John 12:1
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
Sermons
Love's Prodigality Censured and VindicatedAlexander MaclarenJohn 12:1
The Saviour Lifted Up, and the Look of FaithCharles G. Finney John 12:1
A Good Work Wrought in SeasonGeorge Brown John 12:1-8
A Motive for Care of the Poor and DepravedW. Arnot, D. D.John 12:1-16
Alabaster Box and Money BoxP. Schaff, D. D.John 12:1-16
Bethany and its FeastH. Bonar, D. D.John 12:1-16
Christ Absent and PresentJ. Ker, D. D.John 12:1-16
Christ and UtilitarianismJ. R. S. Harrington.John 12:1-16
Jesus HonouredMonday Club SermonsJohn 12:1-16
Judas and the BagF. H. Dunwell, B. A.John 12:1-16
Judas and the DisciplesF. Godet, D. D.John 12:1-16
Mary and JudasBp. Westcott.John 12:1-16
Mary's Offering: Criticised and VindicatedD. Davies.John 12:1-16
Mary's Passionate Love AcceptedG. Dawson, M. A.John 12:1-16
Motive for Great GiftsM. Henry.John 12:1-16
Power of PerfumesH. O. Mackey.John 12:1-16
Prodigality PraiseworthyH. O. Trumbull, D. D.John 12:1-16
The Arrival of the Passover CaravanHepworth Dixon.John 12:1-16
The Church and the PoorArchdeacon Farrar.John 12:1-16
The Claims of PovertyClerical WorldJohn 12:1-16
The Fragrance of True PietyH. W. Beecher.John 12:1-16
The Lasting Perfume of Pious DeedsJohn 12:1-16
The Philosophy of BeneficenceJohn 12:1-16
The Poor Represent ChristJ. Krummacher.John 12:1-16
The Recognition of a Noble ActJ. Duthie.John 12:1-16
The Self-Sacrificing Woman and the Covetous ApostleJ. P. Lange, D. D.John 12:1-16
The Supper At BethanyBp. Ryle.John 12:1-16
The True ChurchD. Thomas, D. D.John 12:1-16
Utility not the Highest TestSir J. Herschell.John 12:1-16
When Jesus lay, a helpless Infant, in the manger at Bethlehem, there came strangers from the East and poured rich offerings at his feet - gold and frankincense and myrrh; and now that he was about to leave the world, an unexpected act of homage was done to him, not indeed by a stranger, but by a gentle and unobtrusive disciple. The occasion was this. Our Lord, weary with his journey from the country beyond Jordan, his last long earthly journey, was resting the last sabbath of his earthly life at his favorite Bethany. There they made him a supper, and the disciples were present, and Martha was in waiting, and Lazarus, as might be expected, was a noted guest. It was then that Mary took her pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly - we may well suppose the most precious thing which she possessed - and poured it on Jesus' feet as he reclined at the banquet, and wiped his feet with her hair. The evangelist takes care to note that "the house was filled with the odor of the ointment," and it has been beautifully said that" the Church, which is the house of God, still smells the fragrance, of that woman's spikenard;" for how wonderfully have the words of Jesus, which we may borrow from another Gospel, been fulfilled, "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be told for a memorial of her"! And how does the consciousness of his own Divine authority burst forth in these words of Jesus! Who else was ever certain that by a simple word he could make an action memorable till the end of time? Consider -

I. THE MOTIVES OF MARY'S ACT OF HOMAGE. One of them at least lies on the surface. Jesus had not been in Bethany since he raised Lazarus from the dead; and when Mary saw her brother sitting at the same table with him who turned her mourning into joy, could any gift be too great or precious to express her gratitude?

"Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits:
But he was dead, and there he sits;
And he that brought him back is there." This was enough; but there was a deeper obligation still. It was not in vain that Mary herself had sat at Jesus' feet and heard his Word. She knew that he was the Christ, the Savior of the world. He had come to deliver her and all believers from a deeper darkness than that of the tomb, and a death more terrible than the death of the body. Gentle and amiable as she was, she could not receive the gift of eternal life without "dying unto sin;" and who can doubt that it was with a contrite and forgiven heart that she poured her precious ointment on the feet of Jesus? This gave the alabaster box its highest value. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit." But once more. Had Mary the impression that so fitting an opportunity of testifying her gratitude to the Redeemer might never occur again? She was not called, like his disciples, to follow him from place to place as he went about preaching the kingdom, and the visits of Jesus to Bethany were necessarily few in number. She could not, indeed, have foreseen all that was coming so soon - the conspiracy, the betrayal, the cross of agony and shame. She could not have known that on the very next sabbath her beloved Master would be lying cold and still in Joseph's sepulcher. But, on the other hand, Jesus had spoken again and again to his disciples of his approaching death and departure to the Father. They indeed were incredulous; but some report of his words would reach Mary's ears. An undefined presentiment that her Master was not to be long upon earth may well have arisen in her mind, and all the more eagerly would she seize the present opportunity of doing him honor. Hence "she did what she could."

