TMBC Audio, “Why Wasn’t This Sold?”
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Delivered By
Dennis Travis
Delivered On
March 26, 2023 at 12:00 PM
Central Passage
JOHN 12:1-11
Session 1, Why Wasn’t This Sold?
Attached Document
Why Wasn’t This Sold?

Why Wasn’t This Sold?
Jesus is worthy of our worship as the promised Messiah, the Son of God.
JOHN 12:1-11
On December 22, 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia, hosted King Kalakaua of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) for the first official state dinner at the White House. One can imagine the amount of preparation that went into that meal. Few questioned the presence of taste testers required by King Kalakaua to make sure the guest was honored appropriately. We will find a way to honor those we believe to be worthy of being honored.
What is the most formal dinner you have ever attended? Are you more comfortable with being the host/hostess or being a guest? Explain.
JOHN 12:1-19
After raising Lazarus, Jesus went to Ephraim before returning to Bethany where He and His disciples were invited to a dinner. Some readers mistakenly think the meal happened at Lazarus’s home. Parallel accounts indicate the banquet occurred at the home of Simon the leper (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9). Lazarus was a special guest. Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, were present. Martha helped serve the meal, after which Mary anointed Jesus’s feet.
Some confuse this incident with the narrative in Luke 7:36-50. Similarities include the name of the host (Simon) and the act of anointing Jesus with precious ointment. However, significant differences regarding the place, people, and purpose demonstrate these were separate events. The banquet in Luke 7 happened during Jesus’s Galilean ministry, while John 12 was set in Bethany of Judea. Simon in Luke 7 was a Pharisee, not a leper. The woman of Luke 7 was identified as a notorious sinner, while Mary of Bethany had no history of infamy. In John 12, Lazarus was present, unlike the record of Luke 7. In John 12, Judas objected to what he considered wasteful use of a valuable commodity. Luke did not mention such complaints. Finally, unlike Luke’s account, John mentions that dinner attracted many Jews who heard about Lazarus’s being raised.
The day after the banquet, Jesus entered Jerusalem as people cheered and waved palm branches. They proclaimed Jesus to be the King of Israel who came in the name of the Lord. Some were present when Jesus raised Lazarus. They testified about His amazing miracle, attracting people who wanted to see the One who could raise the dead. The people’s exuberance further infuriated the Jewish leaders. They feared Jesus’s popularity, saying among themselves that the whole world was going after Him.
As you read John 12:1-11, underline incidences where people expressed their faith as a follower of Jesus. In contrast, why did others reject Him? What kept them from believing in Jesus?
1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Passover commemorated the night the Lord passed through Egypt killing the firstborn, except where the doorposts had been painted with the blood of a sacrificial lamb. Jews celebrated this miracle annually during the spring. Jerusalem’s population would swell by an additional 100,000 people as the faithful came to celebrate. Many visitors stayed in the homes of friends or family members who lived either in Jerusalem or one of the nearby villages, such as •Bethany. Some people slept in one of the caves that dotted the landscape around Jerusalem.
John gave no indication about how much time had passed between Jesus’s raising Lazarus . . . from the dead and the dinner described. The dinner was a violation of the Sanhedrin’s edict. They “had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he [Jesus] were, he should shew it, that they might take him” (11:57).
During a dinner, the main meal of the day in the first century, family members typically gathered around a large bowl or pot of soup or stew. They reclined either on pillows or wide couches arranged in a U-shaped format known as a triclinium. Their heads faced the center and their feet extended outward. Propped up on their left arms, they ate with their right hands from the shared bowls in the center of the triclinium. The hostess would step into the “U” to refill and replace serving dishes.
This dinner was given to honor Jesus. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the twelve disciples, and likely others were present. We are not told by John who the host was, but we know Martha was involved as a server. Lazarus may have also been honored since he was reclining as well.
It would be natural for a wealthy friend with a large home to host such a dinner for the twenty or more guests. Custom would also allow for Martha to serve at the dinner, especially if the host and Lazarus’s family were friends or neighbors. Martha, Mary, and their friends wanted to honor Jesus for His miracle of bringing Lazarus back from the dead.
How should we respond to Jesus’s work in our lives?
Mary’s actions were startling for several reasons. First, Jews considered washing someone’s feet a degrading task, typically reserved for servants. This explains Peter’s protest when Jesus washed his feet (John 13:4-9). Mary did not wash the Lord’s feet with water, though; she anointed them with •spikenard.
Second, the perfume was extravagant. The pound was a Roman measurement, which weighed about twelve ounces and was about a pint of liquid. The perfume was pure, not diluted with other oils or extracts. The spikenard was an oil derived from the roots of a tree that grew in northern India; it was red and had a sweet aroma. John’s including the description of the scent filling the house reinforces the fact that he was an eyewitness to the event.
Third, Mary uncovered her hair, let it down, and used it to wipe dry the feet of Jesus. Respectable Jewish women of the first century kept their hair concealed. Keeping it covered indicated personal piety. Jewish law at the time allowed a man to divorce his wife if she went in public with her hair uncovered. Mary, though, seemingly with reckless abandon, disregarded cultural expectations and concerns. Expressing a balance of humility and devotion, she instead focused solely on honoring and worshiping Jesus.
How do we balance when there is conflict between what our culture finds acceptable and our expressions of worship?
KEY DOCTRINE: Stewardship
Believers should recognize that their time, talents, and material possessions are entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. (See Deuteronomy 8:18; Romans 12:1-2.)
