The Plot and the Praise

Posted: August 4, 2014 in Mark

Mark 14:1-11, “The Plot and the Praise”

Contrasts can be instructive.  Sometimes the very best way to learn what to do is to observe someone doing the exact opposite.  Maybe you had a boss that was extremely difficult to work for – in the process, you learned how NOT to supervise someone.  Maybe you saw someone burn themselves on a stove – in the process, you learned the importance of pot-holders & protection.  Seeing something go wrong can often highlight the things that ought to go right.  The idea of visual contrast is the whole reason why jewelry is so often set in dark velvet boxes.  The darker the background, the brighter the jewel appears.  A diamond truly shines when set inside the blackest case.

This same sort of contrast is vividly on display in the opening of Mark 14.  On the one hand, there is the plotting of the priests and the treachery of Judas.  On the other hand, there is the beautiful devotion shown by Mary, as she anoints Jesus with oil.  And like a sandwich, Mark puts the anointing of Jesus smack-dab in the middle of the conspiracy against Him.  A wonderful filling surrounded by two moldy pieces of bread.  The filling surely stands out in glorious contrast.

From the outside, it wouldn’t appear to be this way at all.  If we knew nothing of Jesus or His work at the cross and resurrection, it would seem that the “bread” would be the best parts.  After all, you’ve got the respectable “holy” men of Israel seeking to protect their people from an upstart Prophet, and they’re looking for the safest way to go about doing it.  Soon, they are contacted by someone from His inner circle who is disillusioned, and it would seem that their problems are solved.  All of these religious people have come together to put away this heretic, and they can maintain their respectability.

In the middle of all this is the most undignified act of a woman, done in the home of someone who had an unsavory reputation.  Not only is her act humiliating, it is a terrible waste of money – and those who cared about decorum and religious acts could not stay silent.

An outsider looking in would not have blamed the priests, nor the disciples.  Yet Jesus saw things differently.  It was the so-called “religious” who were the debased ones, and it was the apparent undignified woman who showed the purest devotion.  For those whose only religion was external, they found themselves working against God.  For the one who surrendered everything to Jesus, she found herself accepted and defended by God Himself.  She was the only one who demonstrated true worship of God, because she was the only one who surrendered everything to God.

Mark 14:1–11

  • The Plot, part 1 (vss. 1-2)

1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death.

  • Mark begins with a very specific timeframe: “after two days it was the Passover…”  We are now in the middle of the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, less than 48 hours from His arrest.  Most scholars take Mark’s description to refer to Wednesday considering that “after two days” would generally include the current day in the timeframe.  The confusion regarding the dating sometimes is due to the differing Hebrew and Roman calendar systems.  Passover always took place on the Hebrew date (Nisan 14 for the preparation, Nisan 15 for the meal), but Mark was writing to a Romanized culture & thus the number of days was according to that system (which is the same as ours). 
    • Of course the whole point is the heightened tension in the narrative.  Everything Jesus has said and done has led to this point.  His teaching ministry had mostly ended prior to entering Jerusalem, and fully came to a conclusion once leaving the city.  He had taught of the end times while on the Mount of Olives, but now everything becomes focused upon His mission to the cross.  As an author, Mark will show things moving quickly from this point, and the stage is set here.
  • What do we know of the priests?  Three things:
    • The priests wanted to arrest Jesus.  They eventually put Jesus on trial, but they had no interest in seeking the truth about Jesus.  Their minds had been made up from the start against Him.
    • The priests wanted to deceive Jesus.  They specifically desired to “take Him by trickery” – i.e. deceit.  There was no desire to do things honestly or even give a pretense to seeking justice.  They had not been able to best Jesus in open debate; they knew that unless they resorted to deceit they would not be able to take Him.
      • Of course even this would fail.  It’s impossible to deceive the all-knowing God.  He even knew the actions of the betrayer better than Judas understood them himself.  Yet this is always the delusion that men buy into.  In our sin, we somehow think we can hide things from God or deceive Him in some fashion.  It’s impossible.
    • The priests wanted to kill Jesus.  They didn’t want to merely get rid of Him – they didn’t want to have Him rot in prison – they wanted Him dead.  Again, there is not even the illusion here of justice; their hearts and intents were evil from the start.
  • Remember, these are the priests: “the chief priests and the scribes.”  These are the respected religious leaders in Jerusalem – the elite among the people, who were supposed to represent God.  They were the “upper crust,” and the truly “religious,” and yet what did they do?  They resorted to conspiracy, deceit, and violence.  Outwardly they had an appearance of holiness; inwardly they were as dead and decrepit as possible.  Outwardly they appeared to worship God; inwardly they did not even recognize Him and desired His death.
    • Outward religion does nothing to save anyone.  The priests appeared to be religious outwardly – Judas appeared to be religious outwardly…none of the appearance mattered.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, and they had no faith.  (Do you?)
  • The interesting thing is why they didn’t go right out and do it immediately.  After all, they controlled the temple guard.  Pilate allowed them virtual free reign to do what they wanted to within Jerusalem.  Why didn’t they arrest Jesus when Jesus debated them in public, or when Jesus read the riot act to the Pharisees?  Two reasons.  The first is what they recognized in vs. 2…

