The grumblers. You’ll find them most anywhere and it seems especially in church. I’m sure you’ve heard them, the ones who complain about everything: “that money should’ve been given to the poor instead of wasted on that;” or “those large groups of people are only following him because of his charisma.” I know they’re in our churches because I’m one of them. You’ll also find them in the Bible.

In John 12:1-11 the grumblers show up: Judas and the chief priests. In this passage a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Lazarus is there reclining at table with Jesus — you know, the Lazarus Jesus raised from the dead. Everything is going great until Mary poured about a pint of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair (verse 3). Verse 4 tells us, “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Imagine the fragrant smell filling the room reminding people of what Mary did; reminding people of Jesus. But Judas smells money and says, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages (5).” It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 2:15-16: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life (NIV)”

There were two types of people in that room, those who saw Christ as a pleasing aroma of life and those that could only smell the stench of death. Judas could only smell a lost opportunity to enrich himself as verse 6 reveals. The chief priest also only picked up the stench of death, worried too many people were following Jesus. Verse 9 tells us: “a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.”

If you recall just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Martha was concerned he would have the stench of death (John 11:39). But now Lazarus had the fragrant smell of life and a large number of people were drawn to it. But the chief priests could only respond, “This stinks.” Verse 11-12 reveal their response: “So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

It’s astounding to me they want to kill Lazarus because he is a walking miracle drawing people to Jesus. The poor guy already died once and now they want to kill him! But then I think of the times I’ve grumbled about another church event drawing more people than mine or money I felt was wasted in the church and could’ve been put to better use. In both cases I was not looking at if it was drawing people to Christ — if it had the aroma of life. Instead I had the stench of a grumbler.

© 2019 CGThelen