Because It's Right
March 13, 2016, John 12:1-8 Lent 5, Upper Rogue UMC
Anybody here following the elections? Are you watching the debates? If so, you've probably seen more than one example of Argumentum Ad Hominum. As you may recall from classes in Logic, Philosophy, or speech, Argumentum Ad Hominum is the practice of countering an argument, or evidence for which you have no answer by personally attacking your opponent. Sound familiar? If you have no counter to Hillary's tax plan: “She's a crook.” If you have no answer to Rubio's stand on immigration: “He's an unqualified lightweight.” If you have no logical counterpart to Trump's Wall,: :He's a blithering idiot.” And if your afraid to be against free college: “Bernie's a Socialist.”
And so it goes: Attack! Attack! Attack! Or, more importantly: Distract! Distract!d Distract!
We also see this phenomenon in the faith world. “Joel Osteen has a private Jet? 2 He certainly doesn't care about the poor?” “Pastor, if your retirement plan holds stock in GE, a weapons maker, how can you claim to be against war?” “You drove to church? That makes you a part of the climate change problem.” And on and on.
The idea of Argumentum Ad Hominum is not new. It goes clear back to Genesis when Adam, confronted with his guilt, answers God:"It was the woman you put here with me," the man said. "She gave me some of the fruit, and I ate it." (Gen 3:1 CEV ) And in today's reading, Jesus, who is wide open to attack by his enemies for his work among the Poor, Oppressed, and Powerless, is attacked not by his enemies, but by one of his own.
Then Mary, taking a pound of perfumed oil of great value, put it on the feet of Jesus and made them dry with her hair: and the house became full of the smell of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot who was to give him up, said, Why was not this perfume traded for three hundred pence, and the money given to the poor?
Judas argues that Mary, by “Wasting” the perfume and Jesus, by accepting her anointing, are both guilty of not caring for the poor. Clearly an unfounded charge. Jesus had spent his entire ministry working among, healing, feeding, and hobnobbing with the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless.
This is not surprising considering he was Jewish, and the Jewish Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament, are filled with commands to care for the poor. The prophets are largely concerned with the care of the widows, the orphans, and the poor.
go to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped and celebrate the Harvest Festival in honor of the LORD your God. Bring him an offering as large as you can afford, depending on how big a harvest he has given you. Be sure to take along your sons and daughters and all your servants. Also invite the poor, including Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows.
Every year you are to give ten percent of your harvest to the LORD. But every third year, this ten percent must be given to the poor who live in your town, including Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows. That way, they will have enough to eat. (Deu 26:12)
Don't mistreat widows or orphans or foreigners or anyone who is poor, and stop making plans to hurt each other." (Zec 7:10)
and learn to live right. See that justice is done. Defend widows and orphans and help those in need."
Stop taking advantage of foreigners, orphans, and widows. Don't kill innocent people. And stop worshiping other gods. (Jer 7:6)
When Jesus began his ministry, preaching in his hometown, he read from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the LORD God has taken control of me! The LORD has chosen and sent me to tell the oppressed the good news, to heal the brokenhearted, and to announce freedom for prisoners and captives.” But his work among the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the marginalized has brought him to the attention of the Jewish religious and political powers; and they do not like what they are hearing. They are plotting his death. Time is growing
short. The Passover is just six short days away: six days until his betrayal. Six days until his trial before Pilate. Six days until his slow, painful death on a cross. You know, sometimes I think the cruelest part of capital punishment is that the condemned know the exact day, hour, minute and means of their death. And that's the situation Jesus is in.
Taking a break from the tension and anxiety, Jesus visits his friends, Lazarus, Mary,and Martha. It is impotant to not that while they were supporters and followers, this family was not a part of Jesus' entourage: they were his friends. Martha, as usual, is preparing and serving the food: but Mary, rather than sit at Jesus feet listening, anoints those same feet with expensive (John tell us it cost a year's wages) perfume, and wipes them with her hair. It is at this point that Judas raises his objection, which Jesus answers with: “Leave her alone,It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Like Jesus, Mary seemed to know Jesus was doomed. And like those who send flowers to a funeral, she wantd to honor him. When we were at the beach, one of our members who was in his final months of life, held a party for his friends and family. “I'd much rather have you come and see me while I am alive, than send flowers I won't see to my funeral” he told us. And so Mary anoints Jesus while he is still alive.
How ironic that the second part of Jesus' response to Judas, that we will always have the poor among us, is, perhaps, one of the most miss-applied statements in all of scripture. It is twisted to say that What the scripture-twisters miss is that, in Jesus' day, to quote a part of what we call a verse of scripture, is to quote the entire verse. Thus, when, on the cross, Jesus cries out: "My God, my God, why did you abandon me?" we know that Psalm 22 ends in a song of praise, promise, and hope. In the same way, here Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 15:11 “There will always be some Israelites who are poor and in need, and so I command you to be generous to them.”
My Daddy taught me that there are some things you do; like voting, giving blood, attending the PTA, not because they are fun, not because they give you a warm fuzzy feeling,not because they give you a t-shirt or a tote bag, but simply because it is the right thing to do. Jesus tells us to feed his sheep and tend his lambs; to care for the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless: not because it is politically expedient, not because we can get a tax deduction, not because it keeps them from demonstrating, but simply because it is the right thing to do.
It is the right thing to treat others, regardless of whether they are in positions of power, or powerlessness, whether they are rich or impoverished, whether they are “our kind of Christian” or not, with love, kindness and respect. Why, because their funeral, just like ours, is just around the corner. Each us will follow Jesus to the grave and to the resurrection. The time to do the right thing is now. The time to help the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless is now. The time to send flowers to your friends and loved ones is now. The time to visit them is now. The time to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God is now.