Image: Butterfly bush, North Garden, Virginia, July 2018
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 12:1-9.
John 12:7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
Here is Christ’s rebuke when Judas complains of Mary pouring out the costly spikenard to anoint the Lord Jesus:
First, he says, “Let her alone” (v. 7a). Leave her be. Do not criticize her for her expression of piety and devotion to me. Is it not striking that Christ defends his worshipping church? The Chief Shepherd protects his sheep from insult and injury.
Second, he says, “against the day of my burying hath she kept this” (v. 7b). Caiphas the high priest had just given a prophecy of Christ’s death that he did not really understand (see 11:50-52). Now, we have Mary taking an action that is bigger than she understands. In pouring out this spikenard she anticipates the day of Christ’s death and the anointing of his body for burial. She is honoring, without knowing it, the crucified Christ.
Third, he says, “For the poor always ye have with you….” (v. 8). Jesus is not, of course, disavowing proper aid to the poor and needy. This is part of loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is a Christian duty to “do good unto all men” (Gal 6:10).
Christ is citing here Deuteronomy 15:11 which begins, “For the poor shall never cease out of the land,” but that same verse proceeds to say, “therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in the land.”
Christ is saying, yes, in this evil age there will always be the poor and there will always be the duty to minister to them; there will always be the duty to do good to all men, but that is not at counter purposes to devotion to me. These men had the incarnate Lord before them, in the flesh, before his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. What was called for was not some duplicitous fake-concern for the poor but the present honoring of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There will always be those we can help—till Christ comes again. But we are not to use that high-minded excuse for failure to do the one thing that is needful, to choose the good part, like Mary of Bethany to display honor, thanksgiving, and extravagant devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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