A Lesson in Contrast

Posted: April 23, 2013 in Matthew, Uncategorized

Matthew 26:1-16, “A Lesson in Contrast”

Lessons in contrast can be highly instructive.  So often we’re better able to see something for what it is, when it contrasted against something that is so utterly different.  This is partly the reason why jewelry boxes are often lined with dark velvet – it helps to contrast the brightness of the diamond that’s contained within, making the diamond shine all the more.

As Matthew picks up in the narrative of events that lead to the cross, he gives us a bit of contrast himself – showing something extremely dark that truly helps something else shine far brighter.  Ch. 26 begins with an act of worship surrounded by an act of hatred.  As Matthew tells how Jesus was rejected by the nation and betrayed by His friend, Matthew stops to take a brief look at an act of extravagant worship and devotion.  The priests looked for ways to murder Jesus, a disciple looked to discard Jesus – yet a woman looked to exalt Jesus in highest way available to her.  It is a beautiful act in the midst of such severe evil.

Evil is not limited to Judas and the high priests – men and women of all sorts look for ways to betray and reject Jesus every day.  What is far more rare is the example of unrestrained worship and devotion.  We want to be those like this woman, who gives her all for Jesus, because Jesus gave it all for us when He went to the cross.

Matthew 26:1–16
1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples, 2 “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

  1. The first thing we notice is that Matthew sets up the context.  So much had been said about the end-times during the Olivet Discourse.  Jesus had spoken about the coming days of the Great Tribulation – a worldwide deception marked by Antichrist in the Jewish temple – the outpouring of the wrath of God upon the world – and the glorious 2nd coming of the Messiah in judgment.  In teaching these things, Jesus illustrated the importance of His people being always ready for the time.  They are to watch for the Messiah, to be wise & faithful as they wait for the Messiah, and to never lose hope as they serve the Messiah.  The Messiah would come, there would be a wondrous reward, and an indescribable kingdom in which they would all live.  Surely as Jesus taught these things, it would have inspired the imaginations of the disciples as they anxiously looked forward to that day.  Jesus calls them back to the present-time, however.  Before any of those things, there would be great suffering.  Before even the more immediate future destruction of the temple and desolation of Jerusalem, there would be something else that would directly impact the lives of the disciples: the cross. Chronologically, this was the last week of Jesus’ ministry, prior to His death.  (It’s tempting to say “the last week of Jesus’ life,” but Jesus is still alive!  He DID die; it’s just that death could not hold Him. J)  Only days were left at this point.  In Matthew’s telling of the gospel, Jesus is now done with His major teachings (though John’s gospel shows much more), and now the narrative is going to progress rapidly to the cross and resurrection.
  2. Jesus specifically spoke of His crucifixion.  There was no doubt as to how Jesus would die.  Throughout His ministry, He had told the disciples that He would be rejected & delivered up to death.  Increasingly, Jesus had spoken directly of crucifixion & now He reiterates it again for them.  This was a tough truth for the disciples to swallow (understandably so!), and Jesus does everything He can to take away any possible misunderstanding of what was going to happen.  It’s not that Jesus didn’t know that the disciples would be confused (He’s God – of course He knew), it’s that Jesus knew that after He rose from the dead and the disciples had calmed down & been filled with the Holy Spirit, He wanted them to remember the multiple times He had told them about His crucifixion.  Jesus’ death was not an accident.  It was not a freak-action of an unwieldy mob.  The timing & method of Jesus’ death was exactly according to God’s plan, because it had a specific purpose.
  3. What was the purpose?  Passover.  It’s significant that the death of the Son of Man would be linked with Passover.  That was the feast that celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.  God’s angel had entered the land of Egypt, killing every firstborn child in every home – all except the homes that were marked by the blood of a spotless lamb who had been slain in its place.  Jesus (the Son of Man – the Messiah King) is the Passover lamb of sacrifice.  The One sent by God to reign for all eternity is also the One sent by God to be killed for the sin of the world.  Jesus took our place when He died upon the cross.  It is only when our lives are marked by His blood that the wrath of God passes over us, and we can be set free to live with God.  Of course, the disciples did not yet understand all of this, but they would (as Jesus would show them later in Ch. 26).

3 Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4 and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him.

