Setting

Through the climactic sign of raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus revealed Himself to the people as the giver of eternal life. This miracle led many to believe in Jesus, but also drove the Pharisees and chief priests to plot for His death. All these were within God’s council, just as Jesus anticipated when He said that the Son of God would be glorified through the sickness of Lazarus. The raising of Lazarus brought Jesus glory, and its outcome, leading to His exaltation, would bring Him even greater glory. As the Passover is drawing near, Jesus leaves Bethany for Jerusalem with full awareness of His mission ahead and His destiny for glory.

Key Verse

(12:7–8)

Did You Know...?

1. Caiaphas (11:49) filled the post of high priest about A.D. 18–36.

2. Ephraim (11:54) was probably the town near Baal Hazor (2 Sam 13:23), 13 miles (21 km) north-northeast of Jerusalem.

3. “To purify themselves” (11:55): Ceremonial purity was required for participation in the Passover (Num 9:6; 2 Chron 30:17–18; Jn 18:28).

4. Supper (12:2) was the main meal of the day. The word is also used to denote a banquet (e.g. Mt 23:6).

5. Spikenard (12:3) “was native to northern India and was a favorite perfume in antiquity… The best spikenard was imported from India in sealed alabaster boxes, which were opened only on very special occasions.” [ref]

6. Three hundred denarii (12:5) were about a year’s wages for a laboring man.

7. Palm branches (12:13) were symbols of victory among the Jews as well as in the Greco-Roman world. [ref]

8. Hosanna (12:13) is a transliteration of the Hebrew expression, found

 

Outline

Keywords/Phrases

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Segment Analysis

  • 11:45–54

    1.

    What reactions did Jesus’ raising of Lazarus result in?

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    Many of the Jews believed in Jesus. But some of them went to the Pharisees to report Him (11:45–46).

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  • 2.

    What was the basis of Caiaphas’ agenda?

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    Caiaphas’ calculations were based on expediency (“it is expedient for you”; 11:50). He reckoned that it was wise to put one person to death to protect the interest of the whole nation. But he showed no concern whatsoever over the murder of an innocent man. Even his words about the welfare of the nation could very well have been simply a disguise of self-interest (cf. Mt 27:18).

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  • 3a.

    Caiaphas’ words turned out to be an involuntary prophecy. What does the author want to convey to us between the lines?

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    Man’s plans and schemes, no matter how wicked, are still under God’s sovereign control. Sometimes, man’s actions may turn out to serve God’s purpose despite man’s evil intent (cf. Rom 9:14–18). This was the case with Caiaphas’ proposal. Caiaphas’ role as the high priest also played a part. Although he did not live up to this sacred office, God still made use of him in his position to speak prophecy on behalf of the nation.

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  • 3b.

    What did these words of prophecy say about the effect of Jesus’ death?

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    Although Caiaphas did not intend it, his words were prophetic of Jesus’ expiatory death. Jesus would die for the sins of not only the Jewish race but of the whole world. Consequently, children of God throughout the world would be saved through Him and be gathered as one (cf. Jn 10:16, 12:32; Eph 2:13–18; 1 Jn 2:2; Rev 5:9)

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  • 4.

    What was Jesus’ response to the death sentence?

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    See 11:54. As it drew near to the end of His public ministry, Jesus shifted almost all His attention to His disciples.

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  • 11:55–57

    5.

    What can we learn from this segment about the situation Jesus was in?

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    Jesus had become the center of attention at the Passover in Jerusalem. While the multitude anxiously expected Him as some public spectacle, the chief priests and Pharisees were also seeking to arrest Him. This heightened awareness presaged Jesus’ impending death.

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  • 12:1–11

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    What did Mary’s actions say about her attitude toward Jesus?

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    Anointing the body with oil was a luxury. Instead of keeping it for herself, Mary prepared the very costly oil for the Lord because she deemed Jesus as worthy of the greatest honor. Touching another person’s feet was a most humbling action (cf. Mt 3:11). But she anointed Jesus’ feet with this valuable oil. Not only so, she even wiped His feet with her hair. These actions further suggested that even though she had offered so much, she viewed herself as the lowliest of servants before the Lord.

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  • 7.

    In contrast, what did Judas’ words say about his attitude toward Jesus?

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    Judas cared only about the cost of the oil and how he could use that money for himself. He judged Mary’s action as a mistake because he did not believe that Jesus was important enough to receive the anointing. He also failed to recognize the solemnity of the occasion, which the Lord Jesus pointed out in 12:7–8.

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  • 8.

    How does what we offer to the Lord reflect what is in our heart?

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  • 9.

    If someone criticizes you about your offering to the Lord, how should you react?

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  • 10.

    According to Jesus, what was the significance of Mary’s actions?

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    Mary had kept the oil for His burial. This means that what Mary had done signified Jesus’ death, which was soon to come, and was a preparation for the coming of that hour. Jesus said, “For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always” (12:8; “Me” is emphatic). Jesus was about to depart from this world to go to the Father. Therefore, His presence during these final hours was all the more precious. Mary cherished Jesus’ presence in their midst—something the rest had taken for granted (cf. Jn 12:35). This was a sign of her faith in the Lord.

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  • 12:12–19

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    What was the meaning of Jesus’ grand entry into Jerusalem?

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    With palm branches the great multitude lauded Jesus as “He who comes in the name of the Lord” and “the King of Israel.” This means that they were publicly acknowledging Jesus as their victorious king. While they were falsely expecting Jesus to be their political ruler, their actions unwittingly fulfilled what was written in the Scriptures and extolled Jesus’ kingship on a deeper level. This was all happening according to God’s plan, as the disciples realized later.

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  • 12.

    What does Jesus’ riding on a young donkey say about Him?

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    According to prophecy, the king from Judah would come on a donkey (Gen 49:11; Zech 9:9). As Zechariah 9:9 states, riding on a donkey is a sign of the king’s lowliness. Jesus did not come to crush the Roman rule with military power, but to destroy him who had the power of death (Heb 2:14). His conquest would be won by His own humiliating death in submission to the Father’s will.

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  • 13.

    Explain what was happening according to 12:17–18.

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    Two groups of multitudes seemed to be in view here. Verse 17 depicts those who were present when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. These people bore witness of what they had seen, proclaiming the mighty deed that Jesus had done while they accompanied Him on the way toward Jerusalem. Verse 18 informs us that a throng of people also came out of Jerusalem to meet Jesus because they had heard about the sign Jesus had done. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem caused such a stir among the people that the Pharisees felt hopelessly defeated.

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