John 12:1-8 : Then six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. So they made him a supper there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, one of his disciples, who would betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?” Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me.”
In this amazing scene, Jesus is eating with His friend who He resurrected. You can imagine how much excitement there must have been in that house knowing that they had the long promised King of Israel in their house. They had the one who could raise the dead as a friend. We can relate to this because Jesus, the Resurrector, is our friend now as well. May we never forget that amazing fact.
Mary’s actions were the actions of one who really believed that this was the King of Israel. She also must have been one of the few people who actually believed that Jesus was going to die. She took very, very expensive perfume and washed Jesus feet with that instead of water, using her own hair as a towel. My footnotes say that the perfume was worth an entire year’s wages for an agricultural worker. It could have been used to feed quite a few of the poor and it would seem that it was pretty much wasted on the ground, the feet of Jesus, and the hair of Mary.
We can read here that, although Judas’ motives were bad, he did ask a question that Jesus found worthy of answering. I believe He answered this question for the sake of those of us who would seriously care for the poor. If He had been interested in answering only Judas, I would guess that He would have exposed Judas motive as He did with others, but in this case, He just answered as if it was worthy of one.
In all of the days that we have been going through John, we have not read of many other times in which Jesus was treated like the King He is. John the Baptist wouldn’t untie His sandals, the blind man worshiped Him, and here we have Mary. In Heaven, it would be a rare day for Jesus to not be worshiped, but here on earth, He was relatively ignored! Mary’s faith was glowing in the dark. She was seeing more of who Jesus really was and it was very good for her. May we all be blessed with seeing more of who Jesus really is! Judas, on the other hand, wasn’t seeing anything but money. Isn’t it shocking how money can blinds us? It appears that Judas had already forgotten the resurrection or perhaps he was considering selling tickets, but he was failing to gain the benefit of being a friend of the Resurrector.
Jesus says something very interesting about the better investment between Himself and the poor. He should be the one who gets this treatment because He was someone very special; He was God and deserved all of the gold of the temple. On top of that, this perfume was saved by Mary was for His burial. I don’t know if this is what Jesus was thinking but I think to myself, “How are the poor going to eat perfume?”
Now before you think I am speaking foolishly, consider how easy it was for Jesus to create food from nothing. He fed possibly 20,000 people with one basket of food as we read about a few weeks ago. He didn’t create expensive perfume for them to wear. He gave them food that they needed. If you remember, Jesus told Philip to get them food. I honestly believe, the Jesus was speaking in “future code” to Philip (see “Test Question” post, also in up-coming “Studies in John Volume 2”). I believe that in the future, if Philip needed to feed anyone for Jesus, God would provide him a way to do it. I think He was teaching Him to feed the poor with Jesus’ resources, and that His resources are plentiful. Expensive perfume is for the burial of kings. What the poor really need is food, so Judas should stop stealing from them. The poor also needed a good King who would improve their economy by arresting thieves.
Economics: See how Jesus allowed Mary the right to have perfume worth a year’s wages and to use it the way she wanted. Notice that it was the role of Judas to attempt to redistribute the wealth. Notice how such a redistribution can favor the “thief… having the money box.” I think that this demonstrates that private property is necessary in order to express your love. Removing private property makes it difficult to give to anyone including the poor. It is also unlikely that Mary used a credit card.