As we move into the Book of Glory, Jesus’ public ministry of healing and preaching comes to an end and his march to the cross takes center stage. The rest of John’s account will encompass the final week of Jesus’ life. In chapter 12 John records three events in the days just prior to Passover, the final week before Jesus is crucified: Mary anoints Jesus at Bethany (vv. 1-11), Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (vv. 12-19), and Greeks converse with Jesus (vv. 20-36). Following these events, John gives a theological explanation for the unbelief of the Jewish people (vv. 37-43) and Jesus makes a final appeal to believe (vv. 44-50).
The first two events recorded in chapter 12 focus on Jesus’ inestimable worth (vv. 1-8) and his status as King (vv. 12-19). Mary’s act of anointing Jesus’ feet harkens back to the Jewish tradition of anointing kings, prophets, and priests with fragrant oil. But it also points to what days before she had done for her brother Lazarus in preparing his body for burial. Jesus defends Mary’s actions against the complaints of Judas for this very reason. Though Mary, at first, almost certainly did not understand the true significance of her actions, Jesus explains that in fact she is preparing his body for burial. As the Son of God, Jesus is worth such extravagant adoration.
“Jesus is worthy enough to be extravagantly anointed as kings on a throne but loving enough to be prepared to die on a cross. Christian discipleship involves humble service to the King, valuing all things and activities by their ability to express honor to Christ” (Klink, p. 521). In the days immediately prior to the Passover feast, Jesus will be anointed for burial and hailed as king. His infinite worth will be recognized by a small circle of disciples and a crowd of thousands. What they do not yet realize is that the infinitely worthy Jesus is preparing for his greatest act of service and glory as he will bear the sins of multitudes to the cross.