As the house in Bethany filled with the aroma of the essential oils, Jesus allowed this audacious act of worship to carry on unabated. It was so rich and heartfelt that it bordered on the uncomfortable. Pouring oil over Jesus’ head and feet and then soaking it up with her own hair, Mary is demonstrating a worship that few of us will ever know this side of heaven.
Not all were pleased or joining in with the worship service. We’ve mentioned before John’s sometimes snarky insights. He unleashes here with several editorial comments that paints a picture of a tortured, duplicitous disciple: 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
As John makes clear, Judas’ motives were less than pristine. He had good uses for this pint o’ nard. It would help with the ministry purse that he was helping himself to. He was masking his intentions with religious spiritual-babble – a not uncommon tactic among the half committed. He didn’t care a fig for the poor, but it sounded good.
I’ve met these tortured, insecure souls in every church I’ve pastored. They want to control things. Perhaps they’ve been frustrated in marriage or career. Who knows? They’re rather easy to spot. They tend not to open their mouths when we worship. It’s as if they are enduring the singing. Where it really gets intense is during the teaching time. Some have done the quiet courtesy of nodding off. Others have scrutinized every word in search of some bit of heresy or heterodoxy out of my mouth. On these points I didn’t disappoint. On a number of occasions they’ve bum-rushed the podium to give me an earful. It’s usually accompanied by an argumentum ad verecundiam – an appeal to an outside authority. Some guy they heard on the radio preached that passage way different they breathlessly report to me. I have been tempted to offer to play the radio preacher’s messages over the sound system. Writing sermons or daily devotionals is a lot of work. I’d enjoy the break. However, snark is not limited to a disciple from 2000 years ago. I’m not merely referring to my own comebacks to sermon critics. Tomorrow we’ll see Jesus do his own beat down of Judas.