John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: September 25

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John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: September 25

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Mat_26:1-16; Mar_16:1-11; Luk_22:1-6; Joh_12:2-8

The evening of the day of which the incidents were yesterday recorded—Wednesday evening by our mode of computation, Thursday evening by that of the Jews—was spent very differently by the enemies of Christ in Jerusalem, and by himself and his friends at Bethany.

At this place a supper was prepared for him in the house of Simon the leper—that is, perhaps, one who had been a leper, and had probably been healed by Jesus. Lazarus was among those who sat at meat; and we may take notice of this as evidence that there was nothing merely illusive or unreal, as some have alleged, in his being raised from the dead, seeing that, some weeks after that great event, he takes part in a social meal. This is perhaps marked by the evangelist for that reason, and maybe compared with our Lord’s command for food to be given to the damsel He raised from the dead, and with his own participation of food after his own resurrection. This is the last we hear of Lazarus in the gospels; but there are some traditions concerning him, to which we are at liberty to give what credence we see fit. One of them is, that he was thirty years old when raised from the dead, and that he survived thirty years more. Another is, that the first question he asked our Lord after leaving the tomb was, whether he was to die again, and being answered in the affirmative, he never smiled more.

His sisters were also there, thought not at the table. The fact that the good, stirring Martha appears in her favorite character of housewife, having charge of the preparations for, and attendance at supper, taken with the presence of all the family, may suggest that there was some near connection between them and Simon. Many conjectures have been offered on this point, but it seems to us likely that the entertainment was really given by Lazarus and his sisters, the neighboring house of their friend and relative Simon being borrowed for the occasion, their own being under repair, or having no room large enough for the entertainment of so considerable a party. Or, as just occurs to us, Simon may have recently become a leper, and being, as such, obliged to withdraw from the town, had left his house vacant, under the charge of Lazarus and his sisters, who made use of it on this occasion. If Simon himself gave the entertainment, or took a leading part in it, it would have been more direct to say so, than that the entertainment was given in his house. Mary took advantage of this occasion to signalize her devotion to her Lord, and her reverence for his person, by bestowing upon his head and his feet the contents of a vessel of costly perfumed oil, bending over him as she did so, and then kneeling down to wipe his feet with her hair. This perfumed oil was of a very costly kind, worth about eight pounds of our money, and had probably been purchased for the occasion. It was an anointing fit for kings, and it is not unlikely that Mary connected some ideas of the approaching assumption of regal honors with this act. In any case, the peculiar odor of this perfume, which instantly pervaded all the house, disclosed its quality and cost. Some of the disciples were not unnaturally distressed at this lavish expenditure of that, the worth of which would have given food to many poor persons, and was in fact equal to the year’s wages of a laboring man. But one of them was roused to loudly-expressed indignation. “Why,” he exclaimed, “why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence (denarii), and given to the poor?” This was Judas Iscariot; and the evangelist throws light upon the special intensity of his vexation by the fact, that he was the treasurer of the party, having charge of the little fund from which their simple wants were supplied, and which furnished the means of charity to the poor. John also flatly charges him with making wrongful appropriations of this common fund to his own private uses; so that it was very important to him that all generous acts of his Lord’s friends should take the form of money, to go into the purse of which he was the unworthy bearer; and to that purse certainly the worth of the oil would have been a very acceptable contribution. Avarice is thus, we perceive, the characteristic of Judas’ mind, which one who knew him, and had been long his companion, places prominently before us. And whatever else, therefore, we find in this man’s dark mind, covetousness must be taken as its most distinguishing characteristic, for we certainly have no right to suppose that we know Judas or can understand him better than John did.

Our Lord vindicated this act of Mary, and, indeed, commended it. He perceived and appreciated in Mary that disposition which is ever ready to make large sacrifices for love; and, always meditating upon his own death, the more intently as the time was so close at hand, He said, that “He had this night received, not a regal anointing, but an anticipatory anointing for the tomb—an embalming such as the dead received—a consecration to death.”—“The poor,” he added, “ye have always with you, but Me ye have not always,” meaning that there are certain offices of love which can be rendered only upon extraordinary occasions, and which are therefore not to be estimated by the common standards of judgment. These ought to be done, and the others not neglected.

