WAX OR CLAY?
“But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to whatever was put into it.” John 12:4-6 NIV
Who was this Judas Iscariot? What kind of man was he? Why did Jesus choose him to be a disciple?
We have to glean bits and pieces about the character of Judas from the gospel story. We learn most about him from the events leading up to the crucifixion. It seems that there was no love lost between him and John, writer of the most “spiritual” gospel, according to the early church fathers. Even though John was an old man by the time he wrote, he could not resist having a dig at Judas as he remembered and recorded details about his part in the events of that terrible week.
Judas was the “treasurer” of the group. It fell to him to take care of the money bag, to buy the necessary provisions and to pay the taxes required by the Romans, and the temple tax, tithes and offerings as part of their covenant responsibility. Apart from that, John knew that he periodically helped himself from the money bag for his own private use but he did not divulge his source of information. Perhaps it was no more than a suspicion because he knew that Judas liked money.
Did Judas volunteer for the job or did Jesus appoint him to take care of the finances? If so, why? Didn’t Jesus know that he had sticky fingers? One can only see God’s grace offered to this man. Jesus gave him opportunity to change his behaviour by entrusting this responsibility to him. Judas could have risen to the occasion by choosing not to violate that trust instead of seeing it as an opportunity to enrich himself… but he didn’t.
In spite of the years he spent with Jesus, following, listening and even doing the works Jesus did, Judas’ heart was still hardened and unchanged because of his love of money. He remained unmoved by the compassion, kindness and generosity displayed by His Master; he certainly could not understand how He could accept Mary’s lavish adoration on this occasion when she “wasted” her precious dowry on His feet!
On one occasion, Jesus had pointed out to His disciples that it was impossible for a man to serve two masters. The God of Israel and Mammon, the god of money were at opposite ends of the pole. God is the epitome of generosity; Mammon represents everything that is selfish and greedy – what the Hebrews called the yetzer harah, the evil eye, the “factory fault” with which every human being is born since Adam. The gap between God and Mammon is so vast that serving one is tantamount to hating the other. Therefore, if Judas served money, it was impossible for him to love God.
For Mary to lavish such expensive perfume on Jesus meant that she valued Him far more than she valued her most valuable possession — something that was absolutely foreign to Judas, so foreign in fact that he was willing to sacrifice Jesus for the sake of money. Judas betrayed his greed by his objection, and John read him aright. For Judas, it was not about the poor; it was about the money he could have had in the bag — another opportunity to remove his “salary” without authorization!
“Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ’It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’ John 12:7 NIV.
Was John also hinting at one of the reasons for Judas’ betrayal of Jesus? Once again, in a public assembly, Jesus had exposed the heart of Judas, and Judas must have squirmed at the humiliation! However, Jesus never exposed hearts for the sake of revenge. As with the Pharisees, He wanted people to know themselves so that they would turn to Him for mercy. When Peter faced his exposure, he turned, but not Judas. He became harder and even more determined to get even with Jesus.
The same sun that melts wax, hardens clay!
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.