This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday and so we'll be looking at John 12 on Sunday. As I have been preparing I'm struck by the different reactions to Jesus.
We first have Mary, who anoints Jesus with the costly perfume, which we are told was worth about a year's wages. Let's put this in perspective. "Bethany" the village where this takes place means "House of the poor." It was located just a short distance outside of Jerusalem and so it was kind of like the little suburb where people who can't afford to live in the city live. This was not a village that was known for extravagance. Further, a year's salary, if we assume even a day labourer was a substantial sum. Today in BC the minimum wage is $8.75 which is $70 a day, $350 for a 40 hour work week, $17,500 for a 50 week work-year. That's a lot of money! Even more if that is all you've got. Where Mary got this perfume or how she managed to pay for it we're not told but she poured out this extravagant gift on Jesus without any expectation of anything in return. You see, she had already figured out who Jesus was and was willing to give Him the very best of what she had.
Judas on the other hand didn't understand who Jesus was. He had followed this guy for three years figuring He was going to lead a revolt & overthrow the Romans and when that happened, Judas would be in His inner circle. Judas had been getting impatient however, he wasn't seeing a return on his investment. Three years of following Jesus, going where ever he took them hadn't amounted to much yet so Judas had begun skimming a little out of the collective funds of the group. In the end he would betray the one he'd followed.
Then we see the religious leaders who, we are told in vv 9-10 were no longer content with getting Jesus out of the picture but were plotting to kill Lazarus as well. We've got to remember that political games and opportunism are nothing new. The religious leadership was made up primarily of two parties, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who didn't get along all that well. Lazarus was causing trouble for both of them though because many people were believing in Jesus because of him. Lazarus also caused big problems for the Sadducees because they didn't believe in a future resurrection of the dead and the presence of someone who had risen from the dead posed a slight problem for this conviction. These leaders were willing to go to any length to ensure that their way of thinking and the power they held were not challenged.
Finally, we have the crowds that welcomed Jesus with great fanfare as He came into Jerusalem. They waived palm branches and cried Hosanna! They were welcoming a king. They thought He was going to liberate them from political oppression. They missed that Jesus was coming to free them from a much greater oppression. When it became clear that Jesus wasn't going to do what they wanted Him to, His support quickly vanished.
The question is, do we give all we have? Do we hedge our bets and unscrupulously set aside for our best interests? Do we plot the downfall of anyone who opposes us or threatens our way of thinking, rather than consider we might be wrong? Do we enthusiastically cheer with the crowd and quietly scatter when it doesn't go the way we thought it would?
What cost are we willing to pay?