Posts Tagged With: Judas Iscariot

Ministry and Motives—John 12:1–8

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

—John 12:1–8, NASB

mary annointing jesus feet clipart

Image from clipartfest.com

Which is the most important ministry on this list? (a) Emotional worship; (b) hospitality ministry (serving food to guests); or (c) feeding the poor? My first choice would usually be (c). The church needs to share God’s love with the world. I would normally put (a) at the bottom of the list: Too many people seek only an emotional high from their religion.

However, as John 12:1–8 shows us, maybe the question is not so simple. Why do we do the things we do? Motives matter. Why we do things is usually more important than what we do. If our motives are consistent with the will of God and are pure, even if our efforts are headed in the wrong direction, we can be guided onto the correct path. If our motives are selfish and impure, even good efforts can fall astray.

In John 12:1–8, we see a contrast of motives. Mary and Martha were two devoted followers of Jesus. They were sisters with very different personalities. I have written previously about how they reflected the “two sides of discipleship.” Mary was a worshipper, one who preferred to spend time at Jesus’ feet, hearing His teaching and worshipping Him. Martha was a “doer,” always eager to serve (and perhaps a little too anxious about it). Luke 10:38–42 shares that story.

Luke’s story occurred earlier in Jesus’ ministry. Now, just a short time before Jesus’ crucifixion (perhaps little more than a day or two before He would enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday), He had dinner with Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. It must have been a big celebration, since Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the grave.

Martha celebrated as she knew best: Let’s have a party with lots of food! We will have a banquet to celebrate Lazarus’ return from the dead. I can imagine her returning to the table repeatedly, bringing more food for Jesus, Lazarus, and the rest of their guests (including the 12 apostles).

In the midst of the celebration, Mary brought something different. Martha probably hoped Mary would bring some roasted lamb or bread, but instead, she brought a pound of expensive perfume and started wiping it all over Jesus’ feet. We can only wonder why she chose to make such an extravagant spectacle. A pound of aromatic oil, worth one year’s wages for a common laborer, drenched Jesus’ feet.

Mary was motivated by gratitude. Jesus had raised her brother from the grave. More than that, she knew Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness. The other Gospels point out that she had a reputation as a sinner (see, e.g., Matthew 26:6-13). Others would remind Mary about her past, but she knew that Jesus offered her a future where her previous sins did not matter.

Mary felt that only her best would be appropriate for Jesus. She was willing to make an extravagant sacrifice to show her love and gratitude to Him. What about us? Do we give Jesus our best? Are we willing to surrender our most treasured possessions for His glory? Are we willing to surrender our reputation or popularity for His sake?

If Mary was motivated by gratitude, Judas Iscariot had different motives. His logic sounded reasonable. After all, a year’s wages could feed a lot of hungry people. Why pour all of this oil on one guy’s feet when it could be used to gather food for countless widows, orphans, and handicapped persons?

Yet, Judas’ motives were in the wrong place. Judas was motivated by money. Perhaps the other disciples saw his financial expertise early in the ministry and persuaded Jesus to make him the treasurer of their group. Unfortunately, that was misplaced trust. Judas would pocket a few denarii at times for his own purposes. Even now, he was not really concerned about the poor. He wanted to make himself look good to Jesus, and was disappointed that he missed an opportunity to profit from one of his good-sounding ideas.

This would be a turning point in the lives of Judas Iscariot and Jesus. After Jesus corrected him, Judas decided to betray Jesus. (See Matthew 26:14.) After three years of friendship and discipleship, Judas would sell Jesus out. What about us? Do we try to promote our own agendas at Jesus’ expense? Will we put things, projects, or ideas ahead of Him? Even good ideas, project, ministries, and activities can become dangerous when we place them ahead of worshipping Jesus.

