When we completed chapter 11, it was when the high priest and his jewish council had now finally concluded that they had to kill Jesus. They had even send out a word that if anyone knew where he was, they should inform them. Jesus could no longer walk openly as a result of this. Jesus then went to a town of Ephraim where he stayed of a while. Passover was near everyone was going to Jerusalem and most were asking themselves if Jesus was going to come.
John 12:1-11 (ESVST)
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.
Now we find Jesus at Bethany, the same place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and also the same place were Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha stay. When Jesus arrived, they gave dinner for him. John tells us that Martha was serving and Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table to eat.
3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
“a pound of expensive ointment”, a pound then was about 12 ounces or 325 grams. A Nard or a spikenard, was a plant that grows in India, the root of which is very small and slender and which puts forth a long thin stalk with several ears or spikes at ground level, thus giving it the name of spikenard. Mary did not just use any nard, she used pure nard. A highly prized, very aromatic oil or ointment was extracted from it. So, we know that Mary took a very expensive ointment and took a lot of it and anointed Jesus’s feet with it and used her hair to wipe his feet. Having used so much ointment, the house was filled with the fragrance.
4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “ Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
Now, here Judas really tells us how expensive this ointment was. It was about 300 denarii. Now, we know that a denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer. At that rate, it would take the whole year for a laborer to accumulate enough money to can buy this ointment. So, clearly, it was expensive. Now, Judas asked why this ointment was not sold for about 300 denarii and then the money given to the poor.
6 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.
John tells us here that Judas’s motives for asking why the ointment was not sold and the money given to the poor were not good. John tells us here that Judas was a thief and because he was their treasurer, he used to steal the money for himself. So, what John is saying here is that, Judas wanted the money for himself.
7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
It is very difficult to interpret this verse. It appears at verses 3 and 5 that she might have used it all up but Jesus here is saying that she must be left alone so that she may keep it for the day of his burial. It could mean that the 325 grams she used was not the only ointment available or she did not use all of the 325 grams that she had. Jesus then went on to tell Judas that the poor will always be with us even after he had left.
9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
With the raising of Lazarus still fresh in their minds, when the people heard that Jesus was visiting Lazarus, they came not only to see Jesus but, also to see for themselves this Lazarus that Jesus had raised from the dead.
10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
The chief priest had already decided that Jesus must die but now, seeing that people were believing in Jesus because of Lazarus whom he has raised, they now also decided that Lazarus must die.