Sermon: “Ulterior Motives”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from April 3, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.
As I was talking with Zach, this story from the gospel of John is another story about the sisters, Mary and Martha and Lazarus. But unlike the other one, instead of Martha getting upset at Mary, this time it's Judas that gets upset at Mary. And, you know, we all get upset with people at different times in our life. don't we? I mean, nobody here has ever gotten upset with a spouse. And I know you haven't gotten upset with a child, or a parent…
Now everybody gets upset with somebody somewhere along the line. And, in this particular instance, we have Judas who is critiquing or criticizing Mary for doing something. And Judas’ activity here with Mary very much parallels what the Sadducees and the Pharisees were doing as far as Jesus was concerned.
And where did that go? Where that happens, is this. Most of the time, most of the time when we criticize someone, it's because they're doing something that we should have been doing ourselves. Think about that. The reason that I say that this is really what this passage is about. It's not about the cost of the Nard. It's not about the alabaster jar. It's not about the fact that she was washing Jesus' feet because as the host or hostess washing the feet of someone to come came into your home was expected.
That was the way you were as the host; the roads were dusty and dirty. And so you would at least offer a way of your guests to wash their feet and anoint them with oil too, because otherwise they get really dried out. So, Mary, in that respect is only doing what's expected other than the fact that she's using something extremely expensive to do it.
But Judas criticizes her, not for washing Jesus' feet, but for wasting the money on the Nard that she used. And his excuse was that money could have been used to help so many poor people! That money could have been used to help so many poor people.
Now every person that grew up in Judaism, learned from a very early age, what the Torah said about dealing with the poor. And what the Torah instructed people to do as far as poor was concerned, was to take care of them, to fill their physical needs.
And Jesus finishes this passage from today's reading, by saying the poor you will always have with you. In other words, Judas, you always have a chance to help the poor. Why haven't you been doing it?
Why haven't you been doing it? And that's where this is the same kind of criticism that the Pharisees in the Sadducees were leveling on Jesus that led to his death because Jesus was doing the things that they had been teaching everybody that they should be doing, but weren't doing themselves.
They weren't doing it themselves. You see, as far as they were concerned, they couldn’t deal with the poor because they might sully themselves and make themselves unclean.
Now I know that absolutely nobody has that opinion this day and age… You know, nobody will ignore the poor because they don't want to sully themselves. Right. And if you believe that I've got some mountain top land in Southern Florida to sell you. Or waterfront property in Kansas, take your pick.
But Judas is doing exactly that, he is criticizing Mary for not, basically for not doing what he wasn't doing. He was criticizing her for not using that money for to help the poor. And he himself wasn't doing it. And so often when we critique somebody, when we attack somebody, we have ulterior motives.
And those motives is to make ourselves feel better about the fact that we're not doing it ourselves. You know, I can point out that you're not doing it. And that way I can kind of deflect blame from what I see in the mirror.
And Jesus, of course at the end always reminds us, always reminds us. You always have that opportunity. She is doing for me, what she can only do in a short time period here, you always have that opportunity to do what you're supposed to be doing.
Do we always have that opportunity? You know this is the season of lent when we're supposed to be reflecting and refocusing on our relationship with God. And this passage I think is part of our lectionary because it forces us to look at what we're not doing. You know, the Bible talks about a lot of things.
There are sins of commission, those are sins because we do them. And then there's the sins of omission. Those are the sins because we haven't done them. And in this case, this passage is about a sin of omission. Why were you not dealing with this all along Judas? Why are you criticizing Mary for not doing what you haven't been doing.
In the churches now, there are a lot of talk about things that we should be doing shouldn’t be doing, should be doing. And maybe we're not doing so well at it.
And I'm talking about the Church, big church, you know, not just any one particular congregation, but the big church. I really don't know that the big that the Church capital C has done a great job of doing what we preach.
You know, we preached that we're supposed to take care of the widow. We preach that we're supposed to take care of the poor. We preach that we're supposed to take care of the outcast, the downtrodden, the alien living among us.
And maybe this passage is to the church as well as individuals. I said last week, that whenever we have a parable, we have to see who in that parable where we are at any given point. Well, this isn't a parable, but we still have to see who we are in this story. Are we, the guest that comes in and thinks that we need to be anointed?
Are we the person who sacrifices something of great value? Or are we the person that attacks because we want to deflect from the fact that we haven't lifted the relationship to that same level or that we haven't done what God instructed us to do.
And so we have to think seriously about what we are doing. And this comes down now to the congregation. What are we doing or not doing, that God is calling us to do? What are we not doing that God is calling us to do, that we have been instructed in the scriptures to do, that we aren't carrying through on? And are we maybe criticizing others for what we're not doing?
Back at the beginning of the pandemic… No, it was during a storm. It was during a hurricane that hit the Southern part of the country. Southwest. There was a lot of criticism of Joel Olsteen for not opening up his church as a sanctuary, as a shelter for people who had been forced out of their homes by the storm and flooding. And I heard that from a lot of pastors. And I'll admit I was guilty of it too. But, then as other events have happened, I haven't necessarily seen those same pastors that were critiquing. Joel, Olsteen opening up their church doors as shelters.
Credit where credit's due, Kirkridge is a red cross shelter, if anything ever happens, just so you know.
You have that kind of an example, we criticize one another. We criticize other Christians for not doing what they're supposed to be doing. But are we doing it ourselves?
You know, we criticize others for not helping the poor and the downtrodden. What are we doing? We criticize others for not helping the alien who resides among us, what are we doing?
So we need to be able to answer those questions and we need to answer them honestly. And we need to think about whether we are guilty of the sin of omission, for something that we're accusing someone else of not doing.
And in our own personal lives, as well. Think about it the next time you find yourself mentally criticizing someone else, be careful. Think about whether that is something that really you, yourself should be doing. Is that something that God has called us to do as Christians? Because if it is, and you're not doing it, then maybe we need to reconsider, certainly reconsider the criticism. Because I think it's a greater sin to criticize someone else for doing something that you're not doing. If you should be. So we need to look carefully every time we find ourselves being critical of someone else.
I wonder how many road rage incidences could be avoided if instead of cutting someone off in traffic, you thought about, did I just back down the road a little bit, Had I cut someone off?
Or if, pick your instance, pick your example. Am I living life the way God has called me to live it the way Jesus has instructed us to live it? And if I'm not, then I have to be careful about who I'm criticizing for not doing the same thing.
We have to watch what our motives are just as we look at this. The gospel lesson says that Judas criticized her because he was the keeper of the purse and used to steal from it, implying that Judas wanted the money in his control, but at the same time, Judas was not using the money that was in his control to do what you were supposed to be doing.
So we have to watch what our motivation is when we criticize someone else. And is that in itself, a warning of where we need to look at our relationship with God.
Let us pray.