You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 2, 2022.

The Fifth Sunday in Lent is April 3, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

We are now in the Lenten season of Passiontide, in which we anticipate the death of Jesus.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 12:1-8

12:1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

12:2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.

12:3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

12:4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,

12:5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”

12:6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

12:7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.

12:8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew Henry outlines John 12 for us and contrasts it with the preceding chapter. It is a time of honour for our Lord:

It was a melancholy account which we had in the close of the foregoing chapter of the dishonour done to our Lord Jesus, when the scribes and Pharisees proclaimed him a traitor to their church, and put upon him all the marks of ignominy they could: but the story of this chapter balances that, by giving us an account of the honour done to the Redeemer, notwithstanding all that reproach thrown upon him. Thus the one was set over against the other. Let us see what honours were heaped on the head of the Lord Jesus, even in the depths of his humiliation. I. Mary did him honour, by anointing his feet at the supper in Bethany, John 12:1-11. II. The common people did him honour, with their acclamations of joy, when he rode in triumph into Jerusalem, John 12:12-19. III. The Greeks did him honour, by enquiring after him with a longing desire to see him, John 12:20-26. IV. God the Father did him honour, by a voice from heaven, bearing testimony to him, John 12:27-36. V. He had honour done him by the Old Testament prophets, who foretold the infidelity of those that heard the report of him, John 12:37-41. VI. He had honour done him by some of the chief rulers, whose consciences witnessed for him, though they had not courage to own it, John 12:42; John 12:43. VII. He claimed honour to himself, by asserting his divine mission, and the account he gave of his errand into the world, John 12:44-50.

Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, news of which, not surprisingly, spread very quickly.

John MacArthur says:

This is really a stunning narrative setting the stage for the events of the final week of our Lord’s life.  Just remembering what has taken place prior to this in chapter 11 you have the account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Everybody knows about it.  Lazarus has become the most well-known resident of the small village of Bethany, a couple of miles east of Jerusalem The word is out that Lazarus has been risen from the dead.  This final culminating public miracle of Jesus is a stupendous miracle with vast implications

It was saved for proximity to Jerusalem so the knowledge of this miracle would transcend the village, the town of Bethany, and sweep through the conversations in the great city of Jerusalem

This was highly disturbing to the religious leaders of Israel They never denied it They couldn’t deny it.  It was a factBut they want to do all the damage control they can possibly do, so they plan openly at least in the conversations that Jesus heard, verse 53 of chapter 11, to kill Him.  Now, this has been coming for a long time.  He’s been very aware of it, but the plan has been escalated by the impact of the resurrection of Lazarus.

Jesus then can no longer continue to walk publicly among the Jews He can’t stay in the proximity of Bethany and Jerusalem because the leaders are ready to execute Him So He went away from there, verse 54 says, to a country in the wilderness, a little place called Ephraim and stayed with His disciples Some think it was a few days.  Some think it was weeks.  In fact, there are some – and this may well be the case; I lean this way – that there were a few weeks in there in which He actually went into Samaria and into Galilee What He did in Samaria and Galilee is recorded in Luke 17, 18, and 19.  So if you’re looking for where that segment of His ministry Luke records belongs, it looks like it fits here if indeed He had a few weeks between the raising of Lazarus and His arrival for Passover

The interlude is now over He heads back, as we see, in verse 1 toward Jerusalem.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead (verse 1).

MacArthur points out this was the last Passover meant to be celebrated under Mosaic law, the Old Covenant:

This would be Saturday.  This is Sabbath.  By the way, this is the last legitimate Sabbath.  This is the final Sabbath in the Old Covenant because on Friday, Jesus will die and ratify the New Covenant The Old Covenant will fade away.  The New Covenant being ratified is in place, and there’s no more authorized official Sabbaths So the church immediately gathers itself on Sunday when He was raised from the dead, and continued to do that every Sunday up until this very Sunday today. 

The symbol of the New Covenant is not the Passover in Egypt.  The symbol of the New Covenant is the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week So this is the last official authorized Sabbath. 

