John 12:1-19

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These small group studies of John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

John 12:1-19 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

  1. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet (verses 1-8)

  2. The crowd came to see Jesus (9-11)

  3. Jesus’ enters Jerusalem (12-19)

Questions:

What were Martha and Mary doing this time Jesus visited their home?

Who normally washed guests’ feet?

What were guests’ feet normally washed with?

What is special about the fact that Mary used Nard?

Why do you think Mary would do this for Jesus?

Is this event the same one as recorded in Matthew 26:6-16 and Luke 7:36-50? Read and discuss. Explain your answers.

How much is 300 denarii worth in today’s money?

What is nard?

What is the money box?

Why do you think a crook like Judas would be entrusted with the money box?

What did Jesus mean in verse 7?

What can we learn from Mary’s actions?

What applications can we make from her example?

Why did a large crowd of Jews come to see Jesus?

What did the Pharisees want to do to Lazarus? Why?

What does Hosanna mean?

Were these people really devoted to Jesus?

What word can you use to describe this group of people? (emotional, fickle, shallow)

What is the rest of the story about how they got the donkey for Jesus to ride?

What was the Pharisees’ response to all of this?

Why was it important for Jesus to enter Jerusalem like this?

What kind of contrasts can we make between Mary and this crowd welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem?

Can you think of some examples of people who behave today like the crowd did then?

Cross-references

Matthew 26:6-16 – Another similar account (I believe the same account of the same event).

Luke 7:36-50 – A similar account, but probably different since the woman is referred to as a sinner, it appears to be in a different place, and it occurred much earlier in Jesus’ ministry.

Mark 14:3 – Another similar account.

John 13:3-15 – Jesus Himself washed the disciples’ feet.

James 1:27 – Helping the poor is pure and undefiled religion.

Matthew 25:34-40- It is important to take care of the poor and sick and naked.

Matthew 9:15 – The friend of the bridegroom will not fast as long as he is there.

Zechariah 9:9-10 – The Messiah would come humble and mounted on a donkey.

Psalms 118:26 – The phrase that they used to welcome Jesus, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Matthew 21:1-11 – Matthew’s account of Jesus’ triumphant entry.

Luke 19:28-44 – Luke’s account of the triumphant entry.

Teaching Points

  1. Mary anoints Jesus.

What were Martha and Mary doing this time Jesus visited them?

Who normally washed guests’ feet?

What were guests’ feet normally washed with?

What is special about the fact that Mary used Nard?

Why do you think Mary would do this for Jesus?

Is this event the same one as recorded in Matthew 26:6-16 and Luke 7:36-50? Read and discuss. Explain your answers.

How much is 300 denarii worth in today’s money?

What is nard?

What is the money box?

Why do you think a crook like Judas would be entrusted with the money box?

What did Jesus mean in verse 7?

What can we learn from Mary’s actions?

What applications can we make from her example?

Cross-References

Matthew 26:6-16 – Another similar account (I believe the same account of the same event).

Luke 7:36-50 – A similar account, but probably different since the woman is referred to as a sinner, it appears to be in a different place, and it occurred much earlier in Jesus’ ministry.

John 13:3-15 – Jesus Himself washed the disciples’ feet.

James 1:27 – Helping the poor is pure and undefiled religion.

Matthew 25:34-40- It is important to take care of the poor and sick and naked.

Matthew 9:15 – The friend of the bridegroom will not fast as long as he is there.

First we should discuss if this is the same event as in Matthew and Luke. The commentaries I read disagreed on it. Some said they were the same event. Some side they weren’t. None of them had any inside information so it’s best to just look at what Scripture says. The authors never say if they are the same event or not, but the one in Matthew and John are very similar.

Similarities

Location – Bethany

Perfume – Very costly, 300 denarii

Woman – Anointed him

Setting – Jesus reclining at the dinner table

Disciples – Question it

Jesus’ response – Defends her (Matthew 26:11-12 and John 12:7-8 are almost identical)

Judas’ – Pointed out in John account and end of Matthew account (perhaps not getting the money from the perfume pushed Judas to jealously offer to betray Jesus)

Differences

Timing – The Matthew account says that it was two days before the Passover. The John account on first glance points to 6 days before the Passover.

