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 JOHN 12:1-8



We all eat daily. In our busy lives however, it's common to get sidetracked ... even at the table! Here is, I believe, a Bible philosophy for mealtimes. To follow these principles, even when consuming our God given food, is surely an example of "redeeming the time."

                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell


 A Preacher in his Study






"Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." 

John 12:1-8



Jesus was balanced!

In everything He did.

Even when it comes to the subject of this short Text in John 12, eating, Jesus was balanced.

Our Lord knew how to abstain from food, doing so for forty days at the beginning of His Ministry.

Yet He also knew how to enjoy food, so much that some called Him a glutton! They were liars! Jesus was not a glutton. But He did often eat ... with others in sweet and holy fellowship.

Our Text here is introducing one of those meals.

"Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead." John 12:1

This event, this supper, was about a week before Jesus died on Calvary.

He created the world in six days, making possible our very ability to eat. And now, six days before His atonement for that world, He Himself will eat a meal.

The noun "passover" is spelled "pascha" and actually is related to the Greek verb "to suffer," which is spelled "pascho."

Jesus' vicarious suffering and death was the Fulfillment of all that passover suggests! He is our Passover! That's exactly what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 5:7. "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."

"Bethany" means "house of dates," perhaps named for the fruit trees that grew there in abundance. But to the Lord "Bethany" was more than that.  It was "the town of Lazarus and Mary and her sister Martha." John 11:1 says so. "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha."

It seems that our great God knows cities by the names and numbers of His people who live there! He would even have spared Sodom had more righteous people been in her midst. What about America?

"Lazarus" means "whom God helps." He sure lived up to his name's implications! This Lazarus, brother to Mary and Martha, is mentioned by name 11 times in Scripture ... all in the Gospel of John. His name is also a form of the Hebrew name Eleazar.

Now if you want to read an interesting phrase, here it is: "Lazarus, which had been dead!"

You just don't read of a lot of people, now living, who "had been dead."

Dead people just could not stay that way around Jesus!

This included Lazarus.

We have three Scriptural accounts of Jesus raising the dead. There was the little twelve year old girl. Then the son of the widow of Nain. Plus Lazarus. The little girl was only dead a few hours. The grown young man nearly a day. But Lazarus, four days!

Of course we old sinners were spiritually dead, until Jesus saved us. See Ephesians 2:1 for Paul's precise words.

But Lazarus was physically dead!

If our great God can raise the dead, He can do anything!

I want to go on record today. With all my heart I believe the miracles Jesus performed were literal and exact events, just like the Bible says. He walked on water. He fed multitudes. He arose from the grave!

This is the Jesus Who came to the humble home in Bethany.

And, naturally, His hosts wanted to feed Him a meal.

That's what we're going to study, Lord willing, that meal.

Herein we shall find some principles to help us ... even as we eat too!

                                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




According to the manners and customs of Jesus' day, guests in one's home were always served a meal! Not to do so was highly improper, a real insult in fact.

Therefore when Jesus entered the home of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, a meal or perhaps even a feast would certainly have been forthcoming.

So, verse John 12:2 tells us: "There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him."

The verb "made" is just lovely. "Poieo" of course does mean to make, but in this sense: to form or fashion as an artist with his sculpture or a poet with his poem. Really, our English words "poet" and "poem" are both derived from "poieo." The 3rd person plural properties of "poieo" here indicate that all three family members, Lazarus and Martha and Mary, likely had some part in preparing the meal. They all were in favor of feeding the Lord a nourishing meal.

The meal served Jesus was "supper." In Greek "deipnon" means the main meal of the day, usually served in the evening. Jesus perhaps had not eaten all day long.

Then Martha, in keeping with her personality, was in charge of the actual organization and preparation of the food. Martha "served." And "diakoneo" means "to wait upon someone as a slave." To attend their needs. To wait tables! And THIS is the exact word that gives us the New Testament concept of deacons! You can actually see "deacon" in "diakoneo." The "i" becomes an "e" and the "k" becomes a "c" as the word assimilates into English. That this "service" is Martha's habitual lifestyle is indicated by the Holy Spirit's word choice. He uses the imperfect tense. That pictures verb action that began in the past, but has lasting consequences. It still lives in the hearts of people. Martha indeed was a server!

Conversely, Lazarus was not intimately involved in the details of the meal, the mechanics of it. Instead, he "sat at the table" with Jesus.

