I have DVR’d, but not yet watched, The History Channel’s mini-series, “The Bible.” Based on the responses on social media and those I’ve heard from parishioners, there is a pretty good chance I won’t spend the 10 hours to watch it all. One of the most common complaints about the series can be summed up by my friend, Sarah Beth who wrote on Facebook, “Who else thinks that The History Channel’s rendition of ‘The Bible’ is melodramatic and takes too many ‘artistic licenses’ with the Greatest Stories Ever Told?” This, of course, a fair critique of just about every book that has been taken off the printed page and put to film.
It got me thinking, however, about those artistic licenses that we all take from time to time. Certainly, my sermon yesterday was full of them. Even in Scripture itself, the divine writ isn’t without a certain level of scribal redaction, artistic licensing and, as is the case in Sunday’s Gospel, parenthetical liberties. Read again from John’s Gospel:
“But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)”
It is readily apparent that John is not a big fan of Judas Iscariot. He might be a disciple, but John is sure going to point out he wasn’t a very good one. And he might be the treasurer of this ragtag group, but John wants you to know that a) his motives aren’t pure and b) he was embezzling church funds before it was cool.
As I read John’s notes, I can’t help but think how these opinions have clouded our understanding of this part of Jesus’ life and ministry for over 2,000 years. I wonder if it is possible to detach Judas’ future from the story of Jesus’ anointing by Mary. I wonder if it is necessary to do so, as Jesus seems to be clear that this is a precursor to his impending death. Either way, as a fan of the parenthetical notation, this Sunday’s lesson has me making sure that I’m extra careful in the liberties I take with my own opinions.