So much goes on in John 12, in addition to Mary’s expressive devotion to Christ. What’s up with Judas – we all know he scolds Mary for pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet:
“But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:4-6)
Often I read this, with the benefit of hindsight and think “that foolish Judas, he totally misses the boat on devotion to Jesus.” And then I think, “wow, Mary wiped his dirty, worn, trodden feet with her hair. Intense, could I do that – show such devotion? I really have an aversion to feet.” And I move on…. But this time I read it and thought, why would God allow Judas to be over the treasury? Nothing surprises God. He didn’t suddenly come too and say ‘holy crap, Judas steals!’ Why put the thief in charge of the money bag? I don’t think Dave Ramsey would recommend that, it doesn’t show fiduciary responsibility. Perhaps there is more here than initially meets the eye.
So far, through prayer and study, I think Judas was allowed to be treasurer – (and a shoddy one at that if you are into proper money management) – to demonstrate how weak the human nature is. For if a man who walked, slept, ate, learned, shadowed, lived with Jesus could still choose sin over Him, then no wonder the wages of sin still battle within us and the world today. If those who had the benefit of physically being with Christ screwed up and didn’t make it, then no wonder, thousands of years later, others will too. Or perhaps a better way to say this: how intensely humbling to see how much we must humble ourselves before God and remain focused and reliant on Him. For Judas, to be with Christ, physically, was not even enough. How much more so do I need to fight to read, pray, confess, repent, and remain focused? Yes, God allowed a thief to be in charge of the money bag, not by happenstance, or because He forgot, or because He fell asleep on the world. Perhaps he let sticky fingers hold the bag to help portray that those beginning disciples really were plain, “ordinary” men, men with sinful natures who can not only relate to you and me, but also to show how dire the need to rely on God, and God alone.
Additionally, we see in this passage, where sometimes the words and heart of, even a disciple, just don’t match. Judas protested under the pretense of helping the poor. The next sentence indicates that he really didn’t care about the poor, he just wanted the hook up. How sobering to remember that God is witness to both – to our words and hearts. It’s like our lives have subtitles, expressing what we are really thinking! Imagine how confusing it would be if, for every conversation, you audibly shared your words – but the subtitles shared your true thoughts! How convicting and awkward if/when they don’t match!
At this point, I was flat convicted, like hold up, I think I need to put this Bible down…… but I couldn’t, one more perplexing thing –
Jesus replies: “Leave her alone, it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but will not always have me.”
Why doesn’t Jesus address Judas’s true, stealin’ heart? He could of said, “leave her alone, you thief, we know you never intended to help the poor.” But He chooses to disciple Judas on what appears, a superficial level. Or maybe not. Jesus’s reply brings us back to a key point – in our lives, in our ministries, in our daily walk, there will constantly be items requiring our thoughts and actions. These items will continually require our thoughts and actions while on earth. Of course we are called to help the poor, that isn’t negotiable. However what is the most important? A focus on, a reliance, a devotion to Jesus. To those physically present that day, the heart of the matter was that they would not always have Him, and they needed a reminder to focus on Him. Whether they understood it, He was temporary, the needs permanent. Jesus’s words are a chilling reminder that at the end of the day, we are to make decisions that best allow ourselves and our households to remain focused on Him, on how we can love, live like, and imitate Him. God encourages us to continually look to the long term, and His very desire is for us to have a long term with Him.
Considering the hearts of both Jesus and Judas in this chapter was challenging, perplexing, questioning. It was fun, humbling, terrifying, exhilarating. I’m going to blow it. It is tempting to think, “well, I’m not as bad as Judas,” but even then I am missing the point. God doesn’t think in terms of comparisons when hurt by sin. He gently leads, instructs, disciplines, and encourages to purify hearts, that with every beat, pump true devotion and humility for Him.