Chapter twelve records the final pieces of Jesus’ public ministry. The Passion Week that the Synoptics unpacked in multiple chapters each, John limited to this one chapter, because his focus would be on Jesus’ time with his disciples, which the other writers mostly panned.
It was also John who helped solidify the chronology of the Passion Week. With the Passover on Friday that year 1, “six days before” (John 12:1, probably inclusive, since they would not have traveled far on the Sabbath) would have been Sunday, meaning that Jesus’ “Palm Sunday” entry into Jerusalem “the next day” (John 12:12) would have actually been on Monday. This fits best with the other details given in the Synoptics.
It was in Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, that Martha and Mary entertained Jesus and his disciples. During this meal, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, which he called his burial anointing (John 12:1-8). Word got out that Jesus was there, so the religious leaders planned to get both Jesus and Lazarus, because so many people were still believing in Jesus because of Lazarus’ resurrection (John 12:9-11).
While they were making their secret plans, Jesus made his move first. In fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 he rode a donkey’s colt into Jerusalem, with his disciples and other believers leading the way from Bethany, celebrating his arrival and telling the others about him. Yet, Jesus did not use this time for public aggrandizement (John 12:20-36). Rather than meeting with a lot of people, Jesus declared his purpose for being there – to die and rise again. The Father responded with a voice from heaven, but the crowd heard only thunder. Once again Jesus’ plain teaching – this time about his death – was rejected. “Although Jesus had performed so many miraculous signs before them, they still refused to believe in him” (John 12:37), and even many who did refused to acknowledge him publicly, because “they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:43).
In his final public statement, Jesus called one more time for people to come to him and believe in him for eternal life. Those who did not would face God’s judgment (John 12:44-50).
- Harold Hoehner’s Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ is indispensable for those studying the timeline of Jesus’ life and death. ↩