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

  • Reason #1: They feared the people.  They obviously had no fear of God, or else they would not have set out with the specific intent to deceive and kill Jesus.  If they truly feared God, they would have had a conviction of doing the right thing, no matter what the people thought – and they would have gone about it in such a way that would have honored God.  As it was, they let their convictions be led by the whims of the people, and honoring God was the furthest thing from their mind.  The priests cared about their political power, and that was it.
  • Reason #2: God is sovereign.  Jesus was going to be arrested, tried, and killed according to a very specific timeframe – one that was planned out by Almighty God.  Nothing the priests, scribes, or Pharisees did would change the timing of God.  They could not take Jesus too early, nor (as they would find out) take Jesus too late.  They had not arrested Jesus yet because it was not yet time.  And although they planned to do otherwise, they would not arrest Jesus after the feast either, because it was not in the sovereign plan of God.
  • Never forget the sovereignty of God.  Especially in regards to the cross!  As the narrative of Mark takes us closer and closer to the cross, it would seem to appear that things devolve into chaos.  After all, the Son of God is betrayed, arrested, put on trial, beaten, abandoned, tortured, mocked, and cruelly nailed to a cross between two robbers.  From there, Jesus even cries out to God, seemingly abandoned by the Heavenly Father that He proclaimed.  Surely things spun out of control – right?  Wrong.  Everything that took place happened in precisely the way planned out by God, according to the timing and the will of God.  It happened in a specific way in order to accomplish a specific purpose: the salvation of mankind and reconciliation of the world.  As wild as everything may have appeared to be, it was fully in the hand of Almighty God.
    • The sovereignty of God is just as important to keep in mind in regards to current events.  The morals of our own nation are in a downward spiral – war has broken out between Israel & Hamas – Russia is on the verge of beginning a new war in Europe – Christians are being systematically rounded up and killed in Syria, Iraq, and Eastern Africa.  Some might claim that God has forgotten us or somehow closed His eyes.  May it never be!  God is sovereign, even over this chaotic world.  As bad as things are, God is still on His throne and He is still ultimately in control.  He has allowed Satan a long leash at the moment, but soon (and very soon) Jesus will call His Church home, and God’s judgment will be poured out on planet earth.  What we mistakenly label as “chaos” today is really a demonstration of God’s mercy as He continues to give even the worst of humanity the opportunity to repent and come to faith in Christ before it is too late.
  • In the “sandwich” of the text, this is one piece of bread.  The best part is the filling that follows…
  • The Praise (vss. 3-9)

3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.