  1. Notice who was there: “the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders…the high priest.”  All of the religious authorities were party to this!  Hardly a single group was left out.  All of the authorities had gathered to find a way to kill Jesus.  When the Scriptures had prophesied that the Messiah would be rejected by the people, it’s clear that this was truly a rejection by the Jewish people as a whole.  Even when the general population had the opportunity to receive their Messiah back, they rejected Him, choosing the robber Barabbas in His place.
  2. How far were they willing to go?  They were willing to do whatever it took to kill Jesus – even engaging in “trickery.”  The religious authorities – the very people tasked with judging according to the law of Moses & teaching the law of Moses – sat down together and tried to figure out various ways of breaking the law for the specific purpose of killing Jesus.  The very hypocrisy for which Jesus had condemned them in Ch. 23 was on full display at this time.  They tried to look holy and righteous on the outside to other people, but behind closed doors they were little more than murderous thugs brainstorming all the different ways they could kill Jesus without endangering themselves.  They were willing to go to any length.
    1. People are willing to go to great lengths to reject Jesus!  They ignore the clear testimony of creation around us.  They equate belief in the Bible with Islamic terrorism.  They ignore their own conscience, shut out family members to believe in Christ, and the list goes on.  And the reason is simple: Jesus is an offense to them.  This shouldn’t be a surprise – even the Bible says that He would be a stumbling stone & a rock of offense (1 Pet 2:8).  When we see our sin in the light of Jesus Christ, it’s natural that we would be offended…the truth is painful!  How we respond to that offense is what is crucial.  We can reject it, and find all sorts of ways of excusing our conscience – or we could see it for what it is, and submit ourselves to God in sincere humility & faith.

5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

  1. The one thing they weren’t willing to do was to risk the wrath of a mob.  They had already seen the multitudes following Jesus in Jerusalem, proclaiming Him to be the Messiah, and the authorities didn’t want to take any chances.  They knew there would be much danger in an arrest of Jesus while the Passover crowd was present, so this is what they wanted to avoid.
  2. Ironically, this is exactly what they ended up doing.  Only the mob did not turn against the religious authorizes; they turned against Jesus.  Again, all of this was according to God’s plan.  Jesus’ death on the cross was the Passover sacrifice for mankind, so there would be no possible way for the Pharisees to avoid Passover in their conspiracy – but Jesus would be rejected not only by the Pharisees, but by the people as a whole…again, all according to the plan and prophecy of God.  Isaiah 53:3, "He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." []  Rejected & despised by all – and yet Jesus still willingly came.  How great is the love of God towards us!  He loved us and died for us while we were yet sinners.  While we were still enemies against God, Jesus made every provision for our forgiveness and reconciliation.  The grace of our Lord Jesus is utterly amazing, and showed upon those who least deserve it (us!).

6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.

