John 12:16
These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things to him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) These things understood not his disciples at the first . . .—Comp. Notes on John 2:22; John 20:9. It is a touch peculiar to St. John, and exactly in his manner. He remembers the difference between the spiritual receptivity, before and after Pentecost, in the Apostolic band itself. He remembers how the Old Testament Scriptures became filled with a new life and meaning, as the Spirit brought to the memory their words, and the words of Him of whom they told.

When Jesus was glorified.—Comp. Note on John 7:39.

They had done these things unto Him.—The narrative implies, these, the incidents which the others state. The phrase “these things” occurs three times, referring emphatically to the correspondence between the prophecy and the actual incidents.

12:12-19 Christ's riding in triumph to Jerusalem is recorded by all the evangelists. Many excellent things, both in the word and providence of God, disciples do not understand at their first acquaintance with the things of God. The right understanding of spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom, prevents our misapplying the Scriptures which speak of it.Was glorified - Was raised from the dead, and had ascended to heaven.16. when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, &c.—The Spirit, descending on them from the glorified Saviour at Pentecost, opened their eyes suddenly to the true sense of the Old Testament, brought vividly to their recollection this and other Messianic predictions, and to their unspeakable astonishment showed them that they, and all the actors in these scenes, had been unconsciously fulfilling those predictions. The evangelist, amongst others, confesseth his own ignorance also. The disciples saw the thing done, Christ riding into the city upon the foal of an ass, the people strewing of boughs, and throwing their clothes in the way; but to what purpose these things were done, or what fulfilling of prophecies was in this thing, that they understood not, so long as Christ was alive: their eyes were upon the Messiah a temporal prince, that should come in great state and majesty, so as they were wholly blinded from seeing any thing of the truth and faithfulness of God fulfilled in this little triumph of their Lord’s. But after that Christ had died, and was risen again from the dead, and ascended up to heaven, so declaring himself with power to be the Son of God; then they began to remember these things, so as to confirm their faith in him as the true Messiah, whom God had sent into the world. The word of the Lord which we hear, and the works of God which we see, though oft times they do not profit us, nor are improved by us at the present, yet afterward become of use and profit to us: it is therefore good to hear, and see, and observe God’s words and works, and to lay them up in our hearts, as it is said Mary pondered the sayings of the angel; expecting fruit afterwards of what at present we see no fruit and effect. These things understood not his disciples at the first,.... Or "at that time", as the Syriac and Persic versions render it; or "on that day", as the Ethiopic version; they did not then know the sense of that prophecy, nor that the things which were now doing were a fulfilling of it:

but when Jesus was glorified; was raised front the dead, and ascended to heaven, and was set down at the right hand of God, crowned with glory and honour; and when having received the promise of the Father, the Holy Ghost, and his gifts, he poured them forth in a very plenteous and extraordinary manner upon them; whereby their minds were greatly illuminated, and they had a very distinct knowledge of the Scriptures of the Old Testament; and saw clearly how they severally had their accomplishment in Christ:

then remembered they that these things were written of him; in the prophecies of the Old Testament;

and that they had done these things unto him; both the disciples and the multitude, or that these things were done to him; such as bringing the ass to him, laying their clothes on it, and setting him upon it, attending him with shoutings and hosannas to the city of Jerusalem, &c.

These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 12:16. Observation by John. Comp. John 2:22, John 20:9. But this which here took place, namely, that Jesus mounted a young ass which He had obtained, His disciples at first (when it took place) did not understand, so far, namely, as the connection of the matter with the prediction of the prophet remained still hidden from them; when, however, Jesus was glorified, they remembered (under the illumination of the Spirit, John 7:39, John 14:26) that this, this riding on the young ass, did not accidentally occur, but that it was written of Him, and that they (the disciples) did this, nothing other than this which had been written of Him, to Him, on the occasion of that entrance,—in bringing, namely, the ass to Him, whereby they became the instruments of the fulfilment of prophecy. In this ἐποίησαν αὐτῷ there is the echo from John’s recollection of the way and manner of the εὑρὼν ὀνάριον as known from the Synoptics. To take ἐποίησαν generally: they (indef.) did, and to refer it to John 12:13 (De Wette, Ewald, and older commentators), is incorrect, since the first two ταῦτα can only point to John 12:14-15.

On ἐπʼ αὐτῷ see Bernhardy, p. 249. Winer, p. 367 [E. T. p. 491].John 12:16. The significance of “His action was not at that time perceived by the disciples: ταῦταπρῶτον, but when Jesus had been glorified, then they remembered that this had been written concerning Him and that the people had made this demonstration in His favour, καὶ ταῦτα ἐποίησαν αὐτῷ16. understood not] A mark of candour (see on John 11:12): comp. John 2:22 (where see note) and John 20:9. Would a Christian of the second century have invented this dulness of apprehension in Apostles? After Pentecost, however, much that had passed unnoticed or had been obscure before was brought to their remembrance and made clear (John 14:26). Note ‘these things’ thrice repeated; John 12:14-15 shew that the placing Him on the young ass is primarily meant.

was glorified] Comp. John 7:39 and John 11:4, where see notes.John 12:16. Ταῦτα, these things) This His entry, of so momentous importance, and His prediction.—οὐκ ἔγνωσαν, understood not) The reason of the Divine proceedings and words is generally hidden from us at the beginning. Therefore accordingly we ought to believe and obey, and commit ourselves to the Divine governance [guidance]: ch. John 13:7, “What I do (washing their feet) thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter;” John 12:36, [Jesus to Simon] “Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me afterwards;” John 16:4, “These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you in the beginning;” John 2:22, “When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them (Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up), and they believed.” The whole work of faith is to embrace those things which we do not yet comprehend, but which hereafter we shall perceive.—τὸ πρῶτον, at the first) During the time of their discipleship, before that the Lord was glorified.—ἐδοξάσθη, was glorified) by His resurrection and ascension. For there were many things which at a subsequent time they understood.—τότε, then) That afterwards in a remarkable degree confirmed their faith.—ταῦτα, καὶ ταῦτα, these things, and these things) A sweet repetition, expressing the consonance between the prophecy and the event. At καί, and, understand ὅτι, that, as in ch. John 20:18, “Μαριάμἀγγέλλουσα, ὅτι ἑώρακεν τὸν Κύριον, καὶ (sc. ὅτι) ταῦτα εἶπεν.” For the force of the verb, they remembered, falls more properly on “that they had done,” than upon “that these things were written.”—ἐποίησαν, had done) namely, both the disciples themselves, and the people: John 12:12.Verse 16. - These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him. This verse shows that the disciples (of whom John was one) took part in the celebration, though they did not see at the time, nor until after the Ascension - not until they saw by faith the δόξα into which the Lord had entered - that the honor which they had done to him had corresponded strangely with the marvelous words of the old prophecy. And that they had done - clearly the disciples, on grammatical grounds; οἱ μαθηταὶ, is the subject of ἐποίησαν ( <ΒΤΤ·Ξομμενταρψ Ωορδ>these things unto him. Ἐδοξάσθη is used of the uplifting to the glory which he had before the world was; not until then was the Spirit given that explained so much of the mysterious life. (For other illustrations of τὸ πρῶτον, in the rare sense of "at first," see John 10:40; John 19:39.)

(1) Men often act and speak without perceiving the full meaning of deed or word, not grasping the link of connection thus instituted between a consecrated past and a predestined future.

(2) Words and actions are freely done from personal motives and in entire spontaneity when they are nevertheless fulfilling the Divine purpose and working out the plan of God.

(3) The revealing moment comes, and the whole significance flashes into view.
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