Judas and the other disciples were in agreement. That expensive bottle of ointment the woman poured over Jesus’ head in Bethany had been wasted. It should have been sold with the money given to the poor. After all, wasn’t care for the poor a central theme of Jesus’ message? Matthew tells the story.
“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.”Matthew 26:6-13
Jesus countered their short-sighted view of the situation by pointing out that her action was preparation for his impending death and burial, the prerequisite for the gospel that would go global to impact many poor people. That left the disciples with a choice: Stick with the big picture, kingdom of God plan for which Jesus had cast vision, or turn to the human power structure of the empire to make people live and use resources the way they wanted it. Judas chose the latter. We read on.
“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.”Matthew 26:14-16
While Judas strategized with the power brokers to abandon the Jesus way, Jesus organized the Last Supper. Jesus knew what Judas was up to but compassionately washed his feet and shared the bread and cup with him, along with a lament for the consequence Judas would face. Matthew continues.
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’”Matthew 26:26-29
While Jesus was foretelling the soul-liberating, new covenant, Holy Spirit-empowered kingdom of his Father that was about to be launched in the aftermath of his death and resurrection, Judas was strategizing with the governing party to order society the way he wanted it. It didn’t work out well for him, as we know. Sadly, I fear there are followers of Jesus today who have lost the plot as Judas did. Rather than staying focused upon the worth and beauty of Jesus, the focus has shifted to people who do things of which they disapprove. Rather than trusting in the inexorable expansion of God’s redeeming influence through the gospel of love and peace, they have opted to plot with the power structures of man to put things right as they see it. It won’t work. It never has. It is a path to self destruction.
Lord, I, like the disciples, have felt reactionary at times about things that don’t fit how I assume they should be. Rather than waiting prayerfully before you and following your lead, I’ve acted with impatience and ignorance that turned out harmful in the end. As, once again, there is an open clash between the ways of man and the ways of God, I ask for forgiveness for my prideful insolence and impatience. Help me to see things from your perspective. I pray the same for others similarly beguiled to partner with the empire and forcing their way forward without you. Lord, hear my prayer.