Interpretation 12

Home Feet Judas

Send mail to crain@missouriwestern.edu with questions or comments about this web site.
  Copyright © 2001 Jeanie C. Crain
Last modified: March, 2002

    The reader will want to recall the ending of chapter eleven:

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, "What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation." 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all! 50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed." 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53 So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

54 Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?" 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

When the chief priests and Pharisees call a meeting of the council, they seek to prevent the Romans from being concerned about insurrection. In keeping with John's theme that the whole book is written for the single purpose of bringing people to believe, Jesus' activity will "cause everyone to believe in him." 

Caiaphas, who ruled as high priest for a very long time by the standards of the day (A.D. 18-36), speaks up: You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish (vv. 49-50). Here again the self-interest is evident (for you). This is a very significant statement for John, as is evident from his dwelling on it (vv. 51-52). Unknown to Caiaphas, he had in fact prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation (v. 51). Caiaphas is thinking of Jesus' death in place of the destruction of the nation by Rome, but John sees the divine intent that Jesus die in place of the nation for their sin...

Caiaphas refers to the people (laos) and the nation (ethnos), but in the next verse John only uses nation. The word laos was not used frequently in classical Greek, but it occurs more than two thousand times in the Septuagint, having become "a specific term for a specific people, namely, Israel, and it serves to emphasize the special and privileged religious position of this people as the people of God" (Strathmann and Meyer 1967:32). Thus, John's refusal to use laos may be significant in the light of the theme of Jesus' departure from the temple and the formation of the core of the new community around him (see comments on 8:59 and 10:1-21). "The Jews at this crisis had ceased to be `a people.' They were a `nation' only, as one of the nations of the world. The elements of the true `people' were scattered throughout the world, as Jews, and Jews of the Dispersion, and Gentiles" (Westcott 1908:2:107).http://bible.gospelcom.net/

With the Passover near, Jews are coming to Jerusalem, and in light of the search for Jesus, many ask whether Jesus wll come, knowing that the chief priest and Pharisees seek to arrest him.

    In chapter twelve, six days before the Passover, Jesus has returned to Bethany (1). He's in the home of Lazarus (whom he has raised from the dead in chapter eleven), Martha, and Mary (2, 3). Judas Iscariot is also present (4). Mary anoints Jesus' feet with costly perfumes (3), an action Judas reprimands her for performing (4). The great crowd of Jews have learned Jesus is there and plan to put him and Lazarus to death, all because people are deserting (11). The next day, Jesus confirms his presence by a triumphal entry into Jerusalem (13), the crowds who had been at Lazarus' resurrection continuing to testify and others being drawn to the crowds. Again, the Pharisees become concerned that the world is coming to follow Jesus (18). The disciples, slow in comprehension, do not understand all the activity, remembering only after the glorification that it had been written, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord--the King of Israel... Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt" (13-15). Even some Greeks have been drawn to the activity (20). To Philip and Andrew, Jesus conveys the message that those who follow must serve but will be honored (26). Jesus summarizes his own mission:  "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." Jesus  speaks clearly and openly about his death:

27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" 35 Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light."

The reader should note that Jesus' soul is troubled, much as it has been in chapter eleven over the death of Lazarus. A link, too, connects the light of verse thirty-six to other sections of John: 3.19 The light has come into the world. 1. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men, and 5 The light shines in darkness; 12.35 The light is with you a little longer; 11.9 he does not stumble because he sees the light; 8.12 I am the light of the world, and 5.35 they were willing for a while to rejoice in his light. This time, many of the people refuse to believe (37), although even some of the authorities do believe (42), although not confessing it for fear of being put outside the synagogues. Jesus departs and hides, but John provides a summary:

44 Then Jesus cried aloud: "Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. 47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, 49 for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me."

Jesus here says he has spoken just as the Father has told him; to reject Jesus' word is then to reject the Father.