Answer – In John it only tells us that Jesus came to Bethany 6 days before the Passover. Verse 2 could easily be 4 days after Jesus arrived at Bethany.

The location – The Matthew account says it took place at Simon the Leper’s house. At first glance it appears this event in John is at Lazarus’ house.

Answer – It never says it was at Lazarus house. Very possibly Simon invited Lazarus and his sisters since it was a small community and Jesus’ miracle had a big impact there. It is not unusual for a woman to help in someone else’s house (we do it all the time on Sunday night).

The part of Jesus’ body – The Matthew account says head. The John account feet.

Answer – These are not mutually exclusive. The woman could have done both and John could have chosen to mention the feet as a supplement to Matthew’s gospel and in order to better show her humility.

The woman’s name – Matthew doesn’t mention it. John does.

Answer – Matthew had not written anything about Lazarus or Mary before so it is natural he would not include her name. There would be no background to understand it. John had so he mentioned her name.

In the Matthew account the disciples as a group are shown to be kind of against the woman’s action. In the John account Judas is shown as the disciple that complains.

Answer – The whole group could have been grumbling a bit against it (out of right motives), but Judas was the leader and the most outspoken (out of evil motives).

Having looked at the two stories the similarities are so strong that I conclude they are the same event. The differences can all be explained well. However, the Luke account appears to be a different event. The woman is mentioned especially as a sinner (probably a prostitute), which it doesn’t seem like Mary was. Also the event in Luke occurred much earlier in Jesus’ ministry.

This time Jesus met with the family Martha was again serving and Mary was again focused on Jesus. Most people need multiple times before they correct their bad habits. In the Bible we often have the same commands repeated again and again. It’s because we need to be reminded. You can see from Peter’s life than one correction wasn’t enough.

“Martha served; she herself waited at table, in token of her great respect to the Master. Though a person of some quality, she did not think it below her to serve, when Christ sat at meat; nor should we think it a dishonor or disparagement to us to stoop to any service whereby Christ may be honored. Christ had formerly reproved Martha for being troubled with much serving. But she did not therefore leave off serving, as some, who, when they are reproved for one extreme, peevishly run into another; no, still she served; not as then at a distance, but within hearing of Christ’s gracious words, reckoning those happy who, as the queen of Sheba said concerning Solomon’s servants, stood continually before him, to hear his wisdom; better be a waiter at Christ’s table than a guest at the table of a prince.”

Lazarus was there. His resurrection was a real. Not just an illusion or magic trick. It withstood the tests of time.

From Matthew we know that wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world Mary’s action will be spoken of in memory of her! Today as in thousands of other places and over almost two thousand years Jesus’ prophecy is being fulfilled

Nard was a kind of perfume made from a special herb in India. Because of transportation at that time anything coming from as far as India would be extremely expensive. The nard was 300 denarii. How much is that worth? It’s the equivalent of 300 days wages for a blue-collar worker. That is almost an entire year’s worth of income!

Mary used it to anoint Jesus’ feet. Yes, it is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ burial. But I think it’s safe to say Mary didn’t know this when she was anointing Jesus. She did it simply because she was devoted to Jesus. She believed in Him as the Messiah. She knew that He came to save Israel. She knew that He was from God. Because of this she knew that He was worthy of receiving the very best that she had. She didn’t have any false pride (after all if she could afford to give this she wasn’t poor). Who normally washed guests’ feet? This was the job of servants, yet she was willing to do it. Quite a contrast compared to the disciples who often bickered about who would be the greatest. Mary did it even though she was strongly discouraged from doing it by those around her (the disciples, and perhaps others). Some of them were even believers, but thought it was too extreme!

What can we learn from her actions? What applications can we make from her example?

  1. We should be humble before our God. Whether we are rich or poor we need to humbly devote ourselves to God. We should not consider any task God calls us to, to be beneath us. We should never have false pride in ourselves.

