The Danger of Offense – the Blessing of Grace

Let’s look at a story that involves Jesus, Judas, Mary and an audience who had to make a choice regarding how they would respond. I think Judas began following Jesus out of a genuine desire for change. I suspect that he, like the rest, was expecting a warrior king messiah, another David, who would free the nation from the oppressive yoke of Roman rule. Whether or not my thoughts are accurate, we know from scripture how the story of his life ended. Mary began following Jesus because Jesus set her free and she loved Him deeply. Judas began following Jesus and came into bondage because he sought a freedom other than what Jesus was offering in His earthly ministry. Jesus was clear about His mission in Luke 4:18-19, preaching the gospel, healing hearts and setting captives free. All of which Judas would have known. Here I look at a key moment that I see as leading to the terrible ending for Judas and an enduring tribute for Mary. The story centres around one of the many meals Jesus had with others.

Our story takes place in John 12:1-8, Mark 14:1-11 and Matthew 26:6-16. I have included the passages at the end for your reference but will highlight key verses as we look at the event. We start with the scene, a supper. The meal takes place at the home of Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3), obviously Jesus had healed him as Simon was hosting a meal. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were guests and Martha was helping with the serving. It was also someone else’s home, which we will come to shortly. During the meal Mary comes and pours out costly perfumed oil on Jesus (John 12:3). We know that a number of the disciples complained but for John the focus is on Judas, for the meal is in his family home. Here is Judas’s response to Mary’s sacrifice.

4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” John 12:4-5 NKJV

Now look at Jesus response. He says two things. He rebukes Judas and honours Mary.

7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” John 12:7-8 NKJV

6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mark 14:6-9 NKJV

How does Judas respond?

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him. Mark 14:10-11 NKJV

Consider the setting again, Judas’s father, Simon is hosting a meal. Judas and the other apostles are there along with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We don’t know if there were others. We know Judas took offense at being rebuked in front of others the family home and that settled his decision to betray Jesus. We know that Mary, without any agenda, anointed Jesus with fragrant oil. The outcome of Judas offense was to be damned. The outcome of Mary’s sacrifice, a response to grace, was to be honoured everywhere the gospel was to be preached.

Judas was unaware he was sealing his fate because he valued his reputation. Mary didn’t know she was anointing Jesus for His burial – she was pouring out what she valued because she valued Jesus more!

In this tumultuous time, as in years past, we will have plenty of opportunities to take up offense and do the wrong thing. This year we will also have plenty of opportunities to value Jesus more, move in grace and pour out upon Jesus by blessing others. I pray we choose wisely each day.

John 12:1–8 (NKJV) — 1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

Mark 14:1–11 (NKJV) — 1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.

Matthew 26:6–16 (NKJV) — 6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” 10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.

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Randy

I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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