The Good in the Bad

Bible Reading: Matthew 26

The older I get, the more I come to realize the depth of the truth of what John the Apostle meant when he wrote, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).  Of course, it’s been that way in this world ever since the pandemic of sin was unleashed in the fall of man.  If he’s honest with himself, any good student of history or reader of today’s news is aware of such things.  Such truths might lead us to cynicism and despair, were it not for that sad truth’s triumphant counterpart, declared by Jesus, “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

This chapter speaks to the particulars of the epic good-vs-evil work of Christ in defeating sin at the cross. It’s important to note that none of the events that happen here-in the events leading up to Jesus’ death—happen by accident.  All is, as Peter would henceforth proclaim, “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).  Jesus was aware of the conspiracy against Him and repeatedly acknowledged His submission to God’s plan and the corresponding need for the Scriptures to be fulfilled in all (Matthew 26:1-2, 12, 26-29, 36-46, 54-56, 63).

There are plenty of villains to read about in this chapter.  Failures too, even amongst Jesus’ beloved friends.  In an evil world, it’s not so difficult to garner support for an evil cause.  In the palace of the high priest, the religious leaders gathered to plot together to arrest and kill Jesus.  One of Jesus’ own disciples, Judas, was devil-led to betray Jesus in making a deal with them.  Jesus shared a last supper with His disciples, the shared bread and wine symbolic of His pending sacrifice.  Incredibly, a dispute then arose amongst those same disciples “as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Jesus warned His disciples of their pending desertion and denial.  Later, while Jesus prayed, the disciples slept.  When He was done praying, they came to arrest Him.

Amidst all this despicable plotting of evil men and regrettable failure of Jesus’s own disciples, we read in the chapter of the surprising, and dare we say “heroic” act of Jesus’ friend, Mary (Matthew 26:6-13).  John 12:1-8 likewise speaks of what happened there.  They are at Simon the Leper’s house, and while we don’t know for sure the identity of this particular Simon (Simon was a common name), we know he had been a leper.  Undoubtedly, he had been healed by Jesus.  Also there, according to John’s gospel, were Mary and Lazarus.  Mary was she who had previously “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39).  The same Mary who had confidently argued to Jesus how He could have prevented her brother, Lazarus, from dying (John 11:32).  But then Jesus miraculously raised him from the dead.  These folks had all witnessed Jesus’ miracles.  They loved Him.

At that dinner, Mary did the most astounding thing!  And it would have taken some gumption to do what she did in front of all those men.  She took an “alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head” (Matthew 26:7).  According to John’s gospel, she also “anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair” (John 12:3).  “The whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3).  The perfume was incredibly expensive, worth a year’s worth of wages!  The disciples, especially Judas, were indignant, asking, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5).  But Jesus paid tribute to Mary, explaining, “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.  Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:12). 

Jesus also said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Matthew 26:10).  Against the ugly backdrop of conspiracy and betrayal and abandonment and denial, Mary’s act of loving devotion stands out like a flower in a desert.  It’d not be possible for us to ascertain the extent to which Mary understood the what’s and why’s of what would soon happen to Jesus.  But by faith, she apprehended the truth about His identity, and by faith, she loved Him.  Her loving act won for her an undying memorial that would circumvent the world.

Amidst all the ugly evil doings we read about in this chapter, don’t miss the beauty of the loving devotion that rises above it.  In love, He poured out His life, opening up a way of salvation for all. In love, she audaciously poured out her sacrifice, in anticipation of His coming sacrifice.  She has set before us a beautiful example!

“Amidst the ugliness we see in this world, an act of love done in Jesus’ name, shines forth as a beautiful flower growing in a barren desert.”

Jerry Conklin


There is a name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
it sounds like music in my ear,
the sweetest name on earth.

O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
because he first loved me!

It tells me of a Savior’s love,
who died to set me free;
it tells me of his precious blood,
the sinner’s perfect plea. [Refrain]

It tells of one whose loving heart
can feel my deepest woe;
who in each sorrow bears a part
that none can bear below. [Refrain]

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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