  • The first thing to notice here is the lack of a timestamp.  Mark had been very specific at vs. 1 to show when the conspiracy of the priests took place, but he does no such thing here.  It would be easy for us to assume that the anointing in Bethany took place at the same time that everything else was going on, and if all we had were the synoptic gospels, it would be an easy assumption to make.  Matthew follows the same pattern as Mark, and Luke doesn’t mention this anointing at all.  (Luke does write of an anointing [Lk 7], but it is plainly a different event.)  Yet John does write of the Bethany anointing, and he actually gives far more details than either Matthew or Mark, to the point of providing a timeframe: six days prior to Passover (Jn 12:1).  Put it all together, and by the time the chief priests were plotting Jesus’ death, Jesus had already been anointed for His death 4 days earlier…even prior to coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday!
  • All of that begs the question: why does Mark place it here?  Mark does not always include events in chronological order, and he definitely does not do so in this case.  Why would he choose (under the direction of the Holy Spirit) to interrupt the evil plot against Jesus’ life with this beautiful act of devotion?  He is intentionally pointing out the contrast.  While recounting one of the most evil acts in all history, Mark places one of the purest demonstrations of worship smack-dab in the middle.  In doing so, he highlights the worship poured out by Mary in dramatic fashion.  The reader is meant to contrast Mary’s actions with the actions of the priests, the disciples, and Judas.  We’re supposed to pay attention.  This isn’t any routine praise – this isn’t someone going through the motions of worship – this is something that is labeled by God Himself as beautiful, and it is a model for us to follow.
  • First contrast: the setting.  This is not the respectable house that was the palace of the high priest (Mt 26:3); this is “the house of Simon the leper.”  Mark never states the location of the plotting (as does Matthew), but he does show were the act of praise takes place.  This (and Matthew) is the only mention of Simon the leper in the NT – but apparently he was well-known enough to the early readers of the gospel that they would have recognized his name.  Simon had surely been healed of leprosy at some point (most likely by Jesus), otherwise he would not have been able to have anyone in his home – much less host a group the size of the apostles.  Although healed, he was always known by his former affliction.  No doubt some people would have skirted clear of him all his life, just due to the fact that he once had leprosy.  For Jesus to associate Himself with Simon (much less stay in his home) was a dramatic statement of His grace and compassion towards the man.  The devout priests would not have gone to the home of a leper, but the Son of God surely did.
    • Praise God that Jesus reaches out to people like US.  We were the lepers.  We were the addicts, the fornicators, the thieves, the liars, the pagans, and more.  That’s what we were, but that is no longer what we are.  In Christ, we are new creations.  Jesus has made us new, and He Himself gives us our new identity.
  • Second contrast: the participant.  This is not an elite priest or scribe; this is “a woman.”  Neither Mark nor Matthew name her, but John tells us that this was Mary, the sister of Lazarus & Martha.  Lazarus had already been raised from the dead by Jesus, and Mary and Martha had personally seen the power of the Messiah in a unique and glorious way.  Culturally speaking, women were held in far less esteem than men.  In addition, women and men did not generally co-mingle together. For a woman to come up and address Jesus in this fashion would have been incredibly striking.
  • Third contrast: the audience.  This was not done in private as a conspiracy; this was done while Jesus “sat at the table,” in full view of everyone else that was present.  It is one thing to humble oneself before God while behind closed doors, but that’s not what Mary did.  Everyone was able to see her worship her Lord Jesus.  She made herself vulnerable in front of all.
  • Fourth contrast: the act.  This was not an evil plan of deceit; this was a dramatic display of worship, honor, and devotion.  The “alabaster flask…of spikenard” was likely a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation.  It had the monetary value of being a costly dowry, and it was likely the very item that would be given to the woman’s future husband.  The flask itself was valuable, being made of alabaster and sealed at the top.  To anoint a guest with oil was not uncommon – a dab would often be applied to a person’s forehead as a way of welcoming them into the household.  Yet in this case, Mary broke the flask and poured out the most valuable of oils & all that was contained.  Mark tells us that Mary poured it upon Jesus’ head, while John tells us that she anointed Jesus’ feet.  Most likely, she did both – pouring it on His head, while using the runoff for His feet.  Beyond that, John tells us that Mary used even her hair in the process, preferring her hair to a cloth.
    • Consider for a moment how debasing that would appear in our culture today, much less the culture in which she lived.  Men and women not married to each other nor family to each other rarely touched (if ever), and a woman’s hair was considered her glory (1 Cor 11:15).  Yet here is this woman pouring out her future livelihood unto Jesus, potentially giving away her dowry (and thus possibility of marriage), and wiping up all of the mess with her hair.  She could not have humbled herself any more if she tried.
    • Her humility was not appreciated by all…