Judas, who expected that his Master would have supported his view of the case, became gloomy and exasperated at this rebuff; and as it is probable that, although with yearnings for good, he had joined Christ mainly with views of high advancement and great temporal gain in the kingdom He was about to establish, he was not the less vexed by these reiterated intimations of approaching death, which became but too probable from the aspect of affairs, and from our Lord’s having declined so many recent opportunities of meeting the hopes and expectations of the people. As he moodily pondered these things, “Satan entered into Judas,” in the shape of a thought, that it was useless to serve such a Master any longer; it might be well to quit Him while there was time to do so, for his followers could hardly escape scathless from the dangers which He declared to be impending over himself; and, indeed, what had He lately been holding out to them but prospects of persecution, trial, and martyrdom? This did not suit Judas. And since Jesus had made up his mind to perish, and was certain to do so if He persisted in his present views, why might not he make some gain of the business? It was well known the Sanhedrin was anxious to find an opportunity of seizing Jesus without danger of public tumult; such an opportunity this man’s acquaintance with his Master’s resorts would enable him to give; and he might expect a liberal reward for this service to those who were, after all, the constituted authorities, who had a right to inquire into such matters, and to whom, as a good Jew and a good citizen, his services were due.

There has grown up in these latter days a tendency, which pervades much of our literature, to obscure the barriers of vice and virtue, of nobleness and villainy—to make out that the foulest crimes and lowest vices are, in the same man, consistent with high intellect, tender affections, and exalted sentiments. The virtues of villains form the great study of our day. Among these villains Judas has found a place; and there are not wanting those who, in the teeth of the evangelist, try to make it clear that he acted on pure and generous motives, and with the best, though, as it happened, mistaken intentions. We have no sympathy with this; but still it may be hard to believe that a man who had been chosen by Christ to the apostleship, and who had so long been in close intimacy with our Lord and his apostles, could have been wholly without good qualities. Even his ultimate repentance may be taken to show that he had susceptibility of truth and right, though for a time kept under by the iron grasp of covetousness. It is therefore just, possible that he did deceive himself into the belief, that he was rendering his Master a real service by placing Him in a position which might compel Him then and there to take to himself his great power and reign.

Meanwhile the enemies of Jesus, after the discomfiture of their attempts to ensnare Him by their questions, assembled to consider what next should be done. It was a full meeting of the Sanhedrin, held in the palace of the high priest—there, because the temple, where this body usually met, was not open to the courts at night. The result seems to have been, that it was still impossible to take Him publicly in the temple, because it remained at least doubtful which side the people would take, and the attempt was certain to breed some kind of tumult, which would hardly fail to bring down upon them the Roman garrison (always present during the Passover), who would probably, after their manner, smite right and left, and defile the sacred courts with blood, without regard to the cause or circumstances. If, then, He were apprehended publicly, it could not be till after the festival, when the crowds from the provinces had taken their departure. But Jesus himself might then depart also, as He had done formerly. It was therefore desirable to obtain possession of his person privately by some craft or contrivance. They knew that He left the city every evening, sometimes for Bethany, sometimes for places in the immediate neighborhood. There was small hope, therefore, of surprising Him at night, unless under the guidance of one who knew where to find Him, and able to identify Him in the night from the followers who were always with Him. Among these followers, so devoted to Him, it was little likely that such a traitor should be found. But while they were debating the matter, the very man they wanted appeared, and made a voluntary offer of his services to betray his Master to them. His question was blunt and characteristic, agreeing with the worst interpretations of his conduct and motives—“What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?” They at length agreed for thirty pieces of silver—the very sum which had, centuries before, been indicated by a prophet (Zec_11:12). It has been urged that the smallness of the reward shows that Judas was not wholly actuated by avaricious motives. But it is to be remembered, that although the crime was great, the service was small in itself, and might be rendered by some spy hired by them, though not so well as by Him. The bribe is also not so small as it seems to us. If shekels, as seems to have been the case, it was equal to about 75s., or half the value of the ointment, the “waste” of which had stirred him so deeply. It was also equal to five months’ wages of a husbandman, and, taking such wages for a standard of relative value (the wages of our husbandmen being about thrice as much), this sum would in actual value be equal to little less than £10 with us.

This being settled, Judas lay watchful for any opportunity that might offer of betraying his Master in the absence of the multitude.