Matthew 26:6-16 presents two contrasting stories highlighting ‘the disruption of the spiritual’. Matthew presents two vastly different perspectives.
In the first story, an unidentified woman (?) boldly approaches Jesus, uninvited, and anoints him with an expensive jar of oil. Meanwhile, in the second tale, Judas Iscariot plots to betray Jesus to the religious authorities.
The striking contrast between these two individuals, the woman and Judas, prompts us to reflect on our intimacy with Jesus.
Selfishness Vs Selflessness
Matthew uses these two stories to highlight the contrast between genuine devotion and false piety.
|The Unnamed Woman||Judas Iscariot|
|A woman came|
in with a bottle
of expensive perfume
and poured it
on Jesus’ head
was one of
the twelve disciples..
went to the
The stark contrast between the two characters reveals the importance of genuine devotion and the danger of false piety. Specifically, the woman’s act of worship is a selfless act of love, while Judas’ actions are motivated by his selfish desires. His betrayal shows that his supposed devotion was only a facade.
To truly demonstrate devotion to Jesus, one must possess a selfless attitude, a willingness to give up everything for him, and a sincere desire to honour and worship him.
The woman in Matthew 26:6–12 is a model for how we should approach our relationship with Jesus, pouring out everything we have for his sake. On the other hand, Judas’ actions remind us of the destructive consequences when we prioritise our interests over those of Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, we should strive to be selfless like the woman and avoid the mistakes of Judas’ false religion. By doing so, we can deepen our relationship with Jesus and experience the fullness of his love and grace in our lives.
Materialism Vs Spirituality
Next, Matthew presents two contrasting perspectives on the value of money
|The Unnamed Woman||Judas Iscariot|
|A woman came in|
with a bottle of
|How much will|
you give me if
I help you
They paid Judas
thirty silver coins
The stories of the woman who poured perfume on Jesus and Judas who betrayed him for money reveal two different perspectives on the worth of things. While the woman poured the costly alabaster jar of perfume over Jesus’s head as an expression of her deep love and care for him, Judas betrayed him for just thirty pieces of silver.
Despite the costly price of the alabaster jar of perfume, the woman did not hesitate to pour it over Jesus’s head as an expression of her deep love and care for him. She recognised that Jesus was more valuable than any expensive perfume.
In contrast, Judas valued money more than his loyalty and friendship with Jesus. He betrayed Jesus for a few pieces of silver, indicating his materialistic mindset.
While money is necessary for survival, its pursuit should not overshadow spiritual growth. The value of money lies in how we utilise it. Using it for spiritual purposes, such as acts of devotion or charity, becomes a tangible expression of our beliefs and values.
On the other hand, if we prioritise money over spiritual values, it can lead to moral corruption. As Christians, we are called to prioritise spiritual values above material things. We must use our resources to honour God and show our devotion to Him.
Proximity Vs Intimacy
Third, Matthew gives different ideas about what Jesus’ death meant and stresses the importance of knowing and understanding spiritual things.
|The Unnamed Woman||Judas Iscariot|
|She has done|
thing for me…
She has poured
perfume on my body
to prepare it for burial.
(Mt 26: 10 – 12)
|“Why such a waste?”|
As a sign of her love and devotion, the woman anoints Jesus’ head with expensive oil. This act is a poignant reminder of Jesus’ upcoming death and burial. The oil is symbolic of sacrifice and forgiveness, representative of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus acknowledges the deeper meaning behind the woman’s actions, recognising it as a beautiful gesture: “She has done a beautiful thing to me” – Matthew 26:10. The woman’s understanding is firmly rooted in a spiritual perspective, indicating a strong connection with Jesus.
In contrast, the disciples failed to make a spiritual connection with Jesus, despite being in close proximity to him. The disciples had been taught about Jesus’ impending death (Mt 16:1), but they could not understand the significance of the woman’s anointing with perfume. Their reactions revealed their lack of spiritual understanding.
The contrast between the woman’s devotion and the disciples’ lack of spiritual insight highlights the importance of having a deep sense of spiritual understanding in our devotion to Jesus as his followers. We must recognise Jesus’ profound significance in our lives and faith, even when physically close to him. It is possible to be near Jesus and yet remain ‘spiritually’ far away.
Pragmatic Vs The Spiritual
The woman’s act of devotion was a disruption. This causes the disciples to question the woman’s behaviour, calling it a waste and even suggesting that she should have sold the perfume and given it to the poor.
|Disciples’ Reaction||Jesus’ Reaction|
|When his disciples|
saw this, they became
angry and complained,
“Why such a waste?”,
“We could have sold
this perfume for
a lot of money and
given it to the poor.”
|You will always have|
the poor with you,
but you won’t
always have me
(Mt 26: 11)
The disciples’ initial response to the woman’s actions reveals a more selfish, underlying motive. Interestingly, it was Judas, who carried the money bag and sometimes stole from it, that suggested the money should have gone to the poor (John 12:6). Judas was motivated by greed, not kindness. While the other disciples likely joined Judas, they may have felt threatened by the woman’s display of devotion to Jesus.
However, Jesus defends the woman’s actions, acknowledging that she did a good thing for him. Her act of devotion was not misplaced but rather timely and beautiful. The woman recognised the importance of expressing her love and devotion to Jesus, even if it meant using expensive perfume.
While we are called to serve the poor, our acts of compassion should not come at the expense of genuine expressions of piety and devotion. Oftentimes, we dismiss acts of devotion borne out of a simple faith as outdated or irrelevant.
The disciples valued practicality over devotion, but Jesus taught a different lesson. Despite the disciples viewing the woman’s action as wasteful, Jesus declared it beautiful, emphasising the spiritual over the practical.
The realm of spirituality has the power to disrupt routine religiosity, lacklustre devotion and our façade of superficial acts of compassion. Matthew 26: 6 – 16 teaches us valuable lessons about Selfishness Vs Selflessness, Materialism Vs Spirituality, Proximity Vs Intimacy, and Pragmatic Vs Spiritual.
While we should never neglect our responsibility to care for the less fortunate and address social injustices, our devotion to Jesus must always come first. Our acts of compassion should not be a mere facade. Instead, we should approach these acts with a deep sense of empathy, compassion, and selflessness, just as Jesus did and taught us to do. It’s crucial to put first things first.
This is part 2 of the series “Jesus: Victor or Victim.” You may also like to read: God’s purposes cannot be thwarted.
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