As Matthew 26 opens, we are heading for the end of Jesus’ life. The crucifixion is looming, and the scary oboe music from every drama is playing in the background. You can just feel the coming storm. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus tells His disciples in plain language that in two days He will be arrested to be crucified. In verses 14-16, Judas slinks off to sell Jesus for a few dollars, and sets in motion the wheels of deceit and destruction.
But wedged in the middle is an interesting story. A woman comes and pours perfume on Jesus while He is in the home of Simon the Leper (what a horrible nickname). There is so much wrong in this picture. It’s Passover week. Every Jew in the country was working hard to keep themselves spiritually pure so they could celebrate Passover. Jesus goes into a leper’s home (big no-no), eats dinner there (bigger no-no) and a woman is rather inappropriate in public with her affection (big, big no-no). In John 12, he says the woman is Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ sister. You have this contrast with the religious leaders threatened by Jesus, who want to kill Him; and Judas, who wants the money. They both know Jesus, and reject Him. Mary knows Jesus, and worships Him. All in the same situation, the same setting.
What causes this canyon of a divide in their reactions? A lot, to be honest. The religious leader’s goals, as well as Judas, are advancement and self-preservation. They want power, prestige, and money, and they want it on their terms. Mary has abandoned those things, and just wants God. One leads to murder, the other to a gift. One leads to grabbing for all they can take, the other to giving a very expensive gift from very little. One leads to bitterness and suicide, the other to worship and joy.
Today, you and I face the same choices. Power or passion? Self-advancement or self-sacrifice? Lust or love? One always leads to death, the other to life. Which route do you want?