From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).
Joh 12:1-11. The Anointing at Bethany.
(See on Mt 26:6-13).
1-8. six days before the passover—that is, on the sixth day before it; probably after sunset on Friday evening, or the commencement of the Jewish sabbath preceding the passover.
2. Martha served—This, with what is afterwards said of Mary's way of honoring her Lord, is so true to the character in which those two women appear in Lu 10:38-42, as to constitute one of the strongest and most delightful confirmations of the truth of both narratives. (See also on Joh 11:20).
Lazarus … sat at the table—"Between the raised Lazarus and the healed leper (Simon, Mr 14:3), the Lord probably sits as between two trophies of His glory" [Stier].
3. spikenard—or pure nard, a celebrated aromatic (So 1:12).
anointed the feet of Jesus—and "poured it on His head" (Mt 26:7; Mr 14:3). The only use of this was to refresh and exhilarate—a grateful compliment in the East, amidst the closeness of a heated atmosphere, with many guests at a feast. Such was the form in which Mary's love to Christ, at so much cost to herself, poured itself out.
4. Judas … who should betray him—For the reason why this is here mentioned, see on Mr 14:11.
5. three hundred pence—between nine and ten pounds sterling.
6. had the bag—the purse.
bare what was put therein—not, bare it off by theft, though that he did; but simply, had charge of its contents, was treasurer to Jesus and the Twelve. How worthy of notice is this arrangement, by which an avaricious and dishonest person was not only taken into the number of the Twelve, but entrusted with the custody of their little property! The purposes which this served are obvious enough; but it is further noticeable, that the remotest hint was never given to the eleven of His true character, nor did the disciples most favored with the intimacy of Jesus ever suspect him, till a few minutes before he voluntarily separated himself from their company—for ever!
7. said Jesus, Let her alone, against the day of my burying hath she done this—not that she thought of His burial, much less reserved any of her nard to anoint her dead Lord. But as the time was so near at hand when that office would have to be performed, and she was not to have that privilege even alter the spices were brought for the purpose (Mr 16:1), He lovingly regards it as done now.
8. the poor always … with you—referring to De 15:11.
but me … not always—a gentle hint of His approaching departure. He adds (Mr 14:8), "She hath done what she could," a noble testimony, embodying a principle of immense importance. "Verily, I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her" (Mt 26:13; Mr 14:9). "In the act of love done to Him she had erected to herself an eternal monument, as lasting as the Gospel, the eternal word of God. From generation to generation this remarkable prophecy of the Lord has been fulfilled; and even we, in explaining this saying of the Redeemer, of necessity contribute to its accomplishment" [Olshausen]. "Who but Himself had the power to ensure to any work of man, even if resounding in his own time through the whole earth, an imperishable remembrance in the stream of history? Behold once more here, the majesty of His royal judicial supremacy in the government of the world, in this, Verily I say unto you" [Stier]. Beautiful are the lessons here: (1) Love to Christ transfigures the humblest services. All, indeed, who have themselves a heart value its least outgoings beyond the most costly mechanical performances; but how does it endear the Saviour to us to find Him endorsing the principle as His own standard in judging of character and deeds!
What though in poor and humble guise
Thou here didst sojourn, cottage-born,
Yet from Thy glory in the skies
Our earthly gold Thou didst not scorn.
For Love delights to bring her best,
And where Love is, that offering evermore is blest.
Love on the Saviour's dying head
Her spikenard drops unblam'd may pour,
May mount His cross, and wrap Him dead
In spices from the golden shore.
(2) Works of utility should never be set in opposition to the promptings of self-sacrificing love, and the sincerity of those who do so is to be suspected. Under the mask of concern for the poor at home, how many excuse themselves from all care of the perishing heathen abroad. (3) Amidst conflicting duties, that which our "hand (presently) findeth to do" is to be preferred, and even a less duty only to be done now to a greater that can be done at any time. (4) "If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" (2Co 8:12).—"She hath done what she could" (Mr 14:8). (5) As Jesus beheld in spirit the universal diffusion of His Gospel, while His lowest depth of humiliation was only approaching, so He regards the facts of His earthly history as constituting the substance of this Gospel, and the relation of them as just the "preaching of this Gospel." Not that preachers are to confine themselves to a bare narration of these facts, but that they are to make their whole preaching turn upon them as its grand center, and derive from them its proper vitality; all that goes before this in the Bible being but the preparation for them, and all that follows but the sequel.
9-11. Crowds of the Jerusalem Jews hastened to Bethany, not so much to see Jesus, whom they knew to be there, as to see dead Lazarus alive; and this, issuing in their accession to Christ, led to a plot against the life of Lazarus also, as the only means of arresting the triumphs of Jesus (see Joh 12:19)—to such a pitch had these chief priests come of diabolical determination to shut out the light from themselves, and quench it from the earth!
Joh 12:12-19. Christ's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
(See on Mt 21:1-9; and Lu 19:29-36).
12. On the next day—the Lord's day, or Sunday (see on Joh 12:1); the tenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, on which the paschal lamb was set apart to be "kept up until the fourteenth day of the same month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel were to kill it in the evening" (Ex 12:3, 6). Even so, from the day of this solemn entry into Jerusalem, "Christ our Passover" was virtually set apart to be "sacrificed for us" (1Co 5:7).
16. when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, &c.—The Spirit, descending on them from the glorified Saviour at Pentecost, opened their eyes suddenly to the true sense of the Old Testament, brought vividly to their recollection this and other Messianic predictions, and to their unspeakable astonishment showed them that they, and all the actors in these scenes, had been unconsciously fulfilling those predictions.
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