    John deviates from the synoptics in indicating Jesus has come to the home of Lazarus; others indicate an anointing in the place of Simon the Leper:

Yet, not until His hour had come could man do aught against Christ or His disciples. And, in contrast to such scheming, haste, and search, we mark the majestic calm and quiet of Him Who knew what was before Him. Jesus had arrived at Bethany six days before the Passover - that is, on a Friday. The day after was the Sabbath, and ‘they made Him a supper.’ It was the special festive meal of the Sabbath. The words of John seem to indicate that the meal was a public one, as if the people of Bethany had combined to do Him this honour, and so share the privilege of attending the feast. In point of fact, we know from Matthew and Mark that it took place ‘in the house of Simon the Leper’ - not, of course, an actual leper - but one who had been such. Perhaps his guest-chamber was the largest in Bethany; perhaps the house was nearest to the Synagogue; or there may have been other reasons for it, unknown to us - least likely is the suggestion that Simon was the husband of Martha, or else her father. But all is in character. Among the guests is Lazarus: and, prominent in service, Martha; and Mary (the unnamed woman of the other two Gospels, which do not mention that household by name), is also true to her character. She had ‘an alabaster’ of ‘spikenard genuine,’ which was very precious. It held ‘a litra’ (לִיטְרָא or לִיטַרְתָּא) which was a ‘Roman pound,’ and its value could not have been less than nearly 9l. Remembering the price of Nard, as given by Pliny, and that the Syrian was only next in value to the Indian, which Pliny regarded as the best ointment of ‘genuine’ Nard - unadulterated and unmixed with any other balsam (as the less expensive kinds were), such a price (300 dinars = nearly 9l.) would be by no means excessive; indeed, much lower than at Rome. But, viewed in another light, the sum spent was very large, remembering that 200 dinars (about 6l.) nearly sufficed to provide bread for 5,000 men with their families, and that the ordinary wages of a labourer amounted to only one dinar a day.

The Intervarsity Commentary points out that, according to the culture, Mary performs actions scandalous in nature by sitting at the feet of Jesus, not a place for a woman, by anointing his feet with extravagantly expensive perfume, and wiping them with her hair. People are acting out of their own reasons, as Intervarsity states, but likewise, they become players in acting out the salvation history John seeks to record:

The picture of Mary is also true to that in Luke (10:38-42); that is, she is a devoted disciple who ignores the taboos of her society in her commitment to Jesus. Sitting at his feet as a disciple (Lk 10:39) was not the place for a woman, but she is commended by Jesus (Lk 10:42). Now she acts in an even more scandalous manner in anointing Jesus' feet with extremely expensive perfume and then wiping them with her hair (Jn 12:3).

Both aspects of her action--the extravagance and the method--were disturbing. The pure nard she uses was imported from northern India (Brown 1966:448). Judas says, no doubt correctly, that it was worth a year's wages (v. 5). The text literally reads "three hundred denarii" (cf. NIV note). Since a denarius was a day's pay for a day laborer, the NIV paraphrase is accurate, taking into account feast days and sabbaths when one would not work. A rough equivalent would be something over $10,000, the gross pay for someone working at minimum wage for a year. No wonder the disciples (Mt 26:8), Judas in particular, respond with dismay at such a waste.

In the accounts in Matthew and Mark, she anoints Jesus' head, while in John it is his feet. Obviously, it could have been both, and with twelve ounces to work with (not a full pint, as in the NIV) she could have anointed his whole body. Indeed, since he interprets this as an anointing for his burial (v. 7) it seems she did anoint more than his head and feet, as Matthew and Mark suggest (Mt 26:12 par. Mk 14:8; cf. Carson 1991:426).

The other part of her action that would have been quite disturbing was the wiping of his feet with her hair. Jewish women did not let down their hair in public. This is an expression of devotion that would have come across as extremely improper and even somewhat erotic, as indeed it would in most cultures. There is no indication of why Mary did this act. The most obvious possibility was her sheer gratitude for what Jesus had done for her brother and the revelation it brought to her of Jesus' identity, power, authority and grace. John's focus on her anointing Jesus' feet points to Mary's great humility. As she has come to realize a bit more of the one who has been a friend to her and her brother and sister, her faith deepens and she recognizes her unworthiness. The humility of her act prepares us to be all the more scandalized when Jesus himself washes his disciples' feet in the next chapter.

