The poor you will always have
The passage starts with yet more religious leaders’ self-interest. Jesus’ ministry is going to mean they will lose their place and their nation. They, like Judas later in the passage, are interested in profiting from religion and their status. This is in marked contrast to John the Baptist who knows that he must decrease as Jesus increases. More of you Lord!
Caiaphas, the High Priest, prophesies that Jesus will die for the nation. But not just the nation. He will die for the people of God, made up of people from every nation. The irony John uses is juicy. As D.A. Carson writes “when Caiaphas argues that Jesus must die for the people, he is using sacrificial language. He certainly does not mean this in the Christian sense; he probably meant that Jesus be devoted to death, sacrificed as a scapegoat, in order to spare the nation and its leaders. Readers living after the cross cannot help seeing more.”
Caiaphas was prophesying, with no idea that it was prophetic or understanding of its true meaning! I find it amazing that after 400 years of prophetic silence, the coming of Christ births lots of prophetic – around His birth; Anna and Simeon; and John the Baptist – the greatest old covenant prophet. Even an evil priest gets to prophesy. When the Spirit is around, He speaks and will use a donkey if He has to!!!
Next they go to the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha for dinner. Mary anoints Jesus with expensive perfume – a beautiful act of worship. Judas is critical, because it could have been sold and used for the poor. But he is a thief and would have stolen it for himself.
Jesus’ answer, that you will always have the poor with you, is an interesting one. He is in effect saying that caring for the poor is of huge importance, but worship trumps service. Indeed worship is the fuel of service. We need both. Reading this Scripture reminded me of Simon Pettitt’s 1998 movement-shaking message “Remember the poor” . Too often it has been the liberal church that did social action, but devoid of the gospel. Simon’s message stirred Newfrontiers to get active in social action alongside the gospel – you would do well to watch it, apostolic preaching at its best.