AUTHENTIC - WEEK 5: Edging God Out
Authenticity removes EGO!
The Judas factor! Judas looked and acted just like he was a true believer. He deceived everyone, but he didn't deceive Jesus. He was driven by his pride and his ego. Judas “EGO” was edging God out, but the truth is he pushed God completely out. It is quite a vast difference between Judas and Mary. Mary was so real with her worship that the authenticity drove the ego away completely. Judas on the other hand was so self-interested that he became a thief and liar. This did not mean that Mary was not a sinner, but she was broken and realized she needed a savior. Humble people that are not full of ego find it easy to be real.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (John 12:1-6, Matthew 27:1-5)
1. Who was the kid with the biggest ego in your community of friends growing up?
2. What is the danger of ego?
3. What do you think Judas was most interested in when it came to Jesus?
4. How does true authenticity avoid the trap of ego?
5. Why was Mary's worship so authentic?
6. What is the difference between regret and repentance? Why was it so easy for Judas to fool everyone around?
7. Is it possible to be so close to Jesus and still not truly know him?
8. Are there ways we betray Jesus in our lives? What are they?
It is possible to be near Jesus and to associate with Him closely and still be hardened in sin. Ask someone to walk with you and start accountability with each other to avoid the danger of betrayal.
Jesus went back to Bethany six days before the Passover, meaning that Mary’s anointing of Jesus happened on Saturday. At this Passover, Jesus, the Lamb of God, would die on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Lazarus was there at Bethany, still giving testimony to Jesus’ resurrection miracle. Lazarus’s resurrection had made him something of a celebrity, and a “large crowd of the Jews” wanted to see him as well as Jesus (v. 9). The dinner evidently was the Saturday evening meal. The hosts included Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Martha as usual was serving them. Other disciples were present as well, including Judas.
During the meal an extraordinary event happened. Mary took a pound of fragrant oil, which was about 12 ounces and a lavish amount to pour on someone. The oil was pure, of the highest quality. Mark said the amount of “nard” was valued at 300 denarii (John 12:5), obviously expensive because of its high grade. The nard was imported from India and came from the roots of the nard plant. Mary then anointed Jesus’ feet. Twelve ounces of oil was enough to anoint Jesus’ head and feet, and the oil dripped down from His head and covered most of His body. Mary’s heart was a place of complete, simple devotion, and her actions showed her devotion.
Mary acted with humility as she wiped His feet with her hair, a fact only the Gospel of John mentions. In the first century, Jewish women did not unbind their hair in public because doing so was thought to be immoral. But Mary’s deep love for Jesus was more important than propriety. It was easy for Mary to anoint Jesus’ feet because the guests reclined on mats with their hands and heads close to the table and their feet extending away from the table.
What did Mary have to lose? What could she gain from this example of unwavering devotion? She could have once again incurred the displeasure of her sister, or the criticism of Jesus’ disciples. But these concerns were no longer in her range of view that she would worry on such matters. Mary had abandoned all in the form of the gift. Neither friend nor foe could affect the outcome of this lavish gift now. The love she shared with Jesus was so lavish that the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But why did Mary love Jesus so much? No doubt one reason was Jesus’ powerful and gracious act of raising Lazarus from the dead. When a male head of a household died and only females were survivors, the women could become destitute or have extreme difficulty making ends meet. This may not have been the situation with Mary and Martha, but if it was, the sisters were grateful to Jesus for restoring their brother to them. Even if they had money, and the expensive fragrant oil suggests they were well off financially, perhaps even rich, the resurrection of Lazarus was more than enough reason for gratitude and love. Mary had been waiting for a chance to show her heartfelt devotion. The dinner was her opportunity, and she took it joyfully and gratefully.
The Gospel of John does not say whether Mary anointed Jesus out of gratitude for raising Lazarus or whether she knew in her heart that Jesus was the Messiah. But there was messianic significance in her action. Old Testament prophets (1 Kings 19:16), priests (Ex. 28:41), and kings (1 Kings 1:38-39) were anointed. And of course the word Messiah means “the anointed one.” Mary’s act of extravagant love was focused on Jesus. Believers, whether in the 1st century or the 21st century, keep their focus on Jesus by giving Him the best of who they are and what they have rather than holding back for themselves. Just as Jesus was pleased with Mary’s gift, He also is pleased with our gifts to Him. Her example leaves us wondering about the last time we gave anything to Jesus or the last time we gave our best. When was that in your life? Jesus is unconcerned whether we can match Mary’s gift dollar for denarii. Believers who adjust their focus on Jesus by giving Him their very best find they never have to worry whether He is pleased with their gifts. He is.
Some believers find value in other people’s favorable opinions of their actions for Christ. This may be good. At other times, however, in seeking others’ approval we may lose our focus on Jesus. When we ache to please others or ourselves, we are not focused on Christ.
Mary had humbled herself by wiping Jesus’ feet and had displayed great devotion to Him with the expensive fragrant oil poured out on Him. After a display of love came a display of selfishness. Mary was misunderstood and criticized. The other disciples present at the dinner, and Judas, voiced their objection to what they perceived as extravagant waste. In that culture 300 denarii was pay for a working man’s yearly wage. Concern for the poor is understandable. Jesus showed His concern for the poor on numerous occasions (Matt. 6:2-4; 19:21; John 13:29). Furthermore, it was a custom that the Jews gave gifts to the poor at Passover time. So they asked themselves if Mary couldn’t have done a better thing with the expensive oil than wasting it on Jesus? But concern for the poor was not the real motive behind Judas’s outburst. He was a materialist and a thief. He often stole money even from the disciples’ money-bag! Disloyalty marked him from the moment he met Jesus. So in an angry and sarcastic tone Judas scolded Mary and by implication Jesus, “Why wasn’t this fragrant oil sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” Before the fragrance left the room, Judas displayed an air of selfishness that starkly contrasted with Mary’s giving. Her love poured out on Jesus as the oil poured from the bottle. Judas cared merely for himself.
When others criticized Mary, Jesus affirmed her when He said, “Leave her alone.” Mary’s unwavering focus was less about cost and more about the cross. Her gift personalized her love but also prophesied the near future. Jesus was headed toward the crucifixion. His death and burial were near, and she had performed an act that was for the day of [His] burial. Likely Mary did not realize that Jesus’ death was near at hand, any more than the disciples did. She had anointed Him because of her love, just as mourners anointed the bodies of their dead. Jesus, however, viewed the anointing by Mary as a kind of pre-anointing for His death on the cross. Joseph of Arimathea would follow through with the burial custom (19:38-40). It’s good to lay flowers on the graves of our loved ones. It’s best to give flowers before the funeral!
Then Jesus likely startled the dinner guests. He said, “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” Jesus’ words did not arise from arrogance. He was not saying His disciples should think of poverty as inevitable and therefore do nothing. Rather, Jesus meant that believers will always have opportunities to help poor people, but this was Mary’s last opportunity to minister to Him before His death. Mary’s presence at the dinner that day was a unique opportunity for her to do a noble thing and contrasted with the ongoing need of disciples helping the poor.
While others criticized, Jesus affirmed Mary. And that made all the difference. People important to us often, knowingly and unknowingly, give and take their approval. Sometimes opinions keep our focus wavering between finding approval from others rather than seeking God’s approval. But believers should keep their focus on Jesus by seeking His approval above all.