II. THE GENERAL MURMUR. While the house was filled with the odor of the ointment, a murmur of dissatisfaction arose. It came first from the lips of the traitor. "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred pence [about £10], and given to the poor? and this he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief," etc. This picture of the son of perdition is almost too painful to dwell upon. His blindness to the moral loveliness of Mary's action. His vexation at losing an imagined chance of plunder. His avarice, his jealousy; and, worst of all, his mask so readily assumed of zeal for the cause of the poor! So ripe was he for Satan's last temptation, that the next thing we read of him is his stealing away to the priests at Jerusalem to bargain with them about his Master's blood, and sell his own soul. "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." But while Judas stood alone in his covetousness and hypocrisy, we learn from the Gospel of Matthew that others joined him in his censure of Mary of Bethany. The disciples said, "To what purpose is this waste?" Their common thought was, "This sacrifice is too great, too costly for the occasion. The spikenard is of great price. Surely it would have been better to bestow its value on the poor. To spend it on an evanescent fragrance is extravagance and waste." Here pause for a moment. Are we certain that, had we ourselves been present, we might not have joined in the rising murmur? At all events, how often has the spirit of the censure broken out afresh? It is not so long ago since the Churches of our own country awoke to the duty of preaching Christ to the heathen world. But missions are costly things, and often they produce but little visible fruit for many days. They seem to spend their fragrance on the desert air. And how long and loud was this complaint! - "'To what purpose is this waste?' Might not the money and labor of Christian people be better bestowed? Are there not poor at home to be fed and clothed? and are there not home-heathen to be taught? Let such duties as these be exhausted before thinking of 'the regions beyond.'" No! Utility is one standard of action; but both in the service of God and man it is far from being the only standard.

III. THE VERDICT OF JESUS. "Let her alone: against the day of my burial hath she kept this." Instead of directly rebuking the disciple, he contents himself with vindicating her whom they were wounding with their words. But there is more in his words than meets the ear. "Let her alone," he seems to say to Judas," for there is nothing in common between her and you, between a child of light and a child of darkness. And let her alone, ye unthinking disciples. Allow her gratitude to flow unchecked in the channel which it has worn for itself. Why trouble ye the woman at such a moment as this? She hath done what she could, and she hath done more than any of you are aware of, for my hour is near at hand. If ye saw her do this on the day of my burial, would ye say to her then, To what purpose is this waste? Would ye think then of balancing the claims of common charity against the claims of unbounded gratitude? But since she has come beforehand with her offering, it is all the more precious in my sight. She alone has grasped the thought that my earthly ministry is drawing to a close. The poor ye have always with you; she alone has laid it to heart that me ye have not always." Thus Judas was silenced, and the disciples were overawed, and Mary was comforted, and the poor were not forgotten. What lessons are taught by this episode in the gospel history? In its outward form and substance the act of Mary can never be repeated. It stands alone. A few days came and went, and never again was Jesus to be indebted to the sons of men for a place where to lay his head; never again were his feet to be wearied with the hot and dusty paths of this world. Henceforth those who knew Christ in his humiliation were to know him so no more; and we need not say that to idolize his empty sepulcher, or to pray towards it as some do, or, saddest of all, to waste the blood of Christian nations in fighting for its possession, is at best to seek the living among the dead. "Hearts on high!" was the watchword of the ancient Church. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."

1. But ask yourselves - Have you anything of Mary's spirit in your hearts - the spirit of love and gratitude to the Redeemer? Where that spirit exists it will tend to diffuse itself over the ordinary duties and charities of life, so that what you do you will "do heartily as to the Lord, and not unto man." But more than this. It is of the nature of love to be ingenious and original in its ways of expressing itself, and opportunities will sometimes occur of honoring Christ in ways which no one could prescribe to you - it may be in supporting his cause, it may be-in showing kindness to his people; and these you will think it a privilege to embrace simply for his sake. Nothing was further from Mary's thoughts than the fame which followed her action; any such calculation of consequences would have spoiled the sacrifice. And so it will ever be with the good works that spring from love to Christ. The impulse which inspires them comes from within, and not from the world without. Hence they will evermore be spontaneous and free, and yet all the more, in the apostle's language, they will be as "the odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God."

2. When you witness any act of self-sacrifice in a great or good cause, beware of the spirit of jealousy and detraction. Let a work be ever so good, it is always possible to find fault with it on one ground or another - to call generosity extravagance, and zeal ostentation. Ah! there is a kind of criticism which sees some mote in the most honest eye, some vein of selfishness in the kindest heart, which is quick to detect unworthy motives, and "vaunteth itself" in its own acuteness in so doing. Verily this wisdom cometh not from above, and yet how strangely congenial it is to our fallen nature! It was in a moment of hallowed enthusiasm that Mary poured her spikenard on Jesus' feet; but even Jesus' disciples murmured till the Master stamped the offering with the broad seal of his approbation, and called it "a good work"!

