You may have noticed that I didn’t post last week. I was able to have an amazing family time celebrating my wife’s retirement at a drive thru retirement party and then baking with my daughter. I thought about trying to write this Bible study later, but was just too tired, and then, well, Christmas week. I hope you had a blessed Christmas week and that you remember to take that spirit of love, joy, and peace out of the Christmas season and live it all year long.
I am going to be making some changes in the way I write. I’ll be talking about it in the video you see at the beginning of his blog. I hope that he changes will help you grow in your relationship with God and that you’ll help me as I progress as a writer.
1. After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. 2. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.
The deal was set in stone: according to the religious leaders, Jesus had to die. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of how. The one thing they all agreed upon was that they couldn’t do it on the day of the feast, Passover, because they knew the people would create an uproar. Whenever public officials want to do something they know might create controversy, they do it when the least amount of people will find out about it. In the United States, it’s the Friday afternoon news dump in Washington, or midnight shenanigans and votes in Congress. People in power believe that people will believe that when something has already happened, they won’t do anything about it. They wanted to take Jesus out when the least amount of people would see it happening.
3. And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.
As I understand the situation, Simon the leper was having a feast, and Jesus was eating with him, among others. Given the concerns about the contagious nature of leprosy, I have no doubt that appropriate social distancing issues were considered in the seating arrangement. In the middle of the feast, though, a woman walked up to Jesus and took a container of expensive perfume, and poured it on His head. Some have speculated that this woman was a prostitute, or maybe a former prostitute whose life was changed by Jesus. We don’t see any specific indication in this passage or in the parallel passage in Matthew. The story told in a passage in Luke would indicate that Simon, while a leper, was a Pharisee and that the woman was a sinner. While that might indicate a life of prostitution, it’s important to remember that in the eyes of the Pharisees, anyone who wasn’t a Pharisee was a sinner. A similar passage in John would indicate that Mary was the woman in question. Since John was the only writer who talked about Lazarus, it’s likely that he was the only one who would have named this woman. What’s telling to me is that this story was included in all four gospels to some degree. That shows how important this seemingly small incident was in the life and eventual death and resurrection of Jesus.
4. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 5. For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
Since no good deed goes unpunished, the disciples and others around grumbled about the wasteful nature of this gift. John records that the most outspoken critic was Judas whose ulterior motive was that he could skim some of the funds off the top for his own benefit. According to Luke, Simon grumbled not at the expensive nature of the gift, but at the character of the woman – since she was a sinner. In Luke, Jesus responds by talking about the level of response to being forgiven. The person who has been forgiven much will show greater gratitude.
This was an expensive gift. I believe that this perfume was a burial spice that cost a lot of money. The woman, Mary(?), acting out of gratitude, sacrificed it by pouring it over Jesus. It was worth a lot of money in that day and could have been sold to support people in poverty. If you want to cause problems today, do something extravagant, even if that means giving a generous gift to support a cause that you believe in, but isn’t accepted by everyone. Social media pressure will make it hard not to apologize for supporting good organizations that don’t match the beliefs of the cultural elitists. They will describe such a gift as wasteful, even hateful, because it could have been used elsewhere to support a more politically correct organization. People haven’t changed that much.
6. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. 7. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. 8. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. 9. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
Jesus responded to the critics by noting that she had done something good. As followers of Christ, we need to look at things in the overall perspective of the Kingdom of God. If an action is good for the Kingdom of God, we should support it. If actions go against the Kingdom of God, then we have the responsibility to call it into question. Jesus noted that her action was good because she was preparing His body for burial even then. The disciples wouldn’t have believed it if you told them, but Jesus would be crucified and die in just a few days. They would put Him in the tomb without the proper burial spices because of the time factor related to the Sabbath. Maybe they should have remembered this day, and not been so concerned about the proper ointments for the body.
I don’t know if this is what Jesus was pointing out, but there will always be poor people in need of help and their concern for the poor on this issue might be hypocritical because they haven’t shown this same level of concern for the poor at other times. Perhaps there was a hint of Jesus thinking, “So why do you now have a concern for the poor when you haven’t thought much about them in the past?” On the other hand, this was also a reminder that since we have people living in poverty and need, and we’ll always have people in need around us, we need to be ready to develop a lifestyle of helping others. There is nothing wrong with being extravagant in our giving to the work of the gospel, but at the same time, we should always be ready to help our brothers and sisters in need. The two are not incompatible.
And, just to put the topper on things, we are fulfilling today the prophecy of Jesus when He said that what this woman has done will be spoken of wherever the gospel is preached. This woman was willing to sacrifice that which might have been the most expensive of all her possessions in order to anoint Jesus. What are we willing to give up to glorify God and proclaim the gospel in our own home towns and around the world?
10. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. 11. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.
This may have been the last straw for Judas. Somehow, his high hopes for Jesus as the Messiah were finally dashed in this situation. Some have speculated that Judas sought to force Jesus’ hand into revealing Himself as the Messiah once He was arrested by the Chief Priests. Others think that he decided that he had chosen the wrong person. Whatever the situation, Judas went to the chief priests to volunteer to betray Jesus. As per John’s commentary about Judas and stealing money, Judas got paid well for his betrayal. While I personally believe that Judas was trying to find a way to force Jesus to rise up as Messiah, that doesn’t make what Judas did any less heinous. How often do we do the same type of thing when we seek to twist the promises of God to suit our own purposes instead of realizing that God does all things to fulfill His purposes in life. We can’t rush God to do something, although there are times I’d like to, and we can’t tie God’s hand, forcing Him to react the way we want Him to. We can ask Him to allow us to serve with Him and minister to our lost and dying world.
Next week we’ll look at the story of the Last Supper. I was going to try and cover it this week, but that would have made this discussion so much longer that I wanted to wait until next week. May God bless you as we head into the new year.