Jesus Changed the Humble—not the Hedonists (Mark 11:1-12:40; 13:1-14:25, 43-52)
“Hosanna!” The crowd was ecstatic as Christ entered Jerusalem. Here was the great Changemaker who had done all these great things, coming into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling prophecy, ready to take the throne of His father David and rule in peace and justice—throwing off those pesky Romans in the process! These same people were confused when instead of confronting Pilate, he confronted the pigeon-sellers. His first attacks were on money-changers and fig trees—not Romans. This was certainly an odd king.
You see, like many of us, the crowds wanted only pleasure. Hedonists, we’d call them. They wanted a comfortable life, free from taxes and the injustice of an occupying force. But it wasn’t just the crowds that wanted this—it was one of Jesus’ own disciples. Judas was his name. Many surmise what Judas actually wanted was for Jesus to throw off the Romans. But that didn’t seem to be the path He was taking. Instead, He was walking around Jerusalem, getting into theological debates and telling stories. Indeed, He even said to
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
That doesn’t sound like someone about to challenge Caesar’s armies. Then, instead of talking about the grandeur of the Temple, He predicts that the Temple will be destroyed (ultimately by the Romans themselves) and describes a bunch of confusing future events. No doubt Judas was a bit put off by all this. His plan was not working out. Jesus was not doing what he thought he should be doing.
One day, Jesus was visiting a friend named Simon, who used to be a leper until he met the Changemaker—no surprise. As Jesus and His disciples were enjoying some good pita bread, a woman came and interrupted their meal. The smell of freshly-baked bread was replaced by the strong scent of pure nard—an Indian plant used to make an ointment. It was one of the rarest and most expensive perfumes of that time. And now, that priceless perfume was being poured over the Master’s head.
The disciples were upset—and the foremost of these, according to another Gospel, was Judas. “Why was this ointment wasted like that? It could’ve been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor! Shame on you!” he said to the woman.
But Jesus put shame on Judas.
“Leave her alone! She has done a beautiful thing to me…she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.”
Burial!? Judas was shocked and perturbed. First of all, Jesus let this woman waste this money—something the frugal (i.e, greedy) Judas would not have ever allowed. They were supposed to be saving money so they could buy things like swords, shields, and torches. You know, for their takeover? Instead, they were wasting perfume on Jesus’ head for…burial!? He couldn’t die! He was going to be King! Why would He say such a thing? Nothing was going according to plan—and this was the final straw for Judas.
It’s no coincidence that the very next thing recorded is Judas going to the chief priests to plot to betray Him. They had been looking for the opportunity—and now one of His own trusted followers came to them with the opportunity of the lifetime! A chance to betray Him without any of that “hosanna” crowd around to see. They promised him money—maybe he could find a new leader and plot a new rebellion. Now to wait for the right time…
Jesus and His disciples celebrated Passover together—what we call the Last Supper. And in the middle of a great meal, Jesus leans back and sorrowfully says,
“Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me…the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born!”
Those words would ring in Judas’ ears as he kissed Jesus in the garden. Kissed Him with a crooked smile of deception and guile. He had done it. He watched Him get thronged by the mob and carried off to be tried. The deed was done. This Man would die like every other failed revolutionary—serves Him right! There’s only one way to get ahead in the world—and that’s by following a strict plan of logic and success. Follow the path that leads to the most money and the most success. And that path leads to the overthrowing of Rome and the promotion of Judas.
Ironically, in his pursuit of pleasure, Judas finds himself with no plan and only painful remorse…and a painful end at the end of the rope.
Even more ironic, the crowd that the priests feared would defend Jesus, the crowd that shouted “hosanna!”…was the same crowd who shouted, “Crucify Him!” He had not met their plan. He had not given them what they wanted.
Is that you? Are you on this Christian path just to see what you can get out of it? Or are you more like that woman who didn’t care what others thought and just came and poured out her best on Jesus? She didn’t have a grand plan for success—the only thing of any value she had was that perfume. And she “wasted” it on Jesus. In humility, she gave up everything for Christ. Unlike Judas who gave up Christ…for money. For fleeting pleasure. For his own plans. For nothing really at all…