Matt. 26:1-16 – Intentions
Having finished teaching the disciples “all these things” Jesus reminds them of his intended destination, the cross. Interestingly Matthew doesn’t record the disciples reaction (at least not here). At the same time the religious rulers plot to bring Jesus down, but it is not their intention to do it when it might create a riot situation.
Along the way to the cross Jesus stopped in at the house of one Simon the Leper. In Luke’s version of the incident (Lk. 7:36-50) Simon was a Pharisee who had been seeking to have Jesus come to his house to eat, an act to share in Jesus’ glory. Interestingly Matthew gets into none of that and focuses more on the woman pouring the precious ointment on Jesus’ head and the disciples’ negative reaction.
Here was an act of great sacrifice, no doubt more than a little excessive, but from the heart of this woman. And this sacrifice was almost completely dismissed by those who had been closest to the Messiah who was, in just a few days time, going to also pour out all that He was for them. They were thinking in terms of what they probably thought would have been enlightened Kingdom practicality, with great and no doubt genuine concern for the poor among them. But they were completely missing the bigger picture.
One of the things I find interesting is that we know what Jesus is thinking about, his appointment with the cross. We know what the religious rulers are thinking, to put Jesus away, but at a time that suits them. We know what the disciples are thinking, excessive behavior shouldn’t be tolerated and one needs to be practical and socially responsible. What I really find interesting is whether the woman was really thinking about Jesus’ appointment with death and the cross when she poured the perfume on him. Jesus said that she did it in preparation for his burial because he sees the larger picture (as opposed to the disciples’ small mindedness). My first thought was that she was more likely doing this as a gesture of love and sacrifice and may not have even been aware that Jesus had been telling his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die. In Luke’s version of a similar story (Lk. 7.36-50), which takes place earlier in Jesus’ ministry, he uses the incident as means to teach that forgiveness and the Love of God are greater than the limitations of proper social etiquette. Here I get the impression that, regardless of what the different parties intend, larger things have been set in motion and they are all heading to the cross whether they acknowledge this or not.
Now, if the woman poured out the perfume with full knowledge of Jesus’ appointment with death, then her act speaks of an even deeper level of understanding, devotion and sacrifice. At a time when the disciples were still vying for position, going so far as to have their mother ask Jesus to have him appoint them places of honor on his left and right when He takes his place as King and are ogling at the size of the temple buildings and buildings of Jerusalem, this woman poured out her love and sacrifice, identifying herself (and probably her family) with the what he was about to do. If she understood what she was doing than she stood beside her Messiah unlike the disciples, especially Judas, who shortly after this pressed what he thought was his advantage and made a deal to turn Jesus over to the scheming religious rulers.
All parties acted with specific intentions in mind. But Jesus’ destiny to pour himself out on the cross took precedence. And if this woman knew this and poured the precious perfume on him, then this is a picture of devotion and love that goes far beyond the petty self-interests of those around her and her Messiah. JBB 3/18/2007