[15] Signs and Discourses 12: Triumphal Entry (12:1-50)



[C16]  12:1-50........... The close of Jesus’ public ministry

·         The anointing at Bethany (12:1-8)
·         The triumphal entry (12:9-19)
·         The Greeks (12:20-36a)
·         The witness of prophecy to Jesus (12:36b-43)
·         A final challenge to believe (12:44-50)


There are accounts of Jesus being anointed by a woman in all 4 Gospels. It is likely that Jn 12:1-8, Mt 26:6-13, and Mk 14:3-9 all refer to the same incident while Lk 7:36-50 refers to an earlier incident in Galilee. However, it is also possible that Matthew and Mark refer to a different incident because of minor differences in the stories. In this passage, the person was Mary of Bethany (see Jn 11:2), most likely the same woman as Mary Magdalene in the resurrection story.


12:2     Martha acted as the hostess.

12:3     Verses 1-3 all contain the word “therefore” as John tries to link the anointing with the preceding events.

The oil was normally poured on the head. Mary poured it on jesus’ feet as an act of utter humility as only the most lowly slave would attend the feet of the master. Anointing the feet may mean that the whole body was anointed down to the feet. The use of her hair indicated personal involvement.

Mary’s action was a symbolical embalming of Jesus’ body for burial.

12:5     The oil cost 300 denarii, about “a year’s wages” for a labouring man.

12:6     Judas was the treasurer of the band. He was shown to be of bad character prior to the betrayal. He was a thief. His words were out of a motive of dishonesty.

12:7     Anointing was usually a mark of festivity. Here, Jesus associated it with His funeral. Jesus’ words indicate that Mary might have understood Jesus’ thinking more than others and knew that the end was near. The word “save” shows that Mary kept the oil for a special purpose.

12:8     Opportunity is to be seized while it is there. The poor are always present (Dt 15:11) and the normal action is to help the poor. But here the more urgent action was to serve the Lord.


12:10   For the high priests (Sadducees), Lazarus was a double embarassment. He caused some Jews who originally opposed Jesus to believe in Jesus. Moreover, he was a living demonstration of resurrection which the Sadducees did not believe in. Therefore they planned to kill Lazarus.

12:12   A great crowd who came to Jerusalem for Feast went out to meet Jesus.

12:13   They took palm branches and they cried out persistently (as shown by the tense) while Jesus approached the city. Palms were an emblem of victory symbolizing the triumph of Christ. For the people, Jesus would come in victory to be the King. For John, the victory would be accomplished on the cross.

The word “Hosanna” is an Aramaic or Hebrew expression meaning, “Save, I pray.” It might be a prayer addressed to Jesus imploring Him as the Messiah to bring salvation. Or it might be a prayer addressed to God for the Messiah. For John, Jesus was entering the city on a mission of salvation.

The crowd recited Ps 118:26 to proclaim the blessedness of Jesus rather than to pray that he might be blessed.

12:15   John did not describe how the donkey was obtained (told in other Gospels) but instead emphasized the fulfilment of the Scripture in Zec 9:9. Zion originally denoted either the citadel at Jerusalem or the hill on which the citadel stood. Here it points to the city of Jerusalem. “Daughter of Zion” is a collective noun referring to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

A conquerer would ride into the city on a war horse. The donkey symbolized peace.

12:17   Here explains the reason why the crowd went out to meet Jesus: because of the testimony of those who came from Bethany.


12:20   It is significant that the Greeks wanted to meet Jesus. It is an indication that the world, more than just the Jews, sought for Jesus and it was time for Him to die for the world. These Greeks came to worship God during the Feast.

12:21   “Came with a request” is in continuous tense indicating continuous request.

12:23   The words of Jesus appear to be for a wider audience, possibly including the Greeks.

The “hour” means the hour of His death but He spoke of triumph, not tragedy.

12:24   “I tell you the truth” again. The analogy of the grain of wheat introduced a paradox: the way of fruitfulness lies through death, clearly Jesus’ death.

12:25   “Lose” can mean “destroy”. Phillips translation: “The man who loves his own life will destroy it.” “Hates” cannot be taken literally; it is simply the opposite of “loves”. The sentence describes a spirit of self-sacrifice which counts nothing in this world too dear to be given up in obedience to the Divine will.”

12:26   “Serving” and “following” Christ point to the previous verse meaning losing the life for Christ. Anyone who serves Christ in this way will be honoured by the Father.

12:27   Jesus described His heart in intense turmoil. The perfect tense points to a continuous state.

The prayer was a hypothetical one, not an actual prayer. It likely means: “What shall I say? Shall I say...?” The words expressed the natural human tendency to avoid death. But Jesus refused to pray that prayer because He came for this “hour”.

12:28   “Will glorify” clearly points to the cross.

12:29   The voice of God was audible but not understood by the people around, similar to what would happen to Saul in Ac 9:7.

12:31   The world will condemn itself by the treatment of the Son. “The prince of this world” is Satan. To many people, the death of Jesus appeared as Satan’s victory but in reality He was defeated. “Driven out” may mean “thrown into the outer darkness” in Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30.

12:32   “Lifted up” refers to the cross (3:14). “All men” does not mean everyone but people from everywhere, thus speaking of a universal rather than a narrowly nationalistic religion.

12:34   The people were probably thinking about Ps 89:36; Isa 9:7; Dan 7:14. “The Law” means the OT. They understood that Jesus was talking about His death. They also knew that Jesus called Himself Son of Man so the question probably means “What is the function of the Son of Man?”

12:35   The “light” is Jesus. “Walk in the light” means enter into a knowledge of the Son of Man.

12:36   “Believe in the light while you have the light.”

“Believe” is in present tense meaning continuous belief; “become” is in aorist tense meaning once-for-all action. “Hidden” is in passive voice meaning He was hidden by God.


12:37   “Still would not believe” points to the continuing state of unbelief.

12:40   Hebraic fashion of expressing result as though it were purpose. They were not fated to be incapable of belief. Unbelief was their own deliberate choice. Since they hardened their hearts and God let them choose their way (“God gave them over” in Ro 1:24-28). It is similar to a hardening of heart by God. If they would see with their eyes, understand with their hearts, and turn to God, God would heal them. Just as some leaders believed in Jesus (v.42).

12:41   The prophetic words of Isaiah were about Jesus.

12:42   Two believing leaders were known by name: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They were silent so to avoid excommunication from the synagogue.

12:43   Earthly honours may be called golden shackles binding a man so that he cannot freely do his duty.


12:44   Jesus spoken loudly in His last appeal. The words were the same themes as before.

12:47   In a real sense, people judged themselves (3:18-19).

12:48   In the last day, the judgment will be that the word of salvation came to that person and that person rejected it.

12:50   God’s commandment “IS” eternal life.