Summary: John 12 brings us a perplexing situation. Is Jesus giving the green light to personal jets for evangelists who preach the prosperity gospel? Or is there another point altogether?
“Did His Feet Smell that Bad?”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
I must admit, this can be a very perplexing passage of Scripture.
Wouldn’t it just be easier to ignore it?
Of course, if we ignore it…
…we loose the incredible insight it brings us and the reason it is here!
“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?”
Well, that’s not a bad question.
Judas may have been a thief and traitor, he may have embezzled money from the common treasury, he may have had other motives besides the high moral road he seems to project, and he probably didn’t give a hoot about the poor.
But isn’t he basically right?
Couldn’t the pound of expensive perfume dumped on Jesus’ feet have been used for a better purpose?
Why hadn’t Mary chosen the less expensive Oil of Olay or maybe just a bottle of good old English Leather?
Couldn’t the money have been used to buy food for a starving family or improve the housing in Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ neighborhood?
Mary’s Nieman-Marcus extravagance was worth a year’s wages!
Translate that to today’s economy and, conservatively, we’re talking about $30,000 of perfume poured onto Jesus’ feet.
Why did Mary do such a thing?
Did His feet smell that bad?
Jesus says “it was intended that she would save this perfume for the day of my burial.”
Doesn’t Mary go a little overboard on funeral expenses?
It’s like buying the most expensive casket possible only to have it buried in the ground.
And that’s essentially what happens to this perfume.
A year’s salary could have helped a lot of needy people.
That’s Judas’ point, even if he was a thief!
And what about Mary, Martha and Lazarus?
They lived in Bethany, which when translated means, “house of the poor.”
They couldn’t exactly afford to do this!
Mary was giving Jesus everything she had…much more than she could afford!!!
But Jesus says, “Leave her alone.”
The fragrance of this perfume was absolutely permeating every nook and cranny of the house, and Jesus says something that sounds just a bit confusing.
He says, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
What does Jesus mean by that?
Is He saying that the poor can go fly a kite?
Is He giving the green light to personal jets for evangelists who preach the prosperity gospel?
This verse has probably been used to justify more than one massive church building program.
What does Jesus mean by these words?
I know of a woman who used to teach school in Camden, South Carolina.
It was a classroom for mentally-handicapped children and most of her students were very poor.
There was a girl named Natasha in her class who brought her a Christmas present one December just before winter break.
She was plump and very shy and hardly ever spoke.
After the bell rang for the bus on the last day before vacation, Natasha came up to the teacher’s desk and handed her a present.
And it was a very nice present…
…a present that cost more than her family could afford.
The teacher didn’t need the gift and was reasonably sure Natasha’s mom and dad could use the money.
But, Natasha was so proud standing there.
Her family was grateful that her teacher had taken an interest in their daughter.
They didn’t need to buy the teacher a gift.
But they were so very grateful!
What could that teacher do but hug that little girl and say, “Thanks”?
We might ask, “Well, if Jesus accepted a $30,000 foot washing, would He also drive a Lexus?
Would He ski at Aspen?
Would He stay at the Hyatt Regency?
Would He always choose Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream?”
To ask these questions is to miss the point.
The record is clear that Jesus was a friend of the poor.
The evidence is so overwhelming in the Gospels that we hardly need to mention this friendship.
If we were to go back to Chapter 11 of John we would be greeted by the same set of characters, only the situation was much different.
Lazarus, who is here “reclining at the table with” Jesus and enjoying a great meal had been dead and in a tomb for 4 days in Chapter 11.
And Mary and Martha had been beside themselves with grief and anger!
Even Jesus had wept--right before He had called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
At which Lazarus did come out, “his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.”
Is it any wonder, that Mary and Martha who had been long-time friends of Jesus, now loved Him more than ever?