3. We do no dishonor to the affecting words, "Me ye have not always," if we allow them to suggest to us the homely counsel, "Be kind to your friends while you have them." Are there not some who have nearer, dearer claims on you than all others? It may be an aged parent, a brother or a sister, or one closer to you still. Providence marks out that person for your special sympathy, for a tenderness to which the rest of the world has no claim. Do what you can for that friend. The tie may any day be broken, and only the memory of it remain. See that no negligence or impatience on your part may yet tinge that memory with self-reproach. "The poor ye have always with you," but no kindness to the outside world will atone for the neglect of personal claims. There are those who will not be with you always. Christ seems to say to you, "Remember them." - G.B.







Then Jesus six days before the Passover.
Coming into Bethany, the nearest point of the great road to Galilaeans' Hill, the caravan broke up; the company dispersed to the south and north, some seeking for houses in which they could lodge, others fixing on the ground where they meant to encamp. Those marched round Olivet to the south, following the great road, crossing the Cedron by a bridge, and entering the Holy City by the Sheep Gate, near Antonio; these mounted by the short path to the top of Olivet, glancing at the flowers and herbage, and plucking twigs and branches as they climbed. Some families, having brought their tents with them from Galilee, could at once proceed to stake the ground; but the multitude were content with the booths called Succoth, built in the same rude style as those in which their father Israel had dwelt. Four stakes being cut and driven in the soil, long reeds were drawn, one by one, round and through them. These reeds, being in turn crossed and closed with leaves, made a small green bower, open on one side only, yielding the women a rude sort of privacy, and covering the young ones with a frail defence from both noontide heat and midnight dew. The people had much to do, and very little time in which it could be done. At sundown, when the shofa sounded, Sabbath would begin; then every hand must cease its labour, even though the tent were unpitched, the booth unbuilt, the children exposed, the skies darkening into storm. Consequently the poles must be cut, the leaves and branches gathered, the tents fixed, the water fetched from the wells, the bread baked, the cattle penned, the beds unpacked and spread, the supper of herbs and olives cooked before the sofa sounded from the Temple wall. But everyone helped. While the men drove stakes into the ground and propped them with stones, the women wove them together with twigs and leaves, the girls ran off to the springs for water, the lads put up the camels and led out the sheep to graze. In two or three hours a new city had sprung up on the Galilaeans' Hill — a city of booths and tents — more noisy, perhaps more populous, than even the turbulent city within the walls. This Galilaeans' Hill made only one field in a great landscape of booths and tents. All Jewry had sent up her children to the feast, and each province arrayed its members on a particular site. The men of Sharon swarmed over Mount Gideon, the men of Hebron occupied the Plain of Rephaim. From Pilate's roof on Mount Zion the lines and groups of this vast encampment could be followed by an observer's eye down the valley of Gihon, peeping from among the fruit trees about Siloam, dotting the long plain of Rephaim, trespassing even on the Mount of Offence, and darkening the grand masses of hill from Olivet towards Mizpeh. All Jewry appeared to be encamped about the Temple Mount. From sundown all was quiet on the hillsides and on the valley, only the priests and doctors, the Temple guards, the money changers, the pigeon dealers, the bakers of shewbread, the altar servants being astir and at their work. There was no Sabbath in sacred things. But everywhere, save in the Temple Courts, traffic was stayed, movement arrested, life itself all but extinct.

(Hepworth Dixon.)

There they made Him a supper.
Monday Club Sermons.
I. BY IMPROMPTU ACTS. One of the plainest proofs of the inspiration of the Bible is its selection of facts for the world's instruction. Its standard of utility is not ours. Acts to us unimportant are given a prominence that arouses our curiosity and lead to profitable study. Thus the single act in Jacob's life, which is used as a proof of his faith in Hebrews 11, is his blessing the sons of Joseph on his dying bed. We should have selected the scene at Bethel. Nothing gives such a solemnity to the last judgment as the picture of the separation of good and bad. On what ground? Not on that of an intelligent and determined rejection of Christ's claims or of pronounced and heroic service, but upon what we should call the waste and forgotten materials of life — things done so naturally and thoughtlessly that both cry out, "When saw we Thee," etc. And so, according to the common standard, these two acts here of unpremeditated honour are given undue importance. The anointing was done in a few moments, yet Jesus selected that one act as a service never to be forgotten. The scene on the day following had no great utility. A modern reporter would have called it a simple outburst of popular enthusiasm. But Jesus needed these songs of welcome and prized them.

II. BY UNCALCULATED LOVE. Paul declares that without love we and our works are unprofitable, and John makes it the sum of all virtues. We live in times of great religious activity. The poor in body are with us — the poor souls of heathens are yonder. We do a good deal for both, and we do well. Yet because Christian work is so highly organized and reportable we need the lesson of Mary's uncalculating love. We may be inside the great circle of Christian beneficence, and yet lack Mary's "good part." The institutions of Christianity open avenues to pride and ostentation never known before. The machinery of benevolence may exhaust the soul until all its sweetness and grace are wasted. We may shine in use and yet lack the ineffable charm and grace of a life hid with Christ in God.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

The house in which we find ourselves is that of Simon the leper (Matthew 26; Mark 14:1). The feast is a great one; but Christ is the centre, and gives to it and the guests all their significance. Let us consider the latter in their relation to Christ.

