Today’s Scripture Focus: John 12:1-11
John 11:55 serves as a transition verse in the Gospel— “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing…” The rest of the book will cover the final events of Jesus’ life, which center around the Passover Feast. Remember, John is the “festival” Gospel. All the significant events take place on or around feasts, festivals, rituals, and ceremonies. This is the third Passover mentioned in John. All Jews were required to be in Jerusalem for Passover, and had to be “Temple worthy” in order to participate. Thus, many arrived early to make sure all was in order.
But where was Jesus? Instead of heading straight into Jerusalem, Jesus stopped in Bethany and stayed with His surrogate family—Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. In the previous chapter, Jesus performed His final sign of raising Lazarus from the dead. Now, Martha is hosting a meal in His honor, and Lazarus is clearly depicted as healthy and eating along side Jesus. At the end of our scripture focus we learn that the Temple authorities, who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, want to kill Lazarus. He doesn’t fit their theology. We never hear of Lazarus after this passage—perhaps they succeeded in their plot against him.
During the meal, Mary performed an extravagant act of devotion. Nard was imported from the Himalayan Mountains in India. The amount described here would have been worth a year’s wages. The purpose of owning perfume such as this was to be used during burial of loved ones. The fact that this precious perfume was not used up during the initial burial of Lazarus shows just how dear a possession it was. Washing feet was a humiliating job. A family that could afford a pint of nard surely had household servants for such a dirty task, but Mary takes it on as an act of love. The house being filled with the fragrance signifies it had become a holy place.
Pure, unadulterated worship is almost always met with criticism. Judas was responsible for keeping the “money bag”. This wasn’t just a group pot used for buying supplies—the “money bag” would have held funds needed for paying Temple taxes, and travel money for Passover. In other words, when Judas stole this money, he was stealing tithes. This makes his criticism of Mary’s “waste” particularly hypocritical. Jesus never came to His own defense when Judas betrayed Him, but when it came to Mary, He told Judas “Leave her alone”. The perfume was being used for its intended purpose—preparing Jesus for burial.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
What is something we might buy today that would cost the equivalent of a year’s salary? Have you ever known of someone making such a costly gift to another or to God?
Have you ever known someone who always has something critical to say? What do you think causes people to be so critical of others?
Mary’s extravagant, “wasteful” worship came from her overwhelming gratitude for what Jesus had done. Has Jesus been good to you? Are you blessed? Pray as a class that you might worship Him in lavish ways today, not caring what others think.