Read John 12: 1-50
1Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3Then 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.
4But 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." 6He 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. 8You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."
9Meanwhile 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. 10So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
12The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the King of Israel!"
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
15"Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
16At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.
17Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
20Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." 22Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!"
Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34The crowd spoke up, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?"
35Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
37Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
"Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
39For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40"He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn — and I would heal them."
41Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.
42Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
44Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." (NIV)
This is an interesting passage in how it has been studied by scholars down through the ages. Some believe that John’s Gospel had become mixed up a bit over the centuries. And there are those who believe the proper order for this passage should be vs 19-29; vs 1-18 and verse 30; and then verses 31-42 and continuing on in the correct order.
I can make some sense in that order, but does not change the meaning of the passage. We are at a time very close to Palm Sunday, the week before the Passover Celebration.
This chapter puts forth two great acts of love and two responses to those acts. We see the first in Mary. She has poured perfume on Jesus’s feet and began to wipe it with her hair. Mary is being totally focused on her act of love, oblivious to the world around her. We see that in her wiping his feet with her hair. A woman letting her hair down for others to see would be considered scandalous. But she doesn’t care about what others think. She wants to show her love for Christ.
The other is the Jesus. Jesus has set his eyes on the cross. When Philip and Andrew come and tell Jesus that there are those who wish to see him, he brushes them off and states that he is focused on the hour he has come for. He is not going to let others distract him from this hours. He says if people want to see him, then they must follow him.
We see two reactions to these acts of love. The first is from Judas. He protests at Mary’s offering. He says there could have been a more noble use of the perfume. But it was not his to offer nor his to use. One wonders if Judas ever sold anything of his for the poor. My gut feeling is no by the comments John adds to his reason for objecting to Mary’s offering.
This is a problem still today. People want to say how others should use their resources – how others should give. And when people see great acts of generosity that go to things they don’t support in the church, these people react with resentment over the gift. This should not be the way we honor Christ. Each brings a gift as we are called to bring. Each brings a unique self to serve God in the way God calls that person.
And the other objections comes from the Pharisees. Instead of embracing Jesus, they are upset that more people are seeking his words than theirs. They are upset enough to even destroy they very things they say they love. I have seen this in the church too. People sabotage the work of the church when they feel they disagree with the work or feel like they didn’t get enough recognition.
Jesus sums up his response to this kind of thinking in the end. He tells the people that it is not really his words or his actions, but God’s words and God’s action. That should be our focus, it God’s word and God’s will being heard and done. We get to bent out of shape sometimes when we want more glory in the process instead of seeing God’s glory being done. This is where surrender to Christ comes in. When we surrender our will to God, who gets the credit doesn’t seem as important as it used to.
What are your reactions when you see great acts of love being done for Christ? Are you excited or are you jealous? Or maybe a bit of both. What is holding you back from doing great acts of love for Christ? They don’t have to be Mary’s response. They can be Martha’s response which was to serve Jesus.
As you ponder this passage and these questions, are there other questions or thoughts that come to mind.
Blessings and Peace