On Sunday, December 28, I preached out of John 12, which is the story of a dinner given in honor of Jesus. The dinner takes place at the home of a man called Simon the Leper. Probably, Simon is not a leper anymore. If he was, then he wouldn’t have a house. His leprosy has been cured. Arguably, it was Jesus who cured him, since there weren’t any other cures available.
Also at the dinner is Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the idea in the village of Bethany. The name of that village today, in Israel, is El-Eizarya, which means “the place of Lazarus.” Ancient Bethany is famous because of Lazarus, who was brought back to life by Jesus.
Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus are at the dinner. So are Jesus’ disciples, to include Judas.
Martha, as usual, is serving – cooking, cleaning, making sure everyone’s needs are being taken care of. Imagine how grateful Martha and Mary must have been, to be sitting there with their once-dead brother Lazarus, in the home of ex-leper Simon?
Mary’s heart cannot be contained. She has brought with her a special gift for this occasion, a pint of a perfume called nard. This was worth, at that time, a year’s salary for an average worker. New Testament scholar Ben Witherington suggests this pint of expensive nard would have been an inheritance Mary had. It would be like your retirement savings, your 401K (if you have one), your entire Social Security pension.
Mary pours her entire 401K on the feet of Jesus, in a lavish, extravagant act of humility and love. She gives everything she has to him. Why? Because he has brought her brother back to life. If someone did that for you, how much would it be worth? Jesus tells the people that in doing this Mary has done “a beautiful thing.”
It’s at this point that we hear the voice of Judas, for the very first time in the gospels. Judas says, “I object! It’s a total waste of money! We could have sold this perfume and given it to the poor!” John 12 tells us Judas could have cared less about the poor. He did care, a lot, about money. He was the “treasurer” of the disciples, the “keeper of the money bag.” He would have liked the perfume to be sold, and the money placed into the bag he carried, because he often took out of the bag money to spend on himself.
The life of Judas is tragic. Because he has just spent almost three years walking and living and eating with Jesus. He had seen Jesus calm a storm, heal sick people, deliver people from demons, give to the poor, reach out to prostitutes and tax collectors, and even raise a dead person. In the midst of the most lavish act of love so far seen in the gospels, Judas says “what a waste.”
I’m now thinking about these two responses. I do not want to be Judas-like and quench extravagant acts of love to Jesus. I do want to be like Mary, whose love knows no bounds, being a sacrificial love that gives all to her Savior. Why would anyone do this? Why would I do this? Because I would not have a life if it were not for what Jesus did for me years ago when I finally called out to him. He rescued me out of a very dark place, and gave me much, much more than I ever deserved. How much “money” is that worth to me? If he’s done this to you, how much “money” is that worth to you?
I am sure the answer is: it’s worth giving everything we have to him and in service to him and to the cause of his beautiful kingdom, the purpose of which is to release captives from bondage and darkness.
In 2009 spend your entire life, your whole being, on Jesus and his Kingdom. Love him extravagantly.