by Linda McMillan
In a world that doesn’t make sense, the only response is a life that doesn’t make sense either.
It was never really about the woman and the ointment. You know the story: Jesus was having dinner with some friends when a woman entered the room and poured some expensive perfume over his feet. Some people said that the money, equal to about a year’s wages for a soldier, should have been spent on the poor; but Jesus said that what she did was a beautiful thing.
This has long been pointed to as the precipitating event, the thing that pushed Judas over the edge and sent him into the arms of Jesus’ enemies. But, it was never really about the woman and the ointment.
Having this neat equation where Judas’ greed, or the woman’s extravagance set the stage for betrayal is sort of a comfort. We like understanding things. We want it all to make sense. But, it wasn’t about the woman, her ointment, or even Judas’ greed.
The fact is, we don’t know why Judas betrayed Jesus. Oh, there were prophecies to be fulfilled. A lot has been made over that. And, of course, people do weird stuff. But, if it wasn’t about the ointment, or the woman, and if it wasn’t about Judas and greed, then why?
Those who experienced the Babylonian exile must have also wondered why. And, true to form, we have woven together a story to make it seem like there was a reason: Mainly foreign women and foreign gods. But, what if it’s not so neat and tidy? What if the Babylonians were just conquerors and it was Israel’s turn?
The reason we have gone to such lengths to construct these stories in a way that makes sense is because if there were no reason for Jesus’ betrayal, if it could happen to him, then there might not be any reason for the betrayals that we’ve experienced either. If the Babylonian exile wasn’t a punishment for sin, if it was just Israel’s day to be captured, then the world doesn’t make sense. And if that’s the case then we can’t control it.
We might not be able to control the world, but we can look to Jesus, and the exiles to try to see how they handled betrayal and captivity. They couldn’t control the world either, but they could control their responses to it.
Jesus’ friendship with his betrayers never wavered, even when theirs did. Even though he was facing his own death, Jesus remained steady in this one area where he might be forgiven if he’d turned his back on them. The exiles turned toward God before they were released from captivity. But they learned to be stay steady in the face of persecution. The writer of this third servant song in Isaiah said, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. In other words, like Jesus would do later, they offered themselves in ways that turned logic on its head.
In a world that doesn’t make sense, the only response is a life that doesn’t make sense either. When your friends betray you, remain faithful. When your captor beats you, make an offering of yourself. When they try to humiliate you, let them.
And rejoice. Easter is coming.
Some Notes of Possible Interest
Acts 2:23… This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Acts 4:28… They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
Zachariah 11:12… I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
Exodus 21:32… If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels[a] of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.
Matthew 26:15… and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.
Isaiah 53:7… He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
Matthew 26:63… But Jesus remained silent.
Psalm 55:12ff…If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.
Psalm 41:9… Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.
Matthew 26:25… One of you [Judas] will betray me,”
Matthew 26:34, 35…”Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
There are four servant songs in Isaiah (this part of Isaiah is sometimes called Second Isaiah because it was written during the time of Cyrus’ ascendance. Babylonian was losing influence and power.
Isaiah 50:6… I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
Linda McMillan lives in Yangzhong, China – Home of the Pufferfish.