Jesus First – The Poor Second: John 12:1-11

Focus Passage: John 12:1-11 (NIV)

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.

Read John 12:1-11 in context and/or in other translations on!

In today’s journal entry, we’ll be looking at a phrase Jesus says to conclude one of the most famous events in His life. Mary has just anointed Jesus with a very expensive oil, and the disciples are upset (specifically Judas Iscariot) about the amount of money that was just spent.

In validating Mary’s gift, Jesus makes an interesting and profound statement: “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Jesus says that we will always have the poor among us. This tells me that poverty as a global issue is not a solvable problem. Spending money to solve a money problem doesn’t usually fix the issue over the long term. Instead, poverty seems to be an emotional problem. Some might even say it’s a spiritual problem as well.

Instead of looking at the emotional or spiritual nature of poverty, let’s simply look at the source of poverty — which we could define as “the lack of wealth.” Just as darkness is the absence of light, poverty can be contrasted with wealth in a similar fashion.

But this brings us to the problem: Wealth is relative. Wealth is always defined through the eye of the person making the definition. Rarely do we ever feel wealthy, or “rich”, because we are always able to see people who are richer than we are. By looking up at those who have more, we miss the millions and billions of people who have less — people who see us a wealthy when they are looking up.

Jesus however isn’t making a statement on wealth or status as much as He is making a statement on perspective. There will always be poor people we can help (which is good), but we (specifically those living in the first century) will not always be able to be with Jesus in person. Jesus is helping us realign our perspective: Seek Jesus first, help the poor second. It is only when we have the foundation of a relationship with Jesus that we are able to truly care for those in need, and help them in ways where we are helping them for the long-term.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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