Lesson 72

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

12:1 Therefore six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 12:2 So they made him a supper there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. 12:3 Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 12:4 Then Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, one of his disciples, who would betray him, said, 12:5 "Why wasn't this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?" 12:6 Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it. 12:7 But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of my burial. 12:8 For you always have the poor with you, but you don't always have me."

12:9 A large crowd therefore of the Jews learned that he was there, and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 12:10 But the chief priests conspired to also put Lazarus to death, 12:11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

 Today's Lesson 

Six days before the Passover, Jesus returned to Bethany. Lazarus held a dinner for Him. Martha, as always, is seen serving the guests. Lazarus sits at the table with Jesus. During the meal, their sister, Mary, took an ointment of pure nard (an aromatic oil) and anointed the feet of Jesus. She rubbed the oil onto His feet and then, when she was done, wiped the excess off with her own hair.


It was an extravagant gesture. It was done for respect and love of the man who had returned her brother to her. No doubt the nard was the most expensive possession in the household. We do not know how she purchased it, or how much of a sacrifice the expense was to their household. All that we can be certain of is that Jesus was touched by what she did. It was calculated to express what this family felt about Jesus. And, He accepted it as an expression of their love and gratitude.


There were others who did not understand. Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Him, took exception to it. He wondered aloud why the ointment was not sold and given to the poor. The author tells us that if it had been sold, Judas would have embezzled the money and used it for his own use. This is the only place where we are told that Judas was in charge of the money for Jesus and His disciples. It brings up all kinds of interesting questions, like why Jesus would appoint a thief to hold the money box? But, there is too much in today's scripture to dwell on that.


Jesus responds to their questioning by telling them to leave Mary alone. "She has kept this for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you don't always have me." Jesus appreciated this gesture, sacrificed for love and honor. It was extravagant, but God appreciates a sacrifice that is given from an overflowing heart. And, it was more appropriate than anyone knew. Nard was used, in smaller quantities, to anoint a body in preparation for burial, to overcome the odor of decomposition. And Jesus knew that He would soon die. "Look, it is the day of my burial and she has anointed my body with oil."


When the people around heard what was going on, there was a large crowd that was drawn to the home. They wanted to see Jesus and they also wanted to catch a glimpse of Lazarus. He was a mystery as well, a man who had returned from the dead. For this reason, the chief priest decided that Lazarus should be put to death as well. He would always be a symbol of what Jesus had done.


It did not concern them that they sought to reverse what God had accomplished. In their hearts, they refused to believe that God had raised Lazarus from the dead. They must have thought that it was the work of evil forces. This shows the depth of their sin. They could look on the works of God and call them evil. Not only could they not see God's hand at work, but also they actively put themselves against Him.


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