Whatever Mary's intentions and reason for her action, Jesus sees it in reference to his coming death (v. 7). Jesus sees cryptic significance in another person's actions instead of making his more usual cryptic explanation of his own activity. There is no reason to think Mary knew the full import of what she was doing, any more than Caiaphas knew what he was saying (11:49-51). The people around Jesus are being caught up in the climax of all of salvation history. They are acting for their own reasons, yet they are players in a drama that they do not understand, doing and saying things with significance beyond their imaginings. "Mary in her devotion unconsciously provides for the honour of the dead. Judas in his selfishness unconsciously brings about the death itself" (Westcott 1908:2:112).
http://bible.gospelcom.net/

Alfred Edersheim argues for Mary's knowledge of Jesus' coming death:

We can here offer only conjectures. But it is, at least, not unreasonable to suppose - remembering the fondness of Jewish women for such perfumes - that Mary may have had that ‘alabaster’ of very costly ointment from olden days, before she had learned to serve Christ. Then, when she came to know Him, and must have learned how constantly that Decease, of which He ever spoke, was before His Mind, she may have put it aside, ‘kept it,’ ‘against the day of His burying.’ And now the decisive hour had come. Jesus may have told her, as He had told the disciples, what was before Him in Jerusalem at the Feast, and she would be far more quick to understand, even as she must have known far better than they, how great was the danger from the Sanhedrin. And it is this believing apprehension of the mystery of His Death on her part, and this preparation of deepest love for it - this mixture of sorrow, faith, and devotion - which made her deed so precious, that, wherever in the future the Gospel would be preached, this also that she had done would be recorded for a memorial of her. And the more we think of it, the better can we understand, how at that last feast of fellowship, when all the other guests realised not - no, not even His disciples - how near the end was, she would ‘come aforehand to anoint His Body for the burying.’ Her faith made it a twofold anointing: that of the best Guest at the last feast, and that of preparation for that Burial which, of all others, she apprehended as so terribly near. And deepest humility now offered, what most earnest love had provided, and intense faith, in view of what was coming, applied. And so she poured the precious ointment over His Head, over His Feet - then, stooping over them, wiped them with her hair, as if, not only in evidence of service and love, but in fellowship of His Death. ‘And the house was filled’ - and to all time His House, the Church, is filled - ‘with the odour of the ointment.’ The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book 4, Chapter 24.

In John 13.3, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, fully knowing that his time is coming, that he is going to God. John, always intentional, creates in Mary at Jesus' feet a portrait of cultural courtesy and worship. The reader may be informed by reviewing how often the feet were washed as a courtesy to guests and how often bowing at the feet describes worship in references throughout the Bible. Just recalling two verses from Psalms suggest John's description of Mary at Jesus' feet is accurate:

Psa 119:105) Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And light unto my path.

(Psa 122:2) Our feet are standing Within thy gates, O Jerusalem,

The Net Bible  suggests that verse three, in speaking of the perfume's fragrance filling the house, that John, perhaps indicates Jesus' future work:


8sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. With a note characteristic of someone who was there and remembered, the author adds that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil. In the later rabbinic literature, Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7.1.1 states “The fragrance of good oil is diffused from the bedroom to the dining hall, but a good name is diffused from one end of the world to the other.” If such a saying was known in the 1st century, this might be the author’s way of indicating that Mary’s act of devotion would be spoken of throughout the entire world (compare the comment in Mark 14:9).

