Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, who had died, the one Jesus raised from the dead. 2 They gave a dinner for him there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about twelve ounces of very expensive perfume (pure nard) and anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was going to betray him, said, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He did not say this because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief. He held the money box and used to steal what was put into it. 7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She intended to keep this for the day of my burial. 8 Indeed, the poor you always have with you, but you are not always going to have me.” 9 A large crowd of the Jews learned that he was there. They came not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too, 11 because it was on account of him that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.
Mary and Martha and Lazarus had much to be thankful for. Lazarus had died. Jesus showed his almighty power as he raised Lazarus from the dead and gave him back to the grieving sisters. They also were privileged to have Jesus as a guest in their home on earlier occasions. As they heard Jesus teach, this family was brought to trust in him as their Savior. Through this faith, they could be certain that death would not separate them. They would all one day live together with their Lord in heaven. Now the family wanted to offer their thanks to the Son of God. They could never fully repay Jesus for what he did. But they showed their thankfulness at a special meal that was given six days before the Passover.
Matthew 26:6 and Mark 14:3 records that the dinner was held in the home of Simon the Leper. We don’t know anything about this man. The title “leper” would suggest that at one time Jesus must have healed him from leprosy. Simon obviously wanted to show his thanks by hosting this dinner for Jesus at his home. Martha thanked Jesus in her own way. She took charge of serving the meal. Mary had another plan in mind to show her thanks and love to Jesus. Many people at the time wore sandals or they went barefoot. Obviously feet would become quite dirty by the end of the day. It was a common courtesy for the host to wash the feet of his guests when they entered his home. Mary went above and beyond the call of duty. Nard was one of the finest imported perfumes at the time. A bottle of nard would have been beyond the means of most people to afford. Mary used the expensive perfume to wash the feet of Jesus. Then in a show of total humility and service to her Lord, she wiped his feet with her hair. Truly Mary offered her best to Jesus.
But not everyone was impressed with Mary’s actions. Judas Iscariot; one of Jesus’ own disciples criticized Mary. He argued that the perfume was worth three hundred denarii. That was about one years’ wages at the time. Judas reasoned that the perfume could have been sold with the proceeds going to help the poor. On the surface, Judas’ argument might sound reasonable. But the Holy Spirit gives us insight into the thoughts of Judas. John was divinely-inspired to record that Judas didn’t care about the poor. He was the keeper of the disciples’ treasury. Satan was already at work in Judas. He was stealing from the treasury to supply his own desires. Proceeds from the sale of expensive perfume would have meant more money for Judas to indulge himself with. That love for money was going to cost Judas dearly in the near future. He betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jewish Sanhedrin for 30 pieces of silver. When he realized what he had done Judas was filled with remorse and he went out and hanged himself. (See Matthew 27:1-5)
The Son of God saw through Judas’ hypocrisy. Jesus immediately told him to leave Mary alone. Jesus’ answer taught several important lessons. First, he predicted his own impending death. Secondly, Jesus was not saying that helping the poor wasn’t important. He indicated that there would always be poverty in the world. As Christians we will have many opportunities to help those in need. We should do so as our Lord gives us the means and the opportunities. Finally our Lord emphasized that God should always come first in our lives. Using our finest gifts to worship and honor our Lord is never a waste.
There are a couple important lessons here for all of us. We look to the example of Judas. His love for money had obviously been at work in his heart for some time. The longer we allow sin to linger in our hearts, the stronger it becomes. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” As the desire to sin grows stronger it will finally weaken and destroy faith in Jesus.
We also can learn from the lesson of Mary. All that we have is a trust from our Lord God. We want to use our gifts, talents, and treasures to bring glory to God. We remember how Jesus gave his best to save us. Out of love and thankfulness to him, we want to use our best to glorify him.
1 – Mary used a costly gift to honor Jesus. Why did Judas object?
Judas offered the excuse that the expensive perfume that Mary poured on Jesus’ feet could have been sold with the proceeds being given to the poor. The Holy Scriptures give us the insight that Judas did not care about the poor. He frequently used the money in the disciples’ treasury for his own purposes. He looked at the expensive perfume as a means to provide more money for himself.
2 – The example of Judas reminds us there will be hypocrites among God’s people. What can we learn from this example from God’s Word for how we deal with hypocrites?
We cannot read hearts, so we cannot know who the hypocrites are. Instead we should follow the example of Mary. Use the gifts our Lord has given us to bring glory to him. Let the Lord deal with those who are hypocrites in his own time.
3 – At first glance, Jesus appears to be insensitive toward the poor in verse 8. What is our Lord really saying?Jesus indicated there will always be poor people in the world. We should pray for them and provide assistance to them according to the means God has blessed us with. But we should always remember to put our Lord first in our lives.
4 – According to verses 10-11, how far were the wicked religious leaders in Jerusalem willing to go to keep their positions of authority?
They not only wanted to kill Jesus, they also wanted to kill Lazarus. Since many people heard how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead they wanted to see both Jesus and Lazarus. The chief priests were angry because this miracle was leading many more people to Jesus.
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to