  2. God deserves our very best. Mary didn’t simply wash Jesus’ feet with water. She didn’t wash it with cheap perfume either. I’m sure she used the most costly perfume she owned. It is a common thought today to “serve God, but don’t be too extreme” or “a little religion is good”. From Mary’s action we can learn that we should not be content to just serve God a little, to give 5 yuan on Sunday and think we did a lot for Him. We must be willing to give Him the very best of our life. That means we have to be willing to turn over the most important areas of our life to God. This includes money, possessions, relationships (including girl friends or wives), etc. I’m reminded of a story on a kid’s tape. It contrasts two young men. One is extremely self-centered. He does give to others, but he gives the leftovers, the things he doesn’t want. Used clothes and junk, things that he would throw out in the trash. The other young man gives the best that he has, his gold, his best clothes, his only horse, etc. When you give do you try to give the least possible? Do you hope that the person will thank you? Do you keep a record in your mind of how many times you have done something for someone? If you paid for the last time do you hope they will pay for you next? When you give gifts do you give others some junk that you don’t need anymore or something nice? Do you give God the best of your time to read His Word or do you read it when you are sleepy and exhausted after you have finished everything else? Do you give the first of your income to God or the leftovers? Do you share the gospel if you have some extra time available and nothing to do or do you make time to meet others and tell them about Christ? When you prepare Bible study do you prepare just enough to get by or do you really study it to understand what God wants to teach you? God deserves our very best. We need to devote our entire strength and souls to serving God. Too many people view God as just someone to turn to in time of trouble. We need to be a living sacrifice, to give up everything we have for Him. Colossians 3:23 tells us to do whatever we do whole heartedly for God. That includes our spiritual life. We have to give it all. Imagine a swimmer from the 2004 Olympics. In 2004 he won the gold medal. He is extremely talented and everyone says he is favored to win several more gold medals in 2008. This swimmer knows he is faster than everyone. Slowly he works out less and less. He starts eating more and more junk food. He gets up later in the mornings and skips important practices. How do you think he will fare in the Olympics? He will lose. Our life is a spiritual race. No one can win who only competes half-heartedly. No one can win who doesn’t give it their best. We are running for a prize. Give God your absolute best effort in every area! This point is very important and I could go on and on about it. Just think of any areas in your life where you aren’t giving your best to God, perhaps it is finances, perhaps Bible reading and study, perhaps being a servant to those you live with, perhaps church attendance, etc. Make a decision to give your best to God like Mary did. It’s worth it.

  3. Mary was discouraged from this action by Judas (and the other disciples). Sometimes when a believer does right they expect to be commended for it by others. Perhaps Mary thought that others would commend it. She likely didn’t expect they would grumble about what she did. We should observe that doing what’s right won’t always bring commendation from others. Sometimes others, even believers, will look down on us. Perhaps we will are too extreme for their tastes. A helpful thing to remember is that you can’t give too much or be too loving or having too much compassion. We should listen if other believers reprove us. But we should also see if worldly thinking has affected their ideas.

  4. Mary was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. The Holy Spirit led her to anoint Jesus and Mary didn’t understand all it meant. But she obeyed and sacrificed in the process. If the Holy Spirit leads us to do something we should follow. We might not always be able to understand why or what purpose God has in it, but God definitely has a purpose. Sometimes when we do a kind act for others we may have one purpose in it and God may use it for something else. Who knows what God will do! But if we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and practicing love for others we can’t go wrong!

Judas criticized the woman out of selfish interests. He was greedy and had hoped to steal some of the money if she sold the perfume. Apparently the money box was for donations from the disciples and others and was to be commonly used for provisions and also for ministry outreach. Why was Judas put in charge of this when Jesus definitely knew He was a crook? People can share their thoughts.

Possible reasons Judas was given the money box.

“1. Because he was the least and lowest of all the disciples; it was not Peter nor John that was made steward (though it was a place of trust and profit), but Judas, the meanest of them. Note, Secular employments, as they are a digression, so they are a degradation to a minister of the gospel; see 1 Cor 6:4. The prime-ministers of state in Christ’s kingdom refused to be concerned in the revenue, Acts 6:2.

2. Because he was desirous of the place. He loved in his heart to be fingering money, and therefore had the moneybag committed to him, either,

(1.) As a kindness, to please him, and thereby oblige him to be true to his Master. Subjects are sometimes disaffected to the government because disappointed of their preferment; but Judas had no cause to complain of this; the bag he chose, and the bag he had. Or,

(2.) In judgment upon him, to punish him for his secret wickedness; that was put into his hands which would be a snare and trap to him. Note, Strong inclinations to sin within are often justly punished with strong temptations to sin without. We have little reason to be fond of the bag, or proud of it, for at the best we are but stewards of it; and it was Judas, one of an ill character, and born to be hanged (pardon the expression), that was steward of the bag. The prosperity of fools destroys them.”

