Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served. But Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.
Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence 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 purse, carried the things that were put therein. Jesus therefore said: “Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial. For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always.”
A great multitude therefore of the Jews knew that he was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. John 12:1-9
Ok so this may have been something you missed as well.
The disciples and Jesus are having supper. There’s a huge crowd of people there because Jesus has recently raised Lazarus from the dead, and the people are there to see Jesus. But. They’re also there to see this guy that was dead. And isn’t dead any longer. And is eating supper with Jesus and his disciples.
Martha’s serving the goat, passing olives, making sure everyone has enough wine to drink. Then suddenly, everyone can smell nard. And it’s strongest from where Jesus is sitting and permeating out from there. I’m going to assume that even the crowd is smelling it. And if it’s a large crowd, then that crowd is going to know that someone has broken a vessel of nard.
Judas, who’s described as a thief, and is the holder of the purse, says that it’s a waste–that could’ve been sold and the money given to the poor. It doesn’t say what tone Jesus speaks in, merely that he says that they will always have the poor, they won’t always have Him.
This is the part that I’m a little shocked by.
Judas is sitting with a man who, only a few days ago, was raised from the dead. He’s sitting with the man who brought Lazarus back from the dead. He’s concerned that nard was wasted because it could’ve been sold and the money given to the poor. Now everyone there (the last two lines of the passage are clear) is there to see Jesus, to see Lazarus. Judas is concerned about money. He’s concerned that there’s a strong smell that’s going to attract attention to Jesus, to the disciples, to the scene.
Is Judas stupid?
What is this reaction really about?
If you look through the gospels, many times you will see places where Jesus is accused of associating with people who have tainted reputations. This is another situation where an assumption could be made because of an interaction with someone who has a reputation.
Is Judas concerned with the character assassination of Jesus? Or is something more subtler happening here?
As we get closer and closer to Golgotha, we see a shift in the view of people, bleating like sheep, “Crucify Him!” Here in this scene, where Mary recognizes and accepts , even before the disciples are willing to, that something is going to happen that is going to shake the world they all know–and it’s going to mean the Passion. Judas in his darkness lashes out in the easiest way possible. He accuses the woman of waste, needless waste, and attempts to amplify that waste by pointing out that it could’ve eased the suffering of others.
He can’t see, he isn’t able to see, the suffering that will be eased in 4 days by the Passion. His scope is limited by his attachment to the world. Jesus I think is speaking with a gentle tone in this passage. A gentle tone fits. He is saying, “Judas, lay off. She understands where you don’t, or you all refuse to. She’s letting Me go, this is her process. You, my closest disciples, have fought from the first time I’ve told you that I must go, must endure. You’ve all sluffed me off even though I’ve brought this man back from the dead!”
Jesus is giving everyone an opportunity to come to Him, without force. He is beckoning, “come”. Even as Judas carries the purse of the disciples, Jesus knows he’s a thief. And He continues to let Judas carry the purse. Why? Why not call him out?
Because even Judas, the disciple categorized as the betrayer, is given the opportunity to answer the call. Jesus has not given up on Judas.
Where is Judas now?
Can you be so sure of your answer?