This compound verb, "sunanakeimai," takes the root "keimai" which means "to lie outstretched." The prefixes, both "sun" and "ana," intensify the meaning and suggest group activity that has been repeated earlier. These folks did not sit in padded comfortable table chairs to eat. They reclined on one side, leaning on their elbow, eating with the other hand.

Notice that Lazarus was one among many who were at the table. "One" is the Greek "heis," a primary numeral. Maybe the disciples were all there. We know some of them were. What fellowship would have been enjoyed that day!

We find 9 times "sunanakeimai" in the New Testament. All of them include Jesus except the death story of John the Baptist. I am here including the Lord's parables in this number as well.

What a group we have here. Godly men and women ready to both nourish their physical bodies ... and their spiritual natures too!

With whom one eats is important.

So much so that Paul at times absolutely forbade his Corinthian converts to eat with some folks! "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." That's 1st Corinthians 5:11.

Anyone hungry?

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The Lord's Presence evokes many responses.

One evening at supper in Bethany our Lord experienced at least three of them. One each came from Lazarus, Martha and Mary, the siblings.

For example: "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." John 12:3

The word "pound" is spelled "litra" and anciently was a measure of capacity for grain. In Jesus' world it represented a sum of money. In everyday terminology the Disciples would have recognized a "pound" as worth about 100 shekels! We are talking about quite a sizeable amount of cash here.

"Ointment" is "muron" and yields the Bible word "myrrh." It was a form of perfumed oil. Myrrh is most often Scripturally associated with death. Did Mary see something everyone else had missed, at least so far?

"Spikenard" is represented by two words. "Nardos" suggests "the head or spike of a fragrant plant which yields a juice of delicious odour which the ancients used in the preparation of one of their most precious perfumes." And "pistikos" means something like "pure" or "geniune." It is derived from "pistis," the word for faithful! This perfume was the real product! Nothing watered-down here!

Very costly, "politumos," means of "many" or "much" ("polus") ... of "value" ("time") in Greek. It's a lovely word, further describing Mary's gift to Jesus.

"Anointed" is "aleipho" and means "to bathe with oil" or "to rub with oil." The "a" prefix here simply is a particle of union.

Jesus' feet just had to be beautiful! Based on Isaiah 52:7. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Jesus fulfilled this commission without measure. Mary, even at supper mind you, worshipped the Saviour.

Additionally Mary "wiped" His feet with her hair. "Ekmasso" means "to handle or squeeze." The prefix "ek" means "off." Mary poured the precious ointment on Jesus, then carefully rubbed it until all was gone, absorbed.

Now remember that a woman's hair is her glory according to Paul in 1st Corinthians 11. Here Mary submits her "glory" to Jesus' greater Glory! Again I remind you, this is done at a meal!

The home or "house" (in Greek = "oikia") was filled ("pleroo") with the sweet smell! This verb is an indicative aorist passive. Loving Jesus is a fragrant activity anytime!

"Odor" is "osme," being built upon the root verb "ozo," to scent, to cause an odor ... good or bad. Only 5 texts in the New Testament use this word.

So far ... at supper ... Lazarus is sitting, thinking, reflecting. Martha is working, busily serving as usual. And Mary is worshipping!

In none of these cases is food the central thought on anyone's mind. Jesus is! Maybe that's a hint on how we are to eat yet today!

                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




In John 12:1-8 we see Jesus eating supper one evening. He is a Guest in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

That Text reveals some lovely facts.

Ideas about mealtimes!

The three main people we have observed at this meal, this meal with Jesus, have responded differently. Each has used his or her mealtime to reflect on some different aspect of knowing Jesus, of loving and worshipping Him!

Martha served.

Lazarus sat and talked.

Mary fell at His feet and worshipped.

I believe their three responses reflect the greatest mealtime needs in existence today.

That should not surprise us. The Word of God is filled with timeless principles from its lovely accounts, again and again!

Martha's service should remind us that Jesus saved us to glorify God! An old preacher from my childhood loved to say, "We are saved to serve!"

How can we today use our mealtimes to serve the Lord? Memorize a verse of Scripture while you eat. Listen to a radio broadcast that preaches the Word. Read a chapter from your Bible. Pray for a loved one. All these things can be done as we munch and chew and swallow. That is, if we remove all distractions ... television included!

Martha's activity centers on the present. The time being right now. Jesus had some immediate needs and she planned to meet them!

