John 12 • Three Responses to Christ


There are many lessons to be gleaned from this chapter, but we’ll look at the way it’s organized overall by the three basic groups of people who interact with Christ. Why is it that some accept Him while others reject Him? Why is it that some appear to be much closer to Him than others? The contrasts and comparisons of these groups provide lessons for believers and non-believers alike where the issue of Jesus the Son of God is concerned.

Read verses 1-11: Christ & His Friends

Q: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are mentioned in several places in the Gospel. What might each of them represent spiritually?

  1. Martha represents working for Christ.
  2. Lazarus represents our walk and witness for Christ.
  3. Mary represents worship of Christ.

Q: How does Scripture support arriving at the conclusion that Mary represents worship?

A: It’s not just what she’s doing here, but she is always found at Jesus’ feet. This is where she was found previously when choosing to listen to Jesus’ teaching (Luke 10:38-42), and she fell at His feet when He came to raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:32).

Q:What always seems to happen to believers who show unrestrained love and worship of Christ?

A: There always seems to be a critic who will complain, someone whose heart is ultimately found to be opposite in every way to the heart of a true worshiper. Judas’ lips betrayed a greedy heart that worshiped earthly treasure far more than heavenly treasure.

Q: How did Christ intervene on Mary’s behalf?

A: By becoming her Advocate.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

— 1 John 2:1

Q: How is Mary’s example of devotion one which we should emulate?

  1. She gave her best.
  2. She gave lavishly.
  3. She gave in spite of criticism
  4. She gave lovingly.

Point: Christ not only honors right worship but defends such from Satan’s attacks.

Application: In this example of “worship”, as with nearly every other biblical example of worship, there is no music or singing involved. What does this teach us about the true, biblical definition of worship? How does this compare with what church services often call “worship time” today? What are we doing that could actually be defined as “worship” according to Mary’s example?

Read verses 12-36: Christ & the Gentiles

Q: The people are singing praises from the Songs of Ascent, a group of Psalms that even to this day are believed to speak specifically about the Messiah. How did their use of these Psalms at the Triumphal Entry actually betray their misunderstanding of the Messiah?

A: They are quoting the parts which related to the Messiah as the “Conquering King”, the things Jesus will fulfill at His Second Coming. The people were completely ignoring His coming to them first as the Messiah the “Suffering Servant”, which are all the things He fulfills in His First Coming. Jesus had to first suffer and die so that all would have the chance to be saved and later enjoy the benefits of the Conquering King to come.

Point: The Jews wanted to skip past the “Suffering Servant” and go directly to the “Conquering King”.

Q: What is the fundamental difference between the way the Gentiles approached Jesus versus the Jews?

A: Whereas the Jews said, “We want to see a sign” (Mt. 12:38), the Gentiles said, “We want to see Jesus”.

Point: A right relationship with Christ is only possible when approached on His terms and not according to our own desires or expectations.

Q: What might be examples of the differences in the treatment of Jesus between Gentiles and Jews in the course of His earthly ministry?

  1. It was Gentiles (the Magi) who first recognized the signs of the times of His coming and first came to worship Him as King.
  2. There were several encounters with Gentiles in the course of His ministry who more quickly identified Jesus as the Messiah and Son of David than did their Jewish counterparts.
  3. Here Gentiles are more interested in seeing Jesus on His terms than according to the kinds of expectations the Jews were imposing.
  4. Others?

Q: How are the Gentiles referenced here? How is this different than how they were previously referred to in Jesus’ ministry?

A: In v.32 Jesus states He will be crucified in order to “draw all men to Myself”, which refers to everyone of every race including both Jew and Gentile. Previously in Jesus’ ministry He had taught His disciples to avoid the Gentiles and concentrate on Israel (Mt. 10:5; 15:24). Now He says EVERYONE will be saved through the cross.

Q: What are the conditions Jesus sets in v.22-26 in response to the Gentiles’ request to see Jesus?