Not long thereafter (maybe about one week later), Jesus would meet with His disciples for a final meal together. As Mary had washed Jesus’ feet with her perfume and tears, and dried them with her hair, Jesus would wash the disciples’ feet with water and dry them with a towel that He wore around His waist. He would describe it as an illustration of how we serve one another, thereby tying Mary’s worship with every other ministry we can do in His name. Shortly thereafter, Judas would leave the meal in pursuit of 30 silver pieces. The man who verbalized a scheme to feed the poor would commit suicide, and his money would go to help the poor by providing a burial place for them.

Motives matter. For Judas Iscariot, wrong motives led him on the path to the grave.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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Categories: Bible meditations, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disciples During Jesus’ Passion

IMG_20160304_173852827Photo taken by Michael E. Lynch, at Graymoor Retreat Center, Garrison, NY, March 2016

“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.'” (John 13:36-38, NASB).

My church has an interesting service every year on Good Friday. It is a lengthy service (scheduled to last about three hours). Four people share their personal testimonies, focusing on the theme, “What the cross means to me.”

Church is probably the easiest place to take our stand for Christ. (If it is not, you need to find another church.) But, when the temptations of everyday life strike, we find out how strong we really are.

As I reflect on the cross this year, I wonder which disciple am I most like. Which disciple do you imitate most?

  • Judas Iscariot: He followed Jesus, and was even chosen as one of the twelve disciples. All of them had their issues to deal with. For Judas, a big one was greed: John 12:4-6 tells us that, as the treasurer of Jesus’ ministry team, he would frequently help himself to some of their money. His greed eventually drove him to sell Jesus out for 30 silver pieces.
    By the time he realized the error of his ways, the grief was greater than he could handle. When he could not correct his mistake, he committed suicide.
    I often wonder what would have happened if he had not killed himself: I am sure that, despite his horrible sin, Jesus would have forgiven him and restored him to ministry.
    Do I, like Judas, love the things of this world more than Jesus. Am I willing to sell Him out, to compromise—to risk losing my fellowship with Him—for the things of this world?
  • Peter: Here is a man who could always talk like a spiritual giant. Even until the end, he promised that he would be the last man standing with Jesus, even if it meant dying with him. Anyone with a Sunday school education knows how that story played out. Within a few hours, while Jesus was standing trial before a court that had already rendered its verdict before his arrest, Peter pretended he did not know who Jesus was. He would not testify in His defense. He would not even present himself as a friend offering moral or emotional support during Jesus’ darkest hour.
    Am I like Peter? Can I talk like a holy spiritual giant when I am around other Christians, but then clam up and shy away when surrounded by those who are hostile to the things of God?
  • John and Mary: Only a small handful of Jesus’ disciples stood by Him until the end. John 19:25-27 gives us a brief list. Jesus’ mother was there; so were a few other women who had travelled with His entourage. Only one man remained: “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Peter may have been the strongest leader amongst the disciples, but John may very well have been Jesus’ closest friend. When everybody else fled, John stayed with Him.
    The photo at the top of this page depicts a famous image from Christian art. Mary holding the dead body of Jesus immediately after it was removed from the cross. The woman who 33 years earlier held a baby, who she knew would be the Saviour of the world, now grieved as all of her hopes, dreams, and expectations seemed to have been destroyed.
    Jesus’ dying request was that His buddy, John, take care of his widowed mother now. Not only was he to become one of the people assigned to proclaim the Gospel to all the world; John was also entrusted with a task that truly marked him as part of Jesus’ family.
    Am I like Mary and John, willing to follow Jesus, even when it gets hard? Am I willing to stay with Him when my expectations are nailed to the cross? Can Jesus trust me, like He trusted John, with those ministries that lie closest to His heart?

In the midst of the physical sufferings of His scourging and the cross, Jesus must have faced the unbearable pain of emotional and relational turmoil: The friend who betrayed Him; the friend who denied Him; those who abandoned Him. Even the pain of seeing His mother and closest friend grieve must have broken His heart. For the joy set before Him, though, He endured the cross and despised the shame (Hebrews 12:1-2), so that we can be forgiven for those times that we betray, deny, and abandon God.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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