Think of mealtimes where you live. In every case, breakfast or lunch or supper, preparation and serving is essential. Why can't Dad help Mom prepare the meal? Or clean up afterwards? With Sister Norma now being confined to a wheelchair or to a single sofa seat at home ... I have learned to serve. Or at least I'm trying to learn. Every meal can be turned into a ministry! I bought her some little plates that say "I love you" on them. I try to use them each day I'm home. And she gets the message! If everyone who comes to the table had a servant's heart, everything would not fall upon one person's shoulders!

Martha, the name, is defined by an on-line etymology dictionary as: "feminine, a proper name, from the Aramaic Maretha, literally meaning lady or mistress. In turn from mar or mara meaning lord or master." Interesting!

Martha "served" the supper guests. The verb, as we saw earlier, is "diakoneo." It means to wait tables! To be a domestic attendant!

Yet here the server is definitely the one in charge! Next to Jesus I mean! Her very name, Martha, means "master" and she is the mistress of this meal's preparation!

Isn't that exactly what Jesus earlier taught us? The servant will become the lord! The lowly one will become the leader! The least will become the greatest! In Mark 10:43 Jesus says: "Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister."

Mealtimes are serving times!

Every lady has known this for years. Maybe we all should learn it!

Next lesson we're going to examine Lazarus and what he brought to the table, the table with Jesus!

For just as Martha's activity emphasized the present, Lazarus' activities will emphasize the past!

Come again and see what I mean.

                                                                                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Nowadays the traitor Judas is being presented in a new and different light! He's currently being called a hero by many. They base this false assumption on a new "Gospel" that's been published.

One thing for sure, Judas did not have John deceived!

I mean John the Apostle, who writes: "Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him ...." John 12:4

Jesus in John 12:1-8 is enjoying a meal! And not only was Lazarus present, loyal friend to Christ ... the "traitor" Judas was there too! Everyone who eats supper with you might not love you! How keenly aware Solomon was of this in Proverbs. "When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: and put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat." Then, "Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee." Proverbs 23:1-3 and 6-7

Jesus later proves His Omniscience once again by reminding us of Judas. "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." John 13:18 has Judas in mind.

Yes, at table with Jesus is both Lazarus His friend and Judas His enemy! You simply can not trust everyone who eats a meal with you! Preachers, you had best learn this lesson early in your ministry too!

The verb "said" (in Greek = "lego") is framed as a present indicative active and suggests that Judas unashamedly voiced his opinion here, perhaps repeating it several times!

A "disciple" is just a "learner." The noun "mathetes" means a pupil or a student ... in contradistinction to "didaskalos," the teacher. It derives from "manthano" or "matheo" meaning "to learn" or to understand.

Sadly, "Judas" means praise! It's a form of the name Jacob's fourth son was given, "Judah." It is tragic when a person does not live up to the high and holy meaning of his or her name.

"Iscariot" is probably a designation of Judas' hometown. As is the case with Mary Magdalene. Kerioth was a city in the south of Judah's tribal allotment. See Joshua 15:25. It is believed to be located about ten miles south of Hebron. The name means a "wall" it is thought. Perhaps a military base was there located, explaining the wall concept!

Further still, Judas' father was named "Simon." This is a form of the Hebrew name "Simeon," which means "to hear with the ear." Yet Judas was as dead spiritually as he could be! He heard all those sermons and parables and kind words Jesus uttered ... to no avail!

The verb "betray" is presented here by the Holy Spirit as an infinitive, a present tense one at that.  Judas, though not yet negotiating with the Pharisees and Scribes and Chief Priests, had disloyalty in  his heart already.

"Paradidomai" means "to give" ("didomai") "over or alongside" ("para") something or someone to another person or group! Judah handed Jesus over to the enemy! The King James Version perfectly captures the essence of the word here in this context ... to "betray." Our word "betray" is derived from the Latin "tradere" where "dare" means "to give" and "trans" means "over or across."

Judas was a traitor, disloyal and unfaithful!

Today liberals are of course trying to make him a hero, thereby turning evil into good! Listen to Isaiah preach: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Isaiah 5:20

All this negative information accurately heaped on a man, a man who sits at table with Jesus!

Here's a man who "sops" (from the noun "psomion") with Jesus. A "sop" is a small piece or a morsel of food, a fragment.

When you eat with a group ... remember what you say!

Because, as Solomon again warns us in another Text: "Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter." That includes mealtimes too! Ecclesiastes 10:20

Jesus knew how to conduct Himself at table!

