Monday March 25
John 12:1-10, Deuteronomy 15:7-11
Finish this sentence: ‘Birds of a feather…’
If English is your first language, you may be able to complete it pretty quickly: ‘… flock together’.
In every language and culture, there are phrases – proverbs – that are well-known and seek to state a general truth or piece of advice. John 12:8 is one of these.
On first reading, Jesus’ rebuke to his disciples seems strange: we know that Jesus cared deeply for people experiencing poverty. In fact, the first words of his public ministry were a declaration that he had come to ‘proclaim good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18). So why is he now seemingly dismissing poverty as something which will ‘always be with’ us?
There are two things to pay attention to here, as we wrestle with this riddle.
Number one: the person to whom Jesus was speaking. Verse 6 tells us that Judas was ‘a thief’ who ‘used to help himself to what was put into the money bag’. Jesus is rebuking Judas’ hypocrisy; he knows that what the woman has done is a gift of incredible generosity: a proof of her deep devotion to him. How dare Judas condemn a woman’s act of reverence when he himself is stealing from those in need?! Jesus reminds us that judgementalism, hypocrisy, and stinginess have no place in the Kingdom of God.
Number two: Jesus is quoting a passage in Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Jewish Torah, or God’s law. And, surrounded by those who would have been intimately familiar with these books, Jesus is making a point. When we turn to Deuteronomy 15 and look for these words, we find the second half of the sentence in v.11: ‘… therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land’. Those who were present would have been able to complete that sentence as easily as you could complete the one above. To them, Jesus’ meaning would have been clear: there will always be people who are in poverty, and God has instructed you about how to treat them. Don’t be judgemental, stingy, or hypocritical… be open-handed. Generous.
Jesus knows he’s going to die. He knows he’s just days away from Golgotha. And yet he still takes the time to remind those who follow him to do away with hypocrisy and continue being open-handed towards people living in poverty.
Just as those people in poverty were on his mind at the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4, they remain so as Jesus heads to his death in John 6. Some of his final instructions to his disciples are about caring for those who are in need, about giving generously and trusting that God will bless you for it.
As we journey with Jesus over this coming week, may we be reminded of his teaching and example, and be inspired to do the same.
Where in your life have you seen someone give in a sacrificial way – in time, money, gifts, or energy? How do these kinds of sacrifices make you feel?
Pray for those who sacrificially give to protect and help victims and survivors of the worst forms of abuse. Pray that God would show you how you can give sacrificially in these ways or others in the coming weeks.
Was this devotional shared with you by a friend? Sign up to receive the rest of the Holy Week Devotionals straight to your inbox.