I. SIMON ENTERTAINING. He had known Christ before, probably first through his leprosy. Our first interview with Christ is respecting our moral leprosy. But Simon finds that he has much more to do with Jesus than merely for His cure: therefore he must have Him under his roof. So our acquaintanceship must be a companionship, and Christ must sit at our table. This is the sinner's side of the gospel. Here it is, not Christ receiving the sinner, but the sinner Christ. We must not overlook either side.

II. LAZARUS FEASTING. What a feast, what a company! Simon healed, Lazarus raised, dipping into the same dish, drinking of the same cup with Christ the Healer and Raiser. How Lazarus first became acquainted with Christ we know not; but it was his death that had brought about the special closeness of contact — type now of risen saints who are to take their places at the marriage supper of the Lamb. What has Lazarus now but to gaze and listen? This is our true posture who have died and risen with Christ — listening, not bustling and talking. There is a time for both.

III. MARTHA SERVING. Her usual employment, lowly but not least blessed; like His who came to serve. Angels might covet service to Christ in any form, were it for nothing else than near contact with Him. "Inasmuch as ye have done it," etc.

IV. MARY ANOINTING — not entertaining, feasting, serving, but doing what some would consider a useless thing. Yet her act gets most notice. Christ says nothing to Simon, etc. It is no labour, suffering, etc., that gets the fullest commendation but love.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

Note —

I. THE ABOUNDING PROOFS OF OUR LORD'S GREATEST MIRACLES. Here was Lazarus. No one could pretend that his resurrection was an optical illusion. The same proofs attend the mightier miracle of Christ's resurrection (Luke 24:42). We do well to remember this in this sceptical age.

II. THE UNKINDNESS AND DISCOURAGEMENTS CHRIST'S FRIENDS RECEIVE. Mary thought nothing too great and good to expend on such a Saviour. Greatly loved, she thought she could not show to much love in return. But she was blamed by those who had lesser views than hers of the dignity of Christ's person and of their own obligations to Him. There are only too many of the same spirit, who begrudge nothing to push trade or advance science, but count it waste to spend money on Christ's cause. We must not allow ourselves to be moved from well doing by such. It is vain to expect men to do much for Christ who have no sense of debt to Him. We must pity them, but work on. He who pleaded the cause of Mary will not forget the "cup of cold water."

III. THE DESPERATE HARDNESS AND UNBELIEF OF THE HUMAN HEART.

1. Unbelief in the chief priests (vers. 10, 11), who would rather commit a murder than confess themselves in the wrong.

2. Hardness in Judas, who after this could betray Christ (1 Corinthians 10:12).

(Bp. Ryle.)

I. ITS INTERNAL ASPECT.

1. Christ as the central figure, "They made Him a supper." Lazarus was conspicuous, but Christ was the centre of attraction. In the true Church Christ is in the "midst," and in all things has the preeminence.

2. A variety of guests. Lazarus silent, Martha busy, Mary tender, Simon healed and grateful. The true Church embraces all shades of character.

3. The presence of an incongruous character. Judas partaking of the feast, but unsympathetic. He shows three base things —(1) A false estimate of property. Money is not wasted on Christ, but on houses, apparel, fare, etc.(2) A hypocritical philanthropy — Judas cared little for the poor, as his history shows.(3) A heartless intrusion. No man has a right to "trouble" another on account of his religious services. Iscariotism is very prevalent.

4. The display of genuine devotion. Mary's act was —

(1)Generous — the ointment was costly.

(2)Spontaneous. It was unsought.

(3)Open. It was done in the presence of all.

(4)Right —

(a)In principle. She wrought a good work —

(b)In extent. She did what she could.

(c)In reason — against the day of Christ's burying.

II. ITS EXTERNAL INFLUENCE.

1. Some were attracted by curiosity (ver. 9). The wonderful fact on which the Church's theology is founded, as well as the moral revolutions it is constantly effecting, have a natural tendency to rouse inquisitiveness. Hence the questions, criticisms, and discussions in society, public halls and literature.

2. Some men attracted by malice (ver. 10). The determination of the priests was —

(1)Wicked.

(2)Foolish. Truth cannot be struck down by physical force. The true Church has always been the object of malice,

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

In the practical working of good agencies, there must almost always be a certain prodigality. The light which illuminates this speck of a world is but a single beam in comparison with that immense body of light which passes off, to be lost, apparently, in endless space. Nature produces a hundred seeds for everyone which comes to maturity; and at every sculptor's feet there is an unheeded pile of marble chips which have been sacrificed to the fulfilment of the artist's design. If this is waste, then what the world wants is waste — waste of precious seed in sowing it, late and early, by the wayside, in thorny places, beside all waters. And what many a Sunday School wants is more waste like this — waste of money and time and effort over an apparently hopeless enterprise, waste of thought and speech and prayer in behalf of those for whom these seem to be spent in vain.

(H. O. Trumbull, D. D.)

