- Compassion International Blog - http://blog.compassion.com -

Who Is Jesus Speaking To in John 12:8?

Two weeks ago I posted a provocative blog post title: The Poor Will Not Always Be With You [3]. And I got some reactions!

Today, I’d like to invite you to take another look. Look into that moment and see who Jesus was speaking to. Look at the accounts in Matthew 26 [4], Mark 14 [5] and John 12 [6].

In each case there is one sentence: “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:8).

I suggested that ending extreme poverty is possible and that Jesus did not say the poor would always be with US. A few folks saw that as heretical!

I wholeheartedly agree that to misconstrue the words of Jesus is heresy.

What if I said, “You will not always have Jesus”? “Jesus will not always be with you.”

I bet some comments would light the blog again — and rightly so! Because Jesus clearly says in Matthew 28, “…surely I am with you always.”

But wait a second, in John 12 Jesus says “You will not always have me.” So, which is it? We won’t have much debate on that one.

Why have we taken the first half of that sentence in John 12:8 and placed Jesus behind a lectern at a seminar on economic development while completely ignoring the second half of the sentence?

We treat the “you” in the first half of the sentence as an all-time statement to us, but we happily treat the “you” in the second half of the sentence in its context.

The “you” meant Jesus’ immediate audience of disciples in a perfume-filled room just moments after Mary anoints him and Judas bursts out a greedy objection.

Why have we extracted the first half of that sentence and used it to foster anemic expectations for the future of the poor when Jesus was clearly not speaking to us; “Jesus replied” to Judas (John 12:7).

This isn’t just an interesting observation. It exposes a root of low expectations that profoundly hinders us.

All the readers of this blog agree that we should care for the poor. The ultimate act of caring for the poor is ending poverty. It is possible — in fact it is time to expect it. In this generation.

For readers just joining this discussion we have already defined poverty [7], as the Bible does, as a material condition of unmet basic human needs — as the extreme economic poverty of our era. For readers who have commented on the relationship to Deuteronomy 15, stay tuned!