In this text we are going to notice a contrast of hearts. We are going to notice a contrast of value placed upon Jesus. Both of these people are disciples of Jesus. One will show a heart of love and sacrifice while the other will show a heart of selfishness and greed.
John 12 begins by telling us that is six days before the Passover. Jesus’ time on earth is nearly done. Jesus has come to be the Passover lamb on behalf of the people. Because the Passover was approaching, Jesus came to Bethany, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were. We know from the last chapter that coming to Bethany is dangerous for him. Jesus’ disciples are aware of the danger of Jesus being in Judea, and only two miles from Jerusalem by being in Bethany. With Jesus’ coming to Bethany, they gave a dinner for Jesus. Martha served and Lazarus was one of those who was reclining at the table. Martha is serving Jesus in her way and abilities. Mary is also serving Jesus in her way and abilities. Notice verse 3 to see what she is doing. Mary took expensive ointment made from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus. She is wiping the expensive ointment on the feet of Jesus with her hair. The flask that contained this fragrant perfume would have been about the size of a soda can. She breaks open the contents on the feet of Jesus and the house then fills with the fragrance of the perfume. What a fantastic image of this family! Martha is serving Jesus. Lazarus is at the table talking to Jesus. Mary is anointing the body of Jesus. Simply beautiful! Who would not want to be in this room and participate in these things? We see the great love these disciples have for Jesus.
But Judas interrupts this scene. “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This is very righteous sounding, isn’t it? What a waste! She should have sold this ointment for a year’s worth of wages (which is about what 300 denarii are worth). This would be worth about $30,000 to $40,000. Judas looks at what has just happened and thinks, “What a waste!” You wasted that fragrant perfume. Notice that Judas presents his criticism in the form a righteous sounding criticism. Think about what could have been done with that expensive ointment! It could have been sold and given to the poor. So many uses and she wasted it on your body, Jesus!
But God will not allow us to think that Judas has pure motives because he does not. Verse 6 makes it clear that Judas did not care about the poor at all. Rather, he was a thief and he was in charge of the money bag. The point is that Judas wanted this ointment sold for the $30,000-40,000 so that he could take steal some of that money for himself. He helped himself to the money given to Jesus.
Do you think that Jesus knew that Judas was a thief? I believe Jesus knew this as he knew all things about who Judas was and what Judas was going to do. So why do you think that Judas was put in charge of the moneybag? Why do this? I think there is a reason for us to consider. Jesus gives us every opportunity to put away the things we treasure for the infinite worth of treasuring Jesus. Jesus is in the business of causing us to make decisions about whether we will treasure the things we have or whether we will treasure Jesus. Judas valued money more than Jesus. Mary wanted to give but Judas wanted to take. Judas wants the money more than he wants Jesus. Mary will give $30,000-40,000 just to be about to anoint the body of Jesus. Judas will take money out of the moneybag rather than give it up to follow Jesus. Judas will take about $10,000 from the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus.
The Heart of a Betrayer
Here we are presented with what the heart of a betrayer looks like. I want us to consider that both Mary and Judas seemed to be disciples of Jesus. But what made Judas different than Mary? There are two things that this text is showing us to be the difference.
First, Judas was dishonest. He used following Jesus as a means to get what he wanted out of it. Judas was not in this for the love of Jesus apparently. Judas was dishonest because he is following for what he could get from this relationship. Are we here because of what we get out of being a Christian or for what we can give to Christ? Jesus has been turned into what we get out it. What is in it for me? What benefits do I receive from following Jesus? We can show that we are dishonest and only it this for ourselves when we only do things that are beneficial for us. If it is not beneficial to us to teach a class, worship, study, give, serve, or anything on this Christian walk, then we will not do it. It must be what I want to do. It must be beneficial for me. Too often our worship is boiled down into this kind of test. We will complain because we did not “get much out of the worship.” Perhaps we did not feel what we wanted to feel. But is this why we are here? Are we here for what we get out of it? The best question is: What did we give today? Did I give my praise? Did I give my love? Did I offer my devotion? We must ask what we gave to God not what we received from this time. We must determine if we are here for what we get or what we give.