4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

  • Those of us familiar with this story are often quick to jump to an accusation of Judas, because John tells us that it was Judas who led the criticism (Jn 12:4).  However, please note the word “some.”  It was Judas, but it wasn’t ONLY Judas.  There were others among the disciples present who joined in.  Mark does not directly identify the “some” as disciples, but Matthew does – and due to the size of a typical home at the time, it’s doubtful that there was room for anyone else at a home besides the immediate family plus Jesus and the 12.  The point?  It was not only the false convert in their midst that was upset with Mary and criticized her; it was the believers as well.
    • Christians can sometimes say hurtful things.  Don’t let it dissuade you from Christ.  We have no idea how Mary responded to the words of the disciples, but surely it cut her to the quick.  She had humbled herself in front of Jesus; she did not expect to be humiliated by others in the process.  That was the risk she took…and the risk was worth it.  Jesus saw what she did, and Jesus praised her for it.  Sometimes we take risks in responding to the Lord.  Sometimes we’re not sure of how others will react.  In the end, what others do might hurt – but it ultimately doesn’t matter.  When we do what we do for the Lord Jesus, then we’re doing it for an audience of One.
  • What was the supposed cause for their indignation?  “The poor.”  The woman had poured out basically a years’ worth of salary on Jesus’ head and feet.  That could have gone a long way in feeding the hungry.  Back when Jesus fed the 5000 in Galilee, the disciples estimated that they needed at least 200 denarii to feed the crowd (likely over 7-8,000 when including women and children).  This now-broken bottle of perfume could have easily have provided thousands of meals.  Didn’t Mary care about the poor?  They were quick to criticize & severe in their accusations.
  • The problem?  This was all false piety.  The only reason Judas said anything was because he was a thief and cared about the money (Jn 12:6).  The others seemed to have joined in with Judas’ complaint because it sounded “righteous”; not because they actually thought about it and agreed.
    • Too many times, we have to admit we don’t think about criticism; we jump on bandwagons of someone else…especially in the age of Facebook and Twitter.  We need to be careful to think through these things for ourselves, and compare what someone posts online to the word of God.
  • Other than Judas, how can we say that their claim was based on false piety?  Simple: if Mary hadn’t broken the flask, not a one would have complained about the unsold bottle of nard sitting on the shelf.  They didn’t have a burning desire to care for the poor; the poor were an afterthought once the bottle was already used up.  They were simply the excuse used as the vehicle of their criticism of Mary.
    • Beware of false piety!  Beware of the show of religion that has nothing to do with Jesus, and everything to do with ourselves.

6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.

  • Jesus came to Mary’s defense, and firmly.  Before He defends her actions at all, Jesus first commands His disciples to back off.  They had no place to speak up against her, and the tone they took against a fellow worshipper of Jesus Christ was completely uncalled for.  Jesus wasn’t going to allow them to continue, and the King asserts His authority in His rebuke.
    • Jesus did this with Mary against the disciples, but He also does this with us against the devil.  He is our Advocate, who defends us against the accusations of our enemy. (1 Jn 2:1)
    • Beware that you do not take up the tactics of the devil in your treatment of other Christians.  That’s basically what took place with the disciples.  They were quick to criticize a worshipper of Jesus for something that Jesus valued as good.  If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves acting more like the accuser than the Advocate – we can find ourselves siding with Judas more than Mary.  We cannot know the heart of another believer in Jesus Christ.  More importantly, we do not answer for another believer in Jesus Christ.  To their own Master they stand or fall (Rom 14:4).
  • Jesus saw what the others did not.  He recognized the beauty of Mary’s actions.  What she did was a “good work.”  The word used by Jesus speaks of more than just intrinsic, moral goodness (which can be described by another word as well as this one), but also of visual outward goodness.  ESV “beautiful,” AMP “praiseworthy, noble.”  The others had seen a waste; Jesus saw something wonderful.
  • What was so beautiful about Mary’s act?  Two things – one Jesus will specifically state in vs. 8, in that she prepared Him for burial.  The other was simply her worship.  She gave a visual demonstration of what the Greatest Commandment, of loving the Lord her God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength.  That perfume was a symbol of everything that she had externally, and her selfless humble attitude showed who she was internally – and she gave it all over to Jesus.  She held nothing back in her worship.
  • BTW – who did Mary do this for?  Jesus.  “She has done a good work for Me.”  It would be easy for someone to read this account and think that all they need to do to earn heaven would be to do some extravagant act.  Mary poured out all of her nard, like the rich young ruler was told to sell all his possessions.  Maybe that’s the way to go to heaven.  Not so.  What Mary did (and what the rich man was invited to do) was to worship Jesus in faith.  Mary’s action was an expression of her faith in Jesus; she did this for Him.  It was a beautiful act, but it wasn’t a saving act.  Jesus saves – only Jesus gives life. Mary simply expressed her worship of Him for doing so.

