I love that no matter how many times you’ve read a passage of scripture God can highlight something new. It’s as if you’ve never seen it before. As Easter approaches, I’ve been reading a book with daily devotions for Lent. It goes through the book of John, focusing on the time leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. There’s one passage in John I read recently that stood out in a way it hasn’t in previous readings, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
In John 12:1-6, we read about Jesus and the disciples visiting Lazarus, Martha, and Mary in Bethany. While they were there, Mary took a jar of extremely expensive perfume, poured it over Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. What an extraordinary picture of adoration and honor Mary displayed toward Jesus. The disciples in the room witnessed what she did, and one spoke up. Judas Iscariot, observing what took place, said in verse 5, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” It sounds like a noble question, but we know Judas was going to betray Jesus. A heart that is open to betraying another is one that’s not compassionate. Verse 6 follows with, “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” I added the emphasis to the last part because it jumped off the page at me.
The Bible doesn’t offer many details about Judas like it does for some of the other disciples. What we do know isn’t flattering–he was a thief and a traitor. He carried the moneybag for Jesus and the disciples. What they needed for living expenses was in the care of a dishonest and disloyal man. No one but Jesus seemed to have known exactly what kind of person Judas was until he betrayed Jesus.
When I read that part about Judas helping himself to the group’s money, a weighty thought followed. Judas was chosen. What an incredible honor for him to be one of the 12 people called to walk with and learn from Jesus. He witnessed the miracles Jesus performed. Judas saw Jesus heal people, feed thousands from a young boy’s lunch, calm a storm just by speaking to it. He even saw Jesus bring people back from the dead. Judas lived life daily with the King of Kings.
Imagine being there to see Jesus face to face, to listen to his audible voice as he taught. But Judas was concerned with a different treasure. He stole money from the group’s funds whenever he wanted. What a waste to grasp for a fleeting treasure while passing over the most precious one–Jesus. Judas missed it. He took from Jesus what he wanted and missed out on what he needed. Judas had access to all that Jesus offered but traded it for a handful of coins here and there. He exchanged lasting, priceless treasure for a cheap counterfeit.
Of course, the Lord didn’t leave me with an interesting perspective on Judas I hadn’t noticed before. He prompted me to ask myself how often I am satisfied with counterfeit treasure instead of reaching for all he has to offer. Ouch. I think about facing difficulties and immediately jumping into “fixing” them on my own instead of waiting on the Lord for his perfect solution. Telling God how he should answer my prayers. Wanting all the blessings of God but not willing to make the sacrifices he calls me to make. And then it sinks in...I can so easily slip into the shoes of Judas.
The Lord’s conviction cuts to the very core, and yet it offers hope. In this season of Lent, can we be brave enough to ask God to reveal areas in our lives where we grasp counterfeit treasure and miss the priceless treasure Jesus offers? Can we ask him for forgiveness and sacrifice what we believe is best and accept his best for us? Can we stop reaching for the counterfeit and grasp hold of lasting treasure?