The Fragrance of Judas


Mark 14:1-11
1 Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2 for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.” 3 While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. 4 But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 “For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7 “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8 “She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9 “Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. 11 They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.

Many times I have read over and analyzed this portion of text about Jesus’ preparation for crucifixion. I have picked it apart and used almost each sentence as a lesson in itself but this time I think it would be a good idea to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

We have the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread happening. The Passover was a major holiday that celebrated when God “passed over” the Jewish nation in the curse of killing every family’s firstborn child in Egypt as part of their deliverance from Egyptian oppression. Immediately thereafter, the Feast of Unleavened bread was a time period to commemorate the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. You can read the details of these celebrations in Exodus 12. We see that those plotting to seize and kill Jesus said they would wait until the end of the holidays (which would stretch for 21+ days) but were overcome with their motives and started the process as soon as Judas gave them the opportunity.

Have you ever wondered the exact reason why Judas betrayed Jesus? We really don’t hear much from him throughout the scriptures (although I have heard rumor that there exists a Gospel account according to Judas). Certainly we can say that he was overcome by greed, ironically also serving as the group’s treasurer. As we look at this passage, we can see that although money was a factor, maybe he just didn’t like the way Jesus did things. We hear from the other disciples their complaints and questioning, but Judas remains silent through it. The others thought this whole show of perfume on Jesus’ head was a waste and Judas walks away in disgust after Jesus justifies it. Maybe Judas thought Jesus wasn’t for real. Surely he saw the miracles and heard the teachings, but Judas was still too attached to the world. Although he was following Jesus and one of the original 12 disciples, something kept him anchored to the world and it brought him to his ruin. Let me throw out a risky analogy: was Judas like the broken vial of nard?

Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, but kept him around anyway. Jesus knew that the time was coming for Him to be humiliated, judged, and crucified. Yet, Judas was never sent away but Jesus loved him right up until the very end. Judas was a broken man tormented by human sinfulness. He couldn’t let go; he tried to follow Jesus and still keep one foot in the world. Although his fragrance was sweet (his betrayal brought about a horrific death but also the salvation of the world) he remained broken and lost (he eventually hung himself as a result of his grief and guilt). Of the twelve disciples, Judas was the most integral in being a part of the world’s salvation. Yes, the others wrote accounts of Jesus’ life and spread the Gospel as far as they could in the world, but if it weren’t for Judas, would Jesus have been crucified for our sins?

It’s easy for us to judge others. We might even be able to give Judas a pass because we know it was “part of God’s plan,” but do we realize this in others we deal with today? Do we recognize the significance of those who are broken today in relation to God’s plan? Are we one of His followers who are complaining about the waste or do we recognize that the random woman with the expensive gift serves a purpose? Do you think the disciples hated Judas or did they love him and eventually thank him in their hearts for bringing about Jesus’ crucifixion? We generally cast Judas as a negative character in the bible, but forget that God allowed him to do what he did in order to fulfill His plan. Jesus Himself refused to prevent what Judas did; He still washed His feet and had enjoyed the Last Supper with him. He refused to fight back in the moment of betrayal and even exhorted Peter for fighting in that moment. How often do we look at situations like this in our lives the way Jesus did? How many times are we Judas? He loves us anyway.

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