7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.

  • Jesus calls them out on their false piety next.  The disciples always had the opportunity to help the poor – they could have done “good” for the poor that afternoon, if they had so desired.  They could help the poor any time they wanted.  In fact, Jesus HAD helped the poor on many other occasions.  Who was it that fed the 5000 and the 4000 with loaves and fish?  Who was it that healed lepers, and gave sight to blind beggars?  Jesus.  Jesus had led the way in helping out the poor and the forgotten among the Jews.  He was the One consistently demonstrating how the first would be made last and the last would be made first.  So why bring up the need of the poor now?  This was sheer hypocrisy on display. It was the disciples trying to have the appearance of religion, rather than the reality of it.
  • The fact was that there was something more pressing at the moment: the departure of Jesus was at hand.  Yes, the poor needed to be helped, but they would always need to be helped.  But Jesus was less than 48 hours away from the cross, so there was a greater need at the moment.  Jesus had repeatedly told the disciples of His coming arrest, humiliation, death, and resurrection – and everything was now at hand.  There would be time soon enough to go back to helping the poor, but their priorities needed to be different right now.  They needed to take advantage of the opportunities that they had.  What should have been their priority?  Spending time with the Incarnate God.
    • Q: Would Jesus ever truly leave them?  After all, in the Great Commission, He told the disciples that He would be with them always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).  Yes and no.  Jesus specifically promised not to leave the disciples as orphans (Jn 14:18); He would come back in His resurrection & ultimately come back to receive us to Himself.  And of course, this is one of the primary reasons that He sent God the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower us – if Jesus never left, then the Holy Spirit would have never come (Jn 16:7).  There is no doubt that Jesus is with us spiritually.  But physically things are different.  Physically speaking, Jesus is still incarnate to this day, and He is at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.  So no, Jesus never left them alone, and the disciples always had access to Jesus in prayer – but yes, Jesus left them physically, not to return again until His 2nd Coming.  His earthly ministry was a temporary period of time, and something that was about to end – the disciples needed to recognize the time was at hand & take advantage of every opportunity they had.
    • What opportunities do we have today that we perhaps take for granted?  As NT believers, we have a freedom to come before God in worship in ways that OT saints never had.  We have the opportunity to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit, and be empowered regularly by Him for service (if we would but ask).  We have the opportunity to learn of God as we have a fully completed canon of Scriptures translated in our native language.  In this modern age in which we live, we have the opportunity to access all kinds of information via the internet, and minister to people around the world.  What has God entrusted to you?  Take advantage of the opportunities you have to give glory to God!
  • BTW – please note that Jesus never once disparages the poor, nor tells the disciples not to help them.  Some would read Jesus’ words and think that since the poor are always going to be here, that it’s a waste of time to help the poor.  That is not at all what Jesus says.  To help them is to do them “good,” no doubt about it.  Throughout the Scripture (both OT and NT), God places a high priority on helping the poor.  James goes so far to tell us that pure and undefiled religion is (in part) to help orphans and widows in their trouble (Jas 2:27).  There can be no doubt that helping the poor is a good thing.  Those who give to the poor lend to the Lord (Prov 19:17), and demonstrate that they have a love for those whom God loves.  There should not be a line between worshipping Jesus & helping others – it’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and.  All Jesus does here is to establish the priority for His disciples.  There would be some days in which helping the poor WAS the priority; it just wasn’t that particular day.

8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.

