Monday, November 05, 2018

Devotional: It’s Easy to be a Judas, Mark 14:1-11

Mark 14.1-11 outline

Mark 14 begins the climax of the Gospel of Mark. Mark has presented Jesus all through the book as God come in the flesh to serve his people and rescue them from their slavery to sin and all its consequences, ultimately death. He has also presented the surprising response to this amazing revelation of God: outright hostility from the leaders of the nation, misunderstanding of his mission by those who should have got it (the disciples), and the proper response of absolute trust from those from whom it would be least expected; Gentiles, women, blind men, outcasts and even the demonized. We see this presentation again in verses 1-11 as Mark sandwiches the extravagant response of an anonymous woman to Jesus and his message (3-9) between two accounts (1-2, 10-11) of the Jewish leaders and Judas plotting to kill Jesus. Judas, and the other disciples, illustrate how easy it is to let other things come between us and Jesus which can lead to betraying him. The woman illustrates the high level of commitment required to be a follower of Jesus as she did everything she could.

The Jewish leaders, Judas, and the guests who complained about the woman’s “waste” of good perfume show how easy it is to miss what God is doing in the world right in front of you. Over and over Jesus has been teaching that their understanding of what the Messiah is there to do is flawed. He has explicitly taught that he must be crucified before he comes into his glory. Whether the woman fully understood or not, she has made the proper response, to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. The Jewish leaders missed this because they were concerned about protecting the current traditional religious system. Judas missed it because he was concerned to profit from it. All involved here had most likely convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing and had God’s approval. We need to realize that we are prone to the same kind of rationalization. The only remedy is to do what God the Father commanded the three disciples at the Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

In contrast, the woman did the right thing at the right time. Like the poor widow at the temple collection box (12:44) she gave all she had to Jesus. Jesus is not saying here that the needs of the poor can be ignored. But, love for Jesus will motivate us to do "a beautiful thing” to him and have impact “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world.” This will send, and has sent, Jesus’ followers into all the world to do all they can to take Jesus into the homes of “lepers” (14:3) to meet their spiritual and physical needs. This was Jesus’ mission and should be ours too.

Finally, Mark has placed the passion story in the context of the feast of the Passover. Just as God liberated the nation of Israel from Egypt with a sacrifice, he would now liberate the whole world from sin and death. But it is so counter to the way we usually think that is easy to miss it and think we are serving God when we are betraying him  We must listen carefully to Jesus and respond by giving everything we have and doing everything we can do. Then we will have a memorable part to play in that great mission.

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