Jesus in John 12: Polar Reactions

But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name.

John 20:31

Everyone reacts to Jesus. It is impossible to deny His existence, for the evidence is irrefutable. But everyone chooses whether to love or hate Him, whether to believe or reject Him as God, as Lord, and as Savior.

Love or Hate (vv. 1-8)

The scene opens in Bethany, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived. As you may recall, Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead, thus demonstrating His power over death. Now He has returned to the home of His dear friends for another meal. At this meal, we see the collision of love and hatred.

Mary, wishing to express her humble love for Christ, anointed His feet with expensive perfume and wiped them with her hair. The men were reclined at the table, so it was easy for her to access His feet. The smell of the perfume filled the air, so that her act of love could not be hidden.

Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples, became angry at “this great waste.” He complained that if she didn’t want to keep the perfume, she could have sold it and given the money to the poor. This sounds noble until you realize that Judas was the keeper of the money for the group, and he often skimmed some of it for his own personal use. He was a thief. He didn’t care about the poor, and he cared even less about Mary and Jesus. It was his hatred for the Master that motivated his objection.

Jesus did not condemn Judas for suggesting they give to the poor. Indeed, throughout the Bible we are encouraged, even commanded, to help the poor and needy. However, this gift signified Jesus’ imminent death. It was the custom in the first century to spend lavish amounts of money on funerals and to anoint the body with perfume in order to mask the smell of decay. Did Mary understand that He would not be with them much longer? Or was it the Holy Spirit moving her to perform an act, the significance of which she and the others would come to understand by and by?

Believe or Reject (vv. 9-50)

The next day, the Sunday before Passover, Jesus and His disciples joined the crowd who gathered at Jerusalem to observe the feast. Many had come, not only for the Passover itself, but also because they wanted to see Lazarus, the man raised from the dead, and Jesus, the Man who performed this great miracle. They believed Jesus was the King of the Jews, but they did not understand the full significance of this, as we shall see.

In fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture, Jesus entered the city riding on the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). In this act, He presented Himself officially as the Messiah and Son of God, and the people came in throngs to line the path with palm branches. By doing so, they received Him as their Messiah. However, the Jewish leaders did not accept Him: they wanted Him dead, but not yet. It was their intention to wait until after the Passover to have Him killed. But Jesus was in control of even His own death, for He orchestrated events that led to His being presented as the sacrificial Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19).


This term is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that means, “give salvation now.” It was familiar to every Jew, since it appeared in the Hallel sung each morning by the temple choir during the Feast of Tabernacles (Psalm 118:25). Yes, they believed Jesus was their Messiah, but as will soon become apparent, they thought He was coming to set up His kingdom immediately. They thought He was there to deliver them from the Romans. They were not looking for a Deliverer from their sins.

Just as love and hate were juxtaposed in Bethany, so here in Jerusalem we witness the juxtaposition of belief and unbelief. The religious leaders complained that they could do nothing to stop the frenzy over this Jesus, stating hyperbolically that “the whole world has gone after Him.” Then entered certain Gentiles who had also come to worship at the feast. They approached Philip, asking for an audience with Jesus (vv. 20-22). These foreigners, who had only heard about Christ, had more faith to believe in Him than the Jews who had devoted their lives to studying the Scriptures!

The Gentiles were not the only ones who believed in Jesus. Verse 42 states that many of the chief rulers also believed on Him, but they kept quiet about it because they didn’t want to be excommunicated. This is very sad, but the Bible says, “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (v. 43). It’s good that they believed, but how much better if they had possessed the boldness to stand with Christ! How many more people might have also come to believe on Christ if these men had taken a stand!

Only Two Choices

Jesus’ death was now only days away. He alone knew what was coming, and He stated aloud that He would be lifted up, signifying death by crucifixion. This is a horrible death, reserved for the worst of criminals, and yet Jesus said, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” To think of the glory that was revealed in this tragic, excruciating, and unjust death, how can any of us question the grace of God in the trials we face? Truly God works all things for His glory and for our good, even when we cannot see it. I cannot read this passage without thinking back to Isaiah 53:

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:1-5

Everyone reacts to Jesus. What is your reaction? Do you love Him or hate Him? Do you believe or reject Him as your Messiah and Redeemer?

This week’s reading:

John 13

This week’s memory verse

A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:34

Photo taken at Princess Beach in Destin, Florida, 2019

One thought on “Jesus in John 12: Polar Reactions

  1. Pingback: Jesus in John 12: Polar Reactions – Tonya LaLonde

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