Mark 14:1-11 1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The twelve disciples had been following Jesus by this point for over three years. Every day Jesus had been teaching them something new. As the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully through Jesus Christ it would have been amazing to know that each and every day Jesus would do something or say something that would give them a deeper understanding of God and of the plan of salvation. There was so much to learn and Jesus was the best possible teacher. He knew each of the disciples better than they knew themselves and He knew exactly the best way to teach them. But along with the many blessings that came with being taught directly by Jesus also came personal hardship. The opposition to Jesus continued to increase as Jesus’ earthly ministry continued and at this point in the book of Mark it was just days before Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus had triumphantly entered into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt accepting the praise of the people who publicly worshipped Him as the Christ- the Savior who had come to rescue them. Jesus was on a collision course with the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They did not want to give up the power and authority that they had in Jerusalem. Every religious authority challenged Jesus in the Temple in a war of words and He was able to defeat them all (described in Mark 12). They were desperate to have Jesus killed but He was popular among the general public (as was John the Baptist previously). They were willing to hear any plan to have Jesus killed but they didn’t want to do it now during Passover as there were Jewish people in Jerusalem from all over the known world to celebrate God delivering their ancestors from Egypt thousands of years earlier. They desired to kill Jesus in secret and not in a public scene.
Then comes this surprising scene in Bethany which was near Jerusalem. Out of the blue, a woman pours a large flask of expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. We all naturally cringe when we see something very expensive broken by accident. A glass of spilt milk isn’t a big deal but a shattered TV screen or a written off vehicle from an accident hurts deeply for the one who incurs the cost. When the disciples saw this very very expensive perfume poured over Jesus they were shocked! What was this woman thinking? Was this an accident? How would she make up for such a loss? As they continued to watch they realized that this was an act of deep love and affection of which Jesus accepts and even confirms. But what she had done even she did not fully understand. She had anointed Jesus for His burial. Jesus once again confirms that He will die of which the disciples still could not accept or comprehend.
How does Judas Iscariot respond? We next read that Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests in order to betray Jesus. He would be paid by them to betray Jesus. Now he only needed to come up with a plan. Judas Iscariot consciously decided to switch allegiances after seeing this woman anoint Jesus with this expensive perfume. We read in John 12:6 that as the treasurer he had been pocketing money from what was donated to Jesus (people would donate money to cover the cost of their expenses as they traveled). Judas Iscariot saw what he had perceived as wasted money that he wanted for himself:
John 12:6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Ultimately Judas Iscariot came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the Kingdom that he had signed up for. Judas Iscariot was more than willing to follow Jesus as long as it benefited him but now it was getting more dangerous to follow Jesus and it was obvious that they weren’t going to reign with Him in Jerusalem any time soon (Jesus had just explained to His disciples in Mark 13 that Jerusalem would be destroyed in A.D. 70 and that the disciples would suffer great personal hardship in the future and that Jesus would come again in the future to judge the world). Jesus’ actions with the woman who anointed Him with perfume only confirmed to Judas Iscariot that now was the time to jump ship before it was too late. The fact that Judas Iscariot was the only disciple from that part of Israel (Judea) may have also contributed to his decision as he gravitated back to what he previously knew and believed and what was comfortable to him. He had tried to follow Jesus and changed his mind and the only way he could prove that he was loyal to the chief priests instead of Jesus was to betray Him. If Judas Iscariot didn’t betray Jesus he still could be accused of being a follower of Jesus. Why not profit? But his decision would prove costly as it would cost him his very life and his very soul. After betraying Jesus, Judas Iscariot hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-10).
To follow Jesus is a life and death situation. It is costly to follow Jesus but it is absolutely worth it. God will test our love for Him and it will require sacrifice but the reward of knowing Jesus Christ is eternal life. It is the greatest gift and to reject Him is the greatest mistake. Sadly there are many who start off following Jesus with much excitement. They believe that they love Jesus Christ but they are really only looking for the benefits that they can receive from Him. They, like Judas Iscariot, justify skimming from the top and have never come to a true place of repentance and faith. If push comes to shove they will be willing to betray Jesus to save their own skin or to profit for themselves. Examine your heart. Are you truly loyal to Jesus Christ?
Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Pastor Murray Hack