May 30, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Bryan Song, Gracepoint Austin

John 12:1-8, 23-24
“Spices and ointments were quite costly because they had to be imported. Frequently they were used as an investment because they occupied a small space, were portable, and were easily negotiable in the open market. Mary’s offering was valued at three hundred denarii (v. 5) approximately a year’s wages for an ordinary workingman. Perhaps it represented her life savings. […] Wiping his feet with her hair was a gesture of utmost devotion and reverence. The penetrative fragrance of the ointment that filled the house told all present of her sacrificial gift.”[1]
What is the only thing that can explain Mary’s outpouring of this expensive perfume?  Why is this appropriate in light of what Jesus was about to do (vv. 23-24)? Mary’s outpouring of this expensive perfume can be explained and justified only through the context of love.  From a practical point of view, what she did was utterly wasteful and unwise.
She spent such an expensive commodity in one act, an act that would not even provide her any tangible return. And yet this act was beautiful because it was an expression of her love for Jesus.  This  kind of outpouring is what typically embodies loving acts.  When someone loves another, he does not calculate in such exacting measures regarding how much he wants to give. He naturally  wants to give all of himself and his resources out for the other.  Mary knew that Jesus would soon die, and as a result she wanted to express her love for Jesus in this extravagant way. The fact  that she seized this opportunity to love Jesus in this way is all the more appropriate.  She did not hesitate, or let the chance to express her love for Jesus pass by.
What is the fundamental difference between Mary and Judas as revealed by his objection to what she did?
The fundamental difference between Mary and Judas was that she genuinely loved Jesus while Judas did not.  Mary’s love resulted in this seemingly wasteful outpouring of expensive perfume.  To Mary, it was hardly a waste, however.  She ceased the opportunity to express her love for Jesus, knowing that such opportunities were now limited.  Judas on the other hand had a different kind of relationship with Jesus, one devoid of love. Rather than look to serve Jesus, Judas sought ways in which his relationship with Jesus could serve his own desires.  Mary’s love and Judas’ lack of love for Jesus are profoundly contrasted in Mary’s selflessness and Judas’ selfishness.  Mary viewed Jesus as completely worthy of her very best, her most precious.  She did not measure out how much she would devote to Jesus by any means.  Her heart was completely given to Him.  In contrast, Judas did not think Jesus was worthy of that perfume.  He was very calculating, practical, and ultimately stingy towards Jesus. And we know that Judas’ objection was ultimately grounded in selfish motives to gain profit from this woman’s perfume.
With whom can I identify more? When I think about the aspects of Mary and Judas, I see Judas like symptoms in my life.  They are in me because they have been there for many years, starting from an early age.  Looking out for my own advancement and preservation has been such an engrained part of my upbringing and life philosophy.  Through Christ, however, this Judas way has been transforming over time.  By God’s grace, He has shown me through painful and shameful ways, the Judas like ways of my heart.  He has shown me the ways in which I have been calculative in my giving towards him.  Through stinginess towards others, I have seen my stinginess towards God.  Through selfishness with my time, I have come to realize the clutch I have on my own schedule and plans.  Mary’s outpouring of  her very best resonates deeply within me, because I know this is the life that God calls me to.  And the times that I have poured out my all for Jesus, I have experienced a fullness and joy in my heart that the life of self-preservation and selfishness never provided.
What can I learn about the progression of sin from Judas who “helped himself” to the communal money and “was later to betray” Jesus? Sin is volatile and grows in man’s heart when it is not confronted.  This is evident in Judas.  His deceiving, selfish acts of helping himself to the communal money began a pattern of deception and selfishness that would grow more and more, to the point that he could not help himself. Sin took ahold of him, and led him to commit the most significant betrayal of all, a kiss that would stamp Jesus death sentence.  Judas didn’t begin this way. When he first became Jesus’ disciple, he didn’t think that he would do such a thing.  Yet his sinful heart led him down an uncontrollable path of deceit and selfishness. And as this sin grew in his heart, his love for money grew, while his love for Jesus wained. Ultimately, he sold out on Jesus for a mere 30 silver coins.  Once he realized that Jesus would truly die, Jesus became personally worthless to him. No longer would Jesus provide him with the money, power, and position that he had wanted all along.  And so it’s fitting to see Judas helping himself at Jesus’ expense, betraying him for his own gain.
This is a sober warning for me regarding the power of money.  What I see in Judas is an obsession with money that ultimately made him a heartless, godless man.  His heart became cold, selfish, and stingy towards all others except himself.  And he became devoid of love, to the point that he could not recognize it nor express it.  I can be busy associated with Jesus and doing many things for him, but if I allow my heart to be drawn to money, then I will find myself going down the Judas path.  I’m reminded that I need to live a life free of the power of money.  And as I have learned over time, there is no better way to be free of its ensnaring power than to give it away again and again, to pour it out for Jesus and to those whom He calls me to love.
How might things have changed for Judas if he had been honest about what was going on in his heart at this point? Had Judas been honest with what was going on in his heart, he would have an opportunity to be saved from his destructive self.  Had he come to Jesus and confessed these sins, he could’ve experienced forgiveness, mercy, and grace.  There would’ve been hope for him to be saved. But he did not come out into the light and allow Jesus or others to know him truly.  He maintained a facade and just played along as though everything were okay.  And so, nobody could relate to Judas, and help him.
It is so important to not only know what is going on in my heart, but to confess my sins before God. Ultimately, my own efforts to change my selfish, sinful ways, are futile because sin has a power over me that causes me to do what i do not want to do.  No amount of discipline or resolve can turn this selfish heart into a loving one.  For that, I need the power of the cross, through which I experience the power of forgiveness and grace.  1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  So my hope to be saved again and again begins with confessing my sins to God.  And only then can He forgive me and purify me from all unrighteousness.

