Lectionary Year B
April 9, 2000
John 12:20-33

Step III: Composition


Pre: The first 11 verses of John 12 tell of Jesus’ returning to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus from death. This time, while Martha cooked, Mary poured ointment on Jesus’ feet. Judas objected, claiming to be concerned for the poor for whom the expense could be given. The text informs us that Judas really didn’t care for the poor, that he merely kept the money bag, from which he was known occasionally to steal. Jesus came to Mary’s defense explaining that the ointment was for the days of his burial. Then he noted that they would always have the poor with them, unlike their having him. Thereafter, we get a 3 verse comment on how the chief priests planned to kill Lazarus. They were loosing some of their devotees to go and follow Jesus for his raising of Lazarus refocused many people’s faith onto Jesus.

Verses 12-19 in John 12, report Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with the crowd and the palm branches. John explains that he is acting on Zephaniah 3:15, riding on a donkey. Upon another reference to Lazarus being raised, we read how the Pharisees were disgruntled because they observed that “everyone in the world is following Jesus.”

Post: Following our pericope, the crowd expresses ignorance, re: resurrection, eternal life and the identity of the person Jesus. He responds by another reference to living and walking in the light while it lasts. Thereafter, Jesus goes into hiding, having worked a lot of miracles, John says, yet the people refuse to believe in him. John rationalizes their lack of faith by quoting Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10. We then read of Jesus’ saying that believing in him includes believing in the one who sent him and seeing him, likewise. He confirms that he came to save people of this world, rather than to judge.

Pre: This passage, where Jesus predicts his death, was immediatley preceded by the story of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. BUT, the story just before that is of Mary anointing Jesus' feet with expensive perfume, causing Judas to decry the wasteful and extravagant gesture.
Post: The pericope is followed by the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet just before the Passover, with Peter decrying Jesus' gesture.


As already noted, the Gospel of John repeatedly describes how Jesus’ person and mission confuse and/or bewilder many including his family members, the disciples & others in his circle of friends, as well as the priests and rabbis, the Pharisees and others, and in today’s passage, the Greeks, too. Many of these by-standers notice “signs” and seek interpretations of them. The “special intent” of this Gospel is stated in 20:31, “written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, & believing you might have life in his name”.
Some call the fourth Gospel “more spiritual” than the synoptics. I have called it “more philosophical” than the others. Am I close to right, if philosophy is defined as “the study of principles of the widest generality”? John’s scope is global and he frequently more than the synoptics seeks to explain some of the theological meanings of Jesus’ sayings and actions. John’s Gospel certainly takes more time & gives more attention to interpret what Jesus did and said. In today’s pericope, for example, we read how subjects seeking to see him precipitate his speaking of his impending demise.
In John’s Gospel we find more new material not in the synoptics. The Gospel of John seems to focus on the person of Jesus, what his life meant and how believers are to find meaning in their/our lives to believe in God and divine grace.


As previously noted, most recent scholarship seems to reclaim the earlier centuries’ (1 and 2 CE) supposition that John, the son of Zebedee, brother of James and disciple, wrote the fourth Gospel or that a disciple of his did. Some think John dictated it late in his life from memory and/or from mature reflection on Jesus’ speeches and deeds. The general agreement for a date of composition is late in the first century of the CE.

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