By John Bishop
“So, let us get this right…” the chief priest might have said to Judas. “You're prepared to betray Jesus to us in exchange for 30 pieces of silver?” “Yes, that’s right.” Judas agreed.
“Aren’t you one of His followers?” The Jewish leaders must have wondered. “What has driven you to this point of turning Him over to us?”
Amid the angry, halting, complex, and likely confused reasons provided by Judas there would likely have been a reference to the scene that had unfolded a few hours earlier.
Jesus and his disciples were gathered in the home of Simon the Leper, as is described in Matthew 26:6-13. During this situation, Mary poured an expensive bottle of perfume (let’s say it was Louis XIII at $4,100 a bottle) on Jesus’ head. All the disciples, the Bible explains, were indignant. Everyone was asking, “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Jesus addressed all of them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”
Judas had been one of Jesus’ disciples and he would have seen things like this many times. Jesus is the son of God; He determines the agenda. He has every right to expect absolute trust from us. This is challenging. Just because He is Lord doesn’t mean we automatically understand, or even agree with His actions and decisions. Following God sometimes feels like the irrational, “crazy” path, NOT the natural, obvious one. If we had been in the room when Mary dumped out the perfume, for example, we might have aligned with Judas and the disciples. There’s a rational part of all of us that looks at the self-sacrificial, turn-the-other-cheek, go-the-extra-mile, dump-out-the-perfume path of Jesus and thinks, don’t bother!
Stop for a second and really think about what’s going down in this scene with Mary. It’s crazy. Except that Jesus directly addresses the situation, we would all agree that dumping $4,100 on the ground is a crazy thing to do. Especially since she could have used an ounce or so (a generous and lavish gesture) and still made a profound statement; smells travel fast. Did she really need to dump the entire thing out? Isn't that wasteful!?
Aren’t some of the ways we follow God similarly “irrational”?
Wait, you’re giving all that money to a church? Wait, you’re sending your kids to a Christian school? Wait, you’re not going to the party this weekend? Wait, you don’t let your sixth grader have a phone? Wait, you are fasting food…for God? WHAT?!?! These things are CRAZY.
Perhaps this is how we, just like Judas, often find ourselves in a court of peers ready to cast our faith aside for a small reward. The cheap feeling of belonging we briefly earn as we gossip or give in to a cynical outlook, the temporary forgetting we gain under the influence of our favorite numbing agent, the false sense of security we experience from amassing a little more money, the attention we get from the last video we posted. These things are not wrong or evil, per se, but are they best? Even if they make sense to us, do they honor God?
We can learn a lot from the story in question. In Luke 8:2 we discover that Mary had been rescued from seven demons. Imagine the gratitude she felt having been freed from that kind of physical, emotional, and spiritual torture. No earthly possession could possibly retain any meaningful value when her entire life had been redeemed. Is our redemption any less miraculous? Are we not equally compelled to extravagant gratitude for all Jesus has done in righting our relationship with God?
Mary acted in faith, and it seemed irrational to others, but it makes more sense when we consider her story. Judas did the rational thing, but it ultimately crumbled to ruin in the light of the bigger picture. He even gave the silver back in guilt! As we evaluate our lives and others', we should see with eyes of faith. Considering what Jesus has done for each of us, there is no sacrifice we could make that is too great.
As the disciples stood breathing in the rich scent of perfume, Jesus said, “Don’t bother the woman, she is doing a beautiful thing.” Most of the disciples trusted Jesus. Let's follow their lead not Judas’ and trust that sometimes the thing that looks most irrational, when earnestly done to honor God, might be the most rational thing in the end.
Following Jesus can be frustrating but trusting Him just makes sense!