It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
When I read the story of the anointment of Jesus, I admit that my first inclination is to react the way the men do. What a waste of money! Surely feeding the poor is a better use of resources! But Jesus says otherwise. It is right to bring honor and glory to our King in that way. (I talked more about that in Matthew.)
And I react in a similar way to many church expenditures. Do they really need such a big church? Do they have to have the fancy cushioned pews? Why buy such a big Christmas tree and so many expensive decorations? Isn’t there a better way we could be spending that money? Maybe, but then, maybe not. Bringing glory to God and honoring Him is a worthwhile use of money. And bonus points if these things help worshipers feel closer to God, as this woman surely did. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to how a church should spend its money, we just need to pray about what is right for our church.
I often wonder, why did the priests need Judas? Could they not find Jesus on their own with all their power? Was Jesus laying low, or in hiding? Whatever the case may be, Judas’s betrayal for money is presented as an exact opposite, in a way, of the woman’s anointment.