5th Sunday of Lent 17.3.13 John 12.1-8

12 03 2013

Judas and Mary

This simple account of an all-too-imaginable incident can take us to the place of deep devotion, or make us recoil with horror at the meanness of human nature. Maybe we need to do both.

John 12.1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’


To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. ‘Six days…’ v1 what is the significance of this? Why is the story so precisely located in time?
  2. ‘Three hundred denarii’ v5 How much is that? On what other occasions is a large quantity of money mentioned in John’s gospel?
  3. Why do we always have the poor with us?

Heart Questions

  1. Imagine you had seen Mary do this. How would you feel?
  2. Can you imagine wanting to do just what Mary did?
  3. Is there a Judas inside you somewhere saying ‘tut-tut’?

Hand Questions

  1. Whom could you give a dinner for?
  2. Whom might you anoint?
  3. Is there anyone who needs some special attention from you before they die?


These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.

Ninteenth Sunday after Trinity 14.10.12 Mark 10.17-31

7 10 2012
Tough Love
Like so much of Mark’s gospel this passage is packed with difficult things for us to hear. Jesus is in a very uncompromising mood.  He demands from people the very last thing they want to give. He teaches that to follow in his way demands the sacrifice we don’t want to make.  There is nothing cosy here. The way is hard.  In fact ‘tough’ is probably the right word.  And yet Jesus looks at people with compassion and love.
Mark 10.17-31
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ 20He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’

1. What does this passage suggest about the way Jesus looked at people?

2. Why did Jesus give the answer that the young man did not want to hear?

3. What is the passage saying about money and wealth?

4. Peter’s question in  verse 28 gets a very positive answer. And yet there is a sting in the tail. How do you feel about that?