When I was in Paris, I used to rise early and sit at my open window. I always knew when the stores beneath me were open; for one was a flower store, and from its numberless roses, and heaps of mignonette, arose such sweet, sweet fragrance, that it proclaimed what was done. It seems to me that Christians should be as a flower store, and that the odour of sanctity should betray them wherever they are. Not that they should go about obtruding themselves and their actions on others, with the cant of usefulness, but that they should live the purity and joy of religion, so that men might see the desirableness of it, both for the sake of nobleness, and for the enjoyment both of this world and that which is to come.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Lieutenant Conder, in his "Tent Work in Palestine," mentions that the perfume of the orange groves is detected many miles from Jaffa.

(H. O. Mackey.)

It has been shown that the odoriferous molecule of musk is infinitesimally small. No power has yet been conceived to enable the human eye to see one of the atoms of musk, yet the organs of smell have the sensitiveness to detect them. Their smallness cannot even be imagined, and the same grain of musk undergoes absolutely no diminution in weight. A single drop of the oil of thyme, ground down with a piece of sugar and a little alcohol, will communicate its odour to twenty-five gallons of water. Haller kept for forty years papers perfumed with one grain of ambergris. After this time the odour was as strong as ever. And so the perfume of this generous gift to Christ will last throughout all time, and be carried over the whole world.

He who selfishly hoards his joys, thinking thus to increase them, is like a man who looks at his granary, and says, "Not only will I protect my grain from mice and birds, but neither the ground nor the mill shall have it." And so, in the spring, he walks around his little pit of corn, and exclaims, "How wasteful are my neighbours, throwing away whole handfuls of grain!" But autumn comes; and, while he has only his few poor bushels, their fields are yellow with an abundant harvest. "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth."

A poor Protestant congregation in Lyons was trying to build a small house for their public worship. An old soldier brought all his three months' earnings. "Can you spare so much?" asked the minister. "My Saviour spared not Himself," he answered, "but freely gave His life for me; surely I can spare one quarter of a year's earnings to extend His kingdom on earth." Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot. — Here is —

I. A FOUL INIQUITY gilded over with a specious pretence.

II. WORLDLY WISDOM passing censure on PIOUS ZEAL.

III. Charity to the poor made a colour for opposing an act of piety to Christ.

(M. Henry.)

I. THE BETRAYER'S CRITICISM OF MARY'S OFFERING. An eminent statesman once said that critics were men who had failed. What a lurid light this definition casts over the conduct of Judas at this hour! Moreover, criticism is too often the outcome of an utter incapacity to appreciate, arising from inferiority on the part of the critic. Judas, too, was not only too prosaic, but was also too official to be touched by the beauty of this deed. It is a hard thing for any man to be the treasurer of one society and maintain the breadth of his humanity. Judas felt that his "bag" had greater claims than his Saviour. Then, again, as a thief he could not understand that there are some offerings which cannot be sold, but which lose all their sacredness the moment you put them under the auctioneer's hammer; that in this instance the alabaster box must be broken in the giving, and that there are offerings the value of which the giver never counts.

II. OUR LORD'S VINDICATION OF MARY AND HER OFFERING.

1. He bade Judas and the other disciples whom he had induced to repeat his cry (Matthew 26:8; Mark 14:4) to "let her alone."

2. He not only vindicated the deed, but also explained its meaning. What a gracious construction He puts upon our poor services when they are prompted by love! That little child of yours wants to give you a present on your birthday. She buys it a week or so before the day. You notice some mysterious movements and looks, and there are little whispers heard all over the house. She confides in her little brother; and he, too, looks very wise and then very excited. At last the pressure is too great, the safety valve of speech gives way, and out comes the secret; then there is a rush out of the room and back again, and then the disclosure of a present which all the cupboards in the house could not conceal a moment longer. The present is thrust on your lap, and young eyes shoot light and love into yours. It has come before the proper date. but it is all the better for that. Mary, on this occasion, was like that little child, she could keep her alabaster box of ointment no longer; and what had been intended for the dead body was now poured, in the prodigality and impatience of an overflowing love, over His living form. Jesus knew all, and rejoiced over a love which had ante-dated its purpose, and given to the living Lord what had been kept for His burial.

3. Having done this, He emphasized the urgency for such an act as compared with the duty to the poor, who would remain when He had vanished from their sight and this act would be no longer possible. What they desired to do to Him, whether it were Mary to anoint, or Judas to betray, must be done quickly.

(D. Davies.)

The self-seeking heart in the Church makes balsam into poison. It turns —

I. A JOYOUS FEAST INTO AN HOUR OF TEMPTATION.

II. THE PUREST LOVE OFFERING INTO AN OFFENCE.

III. THE SACRED JUSTIFICATION OF FIDELITY INTO A MOTIVE FOR EXASPERATION.

IV. THE MOST GRACIOUS WARNINGS AGAINST DESTRUCTION INTO A DOOM OF DEATH.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

The parts of Mary and Judas in respect to the death of Christ are brought into sharp contrast. Mary in her devotion unconsciously provides for the honour of the dead. Judas in his selfishness unconsciously brings about the death itself.

(Bp. Westcott.)

