Judas. The name today means “traitor” or “turncoat”. It’s not a name you want to be called, let alone known as. Today you’ll see the difference between a true, loyal follower of Jesus and someone who puts idols first. Let’s dig in…
Mark 14:1-11 – Jesus Anointed at Bethany
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 (300 denarii) 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, 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.Mark 14:1-11 NIV
Making Sense of Possible Contradictions
This story is also in Matthew and John. Likewise, Luke tells of an anointing, but it’s earlier in Jesus’ ministry and it takes place in Galilee. Which is probably where Mary got the idea. John’s version gives us more details.
- Mark and Matthew both say, “While in Bethany”. It’s not in a chronological progression. Only John’s account places the anointing 6 days before the Passover and before Jesus enters Jerusalem.
- Simon, the leper, more than likely was a relative — maybe even the father — of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Simon was one of the most popular names back then, which is why people are refered to by their name and then something about them. The Luke story takes place at the home of Simon the Pharisee. And, of course, there’s Simon Peter.
- John tells us it was Mary who anointed Jesus and it was Judas, who spoke up about what a waste of money it was.
- Mary was probably also grateful that Jesus raised her brother from the dead.
- The chapter opens 2 days before the Passover and the chief priests and scribes are getting anxious because they want to get rid of Jesus, but they were afraid the crowds would riot.
- Both Mark and Matthew stick the anointing story right after. Obviously, this angers Judas, who was a greedy thief, prompting him to betray Jesus for a measly 30 pieces of silver. Definitely not as much as 300 denarii!
Contrasting Attitudes — Selfless Worship and Selfish Pride
Let’s take a look at the actions of both Mary and Judas.
Mary (Sister of Martha and Lazarus)
Pastor Sandy Adams comments…
John 12 says this was Mary, sister of Lazarus – who’s always worshipping at Jesus’ feet. At the time, it was a common custom to invest your wealth in costly perfumes. These expensive fragrances were imported from India, and were very, very [expensive].
The vial that hung from Mary’s neck was probably worth a year’s wages. There’s the possibility it constituted Mary’s dowry – or her ticket to marriage. A dowry was the treasure that accompanied the bride. When love wasn’t enough to motivate a man to marry a woman – a dowry sweetened the pot – it was a down payment on her upkeep…
If the perfume was her dowry, Mary is telling Jesus she’s willing to forego marriage if necessary, and pledge all her love to Him. Mary’s heart – her allegiance and loyalty – was reserved wholly and only for her King.
Understand, what’s happening here. Pragmatism is trying to snuff out Mary’s praise. You can hear the mumbling, “With all the needs in the world? Hospitals, and soup kitchens, and missions, and homes for unwed mothers, and political action committees… Why waste this money on worship?”
We need to realize the value of our worship is never measured practically, but spiritually. Like buying roses for your wife. On a practical level it’s a terrible waste of money, but relationally what a gesture! The value of worship is only understood or appreciated by lovers…
It’s love, not logic, that drives true worship. Jesus understood Mary’s heart, and comes to her defense…
Perfumes were placed on a corpse to mask the odor of rotting flesh. But Mary believed Jesus’ body would not deteriorate. She trusted His promise to rise on the third day, so she anointed Him before His burial.
Jesus had told His disciples many times that He’d be crucified and three days later rise from the dead, but this idea seems to have sailed over everybody’s head except Mary’s. She seems to be the lone believer. And we wonder why? Could it be that there’s a close association between revelation and adoration? The person who sits at Jesus’ feet in worship, is the person who sees truths that other folks miss! Worship breeds communication with God, and insight about God. It’s worship that opens our eyes to the things of God.Sandy Adams
Jesus’ last words here are a prophecy that you and I are fulfilling with this blog post and podcast! The scent of the perfume faded after a few hours, but the power of her actions are a sweet fragrance that lasts forever. Furthermore, it’s a great example for all of us.
Judas, Satan’s Pawn
Lisa Supp in the The Gospel of Mark (Part Six) in the free YouVersion Bible app, sums up Judas nicely….
Consider Satan and his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. After failing to stumble Jesus, “he left Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13 NASB). That opportunity arrived when Satan entered Judas, stirring up Judas’ willingness to be led astray (Luke 22:3–4). With the silver clutched in his hand, he sought an opportune time to hand Jesus over.
And what of Judas Iscariot? What opportunities were presented to him? The finest! To be among the Twelve chosen by Jesus, to learn directly from Him, to be imbued with power and work miracles. Yet, he forsook all of it—he forsook glory to choose another path, a self-driven path. An apostle in name only, his heart never changed. He followed Jesus for personal gain. Sadly, that was his choice, and his eternal trajectory followed the darkness of his heart.
Then there is Mary. She also had the opportunity to know Jesus, to follow Him, eat with Him, and adore Him. And she did adore Him—so much—and created an opportunity to show Him. John’s gospel tells us that days before Jesus would be crucified, Mary poured all her costly oil upon her Lord. A tremendous price for some, but a small thing to one so spiritually minded. Mary gave herself to poverty to offer Him honor.
Lastly, for us there is the charge to do good to all people while we have opportunity, especially for our family in Christ (Galatians 6:10). But opportunities involve choices, so Jesus places this before us: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, . . . But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13–14 NIV).
Following Jesus can be a difficult road. Satan wants to control it; Judas wanted to manipulate it. I pray we will all be like Mary—traversing in faith and humility the narrow gate and road, not giving an inch to the enemy, making Jesus the essential person in our lives, forgetting personal gain, and sparing no expense for the sake of Christ. Let’s strive to create a lifetime of opportunities to worship, serve, and glorify the One who spared no expense for our sake.Lisa Supp, The Gospel of Mark (Part Six):
Which are you?
Do you worship Jesus — and Jesus only? A loyal disciple.
The Bible Study I just quoted has a wonderful prayer that we should pray daily!
Lord, I commit everything to You. Help me to remove any greed or idolatry in my heart and so You can take Your rightful place. Amen.Lisa Supp, The Gospel of Mark (Part Six):
Are you ready?