By studying Him, our dear Lord, especially in this John 12 Passage, we can learn much!

Pass the bread, please!

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




John chapter 12 begins with Jesus at a meal, one in the house of Lazarus and his sisters. They lived in Bethany.

Martha cooked most of the food it seems. Lazarus, as men often do, just sat and waited. Yet Lazarus' very presence evoked excitement and curiosity! He had recently been dead for four days! But Jesus raised him from the grave! Perhaps one could surmise that a good topic of conversation at any meal would be the miracle working power of God! That's surely what Lazarus represented!

Mary, worshipful reverent Mary, was again at Jesus' feet, anointing and washing them meaningfully.

So far at this meal we have been exposed to Martha's service, to Lazarus' testimony, then to Mary's worship!

Then Judas spoke!

"Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" John 12:5

The noun ointment, "muron" in Greek, is derived from the word "myrrh." It's the gum from a certain type of balsam tree. It's fragrant like perfume. It possesses certain healing qualities and was used for medicinal purposes too. It also can be used as a mild anesthetic. Again it was used by the ancients to embalm dead bodies. Then needless to say, it was expensive!

To "sell" means "to dispose of as merchandise." The word is "piprasko" in Greek and in all 9 New Testament occurrences it means only "to sell" in a financial sense.

A "pence" or "denarion" was the equivalent of a full day's wages in Jesus' day. The perfume Mary shared and poured on Jesus was worth nearly a whole year's labor!

The verb "given" is "didomai" and means to grant, to allow, to permit, to entrust, to pay ... as well as to give. It's in the passive voice here. Someone would have to be in charge of the giving! Money cannot place itself into a recipient's hands! Judas, of course, would be the prime candidate. He was the treasurer!

"Ptochos," the "poor," actually indicates those in the lowest of all financial levels! Abjectly poor! Poverty stricken!

Judas has just revealed to us his value system! The "poor" he held in such high esteem ... that Jesus did not even place on the scale! If not that, then his motives are really suspect! Of course John is about to explain all that to us in the very next verse. There of Judas we are told: "He was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." John 12:6

Think of that!

Eating with Jesus ... yet still scheming and deceptively planning one's next robbery!

At table, remember this. False motives and untrue statements may be made! Discernment is necessary!


                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




John the Disciple of Jesus wrote five Books in the Bible. At least that's the literal Bible-believer's view. The Gospel of John, the three short Epistles bearing his name, then the Book of Revelation must be included in his corpus.

Often in these Texts John stops to explain some unusual statement that's been made. His personal yet fully inspired comments are often set apart by parentheses. For example: "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee." John 4:1-3

At other times John just shares the Truth in a personal way. "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." John 21:25

In John 12, where Jesus is enjoying a meal in the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus, Judas the so-called Disciple became sort of a "fly in the ointment." See Ecclesiastes 10:1. "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour."

This could happen at any meal!

And Jesus handled the situation beautifully, perfectly!

Our Lord, at table and while eating, fellowships with the resurrected Lazarus, appreciates Martha's service and accepts Mary's adoration!

Then, upon Judas' verbal attacks, Jesus defends Mary!

John, again at table, actually sets Judas' rude comments in perspective. The beloved Apostle adds concerning Judas: "This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." John 12:6

Judas had questioned Mary's use of a perfumed ointment, lavishly poured upon Jesus' feet! It was expensive indeed! Yet Jesus is worth it all ... then some! Judas again: "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?"

Notice with me that HERE John again editorializes. He explains, being led of the Holy Spirit.

Judas did not "care" for the poor. The verb is "melo" and means to have an interest in someone, to be concerned about them. Only found 10 times in the whole New Testament, "melo" is most often used in the Gospels. It is found only twice in Paul and once in Peter's work. My favorite is: "Casting all your care upon Him; for He CARETH for you." 1st Peter 5:7

The noun "thief" is "kleptes" as in the English word "kleptomaniac." It indicates a person who is an embezzler or a pilferer, one who steals.

The verb "had" is represented by "echo" and means "to hold onto" something! Judas was not about to resign his position!

The noun "bag" is interesting. It means a small receptacle for a mouth-piece for a musical instrument, a storage box or bag. "Glossokomon" is the word. "Glossa" means tongue. "Kosmos" means that which is orderly or arranged properly. The term eventually came to mean just "a money bag." Judas was apparently at heart interested only in personal gain!

