Summary: This chapter provides some real contrasts between real and trumped up worship, real belief and real betrayal. It is all a part of preparing Jesus for the cross and preparing us to receive him.
John places Jesus at Ephraim, a village north of Jerusalem. Between the end of chapter 11 and here, Jesus travels back to Galilee, heals the ten lepers (Luke 17), talks to Zacchaeus (Luke 19) in Jericho on his way back to Bethany.
It’s only six days until the Passover, and Jesus’ crucifixion. John devotes most of the rest of his gospel to these six days. We see the tensions mount from Jesus’ enemies, and Jesus’ ministry to His disciples increase.
It’s all coming into focus now. Jesus’ mind and his heart are focused on His real mission: to die on the cross. It is a time of preparation. Jesus is prepared for the cross by loving acts of worship, hints of betrayal, shows of misinformed adoration, seeds of disbelief, and signs of an outcome that far exceeds what anyone thought would happen. Jesus is being prepared and so are the people—so are you for Jesus to come into your life.
1 – 3
Mary prepares Jesus for burial, like bringing the roses before the funeral. At dinners like this they would lay on divans or couches with their feet stretched out so it would have been easy for Mary to reach Jesus. Mary, more than anyone, got what Jesus was doing and lavished this very expensive gift on him (a year’s worth of wages). Nard is also called spikenard and was imported from India and kept in alabaster jars and used as an investment like gold. Mary was pouring her investment into Jesus. Nard was used as a burial spice, and Jesus refers to Mary’s use of it in this way. She will not have the opportunity to prepare him for burial later.
Other gospels tell us that all the disciples were incensed at Mary’s act but only one says something about it.
4 – 8
Judas prepares to betray Jesus by bringing accusations against the one who loved Jesus because he does not love him.
If calculated as a day’s wage for a laborer, someone making minimum wage, the cost of the nard would be around $19,000 today. That’s $7.95 x 8 x 300 (“300 days wages”). Judas wanted it sold so that he could pocket the money. Jesus says that opportunities to help the poor will always be available but opportunities to prepare Jesus for the crucifixion would not.
I would point out here that you don’t come to Jesus by way of doing good works for the poor. You come to him by way of acknowledging his death, burial, and resurrection as a way of bringing you into relationship with God and giving you eternal life. Then His Spirit will work in you a desire to help others.
9 – 11
The Chief priests prepare to murder Jesus, along with Lazarus, because they threatened the current Jewish system.
This is a kind of foreshadowing that the Jewish leaders will mark all those that follow Jesus and tell others. Keep in mind that as people see the miracle of new life in you given by Jesus you will be marked as well by the enemy. He will try to frustrate you and kill you if he can. Good thing you have God and His angels.
12 – 19
Jesus prepares Jerusalem for its’ King, and for the King’s gift of life, by entering into the city in fulfillment of prophecy.