Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”
3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Sympathy for the Devil
The Rolling Stones’ classic Sympathy for the Devil always puzzled me. How could one look on someone so evil and make light of him? How could one have sympathy for the Devil? However, as I read the gospels these last two years I find that I have sympathy for The Pharisees and Judas. Judas watched on as this woman wasted a jar of perfume and was indignant. I think I would have been, too. Jesus knew that he would actually die at Passover and be buried. Jesus attributed significance to her act that she may not have even known herself. To the bystander it was $30,000 wasted in an instant. Most men don’t understand the significance of spending a few dollars on cut flowers. The symbolic shattering of an expensive vase filled with expensive perfume seems less practical. The rich and the powerful have that kind of money to waste, they could have bought the jar so something useful could have been done.
The Pharisees and Judas did not see the significance of who Jesus really was. If he was an ordinary man, his blasphemy was an offense to holiness. If Jesus was not Messiah, the Son of God, and the Lord of David, he was an imposter of the most belligerent kind. That is why I have sympathy for Judas’ and the Pharisees’ solution. I am afraid that I don’t know if I would have seen who he was. The disciples didn’t really understand that he was walking toward his death and that he would rise victorious. However, eleven of them, though weak enough to desert and deny him, loved him enough not to betray him.
I pray to God that it would not have been me. I am relieved, that like the apostle Paul, my eyes have been opened miraculously to who Jesus is. Others, like Richard Dawkins, react like the Pharisees. If there is a God, I once saw Dawkins argue, the person of Jesus is too small or too petty to be his agent. The universe is too large for Jesus to matter. However, Jesus is the means by which we realise that we all matter. In seeing what he has given up, smashing a year’s worth of wages on his feet as an act of devotion seems highly appropriate.
I am prone to denial and rebellion because it takes such faith to see the magnitude of the miracle of incarnation. Jesus, you gave up so much in becoming a man like us. However, you gave up so much more in embracing death so that we could experience reunion with God the Father. I am thankful that you have opened my eyes to who you are. I pray that you would keep them open so that I may endure ’til the end, unlike Judas who must have felt disillusioned and betrayed to treat you this way.
- What did the woman do for Jesus?
- Why were so many people upset?
- Why might someone have sympathy for Judas or the Pharisees?
- What do you have that you have lavished on Jesus?
- How would you describe how precious Jesus is to you?