Mark 14:3-11 ESV
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly,“Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Humility in the Anointing and Betrayal
In Philippians 2:3, Paul charges the church to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (ESV). Mark 14:3-11 juxtaposes the anointing of Jesus with the betrayal of Jesus, revealing where each of these divergent attitudes of selfish ambition and humility ultimately lead.
In John’s account of this same story, we discover that the woman who anointed Jesus was Mary, the sister of the recently resurrected Lazarus (John 12:1-8). The alabaster flask of ointment that Mary poured over Jesus’s head was worth almost a year’s salary of an ordinary palastinian day laborer, and it was probably the most valuable thing that she owned. She had very recently witnessed Jesus call her dead brother back to life. So, in her eyes the price of the ointment compared with the gift of Lazarus’s resurrection wasn’t even close. Her desire was to give Jesus the very best thing she had in order to honor Him and express her gratitude and praise. Jesus said it was a beautiful thing that she had done.
It was Judas who scolded Mary for wasting such an expense on Jesus, claiming that it should have been sold and given to the poor (John 12:4-5). John wrote that Judas was in charge of the disciple’s money and would often steal it for himself (John 12:6). Of course, it was also Judas who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, which we know he didn’t give to the poor because he later returned it before his suicide (Matt. 27:3-5). It is not hard to see that the desires of Judas’s heart were greedy and that he used Jesus to feed his selfish ambitions.
C.S. Lewis wrote that, “you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.” I’d only change John’s name to Mary. Mary glorified Jesus by humbly gifting Him with her very best, and Jesus said she would be remembered for it always. Judas glorified Jesus by betraying Him, which led Jesus to the cross to die for the sake of the world while Judas took his own life in self hatred.
It can be easy for me to go through the motions of acting like a disciple of Jesus who humbly cares for others as long as things go according to my plans. It’s easy to buy food to distribute to the poor or show up to a church service to worship and pray with others. However, when I’m caught off guard and somebody needs the money, food, or time that I intended for myself, that is when my heart’s treasure is truly revealed. Do I really count others as more significant than myself, or am I using Jesus and His people for my own benefit? What reveals your heart’s true treasure?
The humility of Jesus is displayed in His being a better treasure than we could gain for ourselves. Jesus accepted Mary’s gift as an anointing and then poured Himself out for her on the cross. Jesus let Judas choose to treasure a few coins over Him so that all who had betrayed Him could be reconciled to God. Jesus counted others more significant than Himself even when the favor wasn’t returned, and for those who humbly accept His gift there is life abundant found in Him.
Prayerfully consider these few questions:
- Has life interrupted by a quarantine revealed anything about what or who your heart truly treasures?
- How has Jesus proved to be worth more than anything else?
- How would life be different for you if you consistently counted others as more significant than yourself? What would be lost and what would be gained?