This morning as I read through the Gospel of Mark, I was struck by the motivations of those described in Chapter 14. In the chapter before, Jesus had just made his declaration regarding the destruction of the temple and His ability to rebuild it in three days. Though His disciples seem clueless about His real message, the politically astute and the chief priests seemed intuitively to know this has something to do with them!
They not only had honed their spiritual skills sufficiently to discern the overtones in Jesus’ statements, but their political acumen as well, knowing better than to harm him during the Feast for fear that “the people may riot.” Politics does strange things to leaders.
As is the case with scripture, woven into the drama and undercurrents of the story are precious moments, providing deep insight into the heart of Jesus, defining His life as more than simply a religious zealot bent on revolution. Often, the people used to open our eyes to this side of the Christ were the poor and the passionate; in this case a woman found in the home of Simon the Leper. Perhaps, this woman was a close friend of Simon, even of lower cast, with a vocation that required her ill-used body to be often refreshed with the scent of expensive perfume? Note that Jesus was almost always found among those least worthy of the priesthood.
This woman apparently was moved deeply for some reason and unknowingly portends Jesus’ death, for in describing what had just happened, the reference made by Christ was His own temple, now prepared for burial, as the Spikenard like substance was poured over His head. In her passion, she had broken the vessel that contained this expensive perfume, a year’s salary; and perhaps, from that moment forward knowingly committed herself to a different lifestyle, perhaps even poverty.
Of course we learn that Judas, the treasurer in Jesus’ band of followers, was also in the room, and maybe the person most loudly complaining of this waste? Though this perfume might have been better sold and the money used for the poor, I doubt that was the motive of Judas. His statements reveal either a heart of greed or the deep guilt settling in as he had by then cut a deal with the local politicians and the priesthood to deliver this maverick named Jesus.
Maybe Judas had another plan, to deliver Jesus, forcing His hand, yet confident that when that time came, this man who could curse fig trees and in one day find them withered, heal blind men and lepers like Simon or feed multitudes from minimal baskets of loaves, would break out at last and deliver their country from the Roman rule?
We humans are a strange lot when our passions, our politics and our resources are involved.