12. Triumphal Entry

Mary anoints Jesus, which Jesus portrays as symbolic of his coming burial (12:1-11).

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to the home of Lazarus in the town of Bethany. (It was at Bethany that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead). A meal had been prepared for him, and Martha was serving. Lazarus, along with others, was seated at the table with Jesus.

Mary took a good-sized jar of expensive perfume (about a pint) and poured it out on Jesus' feet. Then she wiped his feet with her hair. The entire house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Judas Iscariot (the disciple who later betrayed Jesus) complained, "That perfume was worth a year's wages! Why wasn't it sold and the money given to the poor?" He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He had been entrusted with the money bag, and would often help himself to whatever he wanted.

"Don't bother her," said Jesus. "The reason she didn't sell the perfume was so she could keep it for my burial. The poor you'll always have with you, but you won't always have me."

A number of people in Jerusalem learned that Jesus was at Bethany. So they went there, not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Because of Lazarus, many were abandoning the Jewish faith and beginning to believe in Jesus. As a result, the chief priests were making plans to kill Lazarus as well.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and the crowds welcome him as the coming Messiah. The religious authorities are perplexed about how to stop what they interpret as a fraudulent messianic movement. (12:12-19).

The next day Jerusalem was crowded with people who had come to celebrate Passover. When they heard that Jesus was on his way to the city, they took palm branches and rushed out to greet him. They kept shouting, "Praise God! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the long-awaited Messiah!"

Jesus found a young donkey and mounted it, just as Scripture says, "Fear not, people of Israel! "Here comes your king, riding on a young donkey!"

At this time, we did not grasp the significance of what was taking place. However, after Jesus was exalted we came to understand that these events were in fulfillment of prophetic Scripture.

East Gate of Jersulam, through which Jesus made a trimphual entry

The people who were with Jesus when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, were telling everyone how Jesus had brought a dead man back to life. A great number of people went to meet Jesus because they heard he had performed this miraculous sign. Exasperated, the Pharisees said to one another, "You see, this is getting us nowhere. The whole world has gone after him."

Jesus knows that the time of his exaltation is at hand; he knows that the cross awaits (12:20-36).

Among those who had come to Jerusalem for Passover were some Greeks. They approached Philip (of Bethsaida in Galilee) and asked, "Sir, we would like to meet Jesus." Philip told Andrew, and the two of them went and told Jesus.

Jesus said, "The hour has now come for the Son of Man to be exalted. I tell you the truth, for a grain of wheat to become more than a single grain it must fall into the ground and die. Only if it dies will it produce more grain. If you hold on to your life you will lose it. If you let it go in this world, you will keep it forever. If you want to serve me, you must follow me. That way we will both be living in obedience to the will of God. If you serve me, my Father will honor you.

"Now is my heart deeply troubled. And what am I to say? 'Father, deliver me from this hour'? But for this very purpose I have come to this hour! Father, bring honor to your name."

Then from heaven came a voice: "I have already brought honor to my name, and I will do it again."

When the crowd that was standing there heard the voice, some thought it was thunder. Others said, "No, it was an angel speaking to Jesus."

Jesus told the crowd, "That voice was not for my benefit but for yours. The time for judging the people of this world has come. The prince of this world is about to be banished. When I am lifted up on the cross, I will draw everyone to myself."  (Jesus spoke of being "lifted up" so people would know what kind of death he would die.)

The crowd spoke up, "Our law says that the Messiah will live forever. How then can you say that the Son of Man must be 'lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?"

Jesus replied, "The light will be with you for only a little longer, so keep walking while you still have light. When darkness overtakes a traveler, he has no idea where he is going. Have faith in the light while it is still with you, and you will become children of light."

Crowded street in modern Jerusalem

The refusal of people to put their faith in Jesus fulfills the prophecies of Isaiah (12:36b-43).

When Jesus had finished saying these things he withdrew from the center of attention. He had performed many miraculous signs in the presence of the people, but they still would not believe in him. Their unwillingness to believe fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, who said, "Lord, is there anyone who has believed our message? Has your miraculous power awakened faith in anyone?"

The people could not believe because elsewhere Isaiah said, "The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they cannot see with their eyes or understand with their mind. If they did, they would turn to the Lord and be healed." Isaiah said this because he saw the glory of Christ and spoke of him.

Many of the Jewish leaders believed Jesus to be the Christ, but because of the Pharisees, they would not confess it openly. They were afraid of being put out of the synagogue. They loved the adulation of people more than the praise that comes from God.

Jesus teaches that he has come to save the world, not condemn it. The people of the world will, however, be judged by the very words that Jesus has spoken (12:44-50).

Jesus spoke out in a loud voice: "To believe in me is to believe not only in me, but also in the one who sent me. And whoever sees me, is seeing the one who sent me. I am the light that has come into the world, so that those who believe in me should no longer have to walk in darkness.

"I am not the one who will pass judgment on those who hear my words but refuse to accept them. My purpose in coming is to save people, not to condemn them. But those who reject me and refuse to accept my teachings do have a judge. On the last day they will be judged by the very words I have spoken. I have not spoken on my own authority. I have said only what the Father who sent me has commanded me to say. And I know that his command leads to eternal life. That is why I tell you exactly what the Father has told me to say."

Mosaic of Jordan River emptying into the Dead Sea