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The Rejected King (John 12:1-19)

(All scriptures quoted from the NASB)

In a sense, the whole of eternity sits In the Shadow of Calvary. Never was there, nor will there be, a more important event than the shedding of the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God. Calvary is the fulcrum of human history, prophesied in early Genesis; central to the whole of Scripture, even the future in Revelation; and to the theme of praise and worship in the present, both here and in heaven. Our series this year, however, confines itself to the events and teachings that transpired from the entrance of Christ into Bethany, John 12:1, to His final recorded supplication prior to Gethsemane, in John 17.

By the weekend of that entrance into Bethany, the sixty-nine weeks of Daniel's prophecy (9:25) had all but run their course, after which Messiah was to be cut off. 483 years previously, Artaxerxes' command to rebuild Jerusalem (Neh. 2:6) had excited the builders from Babylon to return. Since Peter's declaration that no matter what men in general thought, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus had been showing His disciples that He must go up to Jerusalem and suffer, and be killed, and be raised up the third day (Mat. 16:21). Then He left Galilee for the last time, not to return there until after His resurrection. Now, this final week brings the culmination of all that these other things led up to, the fulfilment of divine purpose in the incarnation.

It is not our purpose to attempt a harmony of the Gospels for this final

week, save to reflect that all the Scriptures are true, and if hard for us to place in time sequence, it is we, not they, who are at fault. We shall confine our thought to matters recorded in John, the which have particular import when viewed in relation to their proximity to the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The scene at Bethany

There may be some fruitful comparison between the specific days that began the ministry of Christ that are mentioned in the first two chapters of John and the six days that are outlined here at the end of His ministry. Certainly He did some things in those early days which are repeated here: His baptism and its counterpart in His death; the cleansing of the temple; and His appearing at a special dinner. Indeed, there seems to be a development worthy of note in the meals that He is recorded to have attended in this Gospel. At Cana He began as guest; in John 12:1 He is guest of honour; on the beach in John 21 He is the host. Our own lives would show growth if we allowed Him the same progress in them. As John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease".

This Bethany supper is the first mentioned opportunity for us to see the reunited family together after the resurrection of Lazarus. One notices the great similarity between the activities of that lovely trio before and after that occasion. Martha served; Mary sat at His feet; Lazarus, His friend, sat at table with Him; all graphically depicting a truth that is elsewhere emphasized in Scripture; our position and service after resurrection will be related to that which we have developed in life (cf. Mat. 19:27-30; Mat. 25:21; Luke 19:24; 2 Tim. 2:11). Often throughout their lives would those gathered at that meal remember their fellowship with the Master, and many a time, no doubt, would the sweetness of that remembrance lighten the burden of the moment.

More than once in His lifetime had the Lord been anointed with precious perfume, and each occasion recorded (perhaps there had been many more) is rich in its teaching. But this anointing by Mary takes on a special significance because of its timing. Mary loved her brother Lazarus, yet that precious spikenard had not been used on his body, so recently dead. It was

the anticipation of the Lord's burial that caused the sweetness to flow. Mary seemed to have an insight into the matter beyond even that of His apostles

- perhaps gained in her hours spent at the Lord's feet. But her action was more than anticipatory. Mary identified herself with both His death and burial, not only by anointing Him, but by wiping His feet with her hair. It may have been a most unconventional thing for a Jewish woman to loose her hair in the presence of men, but convention gave place to devotion, and the whole house was filled with the fragrance.

There was to be no shortage of ointments and spices for His burial. Much of it, because it was brought too late, would never be used for the purpose. Yet a seeming surfeit of sweetness is no reason for not bringing the gift, a point underscored by the Lord's stout defence of Mary's action. His statement about the lasting nature of the matter, that it would be told wherever the gospel would be preached worldwide, shows the importance He placed upon it. Perhaps I would do well to remind myself of this at the remembrance and prayer meetings when I seem to have difficulty offering what I have stored up during the week.

Public Reaction

We are not told how many guests had been invited to this supper. Bethany by the meaning of its name was associated with food, and whether at the home of Mary and Martha, or at the home of Simon the Leper, Scripture refers to hospitality freely given. During that last week it is probable that all twelve disciples, plus any women that followed along to minister to the group, were cared for here. Bethany may well have been the place to which many of the disciples fled after the arrest in Gethsemane. In any case, a great multitude of the Jews, hearing that Jesus was there, came out of curiosity, not only to see Him, but to see Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead a short time before. Contrasted with this interest and the attention shown by those who had been with Him when Lazarus was raised and who were willing to testify to the reality of it all (v.17), were the chief priests, many of them Sadducees who did not believe in even the possibility of resurrection. The hatred of these latter was spurred on by the fact that the resurrection of Lazarus was turning many to follow Christ. Such is the power of resurrection life. Yet despicable as the official attitude was, it was superseded in heinous character by the greed of Judas. It was not that Jesus had no care for the poor, for when Judas left the Passover feast a few days later, some thought that he had been sent to give money to the poor from the communal purse. But recognizing, as indeed Mary also must have done, that poverty would continue to characterize not only the world around, but those who would be "with you" (see Deut. 15:11), and that there would be limited time to give such devotion to the Master, Christ defended her action. 'When good is prompted, evil often presents itself, but Scripture so often used this to show the beauty of that which is precious to God. So the preciousness of Mary's action stands out in great contrast to the depravity of Judas' evil. Moreover what Judas began in his carping criticism, others took up, swelling his condemnation (Mark 14:4). Murmuring is so contagious!

The Presentation of the King

On the day following, the multitude from Bethany was met by the throng from Jerusalem coming to meet the One of whom they had heard. To these Jesus presented Himself as King:

Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, 0 daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech. 9:9). The humility of the Saviour riding upon the back of the lowly donkey was matched by His tenderness in taking along the mother of that unbroken colt, and His unwillingness to show less than due care for the animals (Mark 11:3):

And immediately He will send it back here.

No loss accrues to those who give for the Master's use.

The hosannas of the day would be matched by the praises of the children on the following day. We are reminded that so very often the actions of the parents are reflected in their young. In this case the children fulfilled Scripture, Psalm 8:2:

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength.

When the Lord reminded those who chided Him about this scripture, those who knew their Bibles must have smarted at the context of these verses that He had quoted to them. Perhaps these shouts of those who praised were part of the antiphonal recitation of Psalm 118:25,26. Poignant indeed the context of these words also:

The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone (v.22).

And

Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar (v.27).

In spite of what has been called the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, He did not come to be accepted as King. The fickle praises poured upon Him that day would soon clash with the cacophony of mob hatred. He must be rejected. And resulting from that rejection would come His own rejection of Israel. Key verses in John's gospel say this:

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:11.12). From the time of the praises of

adults and children, there would arise discord in continuing strength until that dissonance carried the day. Yet arising out of the discord of the evil hearts of men comes a song of greater sweetness and strength, our own harmony of praise to the One who has through His rejection and death made Himself worthy to be our King:

Thou art my God, and I give thanks to Thee; Thou art my God, I extol Thee. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting (Psalm 118: 28,29).