Furthermore:

What we see in this text … is the obvious division that was occurring by simply the presence and ministry of Jesus Christ Jesus Christ causes faith in Martha, Mary, Lazarus …  Jesus Christ causes unbelief of the severest kind and the rankest kind of vitriolic, hateful, venomous, apostasy in the man Judas.

There — at Bethany — His friends gave a dinner for Him. Martha served — as was her wont — and Lazarus was at table with them (verse 2).

Where exactly was ‘there’? On this point, our commentators differ.

Henry’s commentary explores two possibilities:

It is queried whether this was the same with that which is recorded, Matthew 24:6, c., in the house of Simon. Most commentators think it was for the substance of the story and many of the circumstances agree; but that comes in after what was said two days before the passover, whereas this was done six days before; nor is it likely that Martha should serve in any house but her own; and therefore I incline with Dr. Lightfoot to think them different: that in Matthew on the third day of the passover week, but this the seventh day of the week before, being the Jewish sabbath, the night before he rode in triumph into Jerusalem; that in the house of Simon; this of Lazarus. These two being the most public and solemn entertainments given him in Bethany, Mary probably graced them both with this token of her respect; and what she left of her ointment this first time, when she spent but a pound of it (John 12:3; John 12:3), she used that second time, when she poured it all out, Mark 14:3.

However, MacArthur seems certain this took place at Simon the ex-leper’s home:

Now, we know this is not at the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus because the other gospels, and this of course is recorded also in Matthew 26 and Mark 14 tell us it happened at the house of a man named Simon called Simon the leper, Simon the leper, Simon the leper who also lived in Bethany So this event takes place not at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but at the house of Simon the leper Just to let you know, he couldn’t have been a leper at the time or there wouldn’t be a party at his house because lepers were excommunicated, and they were put out of the social occasions like this permanently. 

So, if I may be so bold, I just need to inject that we should be calling him Simon, the ex-leper.  Now, how do you become an ex-leper in the ancient world?  There’s no way unless you are healed by the Creator Himself, which then gives us information as to why Simon would host the event Because he also had had a miraculous restoration, not unlike that of Lazarus So there are two very special people sitting at the table or reclining at the table One is an ex-leper and another is an ex-dead man That should make for some fascinating conversation, frankly.  Fascinating conversation.

I can see both perspectives. Perhaps Simon lived alone, so Martha took care of cooking and serving. On the other hand, it could have been two separate occasions, as Henry says.

Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took an expensive perfume of pure nard, anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair, filling the house with fragrance (verse 3).

Henry’s commentary proposes that Mary was so grateful for having her brother returned to life that she cared less for the perfume and wanted to honour our Lord for the miracle He performed:

She had a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, which probably she had by her for her own use; but the death and resurrection of her brother had quite weaned her from the use of all such things, and with this she anointed the feet of Jesus, and, as a further token of her reverence for him and negligence of herself, she wiped them with her hair, and this was taken notice of by all that were present, for the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. See Proverbs 27:16.

MacArthur adds that Mary’s actions would have been spontaneous, as if her heart were bursting with love and gratitude:

A great illustration to remind us of sacrificial, total completely, unrestrained love I don’t really think this is something calculated, premeditatedThis is the heart of Mary bursting, “And she took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard.”  That’s a lot of pure perfume, pure fragrant oil

He explains that it came from Asia and cost a year’s salary:

The term is “myron” which is a term for oil Nard was a very rare herb grown in the high pasture lands of China, Tibet, and IndiaIt wouldn’t find its way into a home in Bethany unless it had been carried there by camels from India, from China, far, far, far awayBecause it came so far, because it was so pure, it was very valuable, very valuable.  In fact, its value was known by the man who always thought only about the price of things: Judas He named the price in verse 5 as 300 denarii A denarius is a day’s wage.  That’s 300 days of work.  That’s essentially a year’s work if you take some days off out.  Very expensive. 