Second, Judas was greedy. There is such a contrast of hearts in this event. One will value money more than Christ. Judas will see taking money as more valuable and desirable than being a disciple of Jesus. One will value Christ far more than money. Mary will give an extraordinary amount of money to be a disciple of Jesus. How much will we give to follow Jesus? Would we give up $30,000 to follow Jesus? Would we give up our salary for this year? Will we give up all we have in our bank accounts to be with Jesus? Will we spare no expense to worship Jesus, serve Jesus, love Jesus, and follow Jesus? What will we forfeit to follow him? Some do not want to give up power, unwilling to humbly serve in their family. Some do not want to give up sexual activity. Some do not want to give up comfort and convenience. Some do not want to give us wealth. There are certainly things that we just do not to do or give up. Whatever it is, that is our treasure. That is what we value more than a relationship with Christ. How sad that we cannot see the joy of Christ and try to grab these fleeting desires that will not last and condemn our souls!
Now, notice what is sad about this scene. The dishonest, greedy heart is condemning the one with the true, loving heart. So often this is how these hearts play out. Here is Mary, who is doing something out of love. She is spending a great amount because she wants to do this great act for Jesus. Mary has kept this ointment for this day (12:7). She has saved this ointment, holding it back from other uses, to be used for this very moment. This may be the last time they will be together. So she anoints Jesus for his burial. Her focus is on Jesus. How could anyone criticize or condemn Mary? But this is exactly what happens. The dishonest heart becomes a critical heart. Notice that the criticism was for what was not done. She could have done so much more, according to Judas. Why didn’t she do all of these other things with that ointment? Here is Mary, serving and giving, and the criticism is that she should have done something else or something more. I want us to see that this is what dishonest hearts do. Instead of being awestruck by her actions, he criticizes. Judas could have saved his own money and given it to the poor. Mary wanted to use her money to anoint the body of Jesus. Dishonest hearts tell everyone else what they should be doing, but will not do the act themselves. So Jesus must intervene. “Leave her alone!” Judas, your heart is wrong and her heart is right.
We see more dishonest hearts in verses 9-11. Perhaps some of the most shocking words we have encountered yet in our study of this gospel. When the chief priests saw the crowds were coming to see Jesus and also Lazarus because he had raised from the dead, they plotted to kill Lazarus along with Jesus. Now we really see darkened hearts. What had Lazarus done wrong? What would be the basis for his execution? Lazarus had died of natural causes, beyond his own control. Lazarus had been raised from the dead, beyond his own power or control. Rather than glorifying God and standing in awe of Jesus, the leaders plot to kill him too. Dishonest hearts want to get Jesus out of their lives.
What It Means To Be A Disciple of Jesus
True disciples will be criticized by other “disciples” for displaying love for Jesus. People here will give you a hard time for loving Jesus the way you ought to. When you go the extra mile that Jesus calls you to go in your love, service, devotion, worship and the like, people who think they are disciples and claim to be disciples are going to question what you are doing. The criticism could come from your spouse. The criticism could come from your parents or children. The criticism could come from your Christian friends. I have seen in other churches where the elders or preacher criticizes members for their serving and devotion. They just want to hold church services. Don’t ask us to set up Bible studies, teaching opportunities, and get togethers. Extravagant love for the Lord will receive criticism from surprising people, even those who claim to love Jesus also. Don’t stop loving Jesus. Don’t stop serving Jesus. Don’t stop doing what you can and giving your all to Jesus.
True disciples show extravagant love and devotion and do not care about the cost. We do not get a picture of Mary debating if she wants to do this or not. Jesus did not ask Mary to do this. Mary did not have to use this perfume on Jesus. If she had not, there would have been no sin. She could have served like Martha and rightly done so. But she had something more that she could give and she wanted to give it to Jesus. Extravagant love for Jesus desires to give him everything.
True disciples do not ask how much is enough for Jesus. Rather, they look for what else can be given to Jesus. What stops us from having this love is the same thing that stopped Judas: a dishonesty or greedy heart. This condition blocks our heart from opening up and treasuring Jesus. We must change our thinking from what am I getting to what can I give Jesus. Jesus is the one who gives life and saves you from eternal punishment. What do you want to give him?