This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” John 12:1-8 (NKJV)
The betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot seems unimaginable to most of us. The betrayer’s kiss (Mark 14:44), the 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 27:3), and the ultimate suicide of Judas (Matthew 27:3-5), capture the story of history’s ultimate villain. To this day, referring to someone as a “Judas” is universally understood as derogatory. In the centuries since, all sorts of traditions, legends, and silliness have been added to the story of history’s ultimate villain. I personally heard a Bible school teacher share his theory that he believed the anti-Christ would be Judas Iscariot resurrected. It was the last of that professor’s classes I took.
How could Judas get it so wrong? I think we miss out on an important less in the story of Judas when we ascribe it to the ranks of villainy that we would never stoop. The reality is Judas became offended. We do not know for sure when or how, but I have always suspected this passage is hinting at it.
Judas made it through so many difficult situations while following Christ. He made it through the rebukes and the hard sayings. When Jesus said, “eat my flesh and drink my blood” in John 6, Judas is among those who stayed with Him even while many others left. Judas saw great signs and wonders. He was among those Jesus sent out to cast and demons and perform signs and wonders (Mark 6). He witnessed and experienced all of that, but in the end, he became offended by Jesus’s actions here with Mary.
Judas had a personal issue with thievery, as revealed in this passage from John 12. Obviously, Jesus knew about it, and perhaps Judas was even dealing with it to some extent, but this is where things went too far. That little foothold of darkness in his heart opened the doors to more darkness. He saw money being wasted. Perhaps he even thought it was beneath Jesus to let a woman perform this act of adoration so publicly. Maybe there was a background to the story where Judas had a plan for how their finances should be handled, but Jesus rejected it only to then celebrate this act which Judas deemed wasteful.
Whatever the case may be, Judas became offended by Jesus at this moment. Think about that for a moment. Judas became offended by the only perfect human being ever to live. How is that even possible? Actually, it is very normal and very human. The human mind and heart are incredibly susceptible to offense. Jesus Himself said we can’t avoid being offended.
He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come…Luke 17:1
Anticipating the human condition, Jesus even laid out a prescription for how believers should handle offenses in Matthew 18:15-20. Offense is a dangerous poison to the heart of believers and the broader Church. The Greek word for offenses in Luke 17:1 (skandalon) is where we get the word scandal, and it means to snare or cause one to stumble. And it is worth remembering again – Judas was offended by Jesus!
Genuine offense is not built only upon self-deception and error. Sometimes we can prove our point right, beyond any reasonable doubt, and based upon that solid case we hold offense and sever relationships with others. That is what Judas did with Jesus. In his mind, history’s ultimate villain convinced himself that he was right and Jesus had to be wrong. That opened the way for the ultimate act of betrayal. The ability of the human heart to carry offense toward others is incredibly dangerous.
Even the first murder recorded in history was born upon the back of Cain carrying offense toward Abel. That is what God saw in the man’s heart when he looked down and warned Cain.
So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7 (NKJV)
If we too quickly discount Judas’s offense because he was obviously wrong, and Jesus was obviously correct, we miss the subtle but valuable lesson to learn here. The places in our lives where we are obviously correct and our brother is obviously wrong are the danger points where offense can creep in. When that offense settles into our hearts, it leads to bitterness, unforgiveness, and all sorts of dark horrors follow in the wake of those shadows.
Judas carried an offense toward the perfect man, and he never imagined the doomful fate toward which he set his path. Keeping that in mind should remind us to carry a bit more humility in our own assumptions where we allow offense toward others to creep into our souls.