Entrance into Jerusalem
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12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
2 There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him.
3 Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.
4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said,
5 "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"
6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.
7 Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial.
8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."
9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death,
11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
12 The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.
13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!"
14 And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written,
15 "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass's colt!"
16 His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him.
17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness.
18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.
1 Ο οὖν Ἰησοῦς πρὸ ἓξ ἡμερῶν τοῦ πάσχα ἦλθεν εἰς Βηθανίαν, ὅπου ἦν Λάζαρος ὁ τεθνηκώς, ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν.
2 ἐποίησαν οὖν αὐτῷ δεῖπνον ἐκεῖ, καὶ ἡ Μάρθα διηκόνει· ὁ δὲ Λάζαρος εἷς ἦν τῶν ἀνακειμένων σὺν αὐτῷ.
3 ἡ οὖν Μαρία, λαβοῦσα λίτραν μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίμου, ἤλειψε τοὺς πόδας τοῦ Ἰησοῦ καὶ ἐξέμαξε ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ· ἡ δὲ οἰκία ἐπληρώθη ἐκ τῆς ὀσμῆς τοῦ μύρου.
4 λέγει οὖν εἷς ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, Ἰούδας Σίμωνος Ἰσκαριώτης, ὁ μέλλων αὐτὸν παραδιδόναι·
5 διατί τοῦτο τὸ μύρον οὐκ ἐπράθη τριακοσίων δηναρίων καὶ ἐδόθη πτωχοῖς;
6 εἶπε δὲ τοῦτο οὐχ ὅτι περὶ τῶν πτωχῶν ἔμελεν αὐτῷ, ἀλλ᾿ ὅτι κλέπτης ἦν, καὶ τὸ γλωσσόκομον εἶχε καὶ τὰ βαλλόμενα ἐβάσταζεν.
7 εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἄφες αὐτήν, εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τετήρηκεν αὐτό.
8 τοὺς πτωχοὺς γὰρ πάντοτε ἔχετε μεθ᾿ ἑαυτῶν, ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε.
9 Ἔγνω οὖν ὄχλος πολὺς ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ὅτι ἐκεῖ ἐστι, καὶ ἦλθον οὐ διὰ τὸν Ἰησοῦν μόνον, ἀλλ᾿ ἵνα καὶ τὸν Λάζαρον ἴδωσιν ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν.
10 ἐβουλεύσαντο δὲ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς ἵνα καὶ τὸν Λάζαρον ἀποκτείνωσιν,
11 ὅτι πολλοὶ δι᾿ αὐτὸν ὑπῆγον τῶν Ἰουδαίων καὶ ἐπίστευον εἰς τὸν Ἰησοῦν.
12 Τῇ ἐπαύριον ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ ἐλθὼν εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν, ἀκούσαντες ὅτι ἔρχεται Ἰησοῦς εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα,
13 ἔλαβον τὰ βαΐα τῶν φοινίκων καὶ ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν αὐτῷ, καὶ ἔκραζον· ὡσαννά, εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου, ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.
14 εὑρὼν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὀνάριον ἐκάθισεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτό, καθώς ἐστι γεγραμμένον·
15 μὴ φοβοῦ, θύγατερ Σιών· ἰδοὺ ὁ βασιλεύς σου ἔρχεται καθήμενος ἐπὶ πῶλον ὄνου.
16 Ταῦτα δὲ οὐκ ἔγνωσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ τὸ πρῶτον, ἀλλ᾿ ὅτε ἐδοξάσθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς, τότε ἐμνήσθησαν ὅτι ταῦτα ἦν ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ γεγραμμένα, καὶ ταῦτα ἐποίησαν αὐτῷ.
17 Ἐμαρτύρει οὖν ὁ ὄχλος ὁ ὢν μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ ὅτε τὸν Λάζαρον ἐφώνησεν ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου καὶ ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν.
18 διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ ὁ ὄχλος, ὅτι ἤκουσαν τοῦτο αὐτὸν πεποιηκέναι τὸ σημεῖον.
Larger Thought Unit
Because of the structure of our services with Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday together as a liturgical unit, we would assume that the larger thought unit for today’s reading would also include chapter 11. But a closer examination has chapters 10 and 11 together as a literary thought unit with the end of chapter 11 (verse 55ff) and chapter 12 together as a unit, from which comes our reading for today. Separation of these two units does not mean that they are not connected; rather chapter 12 functions as a hinge ending the long section of Christ’s work and teaching (John 2:13-11:54) and introduces the last section, the period of Christ’s long-awaited hour. Hence chapter 12 is critical to the entire book. It is the essential connecting link to the entire gospel story of John. Note how John places the two main sections of his book within the context of the Passover: “Now the feast of the Passover of the Jews was at hand…” (2:13) and “Now before the Feast of the Passover…” (13:1).
Bethany—the house of the poor—is the city where Jesus has left his mark by granting life to the dead. It is also where the communities of the believers, represented by Martha and Mary, reside.
Mary expresses the true faith in Jesus as the messiah and the eschatological bridegroom by anointing him with myrrh and nard. Her action is linked to Jesus’ burial: indeed, the true messiah—as the suffering Son of man of Isaiah 53—“came… to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45 [last Sunday’s gospel reading]) in order to give them life.
On the other hand, Judas Iscariot represents the Jewish zealots who wanted to use the money collected for the temple to wage their armed revolution against the Romans. They ended up by dooming Jerusalem to utter destruction.
The Jerusalemite leaders want to obliterate not only Jesus but also Lazarus, the living witness for Jesus’ rightful message of life. Yet the people, following Mary’s lead, recognize Jesus’ messiahship by proclaiming their faith in him as the awaited eschatological King of Israel (Jn 12:15; Zech 9:9)
In contradistinction to Jerusalem, Zion, in the Old Testament, refers to the heavenly Jerusalem, where the divine throne lies. According to John, it is there, the heavenly Jerusalem, that the true messiah is going, and this will be realized at his resurrection. Hence the evangelist’s comment: “His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him.” (Jn 12:16)
That is also why the crowd’s witness to Jesus’ messiahship is connected with their having witnessed his raising Lazarus from the dead (v.17). In John, the raising of Lazarus from the dead functions as a sign of Jesus’ own resurrection (v.18).
Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, Crossroads Publishing Company, NY, NY, 1992.
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.3: Johannine Writings, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2004; pp.205-9.