Mary’s loosening of her hair in front of men not of her family was not quite the done thing, but she is among friends and feels comfortable expressing herself in this honour she does for Jesus:

Her gentle, loving heart is literally beating.  She can’t restrain herself.  According to Mark 14:3, she smashes the alabaster jar and opens it Matthew and Mark tell us it went on His head and here we find in John that it went all the way down to His feet Then she loosened her hair, which was a radical thing for a woman to do in the presence of men, and used her hair to wipe His feet.  Foot washing at a meal was part of the meal because people had sandals, and there was no pavement.  Dirty feet didn’t suit people sitting down for a prolonged dinner in a reclining position

There is a similar story of a woman washing the feet of Jesus, but it should not be confused with this one:

Go back to Luke 7It had happened before earlier in His ministry, not in Bethany, but in GalileeNot in the house of Simon the leper, but in the house of a Pharisee Not by a believing woman whom Jesus knew, but by a prostitute He didn’t know Luke 7:37, “There was a woman in the city who was a sinner and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisees’ house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume standing behind Him at His feet weeping.  She began to wet His feet with her tears, kept wiping them with the hair of her head and kissing His feet and anointing them with perfume.  Now, when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.’

That would be the most frightening things imaginable for a self-righteous Pharisee to imagine himself to be touched by a prostitute He wouldn’t survive that because Pharisees as legalists were highly seducible, even by a touchBut the touch of a most sinful woman, couldn’t diminish the pure, holiness of Christ Instead of it making Him unholy, He could make her holy Apparently, this was a lavish way for people to express overwhelming love and affection

John pulls no punches in describing Judas to us in verses 4 and 6.

In verse 4, John calls him Judas Iscariot and describes him as ‘the one who was about to betray Him’.

Henry tells us what Iscariot means:

Judas was treasurer of Christ’s household, whence some think he was called Iscariot, the bag-bearer.

Judas objected, saying that the perfume should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor (verse 5).

MacArthur describes the atmosphere:

She gave everything of value that she could lay her hands on There must have been stunned silence There must have been stunned silence as that group of people who also loved Christ.  That group would be Simon and whoever was in his family, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the twelve, and JesusMany, many were there.

The silence didn’t last.  As they were contemplating the humble sacrifice of Mary, they were interrupted by the hypocritical self-interest of Judas Verse 4, “But Judas Iscariot – ”, who will be identified as he always is, “ – one of His disciples who was intending to betray Him.”  Enter Judas, always thus described.  That man whom Jesus in John 17:12 calls, the “son of perdition” of whom Acts 1:25 says, “He went to his own place.”  He is the son of perdition and his own place is perdition or eternal hell, a son of hell

He cast his lot in thinking he would be wealthy He cast his lot in thinking he would be elevated to some position of power and authority, and it began to become clear to him pretty early I think that this thing wasn’t going the direction he wanted it to go While everyone else was growing to love Christ more, he was growing to hate Him more He labored in difficulty.  There was resistance.  There was rejection.  He was left with nothing but the basest necessities of life.  From day to day, it was merely survival The idea of a kingdom was becoming ridiculous to him Everything was going wrong, but he has to keep up the hypocrisy so he says in verse 5, “Why was this perfume not sold for 300 denarii and given to poor people?” 

Henry says that this is the way Satan works, through half-truths and plausibility:

(1.) Here is a foul iniquity gilded over with a specious and plausible pretence, for Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. (2.) Here is worldly wisdom passing a censure upon pious zeal, as guilty of imprudence and mismanagement. Those who value themselves upon their secular policy, and undervalue others for their serious piety, have more in them of the spirit of Judas than they would be thought to have. (3.) Here is charity to the poor made a colour for opposing a piece of piety to Christ, and secretly made a cloak for covetousness. Many excuse themselves from laying out in charity under pretence of laying up for charity: whereas, if the clouds be full of rain, they will empty themselves. Judas asked, Why was it not given to the poor? To which it is easy to answer, Because it was better bestowed upon the Lord Jesus.