A: It’s not limited by race but “he who” – that is, whoever – “hates his life”, “serves Me”, and “follow Me”.

Q: In v.23 and 27 Christ again mentions “the hour”. How has He mentioned this before?

  1. (Jn. 7:30) “So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.”
  2. (Jn. 13:1) “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
  3. (Jn. 17:1) “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,’”

Point: It is the hour of His death, but He calls it the hour of His glory! This is quite contrary to the way men often perceived “the right time” and tried to get Jesus to work according to their own expectations rather than according to God’s.

Q: In v.26 Christ invites “anyone”. How might this describe the ground around the cross being level for everyone?

A: There is no special advantage for anyone.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

— Romans 3:23

as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;

— Romans 3:10

For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

— Romans 11:32

Application: It always comes down to what we do with the cross. We may desire all the grander things of the Conquering King as promised in eternity, but we first have a greater need for the Suffering Servant in the work of the cross to ultimately gain those things. There’s no shortcut around the cross.

Read verses 37-50: Christ & the Jews

Q: How might we summarize this message, which was Christ’s final public message as the end of His earthly ministry approached?

A: It’s a plain warning against allowing the opportunity for salvation to pass by.

Q: What happened after Jesus gave this final message?

A: In v.36 these final words are prefaced, “These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them”.

Point: The verses following beginning in v.37 explain why Christ hid Himself and why the Jews were therefore condemned. Having rejected His Word, they rejected Him, and thus experienced rejection in return.

Q: What are the terrible results of repeatedly rejecting Christ’s Word?

  1. Although they had seen evidence of His divine Sonship, they would not believe. (v.37)
  2. Because their hearts became hard and their eyes blind, they were incapable of believing. (v.39)
  3. Because they spurned God’s grace, God ultimately said “They could not believe” (v.40).

Point: The end result of continued disobedience is to be given over to it. Deception does not happen supernaturally but as the result of one’s personal choices where God’s Word is concerned.

Q: What is unique about quoting Isaiah 6:10 regarding the hardness of their heart?

A: This verse is quoted seven times in the New Testament (Mt. 13:14, Mk. 4:12, Lk. 8:10, Jn. 12:40, Acts 28:26, and Rom. 11:8). Each and every time it speaks of judgment.

Application: The unsaved are to never take their spiritual opportunities lightly. “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become the sons of Light”. (v.36) And in Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.”

Q: Throughout the Gospel of John the conflict between light and darkness is repeatedly presented. Light symbolizes salvation, holiness, and life while darkness stands for condemnation, sin, and death. What are the four kinds of darkness described in this Gospel?

  1. Mental Darkness. (1:5-8, 26). The minds of sinners are blinded by Satan and cannot discern spiritual truth. (See also 2 Cor. 4:3-6.)
  2. Moral Darkness. (3:18-21) The unsaved love sin and hate the light. Judicial Darkness. (12:35-36) If men don’t obey the light, God send the darkness so as to hide Christ from them.
  3. Eternal Darkness. (12:46) To “abide” in darkness literally means to live in hell forever.

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

— Revelation 21:8

Q: How does this list in Revelation of the kind of people who will go to hell relate to this teaching in John?

A: In v.42-43 many reject Christ because of their fear of man. Notice that at the head of this list are the fearful.

Q: What is ironic about Jesus’ statement in v.48 that rejecting the Word of God leads to condemnation?

A: Because the exact opposite is true for those who accept and put it into practice.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

— John 5:24

Point: The very Bible men reject today will be part of the evidence against them in judgment.

Overall Application

The common connection between all three groups studied here is God’s Word. The degree to which the Word of God is not just believed but put into practice results in the kind of relationship we have with Christ, from the most intimate to outright rejection. When we engage in the study of Scripture, the goal is not to learn information or a set of instructions, but to allow Christ – Himself described as the Word of God – to become a living, breathing part of us so that we might enter into a proper relationship from the heart.

What has been the goal of your own Bible study? Do you see that it’s actually related not just to the quality of our love for Christ, but our spiritual worship?