As Passover season is here, this is a good time to look back at some of the events of the year when Jesus became our Passover lamb. A story that may have played a part in leading up to his betrayal is covered in all four gospels, and when you put all of the stories together, you get a fuller picture than you get if you just read any single version of the story. The event is a meal at the home of Simon. All or parts of the story appear in the following locations: Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-11, Luke 7:36-50, Luke 10:38-42, John 12:1-11.
From reading the account in Matthew, we learn that Jesus was in Bethany, at the house of Simon who was a leper, when a woman with a box of expensive oil anointed him. Unnamed disciples chastised her for wastefulness, yet Jesus sided with her. Mark adds the value of the oil at three hundred pence.
Luke identifies Simon as a Pharisee, and that he was upset that Jesus allowed this sinful woman to touch him. By saying “If he were a prophet” Simon shows the he doubts that Jesus is truly who he says he is. Jesus then chastised Simon for not having washed his feet, greeted him with a kiss, or anointed his head, and contrasted Simon and the woman as loving Jesus much versus little. Some of the dinner guests questioned Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. When Luke revisits the story three chapters later, he identifies Mary as the woman sitting at Jesus’ feet, and Martha as the one serving people, at her house. When Martha asks Jesus to make Mary help her, Jesus again sided with Mary.
By reading John’s account, we see that Lazarus (who was recently raised from the dead) was at the table, and it identifies Mary as the one pouring the costly oil on the feet of Jesus. It also identifies the disciple who complained about the waste of money as Judas Iscariot, and we also see that Judas was the son of Simon (previously identified as the leper and the Pharisee). We also see that Judas was a thief who stole from the group’s funds, so his motivation was likely more about his personal greed than using the money from the oil to give the poor. John also tells us that the chief priests wanted to put both Jesus and Lazarus to death, because many believed in Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead.
Collectively, taking everything we have together, we get a more complete picture. Simon was a leper, who obviously had been healed of the leprosy, or he would not have been living openly and having dinner guests. Since Jesus was the only one healing leprosy, we can assume that Jesus had healed him. Luke 17:12-19 tells us that Jesus cured ten lepers, yet only one, a Samaritan, came back to give thanks. Although we don’t have conclusive proof, the possibility is strong that Simon was one of the nine lepers who did not give thanks for having been restored to health. Since Simon was a Pharisee, the possibility also exists that he was one of the many Pharisees that sought to trap Jesus with their cunning questions, and demanding signs from heaven. Since Lazarus was there in Simon’s presence, Simon’s earlier doubt of “if he were a prophet” was rather presumptuous – after all, Simon had been healed of leprosy and seen the dead raised back to life! What more did he need? Perhaps Simon was even the rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16.
The house belonged to Simon, yet it was also Martha’s house. Apparently they were relatives living under the same roof. Non-Biblical historians say they were uncle and niece, but I didn’t find that in the Scriptures themselves, so we don’t have conclusive proof. Since Mary and Lazarus were Martha’s siblings, they would also be related to Simon. We know that Judas was Simon’s son, so he would then be related to the three siblings also, perhaps their cousin.
Simon and Judas showed no respect for Mary, a sinner (one has to wonder if he was the Pharisee in Luke 18, whose “prayer” about his own pride was contrasted with the publican who begged for mercy in his prayer). Yet at this dinner party, Jesus rebuked Judas’ father, his hard working relative Martha, and even Judas himself. To make matters worse, in all three instances, Jesus sided with Mary, the sinner, the “black sheep” of the family. Might this ego bruising, just days before the final betrayal, have motivated Judas, especially when coupled with the bribe of 30 pieces of silver? By studying the story of Judas, prayerfully, we will learn a valuable lesson, and ensure that we never betray our Saviour, especially over something as insignificant as a little pride and bit of cash. Remember what happened to Judas in the end.