BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday March 19, 2014
(The cost of being JESUS’ follower)
John chapter 12 marks the beginning of the last week of JESUS’ life here on earth (HIS first advent). It was now just six days before the Passover, and HIS mission was almost complete. In a very few days, HE would begin HIS “passion”, and HE would suffer greatly for the likes of us. Salvation through CHRIST JESUS would soon be available for every human being who would ever again be born into this world. And we owe it all to GOD the FATHER, WHO loves us so much, that HE gave us the most precious part of HIMSELF, HIS only begotten SON, as a ransom for our sins.
The time schedule now becomes much more definite and critical, and here the occasion finds JESUS, once again, at the home of HIS friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Here HE being honored with a dinner that the women had so carefully and gratefully prepared. Lazarus, whom JESUS had recently given “a new lease on life”, sat at the table with JESUS. It must have been a joyous time for the trio, and also for JESUS, and HE probably just wanted to spend a little quiet time with friends, before HE continued on along HIS journey to Jerusalem, and, to HIS appointment with death on a hill called Golgotha.
All of a sudden, in the midst of the festive atmosphere of the moment, Mary walks in with an expensive bottle of precious ointment. She fell at the feet of JESUS and begin to anoint HIM with the aromatic fragrance of nard that few Jews could afford at that time, without having to save for it for quite a while. It was usually sealed and imported from northern India in alabaster boxes or flasks, and was only opened on the most special of occasions. This lavish gift was perhaps meant by Mary, to be an expression of her deepest thanks to JESUS for HIS restoration of her brother’s life, and, for simply being their friend and SAVIOR.
Unfortunately, one person’s joy can often be another person’s dislike, and now Judas, the traitor, shows us the first signs of his deceit and underlying greed. Judas was the treasurer of the group of the twelve disciples who regularly accompanied JESUS. And even though he speaks of using the proceeds from the sale of such a gift to feed the poor, John, who was also present at the table, knew that Judas only wanted control of the money for himself. For, he had regularly pilfered from the contents of their savings, and spent the money on himself (Vs. 4-6).
In verse 7, JESUS steps in to defend HIS friend Mary’s actions toward HIM, and HE rebuked Judas and said, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for MY burial. You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer.” And while they were there at the house in Bethany, many people came to see JESUS, and the man Lazarus, whom JESUS had raised from the dead. In fact, so popular had Lazarus become with the people that the Jewish hierarchy decided to kill him also. It was because of Lazarus, that many people had abandoned the Pharisees and leading priests, and began to believe on JESUS.
All four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give an account of JESUS’ triumphal final entry into Jerusalem. Here in John 12, verses 12-19, the scene shifts from that of a private dinner in the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, to that of a noisy public parade on the streets of Jerusalem, that, was fit for the most popular of kings.
This event is significant in that, it is the only public demonstration of praise of HIMSELF that JESUS allowed while HE was ministering here on earth. All of this commotion had come about as a result of JESUS’ raising of Lazarus from the dead, after he had lain in his tomb for four days in Bethany. JESUS’ renewed popularity had put fear in the hearts of HIS enemies, the Pharisees, and they now felt for sure that a crisis was at hand. Little did they know that it was only GOD’s way of forcing their hands, compelling them to act in the fulfilling of ancient prophesies. They were now to begin playing their roles in the final act of the salvation story, by successfully carrying out their plot to kill JESUS, by Roman method, on a cross at Golgotha.
As JESUS came, riding in on a young donkey (an act that symbolized peace), HIS disciples had not yet realized that it was also a fulfillment of prophecy. However, shortly after witnessing JESUS make HIS entrance into Jerusalem, they realized that once again, the scriptures concerning HIM had come to pass right before their eyes.
There were three groups of witnesses present that day in Jerusalem;
· First of all, there was the panic-stricken religious hierarchy, who, sought to kill JESUS and perhaps Lazarus too. (For indeed, they were by now, coming apart at the seams).
· Then, there were those people who had witnessed Lazarus’ raising from the dead by CHRIST JESUS just a few days earlier.
· And finally, and, no doubt the largest group there, were those who had heard about the miracle concerning Lazarus, and had came to, perhaps, catch a glimpse of both he and JESUS.
But for whatever reason people were drawn to Jerusalem on that fateful day, the stage was now set for the LAMB of GOD to give HIS life, along with all the other Passover lambs that would be slain on the altar later in the week, for the sake of sinful man.
A group of Greeks, who were, perhaps, “GOD-fearers”, had come to the Passover to worship (v.20). GOD-fearers were “non-Jewish, uncircumcised believers in the GOD of Israel”. They worshipped regularly in the Gentile court of the temple, and also, would attend Jewish feasts, however, they had not yet become “Proselytes”, or, “fully converted”.
The original Greek text indicates that, this particular group of Greeks were “accustomed to come and worship at the feast”. They probably approached Philip because of his Greek name, or, maybe they were familiar with him through his activities in the “Ten Cities” area of Galilee. But for whatever the reason may be, they desired greatly to speak personally with JESUS, and they chose Philip as a way of accomplishing that goal.
