(Vs. 1-2) Six days before the final Passover our Lord Jesus came again to Bethany, the town of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. They made a special supper for Him. Martha, who was always a busy, active woman, served the Lord and the guests. Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead, sat at the table with Christ and the others.
(Vs. 3) Then Mary, who was usually at the feet of Christ (Luke 10:39), took a pound of very costly and fragrant ointment, anointed His feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was literally filled with the fragrance of the ointment. Several things about Mary stand out strongly: (1) her love and devotion for Christ, (2) her gratitude to Him for raising her brother, (3) her humility in wiping His feet with her hair, and (4) her generosity in anointing His feet with the entire box of ointment. Her LOVE and GRATITUDE produced her HUMILITY and GENEROSITY! To whom much is given and forgiven, he will give, forgive, and love much.
(Vs. 4-6) Then Judas Iscariot, who had no love for Christ, but rather was a hypocrite and a covetous person, said, "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor?" Judas did not care for the poor; he was interested in money and material things, What he really had in mind was that Mary should sell the ointment and give the money to HIM as the treasurer of the twelve. Of course, he could not suggest his real thoughts; so he tried to impress the Lord and the others with his piety and concern for the poor.
(Vs. 7) Our Lord came to Mary's defense. "Leave her alone; she has anointed My body in advance or to prepare Me for burial." Mary was perhaps our Lord's best listener. She often sat at His feet and heard His words. She listened and said very little. She felt that His death was near; and she took this opportunity to anoint Him for that day, fearing that if the Pharisees laid hold on Him, she would never be able to anoint Him (Matt. 26:12; Mark 16:1-3). If, as some suggest, Mary did NOT know what she did, then the Spirit of God led her to do it; for Christ added a beautiful promise (Matt. 26:13; Mark 14:9).
(Vs. 8) "There will always be poor people in the church and in the world for you to care and provide for; but in the flesh I will not be with you very long, and you will not have these opportunities to show your love and devotion to Me so directly." However, in these days it is clear that what we do for others in the name of Christ is as if we did it unto Him (Matt. 25:34-40).
(Vs. 9) Multitudes of people who were coming to Jerusalem for the Passover journeyed to Bethany, which was only two miles from Jerusalem. It was reported that Jesus was there; but they came to Bethany not so much to see Christ as to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. How dull and dark is the understanding of the natural man, who is more interested in the curious than in the Creator, more interested in Lazarus than in the One Who gave him life. How true that while miracles are a witness of the deity and power of Christ, they do not begat saving faith. This comes only by the Spirit of God and the Word of God (Luke 16:29-31). While it is said that many of these people believed, they were like those in John 2:23-25, who were impressed by the miracles, which He did (John 12:37-40).
(Vs. 10-11) The chief priests were not impressed but rather angered because of the notoriety that Jesus had received and because the people were flocking to Him. They took counsel that they might not only put Christ to death but Lazarus also! Their hearts were totally hardened, and they wanted to remove Him and every trace of His ministry. If Christ and Lazarus were both dead, all of this would soon be forgotten or be more easily denied.
(Vs. 12-13) On the next day, when the people who had gathered there for the Passover heard that Jesus was on His way into the city, they took palm branches and went forth to meet Him. Palm branches were a sign of great JOY and VICTORY; so they carried these branches to spread before the King Messiah, Who was about to make His public entrance into Jerusalem. This is what they had in mind as they shouted, "Hosanna, blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." The Passover was at hand, in commemoration of the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. These Jews wanted to be delivered from the Roman rule, which would take a mighty deliverer like Moses. Jesus of Nazareth had demonstrated His extraordinary power in raising Lazarus from the dead; therefore, it appeared that their deliverer had come and the reestablishment of David's kingdom would now become a reality.
They had no understanding at all of His true Person and work, no understanding of the spiritual meaning of the Passover or the true kingdom of the Messiah. They knew nothing of sin, salvation, or substitution but were only concerned with earthly expectations and the reestablishment of Israel as a nation of power and prominence. It was not freedom from sin and acceptance by God, which they wanted, but freedom from Rome and worldly position. This was what they saw in Jesus and why they believed. This same crowd, which cried, "Hosanna," later cried, "Crucify Him; we have no king but Caesar; we will not have this man reign over us!" Much of today's religion follows the same pattern and program earthly ease, position, and possessions.