Peace be with you!
The characters in today’s gospel reading all have a role in setting up Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and ultimately his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. But their roles seem odd to us: a woman pouring ointment on his head, the chief priests plotting against Jesus, and Judas making a deal with the chief priests. What is the significance of the woman pouring ointment on Jesus’ head? What do the chief priests have against Jesus? Why would Judas betray his faithful leader? Why does this all have to take place?
The disciples object when the woman pours ointment on Jesus’ head, because it could have been sold and the money given to the poor (Mark 14:4-5). To the disciples, the woman is wasting money that could have been used to help those in need. However, Jesus stops the disciples in their tracks and explains the importance behind the woman pouring ointment on his head. Jesus states that the poor will always be with us but that he will not (Mark 14:7). For us today, this makes sense. We do see the poor all the time, but we have never seen Jesus in the flesh.
Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that the woman was anointing his body for burial before his death. The woman gives Jesus the honor and dignity that he deserves before he suffers crucifixion and death. The woman gives up money to give honor to Jesus. Anointing before burial was often reserved for important individuals, such as kings. The woman bestows honor upon Jesus as a way of giving him what he deserves before he undergoes the unthinkable for us.
Then we come to Judas Iscariot and the chief priests, who set the events into actions. Chief priests plot to arrest and kill Jesus (Mark 14:1), though it could not be during the Passover, because the arrest would cause a riot (Mark 14:2). When Judas comes forward willing to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10), the chief priests are able to carry out their plans.
Now, Judas does not care why the chief priests want to arrest Jesus. Judas’ only concern is himself, and the chief priests are willing to pay him money for giving them Jesus (Mark 14:11). Because of his greediness, Judas is willing to hand Jesus over to be arrested for his personal gain.
Readers cannot help but compare the woman who poured ointment on Jesus’ head with Judas. When Judas plans to betray Jesus for money, the woman who poured ointment on Jesus’ head sacrifices expensive nard to show him respect and dignity. The woman gives up money for Jesus, whereas Judas takes money for himself. The woman prepares Jesus for his burial by anointing him; Judas puts the events leading up to his death into motion.
It would be easy to mark the woman who poured ointment on Jesus’ head as a saint and Judas Iscariot and the chief priests as sinners. Each of these characters play an important role in the Passion story. As I stated above, the woman who poured ointment on his head gives Jesus the honor and dignity he deserves before he fulfills the scriptures. In the same way, Judas and the chief priests play an important role in allowing Jesus to fulfill the scriptures, even though that is not their goal. Ultimately, Jesus has to die on cross for our sins and resurrect so that he can overcome death. The woman who poured ointment on his head, Judas Iscariot, and the chief priests help Jesus to carry out God’s plan, even without their knowledge.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the woman, Judas, and chief priests who played important roles in carrying out your plan. Help us to recognize the way in which you use both those of us who are Christians and those who do not believe to further your plan, even unknowingly. Thank you for using us as you continue to unfold your plan. Amen.
Perkins, Pheme. “The Gospel of Mark: Introductions, Commentary, and Reflections.” In The New Interpreter’s Bible, by Leander E Kirk. Nashville: Abringdon Press, 1995.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How has God used a tough situation in your life to continue to unfold his plan?
2. Have you ever “wasted” something extravagantly for Jesus?
3. In this time when Jesus is not physically present with you, how do you reach out to the poor? How can doing so make Jesus’ presence known in the world?