John 12: 1 – 11
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at 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.”
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
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In these opening verses of chapter 12, we see once again the many different ways in which people responded towards Jesus. There are many characters in this story. We have Jesus’ friends, which included Lazarus and his sisters. We see a contrast between the two sisters in the actions they take. We gain more insight into one of Jesus’ disciples, namely Judas Iscariot. And finally, we read a little bit about the Jewish people and their religious leaders. All of these characters respond differently to Jesus.
Starting from the end of the story, we read that many people were coming out to see Jesus, the miracle worker, the One who had raised Lazarus from the dead. Some may have come simply out of curiosity, as word-of-mouth spread about how Jesus had resurrected a man from the grave. Even so, this sense of wonder and curiosity led many of them to believe in Jesus, when they saw with their own eyes what Jesus had done.
This is in such contrast to the religious leaders. They too had heard the stories about Jesus’ miraculous powers, but this did not lead them to seek for truth or bring them to a faith in Jesus. No, they were reacting more out of jealousy, seeing that the people were rejecting their authority and going over to Jesus. They saw Jesus as a threat to their religious structure and order which gave them such purpose and such power. They were thinking of themselves, not of what God was doing through Jesus.
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Meanwhile, back at this house where the party to honor Jesus was happening, most of the people were quite content to sit and listen to Jesus. And this is a good place to be, close to the One who had come from God and had demonstrated that God was working through Him. But notice the differences between the two sisters.
This day was a great day, a day to honor Jesus, and what do we see Mary and Martha doing? Martha was busy preparing and serving all the guests who had come. Now someone might say, “Well, someone had to do this.” But we have reason to believe that this party is not taking place in their home, for it talks about Lazarus being one of those “reclining (relaxing) at the tables”. Most likely, they were guests also in someone else’s home.
We read elsewhere (in Luke 10:38-42) almost the same thing, that Martha was “distracted” by all the preparations, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and soaked in all that Jesus said. Both sisters loved Jesus as a very dear friend, but one was working to please Jesus, while the other was pleasing Jesus by her pure heart and devotion towards Him.
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Not much needs to be said about the last person, Judas. His statement of offense at Mary’s actions might have the appearance of putting others first, namely the poor people of that area. But all he really cared about was himself, and taking advantage of the position he had as the treasurer of the group. As John states through hindsight, Judas was just a thief.
And this begs the question for all of us. What are we doing when we come to Jesus today? What is the intent of our hearts? Are we hard-hearted like the religious leaders who are more concerned about religions rituals and regulations, than meeting the One from God face-to-face? Are we involved in a church just because of the position of power and authority we can obtain, and seek to get all we can for ourselves?
Are we “busy” as Christians, but not taking time to develop our relationship with Christ? Are we at least coming to the table to listen to what Jesus is teaching us? That is good, but it must not stop just there. Can we be like Mary and find that which is most precious to us and offer it up to Jesus? There are many ways in which we can honor Jesus in our lives. The best ways will always involve doing things for God and others that come at some cost to ourselves. This will show God exactly where our heart is towards Him and His Son, Jesus.