Mark the striking contrast between the money box of Judas and the alabaster box of Mary, his thirty pieces of silver and her three hundred denaries, his love of money and her liberality, his hypocritical profession of concern for the poor, and her noble deed for the Lord, his wretched end and her noble deed for the Lord.

(P. Schaff, D. D.)

In the synoptists it is "His disciples" (Matthew). "Some" (Mark), who remonstrate. It seems that on this as on many other occasions, Judas played among his fellow disciples the part of the leaven which raises the flour.

(F. Godet, D. D.)

Because he was a thief and had the bag
Why Jesus should have allowed Judas to carry the bag, when He knew that he could not resist the temptation to which it exposed him, is one of those mysteries which we shall only be able to answer when we understand why God allows any man to be exposed to temptation which He knows he will not be able to resist. It may be that Judas was first selected for this purpose, because he showed an aptitude for making such arrangements as were required for supplying the daily wants of the disciples, and for relieving the poor, and that the opportunity — the possession of the bag — had developed in him the hitherto latent feeling of avarice. His sin consisted in appropriating to his own individual use some of the money which was given to him for the general good of Jesus and the disciples and the poor. That Judas was not an unblushing peculator, that he did not practise his thefts openly, but with the utmost secrecy, and with every outward appearance of upright dealing, is plain from the fact that the disciples do not seem to have suspected his motives on this occasion. They join with Judas in representing, that the value of the ointment might have been better spent in distributing to the poor, because they had not the slightest suspicion of his honesty. The fearful lesson, which the conduct of Judas teaches us, is the intimate relation which, in the nature of things, exists between appropriating to oneself the goods given to us in charge for Christ and His poor, and the betrayal of Christ Himself, between avarice and treason to Christ. The latter of these is the necessary consequence of the former, not the accidental but the moral consequence, not in Judas only, but in every man. Betrayal of Christ, in some form or other, follows the love of money as regularly and as certainly as night follows day.

(F. H. Dunwell, B. A.)

It is easy enough to give an ill name to that which lies beyond the range of our sense or our sympathies. Thus the refinement and culture which give a tone of ease and elegance to higher social circles are regarded by many with contempt. The rare and costly products of skilled labour, which our modern civilization demands, are despised as trivial luxuries. Education in whatever cannot be turned to account in a merchant's office, or in passing an examination, is deemed superfluous, however much it may enlarge and ennoble the scholar's mind. Even the moral delicacy of pure and sensitive natures is scorned as squeamishness. Men steeped in one class of religious ideas seem incapable of doing justice to those who hold other opinions. Mystical devotion sees profanity in thoughtful inquiry. The aesthetic ceremonial of a stately service is but mummery to those whose worship is of a simpler form. Of the purest, noblest, and most generous actions, which are veiled by their own grace, there is little comprehension by the world that toils and struggles all around for its daily bread. Its value in the market gave to the spikenard its only worth in the eyes of Judas. The manufacturer and retailer of it could be justified, for they made it only a means of gain; but not Mary, who poured it out like water in the mere gratification of sentiment. Yet surely if the dignity of human existence is recognized we may plead for a generous while just expenditure upon all that can sweeten and lend grace to life. Painting, sculpture, literature, architecture, have a rightful claim to be fostered. Foreign travel, social hospitality, instead of being forms of selfish indulgence, should enter into the education of whatever is best within us. Still more may we contend that the gifts of friendship, and the consecrated offerings of devotion, but fittingly express the reaching forth of the spirit after fuller and higher being. To value only what can be "sold" is to appreciate least what in nature and man is most glorious, and most capable of affording exquisite and perfect satisfaction. The gold and purple of the sunset, the flushing tenderness of the dawn, the rippling songs of birds, the full-voiced chorus of breaking billows, the pure air fresh with the fragrant breath of wild flowers, the rain pouring its living draught into every arid blade and leaf, are God's free gifts to men. The innocent joy of childhood, the generous enthusiasm of youth, the strength of wisdom, the serenity of a holy trust in God — in what earthly market can these blessed things of the Spirit be bought or sold? With what coin can you purchase the tenderness of sympathy, the confidence of friendship, the devotion of love. The things that cannot be bartered, the price of which no merchant quotes, the value of which no figures can express, which no thief can steal, and no moth and rust corrupt, alone form the wealth of the soul.

(J. R. S. Harrington.)

The question cui bono, to what practical end and advantage do your researches tend? is one which the speculative philosopher, who loves knowledge for its own sake, can seldom hear without a sense of humiliation. He feels that there is a lofty and disinterested pleasure in his speculations which ought to exempt them from such questionings. The great minds of the past who thought and laboured for pure truth did not trammel themselves with the question of utility; yet many of the truths they discovered have, in after ages, found a use, and contributed even to man's material progress.

(Sir J. Herschell.)

Then said Jesus, let her alone.
1. Christ often put aside enthusiasm. When men and women brought Him what looked like lovely flowers, He asked for sterner things. When the woman said, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee"; when men brought Him a crown, and when the rich young man fell down and worshipped Him, He put their enthusiasm aside, chilled and damped. He would accept no sudden emotions and thoughtless impulses — flowers without roots soon to wither.

