Bible Reading: Matthew 26
Matthew 26:3-4, “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.”
Matthew 26:12-13, “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 whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
The older I get, the better I understand the depth of the truth of what John the Apostle 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 Himself, “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 this evil world, it’s not so hard to garner support for an evil cause. In the palace of the high priest, the religious leaders gathered to plot together how 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 body and His blood. Incredibly, a dispute then arose amongst those very same disciples “as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Then 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 and tragic 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,” actions 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 do 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, 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 were all witnesses of 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, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). But Jesus explained her actions this way: “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 backdrop of conspiracy and betrayal and abandonment and denial, Mary’s act of loving devotion stands out like a beautiful flower in an arid 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 understood the truth about His identity and by faith she loved Him. Her loving act won her a global and undying memorial.
Amidst the evil doings we read about in this chapter, don’t miss the beauty of the loving devotion that rises above it. The loving devotion of the Savior who willingly and fully submitted Himself to the Father’s plan and, in so doing, provided a way of salvation for us. And the loving devotion of a woman who, having some foresight, poured out her sacrifice even as Jesus was preparing to pour out His life.
In this dying world, acts of love done in Jesus’ name are as an aroma of life, instructing and reminding us of the life and beauty of Jesus and His loving sacrifice for our sins.
Broken and spilled out just for love of You, Jesus.
My most precious treasure, lavished on Thee;
Broken and spilled out and poured at Your feet.
In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out and used up for Thee..
Lyrics: Gloria Gaither; Music: Bill George
Copyright ©1984 Gaither Music Company and New Spring Publishing/ Yellow House
Music (admin. by BMG Music Publishing, Inc.). All rights reserved.