   If Mary's role, consciously or unconsciously, identifies the Word and worships, Judas' action herald his later defection. How exactly is one to read Judas? Consider Edersheim's contrast of Mary (love) and Judas (hate) given the nearness of Jesus' death:

It is ever the light which throws the shadows of objects - and this deed of faith and love now cast the features of Judas in gigantic dark outlines against the scene. He knew the nearness of Christ’s Betrayal, and hated the more; she knew of the nearness of His precious Death, and loved the more. It was not that he cared for the poor, when, taking the mask of charity, he simulated anger that such costly ointment had not been sold, and the price given to the poor. For he was essentially dishonest, ‘a thief,’ and covetousness was the underlying master-passion of his soul. The money, claimed for the poor, would only have been used by himself. Yet such was his pretence of righteousness, such his influence as ‘a man of prudence’ among the disciples, and such their sad weakness, that they, or at least ‘some,’ expressed indignation among themselves and against her who had done the deed of love, which, when viewed in the sublimeness of a faith, that accepted and prepared for the death of a Saviour Whom she so loved, and to Whom this last, the best service she could, was to be devoted, would for ever cause her to be thought of as an example of loving. There is something inexpressibly sad, yet so patient, gentle, and tender in Christ’s ‘Let her alone.’ Surely, never could there be waste in ministry of love to Him! Nay, there is unspeakable pathos in what He says of His near Burying, as if He would still their souls in view of it. That He, Who was ever of the poor and with them, Who for our sakes became poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich, should have to plead for a last service of love to Himself, and for Mary, and as against a Judas, seems, indeed, the depth of self-abasement. Yet, even so, has this falsely-spoken plea for the poor become a real plea, since He has left us this, as it were, as His last charge, and that by His own Death, that we have the poor always with us. And so do even the words of covetous dishonesty become, when passing across Him, transformed into the command of charity, and the breath of hell is changed into the summer-warmth of the Church’s constant service to Christ in the ministry to His poor. The Life and Times of the Messiah, Book 4, chapter 24

The Intervarsity Commentary contrasts the two as examples of faith and unbelief:

Every time John mentions Judas he refers to his betrayal (6:71; 13:2, 26-29; 18:2-3, 5). Judas may have thought he was acting for God's glory, as did also the opponents of Jesus, but he, like them, was in fact alienated from God. God's glory will indeed be manifest, but not as Judas thinks... Judas' heart is thus fundamentally different from the heart of Mary as she lavishes her love and respect upon Jesus. This Gospel provides a great many examples of the difference between faith and unbelief through descriptions of true disciples on the one hand and, on the other, both would-be disciples and Jesus' opponents. But here we have the contrast between a true disciple, Mary, and one of the Twelve, which shows that privilege of position is no substitute for faith and obedience. Chrysostom says that Jesus, even though he knew Judas' heart (6:64), "bare with him, desiring to recall him" (In John 65.2). But Judas, like the Jewish opponents, resisted God's grace. http://bible.gospelcom.net/

Certainly, John carefully notes that Judas' role requires him to betray Jesus. The reader may wish to consider an alternative view of Judas. The question can be asked, who makes possible the legal determination of the innocence of the sacrificial lamb, and the answer must be Judas. John Shelby Sponge makes a case for Judas' being a fictional rather than literal person, composed out of midrashic tradition:

When we put all the pieces together, a pattern certainly emerges. From Zechariah we get the account of the betrayal of the shepherd king of the Jews, for thirty pieces of silver. From the story of Ahithophel we get the picture of one who, when he betrayed the Lord's anointed, went out and hanged himself. Suicide was also freshly in the mind of Matthew, for Jewish resistance to the Roman army had ended in mass suicides of the final Jewish soldiers at Masada. From the story of Joab, we get the kiss of betrayal and the disembowelment of Amasa. From Psalm 41 we get the account of the friend who becomes the enemy after eating bread at the table together. From the Joseph story we get the detail of the brother named Judah (Judas) who decided to seek money in exchange for 'handing over' his brother to the gentiles and almost certain death.  That accounts for almost every detail in the gospel tradition regarding  one known as Judas and called Iscariot. This analysis, at the very least, makes the midrashic creation of the Judas story more and more probable. At the very least, it suggests that most of the details about the life of Judas may not be literal at all. (Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes, Chapter 16, page 270).

    Jesus in chapter eleven manifests himself as the Messiah:

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

"Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—

the King of Israel!"