  1. Where was Bethany?  Outside the city of Jerusalem. This is the city of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus – which ties into the parallel passage in John 12.  Jesus had come to Bethany prior to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and had raised Lazarus from the dead.  It’s possible that Jesus had resurrected Lazarus as one of the immediate events to His entry into the city (which would easily explain the crowds who followed Him), but it’s possible that the resurrection had taken place at an earlier point in Jesus’ ministry.  Whenever Lazarus’ resurrection had taken place, now Jesus was back in Bethany…surely well known by everyone in town with everyone watching His every move.
  2. Interestingly, the home Jesus was at was known as the “house of Simon the leper.”  Presumably, he had been healed by Jesus & was no longer a leper (otherwise, no one would be able to meet there).  Yet he was still widely known by his previous affliction.
    1. Sometimes people still know us by our previous sin, and this can be somewhat depressing for us at times.  After all, not many of us want to be continually known for the way we used to be.  But there’s another way of looking at it.  It can serve as a glorious testimony to what God has done in our lives.  Any time someone would go to the house of Simon the leper, they would be reminded of the fact that Simon was no longer a leper – he had been healed.  Like Rahab of Ai (Joshua 2) – often in the pages of the Scripture, she was known as Rahab the harlot.  Yet obviously she did not stay a harlot all of her life.  She had been that way in Ai, but when she demonstrated her faith in God & was saved into the nation of Israel, she bore a family (even being put into the lineage of Jesus Christ – Mt 1:5).  Her life had been gloriously changed by God, and her past only served to highlight the change. When people remind you of your past, use it as an opportunity to take them to Jesus.  When you put your faith in Christ, you were gloriously changed!  You’re no longer the person you used to be.  Let them see the difference between your previous label and the truth of who you are today in Jesus – the difference will be truly astonishing.
  3. What happened at the house?  A woman came (unnamed by Matthew, but John identifies her as Mary), and pours a flask of costly oil on Jesus’ head.  [John 12:1-8]  Note: John & Matthew do not contradict in chronology.  Matthew had recorded Jesus as saying “2 days before the Passover,” and John shows “6 days” – all the authors begin their respective accounts from different starting points.  John shows Jesus in Bethany prior to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, skips the entry account & the Olivet Discourse, and picks up again when Jesus is back in Bethany.  This fits in with John’s overall narrative line of Lazarus’ resurrection.  Matthew doesn’t even record John’s resurrection, and thus picks up the narrative after the lengthy Olivet Discourse.  The date of Passover hadn’t changed, and neither had this event with the costly oil.  What likely happened is that Jesus had the dinner in Bethany prior to His triumphal entry, and both Matthew & Mark save the telling of this event until after Jesus has left Jerusalem, fitting better with the continuity of their narratives leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion.  IOW, John had a real-time event with the dinner & anointing, and skipped over some major events in Jerusalem, whereas Matthew & Mark cover the extensive events in Jerusalem & just insert a “flash-back” to the dinner when they’re ready to pick up the storyline again.  (Luke’s account of an anointing is altogether different.  It’s a different woman, different house, different circumstances, different city, and different time in Jesus’ ministry.  The only similarity is that a woman brought an alabaster flask of ointment & poured it on Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair.  Perhaps this earlier event stuck in Mary’s mind & served as an example to her.)
  4. Matthew shows Mary pouring the oil over Jesus’ head; John shows Mary anointing Jesus’ feet.  Again, there is no contraction – the simplest explanation is that Mary likely did both.  It would be common to anoint someone’s head (as seen with Moses/Aaron, Samuel/Saul, etc.,), whereas only servants would clean someone’s feet.  Mary began the anointing as per tradition with Jesus’ head, but showed her humble faith by also anointing Jesus’ feet.
  5. The oil itself is important, simply due to its cost.  DA Carson notes that spikenard was imported from India & was used sometimes in anointing the dead & sometimes as a luxury cosmetic.  Both Matthew & John point out the monetary worth of the oil/spikenard (300 denarii).  Apparently it was so expensive that it riled the disciples a bit (one disciple, in particular!).  Whatever the oil was originally meant for, it was now completely used up – totally spent on the Lord Jesus in her act of devotion.

8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

  1. From John’s account, it doesn’t sound so much like all the disciples saying this, but one in particular: Judas Iscariot.  Apparently Judas had gained enough trust of the rest of the disciples to be the one to hold the money back, but it was only after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection that they learned that Judas was a thief.  (We can safely assume they learned this afterwards, as if they had known it prior, Judas would not have been given the bag!)  What may have happened is that Judas was the one who began making a stink about the oil, and others joined along with him, following his lead.
    1. Selfishness & sin can be contagious.  Be careful who you listen to.
  2. What was the supposed offense?  Wasted money.  Expensive oil had been poured all over Jesus & now was unable to be used for anything else.  If Mary had been willing to give up all of her costly oil as a donation to the ministry, why not sell it off & use the proceeds to put food in the mouths of hungry people?  Wouldn’t that be a better use of the finances?  Wouldn’t that have been wise stewardship?  It might sound like wisdom, if we hadn’t been told (by John) that Judas was a thief & took the benevolence fund for himself.  Judas had false motives, which presented itself in false piety.  He looked to be concerned about the poor, and about the things that mattered to God.  In reality, he was concerned about himself. 
    1. False piety is always based in self.  Sometimes people hypocritically present themselves as “holier-than-thou,” and they put down someone else in an attempt exalt themselves.  Sometimes people get into a worship service, and they do everything possible to call as much attention to themselves as they can so that everyone can see how “spiritual” they are.  Sometimes people will drop names left and right of all of the famous Christians they know, or they’ll list off all of the ways they supposedly serve God, spend time in prayer, etc.  Humans can get pretty creative in our false piety!  And all of it calls attention to US, rather than to God.
    2. This isn’t what mature Christians are to do.  Spirituality that is bragged about isn’t truly spiritual at all; it’s carnal.  It’s a gratification of our pride. 
  3. OK – we understand that about Judas, but what about the question itself?  Suppose that Judas had been honest & sincere.  Was pouring the oil over Jesus’ head STILL a waste of money?  Could an argument be made that this truly was bad stewardship?  No.  What may have appeared to be a waste of funds from our perspective was an act of worship from Jesus’ perspective.  Jesus answered the objection starting in vs. 10…

10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me.

