the section read from Touchstone magazine will be included as soon as we have
permission from them to reprint here.
should note at the beginning that there are significant differences concerning
the central episode as recounted by Matthew and Mark, when compared to John’s
Gospel. This is so much the case that some ancient scholars concluded there
must have been two separate, similar incidents. Matthew and Mark have it at
the house of Simon the Leper; John at Lazarus’ house. The dates seem
different. The anointing is either the head or the feet. The woman is
anonymous; she’s Mary of Martha and Mary. For purposes of our instruction, we
shall treat them as one.
Mat 26:1-16 NIV
Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, (2) "As you know, the Passover is two days
away--and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified." (3) Then the chief priests and the elders of the
people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, (4) and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way
and kill him. (5) "But not during the
Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."
(6) While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man
known as Simon the Leper, (7) a woman came to
him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head
as he was reclining at the table. (8) When
the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they
asked. (9) "This perfume could have been
sold at a high price and the money given to the poor." (10) Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why
are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. (11) The poor you will always have with you, but you
will not always have me. (12) When she poured
this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. (13) I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is
preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory
(14) Then one of the Twelve--the one called Judas
Iscariot--went to the chief priests (15) and
asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?"
So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. (16)
From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Nature of Christ
does not readily appear so, but we can glean some information about Christ
himself from this short passage.
sometimes forget that Christ knows the future; even during his advent, his
mission and suffering were clear to him. He knows what he will suffer
(crucifixion); he knows where (Jerusalem); he knows when (at Passover); he
knows who will do it and how. But there are two additional bits of
foreknowledge you might not have seen:
sees clearly that the Cross is not the end, but that the Gospel will be
preached around the world. How could this be without the resurrection?
tells us that “it was intended”
that she use the perfume this way. He sees into her heart and knows what
will be done; he knows that she has set this aside for Him.
implications are important for us. What is there that he does not know about
rush in where angels fear to tread.” But evidently the Son of God has no such
inhibitions. Matthew and Mark tell us this is the home of Simon the Leper –
which automatically makes it off limits to the Jews. I suspect the disciples
felt a little uncomfortable about it, too. Though perhaps it kept the
Pharisees at a distance; who can say? What threat is leprosy to the Christ who
will die shortly on the cross and be raised again on the third day?
notice one of those curious statements which in any other mouth would be wildly
egotistical. For the devout Jew, giving to the poor was commanded and
expected. Who, then, could dismiss the call to give the money to the poor with
the observation that – since he is here – the money is better spent on him? Do
you see how arrogant this sounds in any mouth but that of the Son of God?
at the disciples’ reaction. The rebuke her for doing it; but they don’t
criticize Jesus for that comment. They know that He is, intrinsically, worthy
of such a sacrifice.
divine, Christ is also fully human – and quite a human being at that. One of
the constants of his life is that the ordinary man listened to him gladly. The
ordinary man is his protector in this instance; the Pharisees know that if they
arrest him publicly, there will be a riot – and then who knows what happens?
He is not aloof and distant; he is personal and “in your face.” The ordinary
man loved Him, and does still.
is a curious connection here. Christ is sold for thirty pieces of silver – the
price of a slave in the Old Testament.
The Son of Man came to serve – and was priced accordingly. One other figure in
the Old Testament was sold like that – Joseph. He brought twenty pieces of
- the servant is not above the Master, it seems.
Nature of Evil
modern humanist view is that man is basically good – but his culture has turned
him to evil. (“Culture” is sometimes a code word for “Christianity.”) The
Christian view is entirely different. Man was created good – but is fallen.
Each and every one of thus is a sinner by nature. Therefore each of us is
capable of immense evil. Permit me two examples.
Eichmann was instrumental in the Holocaust. A movie was made about this; it
starred an actor named Werner Klemperer as Eichmann. I saw the movie several
years after it was issued – by which time Klemperer had gone on to play Colonel
on the television comedy Hogan’s Heroes. Despite a fine performance, I
could not see Eichmann as villain in the film – only the bumbling fool.
goes the other way too. A minister of our acquaintance was accused by his
daughter-in-law of sexually molesting her children. One of the saddest aspects
of this was that many of the man’s friends immediately assumed he was guilty
(and said so.) Lifelong friendships were ruptured. He eventually spent all he
had saved defending himself; it came out that she was using this accusation as
a weapon in her divorce case against his son. Many were all to quick to
believe; why? Because we know that we have the capability for great evil too.
would motivate a Judas to betray the Christ? Some possibilities, all of which
are common to us as well:
- Love of money – perhaps not the most logical reason, as it is not
certain Judas would have gotten his fingers on it. But you can see the
pull of the temptation.
- Fear of discover – that is to say, pride – and the terror of being
humiliated. What will people do to avoid having their sins found out?
- Manipulation – some have suggested that Judas did this to force
Jesus to become an earthly king.
- Bitterness – Judas was the only Judean of the twelve, Mr.
Outside. Perhaps he was fed up with being lowest on the totem pole.
Frustrated ambition does that, sometimes.
in his Gospel,
tells us that Satan entered into Judas. If so, then matters were very bad for
Judas. Satan is described to us as one of the cherubim – fallen from his original
state through his pride:
Isa 14:12-14 NIV
How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations! (13) You
said in your heart,
"I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 
(14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."
is well to remember that Satan is the enemy of our souls;
Christ the lover. His strategy in our time is fitting the Father of Lies. In
the industrial world he tells us that he does not exist – and therefore the
Bible is false. In the world of tribes and peoples, he is the “god” who
opposes the God brought by the missionary – and opposes him with powerful
last things we may say about evil: to the last, Christ offered Judas the
chance to repent. Overcome evil with good.
daughter – the real writer in the family – tells me that a story will not work
without conflict. Think about that; when you hear of conflict, you want to
know what happens next. Here is a conflict that’s been going on a long time.
years ago the cardinal of Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahoney, had a new cathedral
built (cardinals need cathedrals). It was indeed a lavish thing; the greatest
expanse of translucent alabaster windows in the world. It was also heavily
criticized; “Why wasn’t that money spent on the poor and homeless?” Do you not
see that the same question could be asked of the cathedral of Notre Dame in
Paris? The answer is the same in both cases: it was done for the glory of
that, however, we must sometimes look again. The million-light bulb palace
that is TBN is also done for the glory of God – though we suspect someone’s ego
just might, possibly, have been involved.
things may be done to the glory of God
- it’s just that they’re likely to be misinterpreted along the way.
nature of an Act of Devotion
act of devotion such as we have here is at root an act of love. It has certain
the world’s point of view, it’s a total waste. Forgive him? What for?
Roses are one thing; long stem American Beauty roses? What a waste!
the giver’s point of view, it is expensive to the point of total
commitment. The widow, after all, could have put in only one coin.
is elegant; first class. Give of your best to the master.
is insightful – did she know of his burial to come?
is timed for the occasion.
it meets these characteristics, it is sure to be criticized.
has done a beautiful thing to me.” Christ praises and values good works, even
if we think them a little lacking in propriety. But note please: He does not
reward her with anything but praise. There is no spiritual gift given; just
remembrance. We sacrifice for those we love; they love in return.