9 March 2023

“Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over” (Matt. 26:14-16 TNIV).

Judas was one given the privilege to be, initially, among the close disciples of Jesus. He probably heard most of the teachings of Jesus; he saw, in close quarters, the life of the Master; Jesus even washed his feet, giving him an opportunity to respond to the grace and mercy of the Lord.

Nonetheless, Judas went to the chief priests in order to betray Him. Judas was noted to be one who was pilfering from the money bag; money mattered to him and was probably an ‘idol’ in his life – this explains why he asked how much he would be given if he were to betray Jesus.

His background as a Jew and his close association with Jesus might have precipitated his desire to be among those who will overthrow the Roman authorities (springing from his understanding that the Messiah would deal with the enemy of Israel), and also be among those holding prestigious positions in the ‘new kingdom’ the Messiah will establish.
But, when Judas slowly realised that this was not going to be the agenda of Jesus, he possibly became ‘disillusioned’ and sought to ‘fall out’ and to benefit in the process. He ended being the traitor from within, and he eventually allowed Satan to ‘enter into him’ to carry out the betrayal (all these can be read in the gospels).

What is important is to realise that having the opportunity to listen to the teachings of Jesus and to be among His followers does not guarantee reality in our life. The love of money and the desire for position and material success may be an area the enemy can exploit. Allowing the negative influences to be nurtured in our life and allowing them to take deep root predisposes to being manipulated by the evil one, who also knows the desires of our hearts. The long years of exposure to Christian fellowship, worship services, church activities – all these do not make it impossible for us to be side-tracked and led astray. We must take heed to these warnings and be vigilant in our walk with God. It is possible to be present without ‘receiving’; we may hear without actually listening; we may listen without real understanding – the result – no actual spiritual impact on our life and hence no actual spiritual growth and transformation.

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why the waste?’ they asked. This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.

Aware of this, Jesus said to 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. When she poured the perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matt. 26: 6-13).

Here we see the sharp contrast: one who was a close disciple sought to betray the Lord for a sum of money; a woman (probably with a questionable background, as shared in the gospel), in contrast, gave the Lord an anointing with a very expensive perfume, pouring it on his head from an alabaster jar.

The variable responses: the disciples were indignant, claiming that it was a waste – the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor, instead of pouring it out on the head of Jesus; Jesus’ response – it was a form of rebuke of the disciples, telling them not to bother the woman – the Lord then told them that the poor they will always have with them, but they will not always have him – in fact what the woman did was very significant from the Lord’s point of view! She was, (knowingly or unknowingly) preparing the Lord Jesus for burial, implying that His death was imminent.

Furthermore, what the woman did will be told wherever the gospel is preached, even throughout the world.

Note the comparison of the two responses: the disciples were apparently concerned for the poor and that there should be no wastage of the expensive perfume; the Lord saw the devotion and love of this woman, expressed in her willingness to sacrifice something very valuable to show it. The Lord also pointed out her action as relating to His coming death and burial, as well as the coming proclamation of the gospel of salvation.

What the woman did has a lasting and profound relationship with the preaching of the gospel subsequently throughout the world – this is indeed something pleasing to the Lord, and what she did would be told in memory of her wherever the gospel is preached. What a deep and lasting impact this is – and it all has to do with a deep devotion and love for the Master! It was probably also associated with the deep realisation of her being forgiven so graciously for her sins, and her intensed gratitude to the Lord for doing so.

The Lord Jesus should be preeminent in our life; His love and sacrifice for us ought to be deeply treasured, and cannot be compared with other needs around us. Our devotion and love for Him must take first place, even ahead of our human relationships, family relationships and other commitments. The gospel of the Lord Jesus takes precedence over social needs, physical needs and even deeds of charity; only the gospel paves the way back to God and to eternal well-being when received by faith – nothing else compares!

How is our relationship to the Master? Can it be said that there is true devotion and love for Him in our hearts? Or are we just concerned with the external and what the world considers as important? Will we sacrifice loyalty, love, and faithfulness to Him for what the world and the evil one offer to us? Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, will God’s people remember the devotion, commitment and love of this woman??