  1. Jesus wasn’t going to put up with this kind of grumbling, and stopped them all with His words.  The disciples had no cause to grumble against Mary & to put her down.  In Jesus’ eyes, she had “done a good work” for Him.  “Good” could even be translated as “beautiful or lovely.”  Far from being a wasteful act, this was something that Jesus loved!
    1. Devoted worship is a good thing!  For us to pour out our attention upon our Savior is wonderful, and God sees it as such.  Jesus is fully deserving of this kind of lavish worship.  We may not be able to physically anoint Him with oil, but we can pour out our praise upon our King.
    2. Is this what our worship looks like?  Or is it more half-hearted?  We might have more in common with Judas that what we would care to admit sometimes. …
  2. Question: if Mary spent all of her money on a single act of worship unto Jesus with Jesus calling it good, does that mean we’re to do the same thing?  Is this justification for spending millions of dollars on a gold-plated ceiling for the church sanctuary or some other over-the-top extravagant beautification building project?  No.  Opulence showered upon Jesus is one thing; opulence showered upon our own vanity is another.  Mary was able to minister directly to Jesus Christ with her gift.  There was a specific purpose in what she did (even if she did not realize what she was doing, Jesus did).  We cannot do the same with a building.  Obviously there is nothing wrong with nice buildings, nor giving our best to the Lord in whatever facility we find ourselves in.  Someone might even be led to worship the Lord though an anonymous extravagant gift of some sort.  But Mary’s worship of Jesus is in a unique category simply because she was able to physically interact with the incarnate God in a way that we cannot.  Our buildings cannot replicate this act of devotion.  No amount of stuff is ever a replacement for Jesus.  Certainly we cannot use buildings and other material things as an excuse to indulge our own vanities (which is often what this sort of thing turns out to be).  When Mary gave this to the Lord, she gave herself entirely to Jesus.  If someone was led in a similar way, he/she would also give themselves entirely over to Jesus, taking none of the glory for their own.

11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.

  1. Jesus shows the error in the false piety of Judas.  Even if Judas had cared about the poor (which he didn’t), Mary still wasn’t wrong to do what she did.  Yes, she could have sold the oil and given all of the proceeds to feed the poor & hungry.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of people could be fed in a single day.  But they would still be hungry tomorrow…and the next, and the next, etc.  No amount of money would ever fully satisfy the needs of the poor.
  2. But there WAS one need that could be fully satisfied: the immediate need of Jesus.  Mary could use that oil to minister to Jesus at the moment, and that is exactly what she did.  If one were to look at the available window of time for Mary to be able to physically minister to Jesus in this way, then she used her finances in the wisest, most efficient manner possible!  This was her one shot to be able to do what she did to Jesus in worship, and Jesus was not about to condemn her for it.
  3. BTW – because the poor will always be with us, is that an excuse NOT to help the poor?  Not at all.  To read Jesus’ words with that kind of interpretation is to completely miss His point.  Jesus made it perfectly clear at other times that we are indeed to help the poor.  (The judgment of the sheep and the goats used this very thing as an example!)  Both the OT & NT are absolutely united in this idea.  God fully expects His people who are called by His name to show forth His compassion to those who are less fortunate.
  4. Question: what did Jesus mean by saying “but Me you do not have always?”  Didn’t Jesus make it clear in the Great Commission that He would be with us always, even to the end of the age? (Mt 28:20)  Yes.  We have the grand assurance of God that Jesus will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb 13:5).  Jesus’ presence is among His people, which gives us wonderful assurance on all kinds of levels.  Here, Jesus doesn’t have the long-range view of the age of the church in mind.  He’s not speaking of His spiritual presence among His people.  Instead, Jesus is referring to His physical presence, and He was absolutely correct.  Even after Jesus’ resurrection, He would along be among His disciples for 40 days (physically ascending to heaven, just prior to Pentecost).  Beyond that, Jesus is most likely thinking of His coming crucifixion and burial – barely over two days away at this point, per Matthew’s count.  Once Jesus was risen from the dead, the relationship between Jesus & the disciples would be radically different.  The window for this kind of day-to-day physical interaction between Jesus & His disciples was rapidly shrinking, and that’s what Jesus acknowledged.
    1. The good news for us today is that although Jesus’ physical presence is in heaven (at the right hand of God the Father), He did not leave us as orphans.  One of the ministries of God the Holy Spirit is that He literally indwells us the moment we trust Christ by faith & we are born-again.  There IS a physical presence of God among His people; it’s simply different than having Jesus walk among us, eat among us, etc.  But God IS with us as His people because the Holy Spirit IS God.