  • Jesus states the other purpose behind Mary’s action.  It wasn’t simply an act of worship; it was an act of preparation.  Jesus was about to die, and the kind of death He would experience would not allow for any anointing with oil and perfume.  Although the disciples did not yet know it, Jesus’ body would be taken down from the cross just prior to sunset on Friday, and none but Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would be able to attend to His body.  They would pack Him with spices (according to tradition), but they would not have time to go through the full rituals of burial.  Woman would come back to Jesus’ tomb on Sunday to complete the job, but they would not receive the opportunity (thankfully so, because Jesus would rise from the grave before they arrive!).  So what did God do?  He allowed Jesus to be anointed for burial in advance of His burial.  Mary’s act of anointing is the service that Jesus’ body would not have the opportunity to receive later on.
  • Q: Did Mary truly understand this aspect of what she was doing?  Surely she didn’t comprehend all of the ramifications of it, but Jesus certainly indicates that she at least understood part of it.  What it was that Mary could do, that’s what Mary did.  At the very least, she understood Jesus was about to be taken and killed, and she came in advance to worship and anoint Him.  Think about that for a moment.  In this respect, Mary shows that she paid more attention to Jesus than any of the 12 disciples.  The disciples had all heard Jesus teach how He would be arrested and crucified, but despite the number of times Jesus taught it, they never seemed to comprehend and believe.  Only Mary acted in such a way as if she believed the words of Jesus were true.  This woman, in all of her indignity and “thoughtless” act demonstrated more faith in Jesus than all of the 12 “pious” disciples in the room.

9 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.”

  • Every time this Scripture is read, Jesus’ prophecy is fulfilled anew.  No doubt that what Mary did was wonderful, and her act of devotion serves as a marvelous testimonial to her faith.  She was allowed to play an intricate part in the Passion of Jesus, and demonstrates to all of us what true service, devotion, and worship is like.
  • With that, Mark wraps up the section of Mary & goes back to the chronology at hand.  He’s highlighted true worship; now he turns back to true treachery.
  • The Plot, part 2 (vss. 10-11)

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.

  • Three things of note here.  First, Judas is specifically identified as “one of the twelve.”  Actually, in the Greek he is identified with the definite article “THE one of the twelve.”  Which one is THE one?  The one who betrayed Jesus.  Judas is the son of perdition – the one who will always bear the infamy of being a traitor unto the Son of God.  But here’s the thing: he wasn’t always seen as a traitor.  We hear the name “Judas” today and we immediately think of betrayal.  Yet prior to the cross, people heard the name “Judas Iscariot” and just thought of another disciple of Jesus – like Andrew, Peter, or Matthew.  Judas was one of the 12 men closest to Jesus during His earthly ministry.  He was one of the men set out by Jesus to preach the gospel around Judea.  He was one of the men sitting in the boat as Jesus walked on water.  He was one of the men who witnessed Lazarus rising from the grave.  Judas was included in everything else the other 11 disciples did, and he had the same access as all of the rest…which was greater access that the vast majority of Jews.  And yet he still turned away.  All of that time, and Judas never came to faith.
    • If one of the 12 could be a false convert, it could happen to anyone.  It doesn’t matter what kind of a show you put on for everyone else around you – it doesn’t matter how good you are at acting the part of a Christian or how long you’ve been doing it.  You know whether or not you belong to Jesus.  You know whether or not you’ve placed your faith in Him, and if you have the witness of the Holy Spirit within you.  If you haven’t, stop playing games with God.  Don’t be like Judas Iscariot and find yourself around Jesus, but never in Jesus.
  • Second, Judas approached the priests.  The chief priests did not seek Judas out and convince him to betray Jesus; Judas Iscariot “went” to them.  He was not tempted by anyone from the outside.  Judas had played around with the temptation in his own mind, and looked for an outlet for his sin.
  • Third, Judas went with a plan.  It’s not that he wandered around, not knowing what he wanted to do.  He had predetermined in his mind “to betray” Jesus, and that was the very reason he went to the chief priests.  Judas had made the decision to sin, and he took the steps necessary to make it happen.
  • Judas may have been a false convert, but there are lessons to learn from him.  Stop temptation in its tracks!  Everyone gets tempted, but the time to turn away from temptation is before it has time to blossom into sin.  When we dwell upon it & swirl it around in our mind to consider it (as someone might do with a glass of wine), that’s when we make our decision to go forward with it.  All that is needed at that point is the opportunity, which is really the only thing the priests provided for Judas.  The idea was all his.

