John 11:45–12:11—Plots and Adoration

45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. 46But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.”
49 Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”
51 He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. 52 And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world.
53 So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death. 54 As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples.
55 It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, and many people from all over the country arrived in Jerusalem several days early so they could go through the purification ceremony before Passover began. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” 57 Meanwhile, the leading priests and Pharisees had publicly ordered that anyone seeing Jesus must report it immediately so they could arrest him.
12:1 Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.
7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9 When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. 10 Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, 11 for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.

Points of Interest

  • ‘some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done’—this reminds me of Jesus asking in Wednesday’s passage, ‘For which [of my good works] are you going to stone me?’ (10:32). Somehow these people think that raising someone from the dead is some sort of misdeed for which Jesus should be reported to the authorities.
  • ‘it’s better for you that one man should die’—Caiaphas unwittingly plays Jesus’ role of speaking on a deeper level. Caiaphas is simply saying that pure utilitarianism requires that they get rid of Jesus to protect the whole nation from Roman retaliation. But there’s a deeper truth to what he’s saying; it’s Jesus’ own plan to face death on behalf of the entire world.
  • ‘to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world’—while one stream of prophecy pictures the Messiah as a Jewish military hero, another stream portrays him as the one who brings the whole world together as one family under God. Isaiah 66:18 is a good example: ‘And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory’ (TNIV). In John’s eyes, this is the more accurate and relevant picture of Jesus.
  •  ‘the man he had raised from the dead’—this isn’t exactly a quiet return to the public eye. Jesus stays with a well-known man, who lives on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and who Jesus recently raised from the dead. Is Jesus now trying to cause a stir, or does he just not care?
  • ‘anointed Jesus’ feet with it’—anointing was a ritual symbolizing God’s favor and God’s commissioning of a person for a special task. A prophet or priest poured scented oil over the person’s head, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. I think Mary doesn’t consider herself worthy to anoint Jesus’ head—she’s not a priest or a prophet or anything—so she anoints his feet instead.
  •  ‘She did this in preparation for my burial’—corpses were treated with scented oils before burial. Jesus sees his death close enough that Mary may as well get started now with the funeral preparations.
  • ‘You will always have the poor among you’—I don’t think Jesus is being callous toward the poor here. He’s merely saying that this is a special occasion, on which Mary’s actions are more appropriate than the usual charitable giving. He’s actually quoting a Bible verse which encourages generosity: ‘There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need’ (Deuteronomy 15:11).

Taking It Home

  • For you: Mary gives generously, whereas Judas looks at things from a viewpoint of scarcity. Often our time perceived as scarce resource. What would feel like a joyous and abundant use of time for you this week?  Pray that Jesus would create opportunities for you to experience that.
    FF Family/Household Option: Mary gives generously, whereas Judas looks at things from a viewpoint of scarcity. For families, time is often perceived as scarce resource. What would feel like a joyous and abundant use of time together this week? How could you spend time with each other or for each other this week? Pray that Jesus would create opportunities for that time to be spent together.
  • For your 6: It’s not likely that any of your 6 have active death threats against them like Jesus did. Nonetheless, ask Jesus today to protect your 6 from any enemies they might have or anyone who is wishing them harm.
  • For our church: The imagery of the house being ‘filled with the fragrance’ of the woman’s offering is such a vivid one. Think of just how good, comforting, and welcoming it is when you walk into a room filled with a wonderful aroma. Imagine the smell of freshly baked bread or a fire burning in the fireplace or a favorite food being cooked for you when you step into the door. Obviously the woman’s offering smells wonderful because her offering is, in fact, a wonderful-smelling-perfume, but it’s not a stretch to think that all our extravagant sacrifices to God fill the areas around us with a certain kind of sweetness. Ask Jesus to help our church be abundantly generous in our gifts and sacrifices to him. Ask Jesus for our church to be a place that is filled with a sweetness of people generously and abundantly offering gifts and sacrifices to him.