12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.

  1. Here’s the specific reason Mary anointed Jesus with the oil: burial preparation.  Normally, this would be done after someone’s death, so the timing of Mary doing it while Jesus was alive was rather unusual.  Of course, many people wish they would have attended to loved ones and other friends & family while they were living, instead of waiting until they were dead – so in that respect, we can probably understand why Mary anointed Jesus while she knew He would still be living.  She had likely heard Jesus say many times that He would be crucified (along with the rest of the disciples); it’s just that she went a step further than the other disciples.  She actually believed Jesus & did something about it.
  2. As it turned out, anointing Jesus prior to His death was actually well-timed.  When Jesus died, the other crucifixions that day were taking so long that the Romans broke the legs of the other thieves in order they would die faster.  Things were so rushed prior to the beginning of the Sabbath that by the time Joseph of Arimathea received permission for Jesus’ body, he and Nicodemus had to shut the opening of the tomb before the ladies had an opportunity to pack Jesus’ body with the traditional spices.  That was something that had to wait until after the Sabbath had passed, which is the reason that the ladies went to the tomb so early the morning of Resurrection Sunday.  Mary’s anointing of Jesus in advance was likely the only opportunity for Jesus to be anointed at all, prior to His burial.  Unbeknownst to her, God used her act of devoted worship in incredible spiritual timing.

13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

  1. And it is!  Every time someone reads the gospel accounts, they always read of the devotion of Mary.  What she did was not a reason to grumble and complain against her, but an opportunity for the rest of the Christian world to learn what unfettered devotion looks like.
  2. Mary had helped to prepare Jesus for His burial – an act that one of His own disciples would usher in.  See vs. 14…

14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.

  1. Matthew began Ch. 26 with the account of the Jewish authorities having a brainstorming session of how they might be able to kill Jesus.  They seemed to be stumped as to what to do, but one of Jesus’ own disciples –  one of the 12 who had been specifically chosen by Jesus to walk with Him for 3 years – came to the chief priests and gave them the opportunity they had been looking for.
  2. Please note Judas offered himself.  There is no indication that he was recruited; Judas volunteered himself.
  3. Please also note the amount: “thirty pieces of silver.”  This was the price for a common slave. Exodus 21:32, "If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned." [] There is a bit of disagreement among scholars as to exactly how much this would translate to today.  It depends on whether they would have used the coined money of the day, or actually weighed out shekels according to ancient tradition.  The price difference would range from $25 to four months’ salary.  Either way, a human life was in question here.  The King of kings was betrayed for a pitifully small amount of chump change, and treated as a piece of property rather than the Creator God.
  4. None of this is a surprise in the Scriptures.  Every aspect of this was according to prophecy.
    1. Jesus was to be betrayed by a friend.  Psalm 41:9, "Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me." []  In this psalm of David, David prays to God concerning his enemies who had lied about him & conspired against him.  The worst part was the betrayal of his own trusted friend.  Though David’s words were quoted by Jesus as prophecy (Jn 13), no doubt David’s experience was true.  David had been betrayed by his own son Absalom, and by one of his most trusted advisers, Ahithophel (who had defected to Absalom).  They sought David’s life, and he threw himself upon the mercies of God.  What happened to David also happened to the Greater-than-David as one of the men closest to Jesus (far closer than the multitudes who followed Him – one of His 12 disciples) betrayed Him.
    2. Jesus was to be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Zechariah 11:12–13, "(12) Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. (13) And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter." [] Contextually, God had told the prophet Zechariah to shepherd a flock of sheep in demonstration of what God had done for Israel/Judah.  In casting judgment upon the people & their unworthy shepherds, Zechariah broke his covenant with the flock, asking for his wages & God instructed him on what to do with them.  All these things that applied specifically to Zechariah were used by God to set a prophetic standard for what would later happen to Jesus.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep, yet He was rejected & the wage given for Him by the people was 30 shekels of silver, which was later thrown into the temple (the house of the Lord) to purchase a potter’s field.
  5. There’s a point to the prophecy: it demonstrates that all of this was exactly according to the plan of God.  Although things certainly appeared chaotic, none of this was out of control.  God had known exactly what would happen, and centuries earlier He laid out the events in the Scripture so that everyone could see.