The verb "bare" is "bastazo" and has the idea of carrying a load! The time sense of our word here is one of action completed in the past ... yet possessing lasting results.

The point of today's lesson ... even at mealtimes be prepared to deal with possible conflict, greed and occasional unpleasant conditions! They will occur!

But do you notice this? Also at mealtime we learned about the motives and thoughts of Judas the traitor!

Secrets are often shared at table, helpful hints on living for God!

Next time you have a meal, acknowledge the presence of Jesus through the precious Holy Spirit in your midst!

Then do a little serving and worshipping and fellowshipping yourself ... with our dear Lord! And don't be surprised if your table dedication yields a "nugget" or two of helpful information, information on how to better live for God or more clearly understand His Word!

                                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




At one single meal, near the end of Jesus' earthly life, He was served and then worshipped ... but then criticized!

At least one of His followers was criticized ... for pouring expensive perfume all over His feet thus anointing Him for future burial!

But, at that same blessed meal, Jesus defended that lowly worshipper!

Yes, Mary was protected by the Saviour she adored so much!

Jesus quipped to Judas the criticizer: "Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this." John 12:7

Judas, being the group treasurer, thought he knew a better use for that costly fragrance! He felt, then asked: "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" John 12:5

But his real motives were exposed by the Holy Spirit of God through John's exposition: "This Judas said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." John 12:6

Jesus will always stand with the one who loves Him and adores Him and falls at His Feet!

God promised, back in 1st Samuel 2:30, "But now the LORD saith, them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."

Jesus, the Defender!

"Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this."

The words "let her alone" are lovely! "Aphimei" means "to send" ("hiemi" in Greek) "away" ("apo" in Greek). In other words, "Get you out of here, Judas!" This is an imperative too, issuing an order from Jesus!

I wonder how many times, when the devil is harassing us as God's little children, does our great High Priest in Heaven say to the enemy: "Let him alone! Let her alone! Go away, you old devil!"

The preposition "against" is spelled "eis" and literally means "into" or "upon" as well as "against." Mary actually saw the coming death of Jesus with its subsequent burial and she was preparing Him in advance! She was light years ahead of some of the disciples in her discernment!

The noun for "burial" is a compound word. "Entaphiasmos" links "taphos" (meaning "grave") and "en" (meaning "in, at or upon"). One can readily see how this term means burial.

Then the verb "kept" is the key to it all I think!

"Tereo" means "to guard" or "to keep under guard" or "to keep in custody!" It appears that Mary had been saving a long time to to buy this ointment, then keeping or saving or protecting it for quite a while too ... just for this purpose, worshipping Jesus!  She honored our Lord particularly in view of His soon coming Sacrificial Death on the Cross!

And her opportunity to do this came ... at a meal!

Glory to God!

If I am reading our Text rightly, this is one of the greatest acts of worship rendered to Jesus in all the Bible!

And again I simply remind you, it happened at the supper table!

Lord, help us to eat better!

Spiritually so!

                                                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The Bible does advocate caring for the poor.

The fatherless and orphans are particularly mentioned 42 times in Scripture. Then the widows are named as a group another 80 times or so. Their first Bible appearance when grouped together gives us the essence of God's instruction on their behalf. "Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child." Exodus 22:22

And the "poor" of the land are important as well. Again and again God provides for them, instructing His people to do the same, even including the produce of their vineyards and farms! This verse is typical: "And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:10

So understand, Jesus cared for poor folks!

Yet one day, in John 12:1-8, Jesus defended Mary of Bethany ... even in the face of criticism concerning the poor, not caring for them properly!

Here's the heart of the conversation. It occurs at the supper table one night in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Jesus' disciples were present too. Apparently during the meal ... "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." John 12:3-8

"Give that vast wealth to the poor," yelled Judas. Not because he cared for the impoverished, but because he had control of discretionary spending among the Twelve! He was the treasurer! He wanted to either steal or squander the cash, not give it away to anyone!

Yes, the "poor" are a worthy cause. After all, verses like Proverbs 19:17 do say: "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again."

But Jesus at this table in Bethany set some priorities!

"Yes, care for the poor," the Lord seems to be asserting. "But when faced with the choice of worshipping God or helping the poor ... put God first, and then you will be even better equipped to help the needy!"

Read John 12:8 with me please. Jesus is talking: "For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."

Jesus seems to be implying: "Help the poor after I have been crucified, buried and raised again! After I've ascended to Heaven and sit on My Father's right Hand!"