Jesus defended Mary for her actions. In the end that is all we should care about. It doesn’t matter if others are pleased with us or commend us. What does God think about what we did? We must seek to please God rather than men. Don’t worry about if your boss, parents, teacher, or girl friend approve. Ask if God approves, if God is pleased. God is the one who has authority to punish or reward. God is the one who created us and saved us and deserves our service.

This by no means is an indication that the poor aren’t important. From James and the other cross-reference we know they are. It shows that GOD/JESUS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING OR ANYONE. If we have to choose between serving God and serving someone we should choose God every time. Yet Jesus is not here physically for us to anoint or serve. So what should we do? He has told us how to serve Him in Scripture and one important way is by ministering to the poor.

  1. The crowd came to see Jesus.

Many Jews then came to see Jesus and Lazarus, hearing that He was there. The depth of the priest’s sin can be seen here. They not only planned to kill Jesus, but also planned to kill Lazarus. Wow. Perhaps they justified it by saying it was a reasonable sacrifice for the “greater good” of keeping people from following Jesus. Yet true religion never disregards the process for the end result.

  1. Jesus’ triumphant entry.

Discussion Questions

What does Hosanna mean?

Were these people really devoted to Jesus?

What word can you use to describe this group of people? (emotional, fickle, shallow)

What is the rest of the story about how they got the donkey for Jesus to ride?

What was the Pharisees’ response to all of this?

Why was it important for Jesus to enter Jerusalem like this?

What kind of contrasts can we make between Mary and this crowd welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem?

Can you think of some examples of people who behave today like the crowd did then?

Cross-References

Zechariah 9:9-10 – The Messiah would come humble and mounted on a donkey.

Psalms 118:26 – The phrase that they used to welcome Jesus, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Matthew 21:1-11 – Matthew’s account of Jesus’ triumphant entry.

Luke 19:28-44 – Luke’s account of the triumphant entry.

Read the various accounts and discuss.

Hosanna means “save now”. They were probably referring to salvation from the Romans, not spiritual salvation.

The verses in Zechariah are interesting. Verse 9 refers to His first coming and verse 10 to His second.

This, as many other events in Jesus’ life, fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.

More than anything, I’m struck by how fickle the crowd is. Here they are so excited, full of praise and joy, singing and dancing. Yet just a short time later they were just as passionate about killing Jesus. They were shallow, fickle, and emotional. There are a lot of people like that today. They go to church and see other people happy and singing and hear the songs and they “feel good”. They feel comfortable and peaceful. Everything is exciting and they “bond” with others. Yet later on temptations and trials come and they have no root so they fall away. Do not be deceived. There is much more to a Christian life than emotion. Sure, we should be joyful and excited. We should sing praises to God. But without a deep root in His Word and a deep personal relationship with Him based on His Word all of that is just fluff. The church today seems to be drifting more and more into emotionalism. Groups play drums, guitars, etc. They sing these so called “praise songs”. The songs are high-tempo with a catchy beat. More and more services are dominated by this “praise” music. In the meantime the sermon part of the service is reduced to short motivational speeches filled with jokes, catchy phrases and stories tickling people’s ears and making them feel good. Well, when the storms of life come, and they will, this kind of person will be swept away. The church needs to get back more to Bible teaching, focusing on God, His character, and His teachings. Not only the church needs to get back to that, but individuals do as well. Be excited about God, but make sure that touching songs isn’t the basis of your walk with Him. Have a strong personal walk with God based on His Word. Feed yourself daily so that you can have a strong root.

These people were sincere, not planning to kill him some days later. They really were excited and did want to welcome Him.

Reading this and about the donkey makes me think about Jesus’ two comings. One time Jesus came on a donkey, the sign of humility and gentleness. The next it will be on a white horse, for judgment and to reign. The first time He came gently to save. The second He will come to judge. After the first people have an opportunity to believe in the repent. After the second it will be too late.

The Pharisees were upset with everything that was going on. They blamed each other saying that their plans had done no good and worried that Jesus was getting more and more popular.

Study John 12:20-50

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