When last we left Jesus, he just raised Lazarus and had gone to Ephraim, a wilderness area outside of Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders were all plotting to kill him in fact, the high priest had effectively prophesied that it was better for one man to die for the whole nation. Jesus knew what he must do to make all the timing perfect so he stayed in the wilderness until just the right time.

A few days before Passover was just the right time…

John 12:1,2

Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him.

Lazarus has been alive again now for a few days and there is a buzz about him. Jesus and his disciples are invited to dinner at Simon the leper’s home (Matthew 26:6-13). Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were probably related to Simon. Simon most likely was one of many people healed by Jesus or they could not have been around him. People from all over the country descended on Jerusalem for the festival of Passover, unleavened bread, and first fruits. John is the disciple full of love so he records this encounter one way and Matthew concerned about the notorious facts records it slightly differently.

John 12:3

Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

Several things we need to know….

– This is one of the true acts of worship we see in scripture. It is not about Mary but her honoring the Lord with all that she is, her focus is all on Jesus. 

– The anointing oil of perfume of nard was very costly, what she used was about a year’s wages.  According to the account in Mark 14, she not only anointed Jesus’ feet but also his head. It was a red ointment that smelled like gladiolas. 

– a woman would never be seen in public with her hair down so Mary was truly humbling herself to worship Jesus

John 12: 4-6

But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.

John assumed the readers of his Gospel had already read the other three, as he is summarizing about Judas’ character. John’s Gospel was most likely written after the book of Revelation and his exile to Patmos. So the other Gospel would have been written before his.

What does it say about Jesus that he would place a thief in charge of the money box and the distribution to the poor and disciple’s families? Judas also went with the disciples, healing and casting out demons. That is why it is important if you have gifts or see people with them that you watch the fruit in their lives not just the gifts.

As we see this story unfold, what did Mary know?

John 12: 7,8

Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Jesus was not putting down the poor, merely making a statement of fact. Because of sin and this world system our world is always set against people and there will be some that will be stuck in the mental state of being poor. We saw last week that while Lazarus was poor physically, he was rich in faith and the rich man had everything anyone would have wanted he was truly the one who was poor between the two.

Jesus stated that Mary was doing this in preparation of his burial. Did Mary know Jesus would soon be going to the cross? Had she paid more attention to Jesus’ words than his own disciples? I think, “Yes,” because of the cost and the actions she probably didn’t know how close it was but knew it was on the way! She actually sat and stopped what she was doing to listen to Jesus. Whenever we see Mary, she is always at Jesus’ feet. I think that is intentional by the writers (the Holy Spirit,) to help us see that.

John 12:9-11

When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. 10 Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, 11 for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.

Remember what Abraham said to the rich man, last week, “even if someone rises from the dead they won’t listen to him” We are seeing that right here. We don’t know what happened to Lazarus, some believe he was put to death because of Jesus’ death on the cross, but I think he lived a long life because life and death are in the power of God not man. Tradition states he moved to Cyprus because of the persecution, and became the bishop of Larnaca.

The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead excited the crowds in Jerusalem. Many now believed Jesus to be the Messiah. Jesus knew his raising Lazarus was going to glorify the Father far more than the immediate raising. Many now believed, potentially tens of thousands, and as Jesus enters into Jerusalem the crowds are excited and ready to worship their King.

John 12: 12,13

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,

“Praise God!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!

Hail to the King of Israel!”

With the swelling of the population of Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, people were camping all over the streets and everywhere they could.  As Jesus came into Jerusalem they took some of the palm branches that were in their shelters and laid them on the road. Because the palm fawn was so ubiquitous in Israel, it became a symbol of Jewish nationalism so the symbolism here was that of venerating a King.  The palms were just part of their recognition of Jesus’ kingship; the Psalm 118 they quoted is part of three Psalms called the “Hallel Psalms”, special Psalms recognizing the Messiah as king.

Part of this Psalm, which many of us are familiar with verse 24, says, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!” Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is really what that verse is about.

The leadership of the Jews was already livid, making plans to kill Lazarus and looking for a time to kill Jesus, but adding insult to injury, the people, thousands of them were proclaiming Jesus the Messiah, in effect proclaiming him God!

John 12: 14-16

Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:

15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.

Look, your King is coming,

riding on a donkey’s colt.”

16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.

Jesus came riding on a colt, a young donkey, to keep the people calm. Yes, he was king, but not a king of conquest, not a warrior who takes life, but a king who gives life. Verse 15 is a verification of fulfillment of scripture from Zachariah 9:9.  One of the hundreds of prophecies Jesus fulfilled. Jesus came on the colt now but will come as the warrior king on a white horse later, as we see in Revelation 19.

I don’t have time to go into the math here but Gabriel prophesied to Daniel, in Daniel chapter 9 verses 24-27, this exact day that Jesus would enter Jerusalem.

John 12:17-19

Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”  

The phrase, “telling others about it” really means they were testifying of the glory of God, exactly what Jesus said would happen. We always need to remember, when we go through stuff, if we keep our eyes on Jesus, it will always turn out for the good! Lazarus’ death caused many to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, not in a way any of them would have wanted, but God used it for good!

When the Pharisee’s said,  “everyone has gone after him” that phrase literally means “the whole world has gone after him” which we will see better next week. Jesus was not and will not be a victim here. Everything was timed perfectly to have the greatest impact to reach and bless the most people.

God did this 2000 years ago for you and I knowing we would need all of this. Know that he has your life and our nation and all of the nations in the world set for just the right time.

This Psalm is important to remember Psalm 24:1

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.

The world and all its people belong to him.

We will see next week that Jesus shined for all to see, the miracles flowed from him but still many did not believe but their unbelief did not stop God’s plan and I need to encourage you that nothing can stop God’s plan today. We may not always understand them, like Lazarus’ death but God will always work everything out for our good! He is the king! The leader of the world!