Help the poor later or honor Jesus now?
Sell everything you have and follow me. Leave your hometown and follow me. Give up you job and follow me. These things Jesus had asked of his followers and for three years they all followed on foot.
The culmination of events, so it seemed, came two days before when Jesus entered Jerusalem like an anointed King. Then nothing.
Today is Tuesday and the Lord foretells his death to the Apostles, that which they have feared. Another choice.
2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
Bethany and Jerusalem
In two scenes related by Matthew we see Jesus and the Apostles and learn of what Matthew would know later about the leaders of the Temple.
6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”
Recall that the Apostle John has told us that the ‘why this waste?’ question came from Judas Iscariot, though it seems others joined in.
In Bethany, near Jerusalem, notice first the anointing honoring Jesus takes place. Then discontent and criticism from those present, opposition no different than in Jerusalem from those who seek to crucify the Lord. As always, Jesus cuts to the quick with the truth.
The poor are with you always.
10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 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.”
How would you have responded to Judas?
Would I have said something like,
‘Come on, Judas, focus on the significance of the worship of Jesus, the Lord your God, here; will you?’
Probably not! And we dare not accuse the other Apostles for joining in on ‘save it for the poor.’ Jesus was not so abrupt here as you or I might have been, but you get the point.
We examined one incident prior to Palm Sunday where John dissects the motives of Judas. We began with the gospel of Mark reporting a second incident just prior to the trial of Jesus. Matthew adds some additional detail to this report. We judge these scenes of unfamiliar experience based on our distant understanding of practically nothing about these oppressed men and women of a conquered Israel of the first century.
14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?”
And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The greatest story ever told does not end there. We know that.
The Gospel is Good News to us! Yet do we proclaim Jesus? Does our faith fade into our own hopes and not the calling of Christ?
Even knowing the ending, a glorious resurrection of Christ Jesus in the flesh, we offer similar excuse, don’t we?
‘I am saving up to help the poor.’
‘Someone else will have to help this mission.’
‘I may be the poor in my retirement.’
Worship or excuse?
How do I compare to when called on to witness Jesus?
A humble woman, lowly in station of life and offering a worship of her highest value, anoints the Lord Jesus. Are we too involved in something else to do the same? For you will always have the poor.