Mark 14:1-10 Sympathy for the Devil

 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. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

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.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 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.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 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. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 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.


  1. What did the woman do for Jesus?
  2. Why were so many people upset?
  3. Why might someone have sympathy for Judas or the Pharisees?
  4. What do you have that you have lavished on Jesus?
  5. How would you describe how precious Jesus is to you?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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2 Responses to Mark 14:1-10 Sympathy for the Devil

  1. Christina Zezulak says:

    The woman in this story gave in abundance to Jesus, and I believe it is because she knew that He was worth it all and more. The others around were upset because they saw this generosity as a “waste.” In a sense, they did not see Jesus worthy enough to receive such treatment in that type of way. Maybe they did believe He was worthy, but they believed He could have been honored in another way… possibly a more “reasonable” way. I think that this is the response that I receive, as well as many devoted Christians, from the outside world. Why are you going to school to become a full time missionary? Why wouldn’t you use your education to live in comfort and luxury? Why are you willing to sacrifice your time and finances beyond the cultural standard? Why can’t you just give your 10% and go to church on Sundays and let that be it? In a sense, this is how I have felt when people discuss my devotion to Jesus. People that don’t truly know Him don’t truly understand me. I pray that I would become more and more unknown by others if it means I can become more and more like Jesus. Jesus is worthy of all that I have, and who I am, and so much more. He is worthy of all the praise and all the glory. He is very precious to me, because by His grace, He has revealed to me who He is. I am known by Him, and I am privileged to know Him more each day. I am also able to make Him known to others by His grace. I do pity the Pharisees and Judas, because they did not get it. They did not know Him. Indeed, He is the delight of the human existence. He is the satisfaction that exceeds all. They were so deep in their sinfulness that they could not see the Treasure before their eyes. What a waste.

  2. kevin w. says:

    The woman anointed Jesus’ body for burial. People were very upset because they did not understand the significance of the action nor the full extent of who Jesus is and what He deserves. The disciples had finally gotten who Jesus was to an extent in Peter’s confession “You are the Messiah.” However, they did not understand Jesus’ mission or that He would die and rise again. To them, the woman had wantonly used the perfume on Jesus. To not do good for others when you know that you could have is seen as heartless, foolish, and perhaps even sinful. If they fully understood Jesus as the eternal son of God, their redeemer, and their king, perhaps they would have reacted differently.
    The Pharisees and Judas did not even believe that Jesus was the Messiah. From their perspective, Jesus stood in arrogant opposition to the Law of Moses. They certainly did not understand that Jesus would die for their sins (including the sins of putting Jesus to death!). Their reaction is understandable from this standpoint. I think more of us might have reacted similarly, for we probably would not have understood Jesus better than Peter James and John.
    I do not have much in terms of possessions which I have given to God. I have submitted my future to Him and given up the comfortable job I could have easily pursued and already been in by now. My future is in His hands even if it does not make sense or requires a path filled with disappointing others expectations. Jesus is who gives me purpose, meaning, satisfies my desire for intimacy and love. The utter loneliness and futile worthlessness of life apart from Christ…

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