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

15 "Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.

Look, your king is coming,

sitting on a donkey’s colt!"

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17 So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18 It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, "You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!"

The people who have been present when Lazarus was raised from death testify now of the Giver of Life, although the disciples seem not to understand, recalling and being convinced only after Jesus is glorified.

12:12–15 took branches of palm trees: This was the Sunday before Christ arose, today called Palm Sunday. cried out … King of Israel: Until this point, Jesus had discouraged expressions of support from the people (6:15; 7:1–8). Here He allowed public enthusiasm. He entered Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey. This act fulfilled prophecy (Zech. 9:9) and as such was a symbolic proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah.
12:16 did not understand: The disciples did not catch the prophetic significance of Jesus’ act. when Jesus was glorified: After Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, the disciples finally understood that the OT prophecies concerning the Messiah had been fulfilled in Jesus.
Radmacher, E. D. 1999. Nelson's new illustrated Bible commentary. T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

The entry into Jerusalem is, indeed, integral and, as Edersheim points out, public:

We regard His Royal Entry into the Jerusalem of Prophecy and of the Crucifixion as an integral part of the history of Christ, which would not be complete, nor thoroughly consistent, without it. It behoved Him so to enter Jerusalem, because He was a King; and as King to enter it in such manner, because He was such a King - and both the one and the other were in accordance with the prophecy of old. The Life and Times of the Messiah, Book 5, Chapter 1

We turn once more to the scene just described. For, it was no common pageantry; and Christ’s public Entry into Jerusalem seems so altogether different from - we had almost said, inconsistent with - His previous mode of appearance. Evidently, the time for the silence so long enjoined had passed, and that for public declaration had come. And such, indeed, this Entry was. From the moment of His sending forth the two disciples to His acceptance of the homage of the multitude, and His rebuke of the Pharisee’s attempt to arrest it, all must be regarded as designed or approved by Him: not only a public assertion of His Messiahship, but a claim to its national acknowledgment. And yet, even so, it was not to be the Messiah of Israel’s conception, but He of prophetic picture: ‘just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass.’ It is foreign to our present purpose to discuss any general questions about this prophecy, or even to vindicate its application to the Messiah. But, when we brush aside all the trafficking and bargaining over words, that constitutes so much of modern criticism, which in its care over the lesson so often loses the spirit, there can, at least, be no question that this prophecy was intended to introduce, in contrast to earthly warfare and kingly triumph, another Kingdom, of which the just King would be the Prince of Peace, Who was meek and lowly in His Advent, Who would speak peace to the heathen, and Whose sway would yet extend to earth’s utmost bounds. Thus much may be said, that if there ever was true picture of the Messiah-King and His Kingdom, it is this, and that, if ever Israel was to have a Messiah or the world a Saviour, He must be such as described in this prophecy - not merely, in the letter, but in the spirit of it. And as so often indicated, it was not the letter but the spirit of prophecy - and of all prophecy - which the ancient Synagogue, and that rightly, saw fulfilled in the Messiah and His Kingdom. Accordingly, with singular unanimity the Talmud and the ancient Rabbinic authorities have applied this prophecy to the Christ. Nor was it quoted by Matthew and John in the stiffness and deadness of the letter. On the contrary (as so often in Jewish writings, two prophets - Isa_62:11, and Zec_9:9 - are made to shed their blended light upon this Entry of Christ, as exhibiting the reality, of which the prophetic vision had been the reflex. Nor yet are the words of the Prophets given literally - as modern criticism would have them weighed out in the critical balances - either from the Hebrew text, or from the LXX. rendering; but their real meaning is given, and they are ‘Targumed’ by the sacred writers, according to their wont. Yet who that sets the prophetic picture by the side of the reality - the description by the side of Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem - can fail to recognise in the one the real fulfilment of the other? The Life and Times of the Messiah, Book 5, Chapter 1

    Significantly in John, again carefully structured, some Greeks who follow the triumphal entry wish to see Jesus. What is this about? The reader must recognize Christ as king came not as a national but world king. John returns to the characteristic reaction to Jesus: belief and unbelief. The world, it seems, follows Jesus, including some Greeks:

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor...

