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
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.