Compare the trio of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, their gratitude, with that of the disciples and Judas in particular.
In Matt 26:8, you have a chorus of indignant disciples shouting, why this waste? I get it. We have to be good stewards. We can’t give away our life savings every single day in a moment of extravagant, wasteful love. But in light of Jesus’ imminent death, the timing was critical. Mary had no idea that Jesus was going to die soon. Nobody did, not even the disciples, even though Jesus had been preaching about his death extensively. Their spiritual eyes had not yet been opened to this truth regarding the resurrection. Nobody believed. Perhaps, out of their humanistic love, they were all in denial. Maybe they thought Jesus was speaking figuratively. Whatever the reason, nobody was prepared for what was about to unfold.
If Mary were second guessing herself–is it wise to pour out all the oil, am I being a good steward, could this money be used better elsewhere–if she second guessed herself, she would have missed this opportunity to prepare Jesus for his burial. Her thinking wasn’t complicated. She wanted to give thanks in the best, most extravagant way she could and she seized the moment.
Sometimes, what we do for the Lord won’t make good sense. And so we will want to hold back. Hold back our money, our time, our effort. We want to give our best to the Lord, who wouldn’t? But we pause. We say, let me pray about it. Often, these are just excuses. When God prompts you to pour yourself out and you don’t, you are sinning. Don’t hesitate when God prompts you by His Spirit to give extravagantly.
In John 12, the chorus of criticism is narrowed down to one voice. Judas is singled out.
4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray Him), said, 5 “Why wasn’t this fragrant oil sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?”
What is the motivation behind Judas saying, why this waste? Judas doesn’t quite say it that way here, but that’s the gist of what he is saying when he says, why wasn’t this fragrant oil sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor? This is poor stewardship. Look at the poor. Look at the great needs around us. Think about how many mouths we could have fed with $25k.
The gospel writer John gives us some commentary to see right through Judas’ words straight to his heart.
6 He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.
Judas was the treasurer. He had access to the money bags. You put someone in this kind of position at a church if he can be trusted. You don’t make a newcomer a treasurer. No one except Jesus knew it at the time, but in retrospect, as John writes this gospel, he notes that Judas must have been stealing money throughout Jesus’ ministry.
Who knows when it began? I doubt Judas first started following Jesus with an intention to steal money and then eventually betray him. He would have made more money had he stayed in whatever vocation he had before following this poor, itinerant Rabbi. He probably started out like the rest of the disciples with trust, loyalty, surrender, love. But somewhere along the way, where Judas wanted to go and where Jesus wanted to take him diverged like a fork in the road. Somewhere along the way, Judas became disappointed with Jesus. Judas had certain expectations of what following Jesus would be like and Jesus did not meet his expectations.
We’ve all been there. If you’ve been following Jesus for a while, then you can attest to the fact that many of us began our Christian journeys like artillery fired out of a canon. We were fired up. We’ll go anywhere. We’ll do anything. No cost was too much to pay. We were ready to give it all. Along the way, however, we hit some rough patches. Some bumps in the road. Maybe we were disappointed one too many times. You thought following Christ would be easier. You didn’t know Christian life involved so much sacrifice and self-denial and dying to self and suffering for the sake of others or because of others. So we hold back. Our hearts grow cold. Over time, we stop giving Jesus our best.
Judas responded to his sense of disappointment in Jesus by stealing money. The first time he stole money and didn’t get caught was one step closer to his eventual betrayal of Jesus. He didn’t wake up one day and decide, hey, I think I’m going to betray Jesus today. His betrayal was the result of one decision after another. Moving away from Christ one step at a time. And gradually, sin accumulated in his life over time.
Don’t underestimate the power of sin in your life. You don’t decide one day to commit a sin like adultery. A sin like that comes at the end of many years of distancing from and having contempt for your spouse. It is the culmination of years of neglect and a failure to love and to invest in the relationship. Judas fell into the pit of betrayal not in one careless misstep, but after a multitude of missteps which brought him to the edge of the pit.
Judas’ fall is a warning to us all against sin. Sin is like a prowling lion, waiting for someone to devour. It starts with a small decision. A little money stolen here, a little compromise there, a small white lie, a seemingly harmless decision to hold back trust, a decision to hate instead of love, a choice to remain apathetic for one day too many. If there was trust in Jesus or trust in the other disciples on Judas’ part, perhaps this sin could have been exposed and dealt with early on before it grew and literally devoured him.
This sin of stealing grew in darkness. No light exposed his sin. Sin molds, it festers in darkness. Sin loves to stay hidden. Sin, if it remains hidden and unconfessed, grows in its power over us.
If you are struggling today, the last thing you want to do is to isolate yourself. If you are struggling in your marriage, seek help. If you struggling with personal sin, confess it. Don’t deal with your issues on your own. The longer you isolate yourself, the more the power of sin will grow in your life. If you let sin fester in darkness, there will come a point when you will reach the point of no return. And you might end up doing something you never thought was possible. Or worse, you might end up turning your back on Christ, never to return.