"But for now," Christ implied to those dinner guests, "worship Me at any cost! And she who has done so will be remembered and honored forever!"

Do notice that the word Jesus used for "poor" is "ptochos" and means those who are reduced to begging! Extreme poverty! Abjectly needy!

The adverb "always" is interesting, even if not the verse's main word. "Pantote" fuses together "pas" ... meaning all, then "hos" ... meaning who or which, plus "hote" ... meaning when or soon! Put them together: "at every time," or "at all whens!"

Now some folks are poor through no fault of their own! Others due to their own laziness or due to some reversal of circumstances or just due to the inherent sin in hearts of men and women ... not counting the sheer providence of God, poor people will always live on this earth.  That's certain! Jesus just said so! The "war" on poverty will not be won until our dear Lord returns!

Yes, the poor will always be here!

"For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."

Next, the verb "have" translates "echo" and means "to hold on to." This might imply that poverty exists partly because of man's ways. His greed and selfishness!

But Jesus, never selfish I might remind you, suggests here that His Presence on earth should outweigh any immediate or displacing concern for poor folks. At least in Mary's day, until Calvary had been experienced by the Lord! The Cross where He died to save sinners, where He made redemption possible!

Jesus also considered this as a "given" fact: His followers "held" Him in the highest of esteem, in reverence! They of course would worship and adore and praise Him, lavishing upon Him whatever they possessed in order to show His Worth!

The word picture Jesus has drawn here looks like this. The poor are important. Care for them. But I am more important. Calvary is fundamental! Care for your Salvation first ... then you will be more concerned yet for the poor!

Be saved, born again from above, washed in the Blood of the Lamb ... and you will love the poor! You will even develop a poverty of spirit! "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

Better yet folks, read with me this "priority" setting verse: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

Jesus first!

Then whomever else in order, including the poor!

And just WHERE was this lesson learned, freshly falling from the Lips of the Saviour?

At the supper table one night at Bethany!

Another spiritual meal in the ministry of Jesus!

Surely Paul had such in mind when in 1st Corinthians 10:31 he wrote: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."


                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The emphasis in this whole Text, John 12:1-8, is at least partly the fact that Jesus always preached or taught or worked some type of miracle ... or else somehow loved and cared for others, even while He was at the table, taking food into His body!


This is His regular pattern, again and again throughout the Gospels!

He is in fact going to eat yet another meal with us, in the future, at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! Revelation 19:9 reminds us: "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." And even there His very Presence will bear tremendous spiritual import!

If our Saviour and Lord so turned meals into opportunities to teach His Word or otherwise focus on the Scriptures, should we not do the same?

I know of a man, both a Dad and Husband, who planned the spiritual side of each meal in his home! He designed little place mats for each family member and wrote Bible questions or Scriptural facts on them. These items became points of instruction and conversation at each meal that day! This Dad was a spiritual leader! This man was truly the right kind of husband to his wife!

A family might memorize a new verse each day, or each week for that matter ... at mealtimes I mean!

Or the Pastor's most recent sermon could be discussed, re-emphasizing its main truths at lunch or supper each Monday! What a way to teach the Word!

Sister Norma and I once did this. We studied a new Book of Scripture each month, using mealtimes to discuss our findings! In fact, this month, whether home or on the road, I am going to do that again ... then share with my wife what the Lord is teaching me! The Book of Numbers, in case you're wondering!

Spiritual meals!

That overrules television!

Or each family member heading to his own place to eat!

It conversely encourages togetherness at home!

I have arrived at these conclusions mostly from our Text here in John, watching Jesus closely throughout His earthly life.

But Moses has something to add to our discussion too. When teaching our children, the lawgiver adds: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." I say Moses, but really it was the Lord Who commanded this in Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

If we are to discuss and exalt and study the Bible ... then teach it to our loved ones at these four times; when sitting at home, when traveling, at bedtime, then again each morning ... surely that includes mealtimes!

Recalling a verse I mentioned yesterday, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

I highlighted the words "eating and drinking" by capitalizing them.  Those times of each day are also to be utilized for God's Glory!

Anyone going to try it?

I challenge you!

In fact, I would love to "provoke" someone into this pattern of life!



"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." Hebrews 10:24


                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Perhaps one of the the greatest Bible examples of mealtime hospitality is found in the life of Abraham, in Genesis 18:1-8. "And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat." What a spiritual meal that must have been! Abraham and the Lord!

