The Anointing at Bethany. 1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 They gave a dinner there for him. Martha served the meal, and Lazarus was among those at table with him.
3 Mary brought in a pint[a] of very costly ointment, made from pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and dried them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, the one who was about to betray him, said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and the money given to the poor?” 6 He said this not because he had any concern for the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money bag, and he used to steal from it.
7 Jesus said in response, “Leave her alone! Let her keep it for the day of my burial. 8 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”
9 Meanwhile, a large number of Jews learned that he was there, and they came not only because of Jesus but also because they wanted to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 The chief priests then decided to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was because of him that many of the Jews were leaving and putting their faith in Jesus.
12 The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.[c] The next day the great crowd of people who had come for the feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 Thus, they went out to meet him, carrying branches of palm[d] and shouting,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
the King of Israel.”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode it, as it is written,
15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.[e]
Behold, your King is coming,
riding on a donkey’s colt.”
16 At first, his disciples did not understand this, but later, when Jesus had been glorified, they recalled that these things had been written about him and had happened to him.
17 Now the people who had been present when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify about this.[f] 18 Because the crowd had heard that he had performed this sign, they went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “As you see, we are getting nowhere. The entire world has gone after him.”
20 The Glory of the Cross.[g] Among those who had come up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.[h] 21 They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus. 22 Philip went to tell Andrew of this, and Philip and Andrew informed Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them,
“The hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat
falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat.
However, if it dies,
it bears much fruit.
25 “Anyone who loves his life loses it,
but the one who hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
26 If anyone wishes to serve me,
he must follow me.
Where I am,
there also will my servant be.
If anyone serves me,
my Father will honor that person.
27 “Now my soul is troubled.
Yet what should I say:
‘Father, save me from this hour’?
No, it was for this
that I have come to this hour.
28 Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven,
“I have glorified it,
and I will glorify it again.”
29 The crowd that was present heard this, and some of them said that it was thunder, while others asserted, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered,
“This voice did not come for my sake
but for yours.
31 Now is the judgment on this world.
Now the prince of this world[i]
will be driven out.
32 And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all to myself.”
33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
34 The crowd answered, “Our Law[j] teaches that the Christ will remain forever. How then can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus replied,
“The light will be with you
for only a little longer.
Go on your way
while you still have the light,
so that the darkness
will not overtake you.
“Whoever walks in the darkness
does not know where he is going.
36 While you have the light,
believe in the light
so that you may become children of light.”
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from their sight.
37 The Choice To Believe in the Light.[k] Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of the prophet Isaiah,
“Lord, who has believed our preaching?
To whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?”
39 They therefore could not believe for as Isaiah said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
lest they see with their eyes
and understand with their hearts,
and thereby be converted,
so that I could heal them.”[l]
41 Isaiah said this because he saw his glory, and his words referred to him.
42 Nevertheless, there were many, even among the authorities, who believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess their faith in him, for fear of being banned from the synagogue.[m] 43 For they valued human glory more highly than the glory that comes from God.
44 The Choice To Believe in Jesus.[n] Then Jesus cried out,
“Whoever believes in me
believes not only in me
but in him who sent me.
45 And whoever sees me
sees the one who sent me.
46 I have come into the world as light
so that everyone who believes in me
may not have to remain in darkness.
47 [o]“But if anyone listens to my words
and fails to observe them,
I will not pass judgment on him,
for I did not come to judge the world
but to save the world.
48 Anyone who rejects me
and does not accept my words
already has a judge.
On the last day,
the word that I have spoken
will serve as his judge.
49 “For I have not spoken on my own,
but the Father who sent me
has himself given me command
about what I am to say
and how I am to speak.
50 I know that his commandment
is eternal life.
Therefore, what I speak
is what the Father has told me to say.”
- John 12:3 Pint: Greek: litra, i.e., about a half-liter.
- John 12:5 Three hundred denarii: a year’s wages, a denarius being a day’s wages for a laborer.
- John 12:12 To a greater degree than the Synoptics, the fourth Gospel describes this entry as a triumph and stresses above all the theme of the glory of Christ. The raising of Lazarus has provoked the enthusiasm of the crowd, and for the first time Jesus allows himself to be acclaimed “King of Israel”; he lets himself be known as the King-Messiah announced by Zechariah (9:9).
- John 12:13 Branches of palm: customarily used in victory celebrations (see 1 Mac 13:51; 2 Mac 10:7). Hosanna: an acclamation meaning “Grant salvation!” The citation is from Ps 118:25. He who comes in the name of the Lord: see note on Mt 21:9. The King of Israel: a reference to the coming king mentioned by Zep 3:14-15 and Zec 9:9. See also note on Mt 21:9.
- John 12:15 Daughter of Zion: see note on Mt 21:5.
- John 12:17 Another reading for this verse is given in some manuscripts: “Then the crowd that was with him began to bear witness that he had called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead.”
- John 12:20 Jesus’ single-day success does not divert him from his hour, nor that of his adversaries, and it is his deciding moment. This page with so many themes gives us a glimpse into his thinking.
To the crowd, among whom are sympathetic Gentiles, he proposes the image of a grain of wheat that must die. Conscious of the necessity for his death, he realizes the fruitfulness of his approaching sacrifice for the whole world.
Paradoxically, that death is elevation and glorification: it will show who Jesus is and be the reversal in the fate of human beings. As in the account of the agony in the garden related by the Synoptics (Mt 26:36-46; Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-46), he overcomes his fear in the face of what humans regard as ruin; he dominates the cruel paradox.
His death transforms the fate of the world: it is defeat for the forces of evil and opens up hope for those called to the communion of Jesus, to life.
Here is an unexpected Messiah who completes God’s work by his own death; as here, so elsewhere we read constantly of Christ’s invitation to his disciples to share his lot (see Mt 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24). Believers may fear death but not lose hope, since for Jesus, in whom they believe, the hour of death was the hour in which he conquered the devil, was glorified by the Father, and showed himself to be the light of the world. This beautiful text leaves us the meditation of the ancient Church on the cross of Christ; it has become the glorious cross.
- John 12:20 Greeks: not Jews, but adherents of Judaism, although without embracing its practices.
- John 12:31 Prince of this world: Satan, who has the ability to control human beings by drawing them away from God (see Jn 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 6:12).
- John 12:34 Law: taken here as the entire Old Testament (see Jn 10:34), and referring specifically to Pss 89:37; 110:4; Isa 9:7; Dan 7:14. Son of Man: see notes on Jn 1:51 and Mt 8:20.
- John 12:37 The early Christian generations always remained astonished at Israel’s refusal of the light, and they meditated on the text of Isaiah on the blindness of people when faced with an unexpected work of God. To recognize the light is to choose to accept its demands. Such a choice turns a life upside down; it is necessary to accept the risk of being marginalized from the usual social and religious milieu.
- John 12:40 This text, like others in the Old Testament, appears to say that hardened hearts and blinded eyes are God’s doing. However, the evangelist is simply assuring Christian readers that even though God would give people every opportunity to convert, many would still choose to stay in their sin.
- John 12:42 John is indicating that in the Israel of his time there is, as always, a remnant that believes. But they are not a true People of God because of their fear of being excommunicated by the authorities.
- John 12:44 But who is the light? It is Jesus himself, sent by the Father to make known the Father’s love and to save believers. All through the Gospel, Christ has testified how deeply aware he is of this mission because of the unity in which he lives with his Father. What Jesus says in these few verses sums up his entire teaching concerning his mission.
- John 12:47 This parallels the statement found at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:24-27). Everything hangs upon a person’s acceptance or rejection of what Jesus has said.