Summary: Judas’ betrayal is contrasted with the loyalty of an unnamed woman. The woman was extravagant in her loyalty and foolish in her love. She wasted her resources in her love for Jesus. Judas on the other hand betrays Jesus for money. By our selfishness we be
Mark 14:1-11 “Wednesday—Loyalty and Betrayal”
There is perhaps no lonelier moment for a person than when a person (or persons) whom he loves fails to understand him or betrays him. It is devastating. We catch a glimpse of this devastation in Jesus’ life on Wednesday of his final week.
Jesus has led a frontal assault on the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes—the religious leaders of Israel. He openly criticized their greed and corruption. On Tuesday he deftly evaded their theological and political traps that they set for him while revealing their hypocrisy and shallowness. The crowd loves Jesus. Like school kids gathering around a playground fight, they’re cheering for the little guy as he takes on the bully.
Jesus withdraws from the confrontation with the religious leaders and returns to Bethany to be with his disciples and friends. It is in Bethany, in the home of Simon the leper, that our gospel story takes place and we learn the lessons of Wednesday.
DENIAL AND FAITH
Jesus has told his disciples three times that he will be tortured and executed by the religious authorities. Jesus knew what was going to happen, and he attempted to prepare his disciples. Unfortunately, his disciples never heard, understood, or believed what Jesus was saying to them.
The disciples did not respond to Jesus’ predictions. They did not start thinking about what would happen once Jesus was separated from them. Instead, they talked about who would sit on Jesus’ right hand when he came into his power, and who was the greatest disciple. I know that some among us might shake our heads and simply mutter the timeless explanation, “Men!” but the reaction of the disciples goes deeper than their gender. It is a core issue of their faith in Jesus.
An unnamed woman enters the male sanctuary unbeckoned. She breaks scores of social conventions and opens herself up to criticism and wrath. She opens a jar of expensive ointment and anoints Jesus’ head with it. Her actions are both a shattering of social mores, and also an expression of her faith. She has heard Jesus’ words. She believes that he truly will be tortured and killed by the religious and political authorities. Her faith in Jesus—in his words—compels her to act. She anoints Jesus as she would prepare a person for burial. If Jesus is to die, she will prepare him for his entombment.
There is a well-know and commonly stated Biblical saying, “God’s ways are not our ways.” We know that this is true, but we struggle to apply it to our lives. Like the disciples, we may hear God revealing his ways to us, but attempt to trump those ways with our own ideas and desires. We struggle with the idea that God knows best when things take an unexpected turn, go from good to bad, or bad to worse.
The woman’s simple, deep, trusting faith is a model for all of us who claim to be follows of Jesus. Denying her own good ideas, she acts on what Jesus has revealed to her.
GENEROSITY VERSUS MISERLINESS
The ointment with which the woman anoints Jesus is extravagantly expensive—almost a year’s wages. In the eyes of the disciples, her act is both extreme and unnecessary. They argue that the ointment could have been sold and given to the poor. Things would have been a little more comfortable for them and they would have not worried about finances quite so much. Besides, Jesus did not need to be anointed. The woman’s action is similar to a person treating his or her spouse to a day at the SPA. At the end of the day the good feelings, relaxation and money are all gone. The money could have been put to better use like buying a new garbage disposal or fertilizer for the trees and lawn.
The generosity of the woman is a stark contrast to the miserliness of the disciples. She is willing to “waste” ointment on Jesus that she probably could not easily afford to do. The disciples could only criticize and guard their little stash of cash.
With a sharpness that Jesus has previously reserved to his encounters with the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus rebukes the disciples. There is probably a note of disappointment in his voice, also. For three years his disciples have walked with him. They had watched him pour himself out for others. Not once do the gospels record an instance when Jesus served himself. Still the disciples don’t get it. They have not allowed themselves to be transformed from self-centeredness to service—from miserliness to generosity.
The woman’s actions demonstrate that faith is responding to God’s revelations and living a generous life.
THE GENEROUS LIFESTYLE
The woman’s action is not based on a code of laws. Certainly her action goes beyond other’s expectations, so it doesn’t stem from what others want. The woman’s motivation is much deeper and more personal. She has been with Jesus. She knows his love, forgiveness, and care for her. These have been freely given to her, and the woman is overwhelmed that she is the recipient of them. The woman opens the jar and pours the ointment over Jesus’ head because Jesus has touched her life.