Having departed Jericho (Luke 19:1-28), Jesus and His disciples made their final journey to Jerusalem, and arrived in Bethany “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). Bethany, located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and some two miles east of Jerusalem, was the home of Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus “whom [Jesus] raised from the dead” (12:1b).
The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead had been a catalyst for many to believe Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:45). Howbeit, there were others who rejected Jesus, and they “went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done” (John 11:46).
John 12:1-8 – Supper at the Home of Simon the Leper
We find Jesus and His disciples having supper (John 12:2) at the home of a man that Mark identified as “Simon the leper” (Mark 14:3). Knowing a leper would be an outcast in Jewish society, we must presume that Simon was no longer a leper, and had been the object of Jesus’ compassion and been healed. John makes mention that Martha was serving, and “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him” (12:2b).
The meal was suddenly interrupted when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took “a pound of ointment of spikenard very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment” (12:3).
Mary’s actions were an example of extravagant, sacrificial love (12:3-4), and an expression of her gratitude to Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead.
Mary sacrificed her most precious possession (12:3a), for spikenard was a costly fragrance imported from India (and according to Judas, worth 300 pence, or 300 days wages, 12:5). Mary was also a picture of humility and loving devotion, for she used her hair to wipe our LORD’S feet (12:3b).
Unfortunately, the beautiful portrait of loving devotion on Mary’s part was interrupted by the protests of a swindler, a phony, and a fraud named Judas, one of the Twelve (12:4-6).
John 12:4-5 – Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should [would]betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence [one year’s wages], and given to the poor?
Judas resented Mary’s homage to Jesus, and his hypocrisy influenced the other disciples who, in the words of Mark, “had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?” (Mark 14:4)
Matthew recalled the disciples expressing the same sentiment in his Gospel, and saying, “To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor” (Matthew 26:8-9).
The first words of Judas recorded in the Gospels, reveal the covetousness of his heart. John would look back on this moment and later write of Judas, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor [poor people]; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (12:6 ).
Judas’ biting rebuke of Mary’s sacrificial love and actions, earned him the wrath of Jesus who rebuked him saying, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying [burial] hath she kept [made preparation] this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (12:7-8).
I close, inviting you to consider how Mary offered the LORD not only her most precious possession, but that she seized the opportunity to identify with Christ’s sacrifice: She anointed Him for His burial (12:7).
While others were deaf to Jesus prophesying His hour, the hour of His sacrifice for the sins of the world, was come; Mary had faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith