Sacrifice, Service, and Treachery
The story of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume can be easily skimmed over in passing, but there are three audiences in this story that need to be addressed. The first person is the woman with the alabaster jar. Held within its depths was a very expensive and fragrant perfume. It is mentioned that it was so costly that it could have provided a year’s wages. That is a significant chunk of change and it’s gone in an instant. Could it have been put to better use? Some of the disciples thought so, but we’ll take a look at them in a second. What she does goes unrecognized by those in attendance but Jesus calls their attention to what has transpired. He does not view her gift as a waste, but of sacrificial giving in preparation for his imminent burial. While no one there apart from him knew what was going to happen, he once again calls attention to an act that won’t be fully understood until after the resurrection. Her generosity and devotion to Jesus is something we can model in our lives. If we are sold out to following him, sacrificially giving to the mission he set out for us will bring joy. It will probably be misunderstood by others, just like this act of giving was, but that shouldn’t stop us. After all, it is Jesus who searches and knows the heart behind every thought and action. Our time on earth is limited, so we should take every opportunity to serve the Lord joyfully.
The second audience that needs to be addressed in this account are the people sitting around the table who question why she would waste such an expensive gift on one person. Their reasoning was that it would be better to sell the perfume for the year’s wages that it was worth and give that money to the poor. Was that their true intention? From other parts of scripture we know for Judas it wasn’t but I won’t spoil the third part of this story just yet. Jesus redirects their thinking with another prediction of his death. He says, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” (Mark 14:6-8). Unfortunately, poverty will always be prevalent and there will always be people in need. To serve the Son of God just before his death though was not something they would be able to do for very long. When we serve, we must make sure our hearts are focused and aligned with God. If not, our service has the potential to become prideful and self-centered. God calls us to serve in humility, much like the woman with the perfume.
The last, and most treacherous person who must be mentioned is that of Judas Iscariot. Mark doesn’t give much insight into his mindset, but reveals enough to display the heart of Judas’ impending actions. As has already been mentioned, Judas was in this for financial gain. He didn’t really want to give money to the poor but to pocket it for himself. This seems to be the final straw for Judas and he goes to alert the authorities that he can deliver their marked man (for a sum of money of course). In a nutshell, Judas hands Jesus over to be arrested, he gets a small amount of money; Jesus gets convicted, tortured, and killed on the cross. Judas, in what some might consider an act of remorse, returns the money and commits suicide. Who knows how long Judas had been tricking the others into acquiring money to “give to the poor.” What we do know is that his impure motives led down a path of destruction. When our motives are kept in the dark, no matter how much we try to hide them, they always see the light eventually. Thankfully, there is hope for redemption through Jesus. Could Judas have repented and been saved? I’m certain he could have because no one was excluded from the saving grace of Jesus. Would it have been painful for Judas? Emotionally and spiritually it would have been agony, but it would have been possible. No one is ever too far gone for the love of Jesus. If you’ve spiraled out of control and your motives and actions have deteriorated at a rapid pace, turn to Jesus. He wants to help you in whatever season you’re in. His love is abundant and all consuming. There were other disciples who abandoned Jesus (not to the extent of Judas but abandonment is still abandonment). By all accounts, John was the only disciple who was at the cross when Jesus died. While Judas took his fate in his own hands, the others who left were restored through the love and power of Jesus. That same restoration is available to you. Don’t try to do it on your own.