Flashback Episode — Looking Forward to His Death: John 12:1-11

Read the Transcript

First off, as we begin, happy new year to all of you. After having finished all four years of chronologically moving through Jesus’ life, I have to admit that it is a little weird to be beginning this year not actually looking at something from Jesus’ birth story. However, if your experience was anything like mine, we probably spent plenty of time focusing on Jesus’ birth this past Christmas season.

However, as I’m sure you know, the main reason Jesus’ birth was so special wasn’t just because of God stepping down and becoming human, as hard as that is for us to grasp. The main reason we should pay attention to Jesus’ entrance and time spent in our world is what we will be focusing on during this year of podcasts. This year, we will be focusing on the week leading up to the cross, and what we can learn about Jesus and God from this key piece of time in our world’s history.

To start our year of podcasting through the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, we will turn our attention to John’s gospel, to a special supper that takes place in Jesus’ honor, and what we can learn about what happened. Our passage for this episode is found in John’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will be reading it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

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.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

In this passage, alongside Mary’s amazing gift of perfume, we discover how this event both predicts what is coming, as well as it setting the stage for Jesus’ crucifixion a little less than a week later.

To set the stage for this final week, the way John concludes this passage is about perfect. John reminds us that a large crowd found out Jesus was there and they came to see Him, and not just Jesus, but Lazarus as well. Because of Jesus’ renewed popularity and because this resurrection miracle was prompting people to believe in Jesus, the chief priests not only focused on looking for a way to kill Jesus, but to kill Lazarus as well. As we move from this point forward, we discover how everything the chief priests do is focused on trying to discredit Jesus, on planning His death, or both.

Also, the stage is set in this passage for Judas to betray Jesus. In this event, we discover that Jesus pushes back at Judas Iscariot over his condescending remarks about Mary’s gift. John tells us Judas did not say this because he was interested in helping the poor, but because he would help himself to the money they had collected for the poor. I don’t know how this wouldn’t have been obvious to the other disciples and to Jesus because they traveled everywhere together, but perhaps Judas thought he was being secretive, but instead, it was something that all the disciples knew, but that Judas simply denied regardless of the evidence.

Regardless of what had led to this point, Jesus’ response to Judas over Mary’s gift challenges Judas and it gives Judas the opportunity to take the challenge personally instead of focusing on what Jesus had just told everyone.

When we look at this passage, Jesus sets the stage for our whole year of podcasting the week leading up to His crucifixion by directly attributing Mary’s gift of perfume for the day He would be buried. Many of those present might have missed this foreshadowing, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t present. In Jesus’ statement, we see Him drawing attention to the idea they didn’t want to accept that He would die. This wasn’t the first time Jesus tried to forewarn the disciples about His upcoming crucifixion, but like many of the other times, the significance of Jesus’ words escaped those present.

With the stage set leading into the week of the cross, and our year of podcasting the events of this week, Jesus also shares a powerful statement that would be wise for us to keep in our minds. Jesus tells His followers in verse 8, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.

This phrase is powerful in my mind because it challenges our perspective in a number of ways. The first and most obvious way is that Jesus’ followers will not always have Jesus. This sounds counterintuitive because Jesus promised to be with His followers forever in the great commission, but the truth we must face in Jesus’ words is that we might not always feel or see Jesus’ presence. In a physical sense, Jesus is not always going to be visible in our lives or in our situations.

However, to contrast this, Jesus tells His followers that there will always be those who are poor living among us. Being poor is not a problem that can be solved because being poor is simply standing at a specific place on a scale of income or wealth. While we can look at those at the bottom and desire to help them increase their standard of living, this doesn’t change the definition of being poor as being at the bottom of the wealth spectrum.

However, feeling poor is a different story. Almost everyone feels poor, and that is because most people live right up to the edge of their income, and most people focus on looking at those who have more than they do – which makes most people feel poor even if they are among the richest people in the world.

But the biggest perspective challenge Jesus shares is a challenge to focus on what God has blessed us with and to focus on our relationship with Jesus above everything else. There will always be problems and challenges in our lives similar to how there will always be poor people living in the world. Jesus challenges His followers, you and I included, to focus on our relationship with Him first and then only after we have a strong relationship with Him should we then focus on helping those around us.

Yes we should help other people, but the truth of this life is that the most generous person who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus will be worse off when this life ends than the person who could have been more generous, but they chose instead to focus on and grow towards Jesus. We might not always feel God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit’s presence, but we know from Jesus’ challenge that this is where we should focus our attention.

As we come to the end of our first episode in our year focusing on the cross, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always prioritize your relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit first. Accept Jesus’ challenge that helping others is important, but it should never take the place of our relationship with Him. Even the most generous life lived without Jesus is counted as a loss when we look at what is needed for salvation. Because of this, the challenge for all of us is to place and prioritize Jesus as first in our lives.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself because this is the best way to grow closer to God each and every day. While an author, speaker, pastor, or podcaster can give you things to think about, they should never replace your personal relationship with Jesus.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, chicken out of, or back away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 1: Discover some things we can learn from a gift Jesus receives leading up to His crucifixion and how those present respond to the gift Jesus was given.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.