Markby Robert M. Solomon
Dark clouds were gathering around Jesus. The religious leaders were seriously plotting to kill Him (vv. 1-2). He was about to be sacrificed like a Passover lamb for the sin of the whole world (John 1:29). Even His disciples failed to appreciate what is about to happen. But Jesus drew comfort from Mary of Bethany, who was always to be found at the feet of Jesus, listening attentively to Him (Luke 10:39; John 11:32). John 12:1-8 records the same event.
Jesus was having a meal when Mary brought in a jar of ″very expensive″ perfume (v. 3) and shocked everyone by breaking it and pouring all its contents on Jesus' head (John focuses on Jesus' feet). She could have poured just a drop or two, but she worshipped Jesus generously. Mary was harshly rebuked for ″wasting″ such expensive perfume, which could have been sold to help the poor instead. How financially efficient these people were! Chief among the critics was Judas Iscariot (John 12:4-5), who as treasurer and thief could have helped himself to the money from the sale (12:6).
Jesus rebuked Judas and the other critics. He told them to leave Mary alone and commended her for having done a ″beautiful thing to me″ (v. 6). She had prepared Him for burial (v. 8). Having spent time at Jesus' feet actually listening to Him, she was likely the only one in the group who really understood what was about to happen to Jesus. For her magnificent act of worship she would be remembered everywhere and for all time (v. 9).
At this point Judas turned decidedly against his Master. He took the traitorous steps of finding the chief priests and betraying Jesus. Why did he do it? Was he sore that Jesus rebuked him? Was he trying to force Jesus to accept His role as the political Messiah? Or was he just greedy? Matthew tells us that he tried bargaining with the chief priests but could only extract a meagre sum for betraying Jesus (Matthew 26:15). The chief priests were delighted that they had found a treacherous ally among Jesus' disciples (v. 11). From the moment he criticised Mary for her beautiful act of devotion, Judas was on a dangerous downward slide to perdition. The man who accused Mary of wasting money would end up wasting (John 17:12, ″lost″ comes from the same Greek word) his whole life.
Mary knew more about Jesus and what was about to happen to Him. than the Twelve. Why is it true that the Lord ″confides in those who fear him″ (Psalm 25:14; John 15:15)? Reflect on how you are spending time listening to Jesus.
Contrast the beautiful act of Mary with the treacherous act of Judas. Where did Judas go wrong? How can one avoid becoming like Judas?