When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; 38 it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed our report,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart,
lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart,
and turn for me to heal them.” 41 Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
The Revised Standard Version. 1971 (Jn 12:36-47). Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA

Importantly, although disbelief rules, many believe, and importantly, among believers are gentiles. Consider the following lengthy commentary from W. Wall Harris, where he points out that the Greeks come as representatives, marking Jesus' hour as having come, and signaling universal salvation:

Notice that in 9:10 the king who comes proclaims peace to the Gentiles, and his dominion is from sea to sea. The next section of chapter 12 (vss. 20-26) deals with the coming of the Gentiles!. One of the major emphases of John’s Gospel is that Jesus came on a mission of salvation not to the Jewish people only, but to the entire world (from sea to sea; to the ends of the earth). Zech 9:11 goes on to relate this to the blood of the covenant, which suggests the blood of the new covenant. And the prisoners are set free from a waterless pit—just as Jesus offers the ‘living water ’ of the Spirit which flows freely from himself (7:38-39). Recall that the Evangelist has alluded to messianic prophecies in Zechariah before (Zech 14:20-21 with John 2:16) and note that he will do so again (Zech 13:7 with John 16:32, Zech 12:10 with John 19:37).

Finally, compare Rev 7:9-10: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’.”

4 D The coming of the Gentiles (Greeks) marks the coming of the hour (12:20-26)

John’s use of Zech 9:9 is suggestive in light of this incident which immediately follows and the way Jesus responds to it. According to Zech 9:10, Messiah would proclaim peace to the Gentiles—and here they come (representatively, of course). Jesus has said that he would lay down his life (10:17) and that he had other sheep not of the fold (10:16). The appearance of these Gentiles wishing to see Jesus indicate that it is time for him to lay down his life—the hour of his glory has come (i.e., his return to the Father through death, resurrection, and exaltation). This point is so important for the Evangelist that we are never actually told if the Greeks get to see Jesus or not!

12:20 ”Ellhnev" tine" These Greeks who had come up to worship at the feast were probably “God-fearers” rather than proselytes in the strict sense. Had they been true proselytes, they would probably not have been referred to as Greeks any longer. Many came to worship at the major Jewish festivals without being Jewish proselytes, for example, the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:27, who could not have been a proselyte if he were physically a eunuch.

12:21 ou|toi ou\n prosh'lqon Filivppw/ These Greeks approached Philip, although it is not clear why they did so. Perhaps they identified with his Greek name (although a number of Jews from border areas had Hellenistic names at this period). By “see” it is clear they meant “speak with,” since anyone could “see” Jesus moving through the crowd. We are not told what they wanted to speak with Jesus about.

12:22 tw'/ =Andreva/ Philip appears to have been uncertain how to handle their request, so he approached Andrew. Together they both spoke to Jesus.

12:23 ejlhvluqen hJ w{ra i{na doxasqh'/ oJ uiJoV" tou' ajnqrwvpou Jesus’ reply is a bit puzzling. As far as the Evangelist’s account is concerned, Jesus totally ignores these Greeks and makes no further reference to them whatsoever. It appears that his words are addressed to Andrew and Philip, but in fact they must have had a wider audience, including possibly the Greeks who had wished to see him in the first place. The words ejlhvvluqen hJ w{ra recall all the previous references to “the hour ” throughout the Fourth Gospel (see the notes on 2:4). There is no doubt, in light of the following verse, that Jesus refers to his death here. On his pathway to glorification lies the cross, and it is just ahead.
Notice that in 9:10 the king who comes proclaims peace to the Gentiles, and his dominion is from sea to sea. The next section of chapter 12 (vss. 20-26) deals with the coming of the Gentiles!. One of the major emphases of John’s Gospel is that Jesus came on a mission of salvation not to the Jewish people only, but to the entire world (from sea to sea; to the ends of the earth). Zech 9:11 goes on to relate this to the blood of the covenant, which suggests the blood of the new covenant. And the prisoners are set free from a waterless pit—just as Jesus offers the ‘living water ’ of the Spirit which flows freely from himself (7:38-39). Recall that the Evangelist has alluded to messianic prophecies in Zechariah before (Zech 14:20-21 with John 2:16) and note that he will do so again (Zech 13:7 with John 16:32, Zech 12:10 with John 19:37).

