Recognition

It is a Saturday evening and Jesus has stopped off on his way to Jerusalem to visit with some old friends. They have put on a dinner in his honor.

They are in the home of Simon, Lazarus is there, as are the twelve disciples. Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, are also there.

This is a close group of friends who have shared much over the last few years. Lazarus was a close personal friend of Jesus. It is not that long ago since Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

So there they are, reclining at the table, eating and talking. They swap stories about the times they have had together and they joke about the various things they have said and done. They discuss politics, fishing and the current price of food at the markets.

Whilst this is happening, Martha brings out food and serves the men, as was the custom. In all the discussion and laughter, no one notices that Mary has slipped out of the room. Before long she returns carrying something in her hands.

Now all this is taking place in a house in Bethany, which sits in the shadow of the great walled city of Jerusalem.

But our story really starts thousands of kilometers away, high on the pasture lands of Tibet, under the shadow of the mighty Himalayan Mountains.

It is here that a small plant grows. It has dark green leaves and delicate pink flowers. It’s name is Spikenard and from its roots comes an essence that is used to make fragrant perfumes and oils.

The oil is extracted and placed into small jars made from alabaster. These pearly white jars are then carried down the mountain passes and sold in the market to traders from all over the ancient world. Many find their way to the market places of the great empires such as China, Ethiopia, Egypt, Syria and Rome.

One such jar, having been carried for many months by camel train, finds its way to the markets of Jerusalem. There it is bought by a wealthy woman for 300 pieces of silver, the equivalent of 300 days wages for a laborer.

And so Mary comes into the room. No one notices that she is carrying an alabaster jar until she does something completely unexpected.

She breaks open the jar and pours the entire contents onto Jesus’ head and feet. She then proceeds to wipe the oil from his feet with her hair.

The room instantly goes quiet and the powerful aroma of the oil fills the air.

Sitting in the corner of the room was Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, who’s job it was to look after the money purse. On the outside, Judas must of appeared to be a trustworthy person, because the other disciples allowed him to have control over the financial affairs of the group. But on the inside he was greedy and self centered. He was a dishonest man who cared only for himself. He would regularly embezzle money from the funds… a little bit here… a little bit there.

After Mary had poured her oil onto Jesus, it was Judas who stood up and objected. Judas did not see what Mary had done as a good use of resources.

The first thing that came to Judas’ mind was probably something like…

Why wasn’t that very expensive oil sold ? We could have got enough money to cover one persons wages for a year. The money could of gone into our money bag, where it could be used for living expenses.

Even though that was what he was probably thinking, Judas came up with another idea. He must have been persuasive because the other disciples seemed to agree with him.

Judas’ idea was that the oil should have been sold and the money given to the poor. After all, it was the Jewish custom to give gifts to the poor on the evening of the Passover, and the money from this sale would have provided plenty of opportunities to give to the poor. No one would have even questioned Judas’ intentions.

But Judas’ real intentions were based more in the fact that 300 pieces of silver was a lot of money. The ironic thing for Judas is that in the not too distant future, he would make a deal with the Jewish leaders to hand Jesus over to them for just 30 pieces of silver.

I guess the difference between Judas and Mary, is that Judas didn’t understand who Jesus really was.

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