Judas The Foil
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 12:4-6 (Holman) Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray Him), said, AWhy wasn=t this fragrant oil sold for 300 denari and given to the poor?@ He didn=t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money bag and would steal part of what was put in it.
The problem here was Judas, not Mary. Good deeds always rouse evil to self-assertion. His reaction to her deed displayed three despicable traits.
One, it was obtrusive, a heartless intrusion into a gentle moment. Judas should have remained silent no matter how he felt.
To him, Mary=s gift was an action of senseless waste. An evil spirit ruled Judas, affecting everything he saw. Warped minds see warped things.
Two, Judas= statement was outlandish. His greed was glaringly worsened by the fact it masqueraded as benevolence. He used charity to the poor as a cloak for covetousness.
The perfume=s only worth to Judas was its market value. The money from this perfume would have been quite a boon for the Twelve in general, and for Judas in particular. Judas, who was a thief, felt the money bag he controlled had greater claims on Mary than the Savior did.
Judas, who betrayed his trust as treasurer, went on to betray his Master. Lust for money is heart-theft, as hate is heart-murder. It was a small step for Judas to pass from heart-theft to heart-murder. Betrayal of Christ, in some form or another, follows the love of money as certainly as night follows day.
Three, Judas= words were obnoxious. Mary=s pleasant deed filled the room with fragrance; Judas= rudeness gave off a stench of death. Judas was the foil to Mary. She delighted to give, Judas craved to get. His cold-hearted greed, stretching out its hands like talons to clutch, made Mary=s deed appear more radiant.
John highlighted the enormity of Judas= offense by stating side by side the fact he was a disciple and a betrayer. It would be like saying, Julius Caesar was killed by Brutus his friend, the colonies were betrayed by Benedict Arnold, an American General. Uriah was killed by David, God=s beloved.
Judas was one of the disciples= number, but not one of their nature. His rudeness here was but one obnoxious deed in a completely obnoxious life.
John 12:7-8 Jesus answered, ALeave her alone; she has kept it for the day of My burial.@ For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.@
Jesus treasured Mary=s gift. ALeave her alone,@ He said, putting a shield of approval around her generous gift.
Mary=s whole heart was selflessly given. When this happens, arithmetic has nothing to do with the equation. A basin of water would have done as well for washing Jesus= feet, but not for relieving Mary=s full heart.
Mary had little to gain by this act of kindness. She and everyone else knew there was a plot on Jesus= life. She poured her gift on a man headed for death.
Selfless devotion is rare, but is the goal to which we must all press. We need to love Jesus for His sake only. Not only when He grants our requests, but also when He seems silent; not only when following Him is popular, but also when unpopular; not only when it means honor and wealth, but also when it means disgrace and poverty.
We Christ-followers must be willing to give until we have no money to give; to expend time until we have no more time; to use our energy until it is exhausted; and, when all else is gone to give our very lives in His cause.
Judas, using a selfish standard to judge Mary=s deed, found it guilty of imprudence and mismanagement. Judas censured Mary, but she did not need to be ashamed of words from the unloving.
Mary would not have been Mary if Judas had approved or understood what she did. The world has no instruments to measure the value of our love for God.
Barometers measure atmospheric pressure, clocks measure time, scales measure weight, thermometers measure temperature, and yardsticks measure distance. But a lost world has no way to measure or appreciate our love for Jesus.
Anointing was in Jewish custom the first stage in embalming. Thus, Mary=s gift was appropriate. Jesus, knowing His death was near, saw in Mary=s deed the beginning of preparing His body for burial.
Mary unwittingly began the embalming process for Jesus. She was anointing a body that was as good as dead; embalming a live corpse. At the feet of Jesus, Mary had been student, mourner, and now embalmer.
What a contrast! Mary=s devotion honored the dead. Judas= selfishness caused the death. Mary prepared Jesus for the tomb; Judas put Him there.
Jesus called her kind deed an act for the dead. Jesus knew no one begrudges excesses in behalf of our beloved dead.
No one complains about what is spent on the dead, but why do we often wait until then to give? Why do we put off what we ought to do now? Often we delay too long to do a kind deed or say a good word.
Life is uncertain. It is tragic to leave things undone and unsaid. Opportunity must be seized while it is available. A missed chance may be our last.
Thomas Carlyle loved his wife, but was always irritable, and never made her happy. When she died unexpectedly, he experienced an avalanche of guilt. He couldn=t sleep at night as mournful memories flooded him with unrelenting judgment. What haunted him most? He said, AIf I could see her but once more to let her know that I always loved her. She never did know it, never.@ Failure to do a good deed or say a kind word often carries its own painful punishment.
Mary=s gift was appreciated. AYou always have the poor with you,@ a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 15:11, seems callous at first. But our Lord, who more than any other loved the poor, knew Mary=s deed would hugely benefit the poor.
Mary=s uncalculating profusion has blessed the poor in every generation since her deed. Millions of poor people have been blessed due to what a few of them lost in her deed.
Love to Christ, ultimately, never takes anything good away from people. The Church=s love for Jesus has always spilled over to bless others.
Lucian, a pagan sceptic, said, AIt is incredible to see the ardor with which these Christians help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first Legislator put it into their heads that they are all brothers.@ Julian the Apostate admitted, AThese Galileans nourish not only their own poor, but ours as well.@
When plague raged through Carthage in 252 A.D., the heathen threw their dead and sick into the streets, and left them for fear of being contaminated. St. Cyprian told his congregation these forsaken ones were the very people they needed to help. His church members buried the dead and cared for the sick.
A rich young believer in Rome, healed of a dangerous illness, prayed, ACould man repay You, how willingly would I give You all my possessions.@ A Christian brother overheard the prayer, led the young man to the home of a destitute family, and said, AYou can send nothing to Heaven. Here is an altar for your sacrifice. Always turn your grateful countenance to Heaven, but then turn it also to earth.@ This rich man helped poor people the rest of his life. Among the downtrodden of Rome he became known as AThe Angel of God.@
Opportunities to exercise generosity toward others are always present. As long as we inhabit this earth of sin and affliction, there will be poverty and need.
As we face duties which come in competition, we need wisdom to know which one to give preference to. The Christian=s only dilemma ought to be AWhere should I give?@ not AShould I give?@