Finally, compare Rev 7:9-10: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’.”

4 D The coming of the Gentiles (Greeks) marks the coming of the hour (12:20-26)

John’s use of Zech 9:9 is suggestive in light of this incident which immediately follows and the way Jesus responds to it. According to Zech 9:10, Messiah would proclaim peace to the Gentiles—and here they come (representatively, of course). Jesus has said that he would lay down his life (10:17) and that he had other sheep not of the fold (10:16). The appearance of these Gentiles wishing to see Jesus indicate that it is time for him to lay down his life—the hour of his glory has come (i.e., his return to the Father through death, resurrection, and exaltation). This point is so important for the Evangelist that we are never actually told if the Greeks get to see Jesus or not!

12:20 ”Ellhnev" tine" These Greeks who had come up to worship at the feast were probably “God-fearers” rather than proselytes in the strict sense. Had they been true proselytes, they would probably not have been referred to as Greeks any longer. Many came to worship at the major Jewish festivals without being Jewish proselytes, for example, the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:27, who could not have been a proselyte if he were physically a eunuch.

12:21 ou|toi ou\n prosh'lqon Filivppw/ These Greeks approached Philip, although it is not clear why they did so. Perhaps they identified with his Greek name (although a number of Jews from border areas had Hellenistic names at this period). By “see” it is clear they meant “speak with,” since anyone could “see” Jesus moving through the crowd. We are not told what they wanted to speak with Jesus about.

12:22 tw'/ =Andreva/ Philip appears to have been uncertain how to handle their request, so he approached Andrew. Together they both spoke to Jesus.

12:23 ejlhvluqen hJ w{ra i{na doxasqh'/ oJ uiJoV" tou' ajnqrwvpou Jesus’ reply is a bit puzzling. As far as the Evangelist’s account is concerned, Jesus totally ignores these Greeks and makes no further reference to them whatsoever. It appears that his words are addressed to Andrew and Philip, but in fact they must have had a wider audience, including possibly the Greeks who had wished to see him in the first place. The words ejlhvvluqen hJ w{ra recall all the previous references to “the hour ” throughout the Fourth Gospel (see the notes on 2:4). There is no doubt, in light of the following verse, that Jesus refers to his death here. On his pathway to glorification lies the cross, and it is just ahead.

http://www.bible.org/docs/nt/books/joh/harris/gjohn-16.htm#TopOfPage

John, as always, concerns himself with theology. In all times and places, "whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever [Jew or Greek] serves me, the Father will honor' (26).

    Finally, Jesus says, "The hour has come" (23) much like John has him say, "It is finished" (19.29):

27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" 35 Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light."

With death near; Jesus' soul is troubled, and rhetorically, he asks, "What should I say--Father, save me from this hour?" (27). The answer, by necessity, is no, for "it is for this reason that I have come to this hour." Jesus prays instead, "Father, glorify thy name" (28) followed immediately by a confirming voice from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again" (28).Both the immediate moment (death, resurrection, exaltation) and future glorification rest in the "I have" and "I will." Unbelievers hear thunder (29) while others say "An angel has spoken" (29). Jesus reminds them that the voice "has come for your sake, not for mine" (30). Thus, Jesus acknowledges his death as the very purpose of his mission:

12:27 sw'sovn me ejk th'" w{ra" tauvth" We are now told that Jesus’ hour has come—the hour of his return to the Father through crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension (see 12:23). This will be reiterated in 13:1 and 17:1. Jesus states (employing words similar to those of Ps 6:4) that his soul is troubled. What shall his response to his imminent death be? A prayer to the Father to deliver him from that hour? No, because it is on account of this very hour that Jesus has come . His sacrificial death has always remained the primary purpose of his mission into the world. Now, faced with the completion of that mission, shall he ask the Father to spare him from it? The expected answer is no. 

