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    Apr 07, 2019

    Mary and Judas: God's Beloved

    Mary and Judas: God's Beloved

    Passage: John 12:1-8

    Speaker: Father Will Lowry

    Series: All

    Category: All


    The folks at the lectionary certainly know what they are doing placing this lection for the 5th Sunday of Lent. It makes perfect sense that right before Jesus heads to Jerusalem the background of the story is presented.

    We have Jesus finally having done enough to make the Pharisees want to plot to kill him, Judas Iscariot is mad enough to seek out those who would pay him to betray Jesus, and Mary anoints Jesus before he begins the sacred journey to the cross in what will be the final act of his earthly ministry.

    Now, pay attention here. On the verge of Jesus’ final days - on his journey to the cross - among those who accompany Jesus are the faithful one who anoints him and the unfaithful one who will betray him. Both are included in John’s account and by Jesus.

    So, what does their inclusion tell us about the meaning of the cross and the inclusive nature of God’s grace?

    We have two polar opposites:

    Mary, who serves as a model for Christian discipleship. She may not say much of anything, but actions tend to speak louder than words anyway. This is the same Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet rather than busy herself with chores. The same Mary who stayed behind at home rather than meet and question Jesus when he came to raise her brother. Actions speak louder than words, so her extravagant act of anointing him with the pricey aroma is perhaps all she could think to do given the exorbitant cost of the selfless deed that Jesus was embarking on.

    On the other hand we have Judas - the betrayer. The one who has been vilified for centuries. Yet, he is no less a witness and no less a disciple than Mary. No matter his motivation for being upset about the cost of the perfume - no matter his eventual betrayal of Jesus (let’s keep in mind he’s not the only one) - Judas is a disciple. And, as Karl Barth writes (in 48 small print pages) at the end of his 500-page expose’ on the doctrine of election - Judas, although he may not fathom it, “Is still an elect and called apostle of Jesus the Christ”.

    What Barth is saying is that if Jesus comes to save the lost (that means you and me, by the way) - and there is no one in the Gospel stories who is more lost than the one who would betray God - then surely the saving grace of God would include even Judas!

    If the shepherd goes to any length to save the single lost sheep, if the widow lights a lamp in the middle of the night to find a lost coin, and if a father joyfully celebrates the return of the prodigal, then surely Judas is not out of reach for the One who has come to save us all!

    In fact, are there any who Jesus is not able to love - to save? Is there a limit to the reach of Jesus' love and compassion? Is there anything we are willing to say God cannot do?

    I suppose that when we turn this story inward and apply it to ourselves we tend to try and identify with one or the other - Mary or Judas - and if I had to guess, most of us would NEVER openly identify ourselves with Judas.

    But the truth John is pointing to - the truth that we have a hard time admitting is that each of us is a paradoxical combination of both.

    Each one of us is a disciple - faithful yet able to betray Jesus. We come to church and worship, we support the mission of the church both physically and monetarily, we live the mission of the church by caring for others. But in a flash we have been known to turn our backs, to deny, to stand down when we should stand up, to pretend we don’t see.

    In contrast, the truth of God is that Mary is not simply the righteous elect and Judas the unrighteous betrayer, we are not only sinners but also the beloved. The truth of God is that by the Grace of God incarnate both betrayer and righteous are included.

    Yes, the faithful and the unfaithful - the poor and the rich - the desirable and undesirable - are all a part of God’s elect because he created each of us and none is different from the other.

    The extravagance of God’s grace is that it knows no bounds. And thank God for that!


    [Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash]