By Dr. Ben Stubblefield
Visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Why Wasn’t This Sold?
People are coming into Jerusalem for the Passover. Pilgrims are preparing to remember the deliverance from Pharaoh. Some are celebrating Jesus’ presence at the feast.
The chief priests are plotting His death. Jesus has resurrected Lazarus, causing a stir in Bethany, and He’s beginning His final days with His disciples. Time seems to slow down as John tells of a dinner during which Jesus’ presence is honored, His motives are questioned and His worship causes division.
Jesus, now in Bethany six days before Passover, shares a meal with His friends, during which Mary anoints His feet and wipes them with her hair. There is a discussion among scholars regarding this event and a similar one described in Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 7. While there are some differences, it is likely that John, Matthew and Mark are describing the same event, but the Luke 7 anointing is a different occurrence.
The level of self-humbling, devotion and extravagance is remarkable. Mary exemplifies the ministry of Christ’s service in John 13 and models an appropriate response to Christ’s person and work. The Lord’s people are happy to highly honor Him who gave His all for us.
Judas responds with false indignation. He argues that such a remarkable gift (one denarius equals one day’s wages) could have been sold and given to the poor and, according to verse 6, line his pockets.
Jesus’ response does not excuse stinginess. Instead, He reminds the disciples there will be constant opportunities to alleviate the hardships of the poor but few remaining opportunities to care for His body.
I remember hearing a prominent evangelist criticized for his evangelistic methodology. The criticism ironically came from a leader of a denomination on the numerical decline.
The evangelist listened and responded, “Well, I suppose I like my way of doing evangelism more than your way of not doing evangelism.” Now, we all need to be careful theologically, and there’s certainly room for rebuke, correction and improvement in aspects of church life. But sometimes criticism doesn’t come from love. It’s often born out of jealousy, self-righteousness and greed. We need to be careful that our cynicism doesn’t get in the way of people worshipping the risen Christ.
There was probably a large crowd in Jerusalem because of Passover. Undoubtedly, news traveled quickly. People were curious to see a resurrected Lazarus and the One who raised him. On account of their time in Bethany, verse 11 says many of the Jews were believing in Jesus.
The chief priests, hardened in their hearts, saw these events as catalysts for greater heresy and made plans to execute not only Jesus but also Lazarus. There are many contrasts in this scene — love and treachery, sacrifice and greed, homage and conspiracy.
The Samaritan woman in John 4 made an effort to tell others about Jesus, but the text does not indicate Lazarus made such an attempt. The evidence of a resurrected life and a willingness to bear witness to Christ’s power was effective in bringing many to faith in Jesus.
It’s a simple truth: we’re called to be witnesses, to testify how God has changed our lives.
Not every believer is called to be a pastor, career missionary, deacon or teacher, but every believer is a witness. That witness draws people to Christ and honors His holy name.
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