One of the resounding themes of the Gospel of John is that, JESUS is the SAVIOR of the whole world, not just the nation of Israel. John does not tell us whether or not JESUS spoke to this group in private, however, the response from JESUS when HE was told by Philip and Andrew that these men wanted to see HIM, contains truths that we can all use.
Here in this passage, JESUS sees beyond HIS suffering on the cross, and into the coming glory that would follow (John 12:23). HE uses the analogy of a seed to illustrate the great spiritual truth that there can be no glory without suffering. There can also be no fruitful life without death, or no victory without surrender. A dead seed must be put in the ground before a fruitful plant can emerge. GOD’s people are like seeds, tiny, and, in and of themselves, very insignificant. What makes us important is that, we have the life of GOD within us. However, it is a life that can never be fulfilled, until we surrender ourselves to GOD, and allow HIM, to sow us in the newness of life that came to us in the person of JESUS CHRIST. We must, alone, die to CHRIST, in order that we may live in fruitfulness for GOD. Those, who are willing, to follow JESUS in death, burial, and resurrection will be honored by GOD for all eternity.
As JESUS spoke, HE harbored a feeling of deep agitation at what was about to befall HIM regarding HIS hour of “passion”. HE could have asked the FATHER to save HIM from what lay ahead in route to Calvary, but HE realized that that would defeat the whole purpose of HIS coming in the first place. And so, HE instead, asked the FATHER to glorify HIS name, through HIM.
Suddenly, the voice of GOD rang out from Heaven saying, “I have already brought glory, and I will do it again”. The crowd, that had gathered, was divided on exactly what they had heard. The unbelievers were probably those who heard only the thunder, while the believers actually heard the voice of what they thought was an angel. At any rate, JESUS tells them that the voice was for their benefit, not HIS.
JESUS then began to speak openly to the crowd about the cross, as HE informs them of a time of judgment for the world, and for satan, that had already arrived. HE would soon be “lifted up” on a cross so that all men, without distinction, would be drawn to HIM. The people were confused at JESUS’ saying this, because, they had always understood that the MESSIAH would live forever, and now, here JESUS was, talking about how HE would die.
In verse 35, JESUS reminds them again, that, HE is the “LIGHT of the world”. However, HE informs them also that HIS light would only shine for a limited time here on earth. We are responsible to take advantage of HIS LIGHT while we still can, so that we do not stumble into darkness later on, and will be able to, indeed, remain as children of GOD, living in the LIGHT, forevermore.
Despite all of the miraculous signs and wonders that JESUS had performed for almost three years now, most of the people still did not believe in HIM. The prophecy of Isaiah 53:1, and Isaiah 6:9-10, seemed to ring ever so true, as the final days of JESUS’ ministry here on earth grinds to a dramatic conclusion. And even most of those, who did believe on JESUS, were hesitant to admit it, because they feared being expelled from the synagogue by the relentless Pharisees.
We see here in this passage, that the peoples’ desire to obtain the praise of men, far exceeded, their desire to obtain the favor of GOD. It is hard for true Christians to phantom how this silent minority of believers could wholeheartedly believe in JESUS, and yet, show so much concern for the opinion of JESUS’ opposition.
In verses 44-50, JESUS addresses the crowd for the final time. HE tells them that, if they trust in HIM, they are really trusting in GOD, WHO sent HIM, and that when they see HIM, they actually are seeing GOD the FATHER. JESUS reiterates HIS claim of being the “LIGHT OF THE WORLD”, WHO came to shine in the darkness so that all who put their trust in HIM, and follow HIM, would no longer remain in darkness.
HE also tells them, that, anyone who hears HIM and doesn’t obey HIM will not be judged by HIM on this occasion. On this occasion, HIS first advent, HE only came to save. However, all who reject HIM and HIS message will be judged at the “day of judgment” by the very words that HE was speaking to them now. For HE was only delivering the message of GOD, WHO sent HIM, which instructs them how to live this life, so that they can have eternal life with GOD in Heaven, as opposed to living in eternal damnation in Hell.
In JESUS, every human being is confronted by GOD HIMSELF. To listen to HIM is to listen to GOD, and to see HIM, is to see GOD. Through CHRIST JESUS, GOD comes face to face with man, and man, thereby, comes face to face with GOD. It is a confrontation that can culminate in only two distinctive outcomes, and both are found at the very heart of judgment:
· The first is, that, any man, who can come face to face with JESUS, and remain completely unaffected by HIS presence, the same, would also be impervious to GOD HIMSELF. That person, unwittingly, has already judged himself.
· The second scenario gives us this picture, as JESUS says, in effect, that, anyone who rejects HIM and HIS message now, will, in the last day, be judged, by the truth of the very words that they have already heard HIM speak, and ignored.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website