16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.

  1. As sad as the entire account of Judas Iscariot is, this seems to be one of the worst aspects.  From this moment, all that Judas thought about was the right opportunity to betray Jesus.  Keep in mind that Jesus never stopped loving Judas as one of His own.  Judas was present at the last supper.  Judas had his feet washed by Jesus, just like everyone else.  Judas acted to be as perplexed as everyone else when Jesus specifically said that one of the 12 would betray Him.  Judas apparently didn’t even bat an eye when Jesus told him to go and do it, and do it quickly.  At any point during ALL of that, Judas had the opportunity to repent & throw himself at Jesus’ feet for forgiveness.  Yet he never took it.  All he did was look for the right time to betray the Lord, and nothing else in his eyes mattered.
  2. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us what Judas thought about Jesus, there really is little doubt that he knew Jesus to be God, just like any of the other disciples.  He was witness to all of the miracles – he had seen Jesus walk on water, multiply the loaves & fishes, and raise the dead.  He had heard the teaching of Jesus with his own ears.  He lived with Jesus day-in & day-out, just like any of the disciples.  He had broken bread with Jesus innumerable times.  No doubt, Judas knew the truth.  The problem was he didn’t believe it.  He knew who Jesus was, but he didn’t have faith in what he had clearly seen.

Judas and Mary are quite the contrast!  From the outside, things would have seemed to be quite different than what they were.  After all, on the one hand there is a woman who, though respected in the community, seems to debase herself by taking a servant’s role upon herself & pours a years’ worth of salary over the head of Jesus.  On the other hand is a respected disciple, trusted by all, who leads the rest in chastising this woman for not giving money to the poor.  After all, if she’s going to give up the oil, she might as well feed some people in wise stewardship. 

Of course in reality, that’s not what happened at all.  The trusted disciple had hardened his heart against His Master, and was perfectly willing to betray Him unto death to the hypocritical leaders that Jesus had condemned.  The “waste” was not a waste at all, but a beautiful act of worship that God used to prepare Jesus for His death.  Both Judas and Mary played crucial roles in preparing Jesus for His death, but only one was done out of faith.  Judas helped send Jesus to the cross, whereas Mary helped minister to Jesus after He had died there.  One was borne out of sin and rebellion; the other out of devotion and service.

People still have similar responses to Jesus today.  There are people who (like the Jewish authorities) go to whatever lengths they can to reject Jesus.  No hypocrisy is a bridge too far in denying Jesus – they just want to be rid of Him & rid of the offense to their conscience.  There are others who have hardened themselves against Jesus, perhaps showing themselves “religious” on the outside, but inwardly betray the Lord.  And then there are those who devote themselves to Christ.  Instead of debasing the Lord Jesus, they are willing to have themselves debased, just in order that Jesus would be lifted up and glorified.

May we have hearts that reflect more of Mary & less of Judas!  Even as born-again Christians, we can be those who engage in false shows of piety, judging the actions of others while having sin in our own heart.  Be careful!  False-piety is self-centered; true worship is Christ-centered.  May our eyes remain fixed upon our Lord Jesus.

The truly amazing part in all of this was that ALL of it was according to the plan of God.  The Jewish authorities sinned against Jesus in planning His death, but God had known of it.  Judas had sinned against Jesus in his vile betrayal, but God had known of it.  God had known of it all, and Jesus still died for them all.  Jesus died even for those who actively sent Him to the cross – a grand display of His love and His grace.

Jesus died for them, and Jesus died for us.  Those who acknowledge our own sin & betrayal of Jesus can be sure that Jesus’ death was for us, too.  Jesus went to that cross knowing exactly the full extent of our sin against Him, and He did it anyway.  That’s amazing love & amazing grace.


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