Here are some groups not normally invited to a first century meal: women, children, servants and slaves, the sick, the poor and the disabled! Jesus it appears welcomed them all!

In Roman homes, those typical to Jesus' world, access to meals and banquets was quite easy! Often uninvited guests slipped into the home! Some of this was accepted gladly, giving the host an opportunity to share unreturned hospitality!

Jesus was not always the Host at meals in which He participated. Often He was the invited Guest!

In Luke 19 Zacchaeus the tax collector is linked to Abraham when the former offered Jesus hospitality at his home, including food and drink! "And Jesus said unto Zacchaeus, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham." Maybe both their names appear in this verse because both shared lavish hospitality with the Lord!

As soon as the tax collectors Matthew and Zacchaeus were saved, they prepared a meal for Jesus, fellowshipping with Him throughout the festivities!

Jesus' Disciples it seems were included in many a banquet or delicious meal simply because they were identified with His Name! Come to think of it, I am going to a banquet some day, a Marriage Supper, because I am linked to Jesus as well! Solidarity with Jesus, saved by His Grace!

Jesus fellowshipped with Mary, Martha and Lazarus over dinner! And Matthew too! And as already mentioned He had a meal with Zacchaeus! Plus the two going to Emmaus the Day of our Lord's Resurrection shared a meal with the Lord! And the Disciples, how many times? Including that seaside breakfast just prior to the Ascension!

Jesus ate in mixed company, men and women together!

Jesus used meals for celebration!

Jesus used different foods as symbols for spiritual truth!

Jesus often mixed eating with other good deeds; healing the sick, teaching the eager, nurturing the discouraged!

Jesus used meals to establish tradition, holy tradition at that! The Lord's Supper!

Jesus' presence at meals illustrated the fact that preparation and work were necessary to entertain, especially the most illustrious Guest of all history!

Jesus always seemed to elevate the physical aspect of eating, giving it a spiritual dimension.

Study the "food events" in the life of Jesus. They are numerous! Just count the times "bread" and "eat" and "house" and "supper" are mentioned in association with our Lord. The numbers will surprise you!

Did you ever think of the frequency of times Ecclesiastes mentions food? There is a whole philosophy of eating in that inspired little Book of Wisdom.

Think each time you eat meat that blood had to be shed to place that food on your table! No, I am not saying that fried chicken or a baked meal loaf picture Jesus in any specific way. But the blood those animals gave is a factual illustration of Leviticus 17:11 and 14. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood."

The Rechabites of Jeremiah 35 and the Nazarites of the New Testament both followed specific mealtime guides, with God's blessing too!

Eating and drinking are an act of faith!

Jesus in our John 12:1-8 Text did NOT say to ignore the poor. He believed in hospitality and practiced it again and again. But Judas' bitter spirit was trying to ignore the adoration due our Saviour! In that light, care for the poor ... after Jesus has been properly exalted and worshipped!

Greeks and Romans typically ate three meals a day. While the Jews usually just ate two.

Sociologists and anthropologists often speak of the "language" of meals!

The human "mouth" is so important at meals. It ingests food and drink and expels words of conversation! Both aspects need to be controlled!

Often the hands were washed several times during a meal! I remember in Latin class in high school at our annual "banquet" little water dishes called "finger bowls" were used repeatedly during the meal! The Pharisees got a little upset with Jesus because He did not conform to all their little "hand washing" standards!

In Bible days food provision and preparation and consumption were far more than just issues of nutrition!

In Jesus' day also seat maps were drawn up by hosts to depict the exact location for each guest! From the top down, mealtime participants were placed in seats of more to less honor!

Slaves always ate standing!

History teaches us the the early first century Church held "love meals" or "agape feasts" in which the poorer saints were fed as well as the more wealthy ones. At least that was the way it was designed to function! This was abrogated in Corinth! There some overate and others were ignored it appears. "For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken." 1st Corinthians 11:21

John Wesley greatly emphasized such "spiritual meals" during his days of ministry. During those special suppers, hymns were sung and Scripture was read and testimonies were shared, all to enhance the faith of those present ... faith in Jesus!

Today we've mostly shared just fragments of information ... but I trust this article has been helpful in your study of our Text.

May the Lord through John 12:1-8 impact our mealtimes too!

Surely being more "spiritually minded" would impact our behaviour at breakfast, lunch and supper! "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Romans 8:6

                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell








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