Motivation is Everything
1It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” 3 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. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 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. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 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.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Many, many years ago, a lady in our church complained that we had too many flowers in the Sanctuary on Easter morning. Dozens of families had each purchased one potted tulip, lily, or hydrangea so that there were well over 100 plants in the room for our Easter celebration. She thought all of that money should have gone to missions. At the time, I thought, well, I suppose so. But decades later, I don’t know. I think Jesus’ resurrection is worth a few extra flowers. That lady's sentiment seems to sound very familiar to the words of the nay-sayers in this reading. And since we know from the other Gospel writers that these thoughts originated with Judas, we know that he was simply interested in procuring some of that money for himself. Motivation is everything.
The devotion of Mary (identified by John) is noted by Jesus as a worthy expression of worship. He is not distressed over the lavishness of the gift or the intimacy of the anointing. Jesus recognizes her devotion for the rightful worship that it is and heaps honor upon her. Judas, on the other hand, shows his true colors and we are alerted to the fact that he is a willing participant in the betrayal of the Savior.
Jesus isn’t here for me to pour perfume upon His feet. But He has placed me within a community of other people, each of whom I am called upon to serve. When I love others, I am pouring out love onto Jesus. Seems like a simple concept but one that we carry out far too seldom. And I freely confess that there are some who make themselves incredibly difficult to love and I'm convinced that those are the ones who deserve my attention the most.