Submitted by Becky Fong, Gracepoint Berkeley

What is the only thing that can explain Mary’s outpouring of this expensive perfume?  Why is this appropriate in light of what Jesus was about to do (vv. 23-24)?

The only thing that can explain Mary’s outpouring of this expensive perfume is her love for Jesus.  This perfume was probably all she had of value, something that meant so much to her, that she had saved up her entire life.  That she poured it out on Jesus’ feet showed her complete devotion and love for Jesus as the most important person in her life, worth pouring out her life savings onto so freely.  This act was appropriate in light of what Jesus was about to do, give His life up for the sake of all mankind, including Mary.        He was about to suffer and die on the cross, be betrayed by even his closest disciples, undergo excruciating agony.  This act was appropriate by Mary because it was all she could do to express her love and devotion to Jesus, and reflected the same kind of wild abandon with which He was pouring out His own life in love on the cross.

What is the fundamental difference between Mary and Judas as revealed by his objection to what she did?

The fundamental difference between Mary and Judas as revealed by his objection to what she did is her love for Jesus.  Judas objected to her outpouring under the guise of practicality, that the perfume could have been used to provide for the poor.  Even if he had been speaking with genuine concern for the poor in mind, Judas would have missed that Mary’s act was one of love and devotion to Jesus, which does not calculate what is technically the “best yield” for her possessions/resources.

With whom can I identify more?

Because I have been raised and taught and shown by example in a community of believers who earnestly love, I can identify more with Mary.  Judas’ calculating mentality reflects the world’s attitude that we should maximize our resources for the “highest yield”, the most we can get for what we have.  I felt like this before, that I should take the little resources I have and leverage them to get the most I can, because I felt like I had very little and the world was big and scary and I had to fend for myself.  I thought this way with school and career, that knowing I am not so smart or skilled I should just take whatever I can get and run with it, whether grad school or job, and try to position myself to get more—the better job and promotion opportunities, bigger name, etc. But I had examples of people ahead of me who gave up better schools, took on less demanding jobs or quit their jobs entirely to be more available to love and minister to people like me, with the heart of Mary who just gave what she had in love for Jesus, poured it out.  So I learned to let go of this kind of scarcity mentality and see the bigger picture, what is really more important, serving God and loving people, or having nice things/money in the bank.

But I can also identify more with Judas sometimes in how I think about my time and the running list of things to get done.  When I am too focused on getting things done, or just one thing, I can plough through my day and not see others, minimize them, not be fully there with them.  This is a Judas’ like mentality of being so calculating with my time and resources, covering over a small, greedy, self-centered heart that is refusing to love like Mary did, with full attention and devotion.

What can I learn about the progression of sin from Judas who “helped himself” to the communal money and “was later to betray” Jesus?

From Judas who helped himself to the communal money and was later to betray Jesus, I can learn that the progression of sin is subtle but has a momentum of its own.  Judas started out “slipping” here and there in compromising his integrity by stealing a little from the communal purse, hiding from Jesus and his fellow disciples so that there was this growing distance and deceit between Judas and Jesus and Judas and the others.  He probably did not think he could progress to the point he did, where he betrayed Jesus for thirty silver coins, but his example reveals that sin progresses powerfully and can be easily underestimated.

How might things have changed for Judas if he had been honest about what was going on in his heart at this point?

Things might have changed for Judas drastically if he had only been honest about what was going on in his heart at this point.  If only he had spoken up to Jesus or even to his fellow disciples, voicing his complaint about Mary’s act, then Jesus could have taught him, pointed out to him what really mattered, corrected his twisted and calculating thinking.  Jesus could have taught Judas what Jesus was really about, helped him to understand what he didn’t already, correct his wrong expectations of Jesus.  Judas could have had a teachable moment, another chance to turn away from his greed and turn to Jesus before he betrayed Him completely.  He could have turned back to Jesus before it was too late and he did what he later regretted so much that he took his own life.

This is so true to life, my own experience.  There are times when I kept silent about my sins or even just misunderstanding and grew in bitterness and distance from God.  But then there are times when I had the courage to speak up, or someone prompted me/guessed something was wrong/up, and when I finally spoke truth, it was such a relief and chance to not just be corrected, but to ask questions and understand better, be taught and learn and form/strengthen my own convictions.  So much can change when I am just honest about what is going on in my heart, to God and to God’s people, because it gives a chance for truth to be spoken/clarified, but when I am dishonest in my silence, there is not even a chance for me to receive truth.



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