master to rebuke His disciples for all the praise they are giving to Jesus (Luke 19:39). Jesus answers them: “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”
There will be praise of Jesus!
Among the Pharisees there is the intense desire that Jesus be not praised, but put away. Why did they, and why do unbelievers today, seek to squelch the praise of Jesus? What evidence is seen today of the history-long anti-Jesus campaign? How is this seen today in Christian celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter, when there is supposed to be all praise given to Messiah?
Praise of Jesus there will, however, be. There will be praise of Jesus when He is exalted. God has ordained Him to have all the preeminence (Col. 1:15ff.). God will give Him a name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9). And at the very name of Jesus every knee, every disciple’s knee, every Pharisee’s knee, every rock knee shall bow!
But also now, that is, when Jesus is entering into His passion week and into the depth of His humiliation as the suffering Savior. There must be praise now!
Discuss these three reasons why there must be praise of Jesus at the royal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem for the last time on earth:
*The reason why praise of Jesus is so necessary is that His kingship and glory are so obvious and great that even if people will not acknowledge it, lifeless objects, such as stones, will!
*Praise at this time is necessary in order that prophecy might be fulfilled (cf. John 12: 14-16! What prophecy?).
*Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem now, though in humiliation, is a foreshadowing of His return in glory as King to judge the wicked and gather His church.
7. Praise for the King riding on a donkey.
Jesus had need of a donkey (Luke 19:30,34). He may enter into Jerusalem no other way. Strange way to come and to establish a kingdom! Did not kings usually come in state, in pomp, on a fine horse, or in a chariot drawn by ten horses?!
Jesus rides the colt of an ass. This is because He establishes His kingdom in the way of humiliation. He is the sin-bearer. He comes to take sin away by suffering for it in His people’s place. He comes to conquer not the Romans, but sin and death. His weapon will be a cross and not a sword.
How does the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-11, fulfilled here, point out the significance of Jesus’ riding on a donkey?
He had come unto His own, already, in the form of a babe, born in a lowly cattle stall. He had willingly hid His full glory in the form and weakness of human flesh. Now He joins with the donkey, lowliest of animals, burden-bearer is all, now simply, terribly, to be crushed….
Despite all the lavish praise … is there evidence in Scripture that most of the people missed the significance of Jesus’ riding in on a donkey, and, also, that if they had understood it, their praises would have turned to mocking and cursing?
For what kind of king and kingdom were the people hoping?
How do we show we understand and are willingly involved in the praise of the King of the cross?
8. Perspective, John 20:31
List the several ways Jesus is revealed in the events described above to be the Christ, the Son of God.
From the examples both of faith and unbelief in response to Jesus’ anointing by Mary and His royal entry into Jerusalem, discuss the several characteristics of pure faith in the suffering Messiah.
Compare several things that money can buy with the blessings Jesus has purchased for us through His suffering and death. Do they compare?
O Israel, Praise! Thy King cometh! Praise!
With oil! With praise! With palm!
In Spirit! By word! In deed!
Thy King cometh unto thee!