2. How different here. Who is to supply ice now? Judas the proper person. Jesus gathered this passion flower and put it forever into the garland of God — because —

I. MARY HAD BEEN GROWING IN LOVE. At first what joy it was to her to sit at the Master's feet; then when her brother came back, her joy and gratitude were overwhelming. She had good grounds for her love; and at last, with a fine impulse, she pours out her choicest gift at His feet. How many years had it been kept, too precious to be used!

II. MARY'S LOVE WAS HOLY. She had grown at His feet, and learned by His teaching. Now she could sit there no longer, she must render her tribute. To know what and how to give is one of the last achievements of good manners, one of the most delicate of tasks, and when successfully done, one of the most gracious of acts. It is also one of the greatest victories of the soul to properly receive a gift. Christ does not put by her gift. It is Judas who interferes now; and with his beggarly economics brings in the dirty scales of this world. "Let her alone," said Christ, "she has done well." Why? Because her whole soul was in it, and when the whole soul is in anything arithmetic has nought to do with it. When a little child offers its caresses to some cold-blooded woman, "There, there, there," she says, "you have kissed me once, that'll do." So the little mouth is put back, and the little heart chilled. Yes: it will do for her, for a second kiss wasted on that icicle would freeze the heart from which it came.

III. MARY'S GIFT CAME LAST. She had been contemplative, had heard His word, sat at His feet, and last, not first, came the spikenard. Because this passion flower was rooted in the heart and conscience and intellect of the woman, Christ rebuked Judas. Of all things in the house, these are the saddest — greetings where no friendship is, honeyed words which everybody gets, the same welcome for every fool, everybody's hand shaken alike. These things are hateful. But when the fair water lily, rising from the very bottom of the pool, deep rooted, slow climbing, at last reaches the light, and bursts forth into glory, Christ loves the flowers. Conclusion: What about the three hundred pence? The chances are that those who give to beggars do it without much heart interest; but to kiss those sacred feet, what were three hundred pounds! What has money to do here? Listen to the justification, "I am going to die: there will be no more chance for her. These are flowers thrown on My grave."

(G. Dawson, M. A.)

I. CHRIST'S MIND REGARDING HIS DEATH. —

1. He looked forward to it. It was never absent from His mind. Here it emerges in a scene, the last apparently that could have suggested it.

2. He looked forward to a life above it, and Mary's act was grateful as revealing a love over which death had no power.

3. He had a pleasant view provided Him in regard to it. How cheered He must have been by this act with the cross imminent, and amid the murmuring and unbelief of His friends.

II. CHRIST'S MIND REGARDING OUR SERVICE.

1. The timeliness of service. A word spoken, an act done in season, how good it is I There is a time to speak and to be silent, to work and to be still. We need to pray for wisdom.

2. Christ's recognition of our service. He knows what we do, and accepts the service, however trifling, because of the motive.

3. Christ's defence of freedom in our service.

4. Christ's loving construction to quicken our service.

(J. Duthie.)

The poor always ye have with you.
Clerical World.
This word extorted by the rapacity of Judas teaches us that poverty has its claims upon us which we must not neglect. From our definition of "the poor" we exclude the systematic idler and professional beggar. The claims of the real poor are based on —

I. THE POSSESSIONS OF A COMMON NATURE. "The rich and the poor the Lord is the Maker," etc. A community of nature should —

1. Awaken interest.

2. Stimulate sympathy.

II. THE RELATIONS OF HUMAN SOCIETY. St. Paul's imagery of the body and the members (1 Corinthians 12:14-22) will illustrate this. The poor have their place in the social economy, and cannot be safely neglected.

III. THE RELATIONS OF CHRIST'S CHURCH. —

1. The Church is a body of which Christ is the Head.

2. The Church is indebted to the poor for some of the brightest testimonies to the power of Divine grace. It owes a debt in return.

IV. THE SANCTIONS OF HOLY WRIT. (Deuteronomy 15:11; Leviticus 23:22; 1 Samuel 2:7; Job 29:11-13; Psalm 41:1; Psalm 48:10; Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Proverbs 20:2; Proverbs 21:31; Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 58:7; Daniel 4:27; Matthew 19:21; Matthew 25:36; James 2:14-16). The Bible is thus the poor man's book.

(Clerical World.)

