Costly perfume (Lent 5C)

I freely admit that I have difficulty with the Gospel of John, which increased after learning biblical scholarship. If you want to skip to the project, go ahead and scroll down.

The author of the Gospel was probably not one of Jesus’ apostles. History records that Jesus was crucified in the 30s CE, the Gospel was written in the early second century or at least 100 CE. Life spans at that time were not longer than they are now, they were typically shorter. So assuming the apostles were around Jesus’ age, they might have lived another 20 years. This means none of the Gospels are eyewitness accounts, but second generation writings in the case of Mark (written in the late 60s-early 70s), late-second or third generation like Matthew and Luke (written in the 80s or 90s), and John is the fourth generation. While we only have four Gospels in our Bible, there were many, many Gospels that existed and sought to prove they had the authentic image of Jesus. The ones that didn’t make it into our Bible when it was created in the fourth century are called non-canonical.

One of these non-canonical Gospels floating around was the Gospel of Judas, which was translated and published in 2006. There would have been people who truly believed that Jesus requested his “beloved disciple” betray him to the authorities in order to fulfill prophecy. In the Gospel of Judas, Judas Iscariot can come across as a sympathetic character. The author of John, can’t have this because he is trying to draw more people into his community. So as you read this week’s passage, notice how Judas is called a thief. My “argument” with John is that he is trying to destroy the reputation of Judas so people will reject the Gospel of Judas, and the community of believers that followed that Gospel will join John’s community. The same thing is done to the Gospel of Thomas in the “Doubting Thomas” story.

Keeping that in the back of your mind, let’s do the project without John’s slights on Judas.


This week’s Gospel is an interesting twist on the Martha and Mary disagreement in Luke 10. Martha is serving dinner and Mary is being pious, but John introduces Judas to criticize Mary. Whichever version you prefer, it asks the question: Are we supposed to be pious or help others?

Sketch out the scene with Jesus, Mary and Judas and space for “thought bubbles” for their words.

Let’s start by putting yourself in Judas’ sandals. He asks “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” What is a church practice that seems to waste money? Consider even two church buildings in close proximity, served by the same pastor that maintains two buildings instead of having more funds available for mission. Now consider who could be helped: I don’t just mean people who are poor, but consider even domestic violence shelters, neglected animals, natural disaster relief. What is an injustice you see that needs more funding? Rephrase Judas’ question and add it to his thought bubble.

Mary doesn’t speak in either of the passages, but you’re going to provide her with words.How do you think Mary would have defended her pious practices whether that be anointing Jesus or taking time to listen to Jesus?

Then you’re going to turn to Jesus. Is he defending piety over social justice? Or is he saying there are times we need to learn and worship and times we need to serve others? Put his reworded response in his bubble.

Categories: Lent, Year C | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Costly perfume (Lent 5C)

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