11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.

  • Judas had just solved a major problem for the priests.  Remember that they had not originally planned on taking Jesus during the Passover or the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  They had feared a riot breaking out among the people.  (Which almost happened, but the riot was against Jesus calling for His crucifixion; it wasn’t against the priests, which was their fear.)  Yet now there was this disciple of Jesus coming to them.  They didn’t have to worry about arresting Jesus publicly; they could just do things in private.  They could do it when it was convenient, at the time and place of their choosing.  Besides – now they had someone to blame.  This wasn’t the priests persecuting Jesus; this was one of Jesus’ own disciples turning Him over as a false Messiah.  It’s no wonder the priests were “glad” – their job just got a lot easier.
  • Again, remember the sovereignty of God.  The priests may have inwardly rejoiced, but they did not realize that God had just superseded their own plans.  If they had realized that Jesus’ death during Passover would demonstrate how Jesus is the ultimate Passover lamb sacrificed for sin, no doubt they would have done everything in their power to kill Jesus some other time.  Yet ultimately they were not in control; God was.  God had His plan in motion, and His plan will always be perfectly fulfilled.

It’s a heck of a sandwich…quite the contrast.  Two parts of the same evil, surrounding one of the most beautiful acts of devotion found in the NT.  The predetermined evil of the priests and Judas contrast with the truly sincere worship of Mary.  Some would have appeared to be far more dignified and pious, while Mary would have appeared to be debased.  The reality was exactly the opposite.

The priests, Judas, and even some of the other disciples had something (sadly) in common: an outward appearance of religion.  The priests were respected by the people, assumed to be religious. Inwardly, they were as evil as could be…bent on destruction.  The disciples were the closest men to Jesus, and claimed to care about the poor.  Yet even their piety was demonstrated to be a sham.  They were around Jesus, but they weren’t listening to Him.  They could not even realize that His death was at hand (as He repeatedly told them it was).

Yet there was one who showed her faith and devotion to Jesus.  Mocked and criticized by others, Mary poured out everything she had to her Lord.  She took the opportunity she had to show Jesus how she loved Him, and placed her faith in everything He did and taught.  She loved her Lord with all her heart, soul, and strength.  And for that, all of Christendom remembers her every time the gospel is read.

Where are you in this account?  Perhaps you’ve been actively working against God like the priests – or perhaps you’ve turned away from Him like Judas.  Either category puts you outside of salvation.  It doesn’t matter how religious or spiritual you might appear on the outside – it doesn’t matter how skilled you are in debating others or whether or not you’re able to give all of the right “Christian” answers to the questions.  If you haven’t personally put your faith in Jesus, surrendering your life to Him, then you are not saved…period.  There can be no salvation apart from Him.

Perhaps you’re more like the other disciples in this.  They were not without faith, but they certainly were more concerned about externals than truth.  They were more concerned about the appearance of piety than true spiritual worship.  They were quick to criticize and slow to love.  Be careful!  Jesus calls us to better than that.  The Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and the 2nd is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  That begins with our fellow Christians.  We are to love one another as He loves us.  May we be less concerned with piety and more concerned with authenticity.  Perhaps there is some repentance that needs to take place…do it.

Perhaps you’re closer to Mary in all of this, but you’ve been hesitant to actually step out and do it.  You know the opportunity the Lord has given you, but you aren’t sure about doing it.  It’s a risky thing to humble yourself in the sight of the Lord – after all, you’ve got to trust that He is the One to lift you up and defend you.  You can trust the Lord to do it!  Take that step of faith.  Respond to Him.  Worship Him in all spirit and truth with everything that you are.  Take full advantage of every opportunity you have as a child of the Living God, and use it all for His glory.  Ask Him for the strength to respond, and He will give it.

  1. enrique mendoza says:

    just wondering if yo have someone translate this study into other languages

  2. timburns says:

    I don’t…sorry! I hope the English is not too difficult.

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