This was my downfall, you know. This bag of money. The moment this leather pouch, filled with silver coins, dropped into my hand, I knew I had done something terribly wrong. I had traded a life for the Emperor’s money, this blood money that would buy me more land than I could ever need, and yet nothing that would fill my heart and feed my soul.
I think it all started back when Jesus had heard the news of Lazarus’ death. Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus telling him that his friend was ill. And strangely enough, Jesus didn’t think the illness was all that serious. So he waited a couple days before leading us towards Bethany where Lazarus lives. On the journey though, I think Jesus suddenly became worried. You could see the questions on his face. “What if we are too late? What if Lazarus has died by the time we get there?” Unfortunately, when we arrived in Bethany, Jesus’ suspicions were confirmed. Lazarus had been dead for four days. Four days!
Jesus took it pretty hard. You could tell he felt guilty about not being there earlier. Mary and Martha were pretty mad about that too. Both of them came running out to Jesus and they screamed at him. “Why weren’t you here sooner!? Why!?” Jesus didn’t have much to say to that. So there we all were. Standing there around the tomb, with that awful stench of death seeping into our skin. Everyone was crying. At one point, Jesus let out this soul-shattering plea – “Lazarus, come out!” – as if his only wish in the world were to see his friend one last time. The sound of it echoed and haunted us for a couple of seconds. But once everything fell silent again, there was nothing left to do but to turn around and go inside. But as soon as that happened, as soon as we turned to leave, we heard a rustling inside the tomb. Initially, I thought perhaps an animal had gotten in there, or something, but all of sudden out came this slowly stumbling man we knew as Lazarus. He was a bit groggy and looking as if he’d had one too many jars of wine the night before, but sure enough, there he was, standing right before our eyes. It was unbelievable. And I really mean that, unbelievable, because had I not been there, I don’t think I would believe it.
Once this happened, everything sort of broke loose. The Pharisees and high priests had a warrant out for Jesus’ death. Not only was he a threat to the authorities with his irrational favor towards the poor and the outcast, but he was simply a trouble maker. Gathering a crowd and causing havoc wherever he went. Heck, even the dead ones started coming out of their tombs just to see what all the fuss was about. So Caiaphas, the high priest that year, decided it would be better for Jesus to die than for him to tear apart the city with his radical ideas.
With everything going on, the other disciples and I decided to take Jesus somewhere to hide out for awhile. We ended up back at Lazarus’ home in Bethany. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus put on this big meal for everyone. And I tell you, that’s the most relaxed I have ever seen Jesus. He always looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, but for this moment anyways, it looked as if he could finally settle in to just being himself.
After dinner, Mary did the strangest of things. She grabbed a jar of perfume that was left over from Lazarus’ funeral, and she poured the whole thing out on to Jesus’ feet. This oil just flooded the floor. A bunch of us had to take a step back to try and avoid it. And the smell of the perfume filled the whole house. It was a beautiful smell and all, but it was also overwhelming. It felt like it was seeping into my skin. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when all of this was happening. I mean, not only had she dumped an entire year’s wage worth of perfume essentially on the essentially wasted all of this oil by essentially dumping it on the floor, but she was touching Jesus’ feet. And they weren’t even married! The last straw, for me, was when she reached back and pulled the pin out of hair and letting everything fall to her shoulders. It is as if she had forgotten all of her manners. Women don’t do such things. I tried not to look, but I think she was even using her hair as a towel on Jesus’ feet. By the time she was finished, she looked as if she had just taken a bath – her hair all wet and clumped together. Unable to bear what was going on, I made some comment just to try and interrupt everything. “Couldn’t we have sold that perfume for about 300 denarii and given the money to the poor?” I asked. I figured it was a good suggestion, since Jesus was all bent up about caring for the poor and all. Plus, I probably could’ve taken some money off the top for myself, if you know what I mean. But Jesus didn’t see it that way though. No, he hollered back at me…..”JUDAS! Leave her alone. She is doing this in anticipation of my death. You will always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me.”
At the time I thought it was a strange thing to say. What did he mean by, “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” If only I knew then what I know now. I would have seen what Jesus was really saying and I think things might have ended differently.
You all have probably heard what comes next. Jesus leads us into Jerusalem for the Passover festival. One night after supper, Jesus got down on his knees like some servant girl and started washing our feet. I couldn’t believe what he was doing, disgracing himself by acting like some servant. It was just like Mary – it was as if he had lost his mind. Who does a thing like that?! Then he started telling us about how we ought to do the same to one another. How we ought to love one another as he has loved us, or something. The way I saw it, he was breaking all the rules and then encouraging us to do the same. I couldn’t take it any longer. And I think Jesus could tell. He told me to just get out of there. To go and do whatever I wanted to do. And you know what? I did. I went straight to the chief priests and the Pharisees and told them everything that I knew. They even paid me to show them where Jesus was meeting with the disciples. And then you know what happens…the soldiers arrest Jesus, take him before Pontius Pilate, beat him, screamed at him, and made him carry his own cross to that place we call The Skull and well….yeah, you know the rest….
I guess Mary really was anticipating Jesus’ death with the stunt she pulled back the house– a death I was responsible for. The moment this leather pouch hit my hand, I knew I had done something terribly wrong. I looked down at these coins and saw the face of the emperor smiling back at me. “Tiberius, Savior of the World” the coin proclaimed. And yet, the emperor was not the savior of the world. He was a greedy tyrant who only sought power and control.
Jesus was right. We will always have the poor with us as long as people think like me and that emperor. Focused on their gain and making a name for themselves. And yet, the solution was right in front of me that day when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. What Jesus was really saying to me was, “Open your eyes, you fool! You are not even paying attention to what is happening right in front of you. Don’t you see the extravagant love being displayed? Don’t you see the wild and uninhibited love Mary is showing? That is how God loves. Wildly, extravagantly. With such abundance that it seeps into the skin of everyone. God’s love is a love that breaks free from all rules and manners that try to contain it. And until you see that….until you love like that, you will always have the poor and the oppressed with you. Open your eyes, Judas.”
I guess there isn’t much left to say, really. But I do want to tell you is this: don’t make the same mistake I did. Keep your eyes out for that wild love of God. It’s everywhere. You can’t contain it. And when you see it, point it out to someone. Show the world that abundant love of God that you see filling the earth. I didn’t see it when it was staring me in the face. If only I knew then what I know now, I think things might have ended differently.