In this scripture, in the midst of the description of a tremendously selfless act we are reminded that even among Jesus’s inner circle there were very bad actors. 

John 12: 1-8 1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 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. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” 6 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. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 

Mary’s act of honor is a testament to the reverence she had for Jesus. Many of those that knew and loved him while was here on earth held these same feelings. When she anointed his feet with the perfume and wiped it with her hair her love for Jesus was obvious for all to see. It was a display not in public but in private. It was done not to raise her up as a more devoted follower but to show the one she loved the depth of that love. Mary’s anointing of Jesus marked her. Unfortunately even among his followers there were bad apples whose devotion was scarce to nonexistent.

We know from the scriptures that follow that Judas ultimately betrays Jesus and brings about his crucifixion. Jesus knew this was coming at the time when Mary anointed him, however the other disciples would not have been aware of course of what was to come. Whether they knew that Judas stole from their money isn’t indicated, however what also goes unwritten here is whether the other disciples agreed with Judas. Now, certainly as an embezzler Judas had a selfish interest in keeping as much money or valuables for the group and by extension himself as he could. And admittedly Mary’s act may have seemed extravagant. However just as it appears no one agreed with Mary’s act, neither did anyone speak up to say, “Hold on here, money’s tight, maybe we shouldn’t waste this valuable perfume. We have to eat.” So even though Judas, as a thief among his friends (who can come up with a lower level than someone who would steal from his own friends) is exposed in this scripture, the other disciples are also painted as not being terribly active in their convictions. Their implicit agreement in their silence is yet another example that these guys were really not unlike the other people of their day or today for that matter.

So what’s the message? What’s the lesson here? Is it crummy people are everywhere and we should say something about it? Is it we should watch everyone, even our friends, because they will try to take advantage of us? Or is it that even among followers of Jesus there are going to be some bad eggs? Surely this doesn’t make us feel like Jesus’s disciples were this band of merry men with pure hearts and clean consciences. The answer to the above could be yes I’m afraid. However I think it’s in Jesus’s response to Judas that we find hope and advice.

There are always going to be poor people among us. Notice he doesn’t say people without money, he says “poor” people, people “without” in this context. Then, as today, there are people without character, without morals and ethics, without the courage to speak up whether to protest a perceived wrongdoing or to support their friend’s opinion. There will always be those people. However our opportunity to praise God and follow Jesus, unlike the never-ending parade of poor people, has a finite time frame. We too will pass from this life. For the disciples it was the time they had while Jesus was alive. For us that measure of time is while we’re here on earth. We should make the most of that time that we can, regardless of the cost. In this scripture the instruction seems clear. While we’re here, hold Jesus up as the savior that he is.

Where will you start today to honor Jesus? In what circumstance will you speak up for your faith and for yourself?



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