Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Today marks Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday. The point in the Holy Week that begins the transition from Triumphal Entry to betrayal, torture, and death. The events of the day reflect two disparate treatments of Jesus: lavish praise and betrayal. Two responses to Jesus we still see today.
The passages for today open with Jesus at the home of Simon, identified as a leper. Likely someone who has previously been healed by Jesus. Its into this scene a woman enters, bringing an alabaster jar of spikenard, a very expensive perfume or essential oil. The alabaster jar in itself is significant. It was an expensive jar to hold an expensive oil. It was special to signify the special contents inside. And it had to be broken and cracked to pour out the contents inside. This woman took probably the most precious thing that she had and poured it out to anoint Jesus's head and feet. Lavishly adoring him. Her praise, her love literally spilling out because she had been forgiven.
And in response, what do we see? The disciples quarreling because of her lavishness. Because the gift could have been put to better use. Because the money could have been spent "better" in their estimation.
How often do we do this? How often does our inner voice question the extravagance of someone else's worship? Of someone else's gift giving? While I'm not calling for us to put aside all scrutiny, perhaps we should start from a place of granting the benefit of the doubt more often. To start from a place where we assume the best intentions of other people more often than not.
We also see on this day Jesus's greatest betrayal. The day Judas decides and confronts the chief priests to discuss handing Jesus over to them. Selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver. We can debate Judas's motives, whether he was a zealot trying to force Jesus into action or whether he fully believed Jesus had become too dangerous to allow him to continue his ministry. Either way in Judas, we see that it is possible to be so close to the truth and completely miss the point. Judas had the best pastor, the best teacher, the best leader, the wisest and best friend, and an incredible small group of friends to help provide guidance, but still ended up betraying Jesus. Our reflection for today should be how often we miss the point. How often we are in it for our own motives, our own pursuits, our own desires.
Where are you this holy week? Are you one lavishing praise on Jesus today? Are you questioning someone else's motives? Or are you pushing your agenda through your Christian life?
Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts through which thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.