Our scripture this morning is John 12:1-8.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Jesus had been telling His followers what was to happen to Him in the coming days. In each of the Gospels there are accounts of Him teaching about His arrest and crucifixion (Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 9). Mary accepts what Jesus has said, and in an act of worship, anoints Him with an expensive perfume. Judas objects and his outburst sounds as if he has the needs of others in mind, but it is a lie.
He is seeing funds he could have stolen literally poured out. We read that “as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (v. 6). Some point to this as the moment that Judas decided to betray Jesus.
Jesus says “it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (v. 7). He reminds them vividly of His prediction of the events that will occur over the next few days. The last verse of this passage confuses some as Jesus seems not to care anymore about the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth! This is a scriptural quote: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). His only thought was to remind them that while their mission was about to begin, He would no longer be there with them physically. They must prepare themselves for what He is about to suffer for all people everywhere, and continue the work He began.
Gracious God, thank You for the gift of Your son, who gave Himself up for us. Help us to live in the light of Your love, and carry on the task Christ has given us. Amen.