When the deacon St. Lawrence was asked, in the Decian persecution, to show the Prefect the most precious treasures of the Church at Rome, he showed him the sick, the lame, the blind. "It is incredible," said Lucian, the pagan jeerer and sceptic, "to see the ardour with which those Christians help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first Legislator has put it into their heads that they are all brothers." "These Galileans," said Julian the Apostate, "nourish not only their own poor, but ours as well." In the year 252 a plague raged in Carthage. The heathen threw out their dead and sick upon the streets, and ran away from them for fear of the contagion, and cursed the Christians. St. , on the contrary, assembled his congregation, told them to love those who cursed them; and the rich working with their money, the poor with their hands, never rested till the dead, were buried, the sick cared for, and the city saved from destruction.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

A rich youth in Rome had suffered from a dangerous illness. On recovering his health his heart was filled with gratitude, and he exclaimed, "O Thou all-sufficient Creator I could man recompense Thee, how willingly would I give Thee all my possessions!" Hermas the herdsman heard this, and said to the rich youth, "All good gifts come from above; thither thou canst send nothing. Come, follow me." He took him to a but where was nothing but misery and wretchedness. The father lay on a bed of sickness; the mother wept; the children were destitute of clothing and crying for bread. Hermas said, "See here an altar for the sacrifice; see here the Lord's brethren and representatives." The youth assisted them bountifully; and the poor people called him an angel of God. Hermas smiled, and said, "Thus turn always thy grateful countenance, first to heaven, and then to earth."

(J. Krummacher.)

A few miles above Montreal, the two great convergent rivers of British America, the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa, meet. The St. Lawrence is a pure stream, of a peculiar, light-blue colour: the Ottawa is dark, as if it were tinged by moss in its way. After their meeting the two rivers run side by side a few miles, each occupying its own half of one broad bed; but gradually the boundary line disappears, and all the waters are mingled in one vast homogeneous flood. Although the life of the inhabitants below depended on preserving the pure cerulean hue of the St. Lawrence, it could not possibly be preserved. All the might of man cannot prevent the Ottawa from tingeing the united waters with its own dark shads. Unless the darkness can be discharged from its springs, that great affluent will effectually dye the main river in all its lower reaches. Behold the picture of the process by which the neglected children of our unsaved brother, meeting our own at a lower point in time's rolling current, will blot out the distinction which is now maintained. Behold the rod lifted up in our sight to prevent the neglect now, or punish it hereafter! The dark cellars in which ignorant, vicious, godless parents, now pen their hapless brood, are the springs which feed a mighty river. Our little ones rise in cleaner spots, and in the meantime a solid bank separates the streams. But that turbid river lies within the same basin, and by the laws of nature must converge towards the central channel of society. It is an affluent. We must accept the fact, for we cannot change it. We dread that dark stream which, at a little distance, is flowing parallel with our own. Over the embankments, now not very lofty, we hear sometimes the ominous gurgle of its rapid flow. There is only one way of subduing that terrible enemy. If we cower timidly in our own hiding place, the destruction which we thereby invite will quickly overtake us. In this warfare there is no armour for the back of the fugitive. Safety lies in facing the danger. The evil which in its issue is a deluge, may in its origin be success. fully neutralized. Below you cannot keep the gathered volume out: above you may do muck to purify the rising spring.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

Me ye have not always.
(For a Communion: text and Matthew 28:20): — Like many passages these seem in contradiction; but if we grasp their deeper meaning they harmonize. Christ has given us a memorial of Himself in the Lord's Supper — a gem with two facets; on the one is written "Me ye have not always;" on the other, "Lo, I am with you alway." They remind us that we have in Christ —

I. ONE WHO IS HUMAN AND DIVINE.

1. "Me," etc. There is something very human and touching in this farewell, which comes at first like a hint, and afterwards became more plain. And the absence of the personal Saviour from our Communion reminds us always of His death, and therefore of His true humanity. "Forasmuch as the children," etc. Let not the thought of His Divinity take away from our view of Him a single fibre of His true humanity. In this memorial of His death, "Behold the sign."

2. But "Lo," etc., reminds us that we have a Saviour who is Divine. So in the memory of His death we must realize His Divinity. The promise is not completed in the continuance of His words, example, influence, death, memorials going down from age to age. It is the promise of a presence which implies an omnipresence: so that at every Communion He is Divinely repeating the words, "This is My body." And if here, then everywhere — to protect, guide, comfort to the end.

II. ONE WHOSE DEATH AS OUR SAVIOUR IS ALL-IMPORTANT AND NOT LESS HIS LIFE.

1. His death is the first truth which meets us in the Supper, "Me," etc. He instituted it that His death might be kept in memory, and the manner of it — broken body and shed blood — the memorials twice put into our hands that by two witnesses every word might be established. It is impossible to account for this without believing that His death was of supreme importance. Nor can we read the Bible without seeing this. The Old Testament points forward, and the Apostles point back to this. The Incarnation may serve other ends, but the first end to us is that Christ was "made lower than the angels for the suffering of death," etc.

2. But the other word must be spoken by one who is to be a complete Saviour. The Resurrection is connected with the death as the seal and assurance of its success. We have a monument of each — the Lord's table and the Lord's day, "Who was delivered for our offences," etc.

III. ONE WHO PRESIDES OVER THE WORLD WHERE WE ARE GOING AND OVER THE WORLD IN WHICH WE NOW ARE. "It is expedient for you," etc. Christ goes up before, that He may lead the way and say, Come; but He comes to guide and guard on the journey to the place He has gone to prepare. If we had a Saviour only in heaven, we might doubt if ever we should reach heaven. So we have Him there in the noonday, here in the twilight; there amid the palms of victory, here in the heat of battle. "For to this end Christ both died and rose," etc.

(J. Ker, D. D.)

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