“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.[b]” 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.” – John 12:1-8
I’ve always been fascinated by Judas. I think a lot of people are because we wonder how can someone who seems so close to Jesus reject him and betray him; turn his back on the one he claimed was his savior.
This story tells us that at a dinner given in Jesus’s honor, Mary, a follower of Jesus, pours out expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet. She wipes his feet with her hair and the whole house is filled with the scent of the scene long after it happens. It’s really a strange story and one that should make us uncomfortable. I think everyone in the room would have been a little taken aback by what had just happened.
There’s a lot going on here but I want to focus on Judas as we reflect on our own lives as we continue walking toward Easter this week.
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.” – John 12:4-5
After Judas’s seemingly reasonable objection (that’s a conversation for another day), we find commentary from the author that explains what is really going on with Judas.
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. – John 12:6
Judas was one of the twelve people closest to Jesus. He spent his days as a disciple learning to live like Jesus. This is why his objection is so reasonable. He appears to care about the things Jesus cares about. But underneath something very different is going on. Judas didn’t really care about the things of Jesus, he used them to hide his true heart.
Judas teaches us the lesson that no matter how close we are to Jesus, it’s easy to use the language of faith to cover up our sin. Greed, racism, misogyny, hatred, war, and slavery have all been defended by people of faith. These people have even used twisted passages from the Bible to defend their agenda.
And while I’m sure we can all find these hypocrites throughout history and even around us today, the reflection in the mirror is where we should begin. I think this is part of the reason this story is found here. I don’t think it’s simply here to make Judas look bad. I think it’s here to remind us how easy it is to become like Judas, walking with Jesus, honoring Jesus with our lips, while living far from him with our hearts and our actions.