“But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:4-6)
Several years ago when my family and I still lived in the SF Bay Area, we attended a large church that puts on an annual Easter production for the community. One year I played the role of Judas Iscariot, who is known as the disciple who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. It was challenging for me to play that role, for as a born-again Christian, I had to put myself in the complete mindset of the one who betrayed the Lord.
While it was difficult to put myself in Judas Iscariot’s shoes, the life of Judas is a clear demonstration of those who claim to believe in and follow Jesus, but whose thoughts and actions reflect anything but. And I had been there before.
Judas had physically followed Jesus during His ministry. He saw and experienced the many miracles of Christ and was witness to His teaching and godly wisdom. Judas had full access to Jesus, yet because of his selfishness, greed, and pride, he was more interested in simply looking the part and acquiring wealth, than in obeying God.
In this passage, we find Mary (sister of Lazarus) take an expensive perfume and pour it on Jesus’ feet, wiping it with her hair. This was an extravagant and costly act of love and honor to Jesus, declaring Him as the Messiah and foreshadowing His coming death and burial.
Judas is upset and calls Mary out on wasting a year’s wages worth of this expensive oil, when it could have been “given to the poor” instead. There are a few things at play here that show the wickedness of Judas’ heart.
- Judas was trying to look the part. He wanted to give the appearance of being holy and righteous, but God knew what was truly in his heart.
- Judas focused on works over worship. He failed to acknowledge and appreciate that it is more important for us to worship Jesus, than to do good works. Good works in accordance with God, are a result of our faithful obedience to Christ, not the other way around.
- Judas was frugal in blessing the Lord. He couldn’t get over the fact that an entire year’s worth of wages was being poured onto Jesus’ feet. He valued the earthly cost above the eternal cost.
- Judas was a liar and hypocrite. He did not actually care about the poor, he only cared about himself.
- Judas was a greedy thief. His desire was to take what belonged to the Lord for himself.
- Judas used his position to do evil. Jesus had given him a role to be the keeper of the money bag, and rather than using his position to bless God and others, he used it for selfish reasons and to “bless” himself.
I’ll admit that earlier in my life, there were many things that I shared in common with Judas from this list. And if we’re honest with ourselves, even many of us who regularly go to church on Sundays, give to the poor, do community service, read the Bible, and have seen God do miracles, look more like Judas than we do Jesus.
Selfishness and self-centeredness are horrific sins that impact our life more than we know. They poison the motives for doing good and stain the results of what we claim to do in the name of Jesus. Just as it was with Judas, whatever we do, even if it seems to be righteous and sacrificial, God sees right through our actions to the core of our desires and intentions. The sacrifice of good works itself means nothing. Genuine obedience to Jesus and His words means everything.
For those of us who can admit that we have a bit of ‘Judas’ in us, be encouraged, because God doesn’t want us stay where we are! I not only played the role of Judas in a play, but I was just like Judas in my heart, before God changed me.
It wasn’t anything I did on my own- it was purely through God’s grace, love, mercy, and transformative power that He called me out of darkness and into His light. All I did was acknowledge that yes, I am a sinner who needs a Savior. I let Him into my life and called upon Him to be both my Lord and Savior.
He offers the same promise of renewal and restoration to you today. Jesus gave Himself on the cross in exchange for your sins, and was raised 3 days later, that you would have victory over sin and even death itself! Jesus offers you hope and eternal life; there’s no reason to stay where you are.
We will never be perfect in this lifetime and we’ll undoubtedly make mistakes, but God will put us on the amazing journey of conforming us to the likeness of His Son as we trust in Him to do so.
Thank you Lord for loving me, saving me, and changing me… and for not leaving me just like Judas.
[From January 12, 2019]