NextLevel Online: John

Session 6: John 11 & 12

Times of Glory: In this session we find the raising of Lazarus, Mary pouring perfume on Jesus' feet, Triumphal Entry, and the end of Jesus' public ministry.



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John 11

In Bethany, a small village two miles east of Jerusalem, Lazarus lay sick and was dying. His sisters Mary and Martha sent for their friend Jesus. (By the time John wrote this, Mary was already famous for anointing Jesus, as will be told in the next chapter. See also Mk 14:9.)

When Jesus got their call for help he did two puzzling things: he announced that this sickness would not end in death and he stayed put for two days. (Notice that if Jesus had left immediately, Lazarus would still have been dead two days when Jesus got there.) After the two days he abruptly said Lazarus was asleep (a word used both for sleep and for death) and he would go wake him. Misunderstanding, the disciples said that if he was sleeping, that was an indication he was getting better. But no. Lazarus was dead, and Jesus would return to dangerous Judea. Then Thomas (being courageous? or fatalistic? or sarcastic?) said they would all go with him.

Days later, as Jesus neared Bethany, Martha (the practical one in Luke 10:40) came out to meet him. Jesus said Lazarus would rise again. Martha (and most Jews) believed in a final resurrection of the dead, but Jesus meant right then. He proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25, the 5th of the “I ams”).

When Mary came out and repeated Martha's words (v. 32 = v. 21), she and her friends were weeping. Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” showing his fully human emotions. Then “deeply moved” again in v. 38, he went to the tomb. The tomb was a cave with a stone placed into the entrance (like a cork in a bottle), and Jesus asked for it to be removed. Then, in answer to Jesus' loud command Lazarus came out, wrapped in strips of cloth and a cloth around his face (the same as Jesus himself in 20:6-7).

When the Pharisees and the rest of the Sanhedrin heard, they cared nothing about Lazarus (see 12:10), only that Jesus was causing much commotion. They feared that many would believe in him as the Messiah, resulting in an uprising and subsequent Roman retribution. So the chief priest Caiaphas decreed that Jesus must die, instead of the whole nation dying. He did not realize that his words were inspired prophecy, that Jesus would indeed died as a substitute for the Jewish nation—and for all the Gentiles as well! So the Sanhedrin plotted (for the first time, officially) to kill Jesus.

To avoid premature confrontation, Jesus withdrew to Ephraim, a small out-of-the-way village 14 miles northeast of Jerusalem. There he stayed (for a few weeks) until time for his last Passover. In Jerusalem the people kept looking for Jesus, asking, “What do you think? Will he come?”

John 12

Six days before Passover (counting back from Thursday as day 1, this would be a Saturday), Jesus arrived at Bethany. At a dinner honoring Jesus, Mary poured a pint of very expensive perfume on his feet and wiped them with her hair. Judas Iscariot, the dishonest keeper of group's money bag, protested this “waste” of what could have been sold for 300 denarii. (A denarius is a day's wage; 300 is approximately the number of working days in a year.) Even allowing for some exaggeration by Judas, Mary had made a lavish gift to Jesus. Jesus knew, however, that it was appropriate as a pre-burial preparation. (As a stunning side note, the chief priests now made plans to kill Lazarus as well, since he was a living testimony to Jesus.)

At the Triumphal Entry the next day, people brought palm branches (a national symbol at the time of the Maccabees and again at the uprisings of A.D. 70 and 135). They cried out, “Hosanna!” (“deliverance”) to the One they called, “the King of Israel.” But Jesus, riding on a young donkey looked nothing like a king. Only later did his disciples know that this fulfilled the prophecy of Zech 9:9.

In addition to the excited Jews, there were Greeks seeking Jesus. When Philip and Andrew brought them to him, Jesus knew that his hour had finally come. He also knew that to be “glorified” (v. 23) was connected with his death (v. 24) by crucifixion (v. 32). By his own admission Jesus was “troubled” at the thought. He cannot look ahead to the cross with calm indifference.

Jesus also knew that when he was “lifted up” (referring to the cross, v. 33) he would “draw” all men to him. The Calvinist understanding is that pre-selected men are “dragged” without their own choice to accept Jesus. The non-Calvinist view is that all men are “drawn” by a spiritual magnetism, but they can still say no. Either way, we must not overlook the fact that salvation begins with a divine initiative, not a human choice.

The chapter closes with a bit of a negative tone. Even after so many miracles, the crowd still would not believe in him. (What more could he do? Heal more lame or blind? Raise more dead? Walk on water—again?) The refusal to believe was predicted long ago by Isaiah. He also preached to people when God knew in advance they would not respond (Isa 6:10). The Calvinist view of v. 40 (“He has blinded their eyes”) is that God chooses to make most men non-believers. The non-Calvinist view is that men who prefer darkness are blinded (unavoidably) by the light of God.

Most did not believe. Some—even among the leaders—believed but were afraid to say so. They loved the praise of men more than praise from God (see 5:44). With this chapter John closes the public ministry of Jesus.

About NextLevel Online

The vision of Ozark Christian College is to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and edifying Christians worldwide. The mission of Ozark Christian College is to train men and women for Christian service as a degree-granting institution of biblical higher education.