4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, 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 bag, and bare what was put therein. 7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
Judas was the Greek rendering of “Judah,” which in Hebrew means “Praise Yahweh.” It was a common name in the first century. Jesus had two disciples named Judas (Luke 6:12-16). Of those, one was infamous for betraying Jesus. Likely to avoid confusion, the other Gospel writers referred to the other disciple named Judas as “Thaddaeus” (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18). Iscariot means “man of Kerioth” in Aramaic. Kerioth was a small town east of the Dead Sea. It had been the earlier location of Ar, the capital of Moab. If Kerioth was Judas’s hometown, he was the only disciple not from Galilee.
The Gospel writers regularly included two details about Judas Iscariot: he was one of the Twelve, and he was the one who betrayed Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each include a list of the disciples (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16). In each list Judas Iscariot is named last and identified as the betrayer of Jesus.
Along with the other disciples, Judas had heard Jesus preach and teach; he had witnessed the miracles. Additionally, he, along with a partner, had gone out and proclaimed a message of repentance. He may have been involved in casting out demons and anointing the sick with oil (Mark 6:7-13). Judas had earned the trust of the other disciples; he served as the group’s treasurer, the one who had the money bag.
The first recorded words of Judas in Scripture were in protest of Mary’s extravagance. His words vividly contrasted his greed, selfishness, and deceit with her generosity, selflessness, and devotion. The value of Mary’s perfume was about three hundred pence (•denarii). Laborers were paid a denarius a day in the first century. Jews did not work on the Sabbath or on holy days, thus Mary’s gift was equivalent to about a year’s salary. He, a thief, knew Mary’s extravagance meant he would have no opportunity to get his hands on her money.
Of the Gospel writers, only John indicated that Judas kept the money-bag. This money was used to meet the needs of the disciples and to help the poor (13:29). Additionally, only John gave the detail that Judas would steal from the bag.
There are many things we do not know about Judas Iscariot. We do not know his occupation before becoming a disciple. We do not know when or where it was that Jesus called him to be a disciple.
In addition to the two facts the Gospel writers always include about Judas, however, these three verses let us know at least four other things about this traitor. He was self-serving, greedy, hypocritical (pretending to care about the poor), and he was a thief.
How can a person’s misguided agenda discourage others from honoring Christ?
Judas was not the only disciple to protest Mary’s extravagance. Some of the others scolded her, but they are not named (Matt. 26:8-9; Mark 14:4-5). Jesus responded sternly to their rebuke, issuing a command to let her alone. It was not a suggestion or request; it was a command.
Jesus knew Mary could have sold the perfume. He also knew she had held onto it instead, keeping it for His pending burial. Jesus considered Mary’s action to be noble—a beautiful gesture and a good deed (Matt. 26:10).
Some have used the Lord’s statement the poor always ye have with you as an excuse not to help people in need. Such thinking violates what God said to the ancient Israelites: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deut. 15:11).
Jesus’s focus already was on His death and burial: me ye have not always. He knew Mary would not have many more opportunities to express her devotion to Him. As had happened when she sat at the feet of Jesus rather than busy herself with serving guests, Mary, with this perfume, had again made the better choice. It was not going to be taken from her (Luke 10:42).
How do we reconcile Judas’s being involved in ministry as a disciple with his betrayal that led to Jesus being arrested?
9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the chief priests and Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin. They had been worried that everyone would become a follower of Jesus and that they would lose their places of authority. “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put [Jesus] to death” (John 11:47-53).
News had spread of Lazarus walking out of his tomb. One just can’t keep news like that quiet. Curiosity seekers made their way to Bethany. The phrase much people of the Jews did not refer to religious leaders. Many likely were Jews who visited Jerusalem for Passover. They were not like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus—faithful followers of Jesus. Nor were they openly hostile toward Him, as the religious leaders had been. They had heard what Jesus had done and wanted to see this man who had performed the impossible. Additionally, they wanted to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
The very thing the religious leaders feared began to happen. Many of the Jews saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. They began deserting the chief priests’ authority and began believing in Jesus.
John recorded numerous times the Jews had attempted to seize Jesus and kill Him (5:18; 7:1,19,25; 10:33,39). Now, not only did the religious leaders want to kill Jesus, they wanted to put Lazarus also to death.
The contrast couldn’t have been greater. The chief priests saw their crowd of followers dwindling and the number following Jesus growing. The priests were fearful of losing their influence. The priests wanted Lazarus dead; Jesus offered life. The priests grew increasingly resentful and plotted retaliation. Those who came to faith in Christ certainly rejoiced in He who is the resurrection and the life (11:25). The chief priests wanted all this talk and excitement silenced; people could not help but tell what they had seen and heard. The light had shined in the darkness, and yet the darkness would not win (1:4-5).
How can the way a person honors Christ bring others to Him?
BIBLE SKILL: Review passages that interpret a narrative.
Review Romans 12:1-2 and compare Mary’s sacrificial act of love with the idea of a believer’s sacrifice in the Romans passage. How do Mary’s actions serve as an illustration of what Paul was teaching in Romans 12?
Believers should humbly honor Christ as Lord.
Believers should affirm others who worship Jesus.
Believers honor Christ by testifying to others about His work.
Share with your group ways of showing devotion to Jesus. What role does the group play in helping each other show devotion to Jesus? How can the group corporately express devotion to Jesus?
How can you show your devotion and appreciation to Jesus? As an act of devotion, who will you tell about Jesus and what He has done in your life?