Henry has an application for us in today’s world when people think that everything should be done their way. I’m referring to leftists here:

Note, We must not conclude that those do no acceptable piece of service who do not do it in our way, and just as we would have them; as if every thing must be adjudged imprudent and unfit which does not take its measures from us and our sentiments. Proud men think all ill-advised who do not advise with them.

John tells us that Judas was not at all concerned about the poor; instead, he was a thief who used to steal from the purse (verse 6) into which people donated to the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.

MacArthur explains:

When the thing began to go the direction he didn’t think it should go, he began embezzling the money, the little money they had to sustain them He wanted the money and all the money he could get He was ready now to get out, whatever was going to be the end of this thing for Jesus.  Jesus had said He was going to die.  They were going to take His life.  He can see the hostility, the animosity.  He knows the end is coming.  He knows He’s not going to be able to be in the position he is to get the money that’s in the box very much longer He wants as much as he can get.  By the way, this is sad.  Matthew 26:8 says the other disciples chimed in on this.  Yeah, why wasn’t that sold and the money given to the poor?  Stirred up by Judas to join the protest.  It actually says the disciples protested.

He had a lot of influence.  That’s why he had the money box because everybody what?  Trusted him.  I will say this, true honor to Jesus Christ, a place where true honor is offered to Jesus Christ will always bring out the hostility of those who belong to Satan If you honor Jesus Christ, those who belong to Satan will be hostile This is a devil.  It actually says Thursday night of this week coming, the devil himself entered into him He was not just a devil, but the devil himself entered into Judas

Henry has more, saying that it was because either Judas was the least of the disciples or there was a divine judgment upon him and money would be his temptation to commit the ultimate evil deed of betraying Jesus:

It was his office to receive and pay, and we do not find that he gave any account what markets he made. He was appointed to this office, either, 1. Because he was the least and lowest of all the disciples; it was not Peter nor John that was made steward (though it was a place of trust and profit), but Judas, the meanest of them. Note, Secular employments, as they are a digression, so they are a degradation to a minister of the gospel; see 1 Corinthians 6:4. The prime-ministers of state in Christ’s kingdom refused to be concerned in the revenue, Acts 6:2. 2. Because he was desirous of the place. He loved in his heart to be fingering money, and therefore had the moneybag committed to him, either, (1.) As a kindness, to please him, and thereby oblige him to be true to his Master. Subjects are sometimes disaffected to the government because disappointed of their preferment; but Judas had no cause to complain of this; the bag he chose, and the bag he had. Or, (2.) In judgment upon him, to punish him for his secret wickedness; that was put into his hands which would be a snare and trap to him. Note, Strong inclinations to sin within are often justly punished with strong temptations to sin without. We have little reason to be fond of the bag, or proud of it, for at the best we are but stewards of it; and it was Judas, one of an ill character, and born to be hanged (pardon the expression), that was steward of the bag. The prosperity of fools destroys them.

Jesus, ever mindful of His death, told Judas to leave Mary alone; she had bought the perfume for His burial (verse 7).

Nard was the traditional embalming oil; its scent was strong and could mask the decaying odours of a dead body.

Jesus concluded by saying that the poor would always be there but they would not always have Him with them (verse 8) in physical form.

Henry gives a scriptural reference from Deuteronomy which says that the poor will always be with us:

(1.) It is so ordered in the kingdom of Providence that the poor we have always with us, some or other that are proper objects of charity (Deuteronomy 15:11); such there will be as long as there are in this lapsed state of mankind so much folly and so much affliction. (2.) It is so ordered in the kingdom of grace that the church should not always have the bodily presence of Jesus Christ: “Me you have not always, but only nor for a little time.” Note, We need wisdom, when two duties come in competition, to know which to give the preference to, which must be determined by the circumstances. Opportunities are to be improved, and those opportunities first and most vigorously which are likely to be of the shortest continuance, and which we see most speedily hastening away. That good duty which may be done at any time ought to give way to that which cannot be done but just now.

This passage is read again in Holy Week, at which time I will discuss verses 9 through 11.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

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