12:28 h\lqen ou\n fwnhV ejk tou' oujranou' In response to Jesus’ prayer that the Father glorify his name came the Voice from heaven. It was the very Voice of God himself. Why are both the aorist and the future tenses together used for the two occurrences of doxavzw ? Some have suggested a reference to Jesus’ baptism by John, or to the transfiguration. In both of these instances the synoptics record a voice from heaven, as here. The problem is that John records neither event. I would suggest the aorist refers to the entire earthly ministry of Jesus, including the coming of the “hour,” which has just taken place. Everything Jesus did and said while on earth glorified the Father—cf. the Prologue, 1:14. The future glory will be accomplished by the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus—that part of his earthly ministry which still lies ahead at this point. http://clawww.lmu.edu/faculty/fjust/Bible/Four_Gospel_Chart.htm

The hour has come, and judgment "is at hand" (31). 31 Jesus explains, "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself," using still the present (now is) and the future (the ruler of this world will be driven out). Jesus reveals again his identity:

34 The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" 35 Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light."

Apparently, the people expect a national Messiah, not the Son of Man to be lifted up in crucifixion. John reiterates the identity of the Son of Man and the light. "The light is with you for a little longer... while you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." The reader will recall  John 9.4 Wes must work the works of him who sent me

12:31a nu'n krivsi" ejstiVn tou' kovsmou touvtou What is the judgment of this world which Jesus says is at hand? Compare 3:19-21. As it is the response of men to the Light which has come into the world that provokes judgment, so the actions of men in crucifying him who was that Light constitute the judgment of this world. What they are about to do to him will confirm their judgment.

12:31b nu'n oJ a[rcwn tou' kovsmou touvtou ejkblhqhvsetai e[xw This must refer to Satan’s loss of authority over this world. This must be in principle rather than in immediate fact, since 1 John 5:19 states that the whole world (still ) lies in the power of the evil one. In an absolute sense the reference is proleptic. The coming of Jesus’ hour (his crucifixion, death, resurrection, and exaltation to the Father) marks the end of Satan’s domain and brings about his defeat, even though that defeat has not been ultimately worked out in history yet and awaits the consummation of the age.

12:32 pavnta" eJlkuvsw proV" ejmautovn This verse must be taken with 6:44. There no one comes unless the Father draws them; here, Jesus says he will draw all men (but of course, not all will come). What are we to make of the statement? In what sense does Jesus draw all men, since not all come? It seems there are two possibilities:

(1) “all” does not really mean “all,” but only “those who are to be drawn by the Father” (6:44);

(2 ) “all” means “all men” but since not all come to Jesus, then not all respond to the “drawing” which Jesus speaks of here. In this latter case the “drawing” does not correspond to the efficacious call, but rather speaks of a “potential” open to anyone who will.

Which of these is the more probable? I am inclined to prefer the former view, because I see the “all” as a reference not to every single individual person (as in Rom 8:29-30), but as a reference to “all classes of men ”—men from “every nation and tribe and people and tongue” (cf. Rev 7:9-10). See also the notes on the significance of the triumphal entry at 12:19. http://clawww.lmu.edu/faculty/fjust/Bible/Four_Gospel_Chart.htm

John, the theologian, then summarizes:

44 Then Jesus cried aloud: "Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. 47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, 49 for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me."

Interestingly enough, the Word, Logos, God speaks: "What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me." 

12:50 hJ ejntolhV aujtou' zwh aijwvniov" ejstin Note that Jesus does not say here that keeping the Father’s commandment leads to eternal life, but that the commandment itself is eternal life. This is the commandment concerning what he is to say (verse 49) that the Father has given to Jesus. The words and works of Jesus that result from the commandment the Father has given him are the source of eternal life in the world. http://clawww.lmu.edu/faculty/fjust/Bible/Four_Gospel_Chart.htm