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March 15, 2017: Anointing Jesus

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Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 1-3Psalm 62Matthew 26:1-16Romans 9:19-33

Matthew 26:1-16:

The movement towards Jesus’ death, betrayal, execution (and then resurrection) now appears inexorable. Once again, Jesus predicts his death (26:1-2). And, indeed, in the background, in the smoke-filled rooms of the religious leaders of the time, there is a plot being hatched to kill Jesus (26:3-4). There is only one hitch: they cannot do it now. They are too afraid of the “people” and their response (26:5). A deed that cannot be done in the light is seldom a good deed. Evil deeds like darkness, hiding. The popular vote is not always a token of moral uplift, and a mass of people can be deceived to go in the wrong direction; but those who fear God will not ultimately fear the occasional reversals that come in the court of popular opinion. We have a different Master, whose love is secure, and whose approval is all that finally matters.

Jesus is now anointed at Bethany (26:6-13). The oil that is used to honor Jesus, to indicate his Messianic status (Messiah = anointed one), and to prepare him for burial (26:12), is a very expensive oil. The woman who performs this act of worship to Jesus is criticized by the disciples for wasting money: it should have gone to the poor! Very often, people—whose real motivation is to prevent honor to Jesus—appeal to other, apparently noble, motives to stop the (expensive) honor that Jesus must be accorded. The disciples are confused. But it gives an opportunity for Jesus to teach that while we are to care for the poor (see the previous chapter, Matthew 25), such care is never to supplant our worship of Christ as God. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Those who seek to love their neighbor without primary love for God will only find that their love for neighbor will eventually grow cold. Our devotion to Christ becomes fuel for our service to our neighbor. The action of this woman will indeed be told wherever the gospel is preached (26:13), a predication proven true in churches today all around the world.

Judas, apparently in some way triggered by this action of devotion to Jesus, succumbs to the devil’s temptation in his life (John 13:2) and now goes and betrays Jesus for “thirty pieces of silver” (26:15). Even betrayal is part of God’s sovereign plan—for Jesus had already predicted his death. But though human plans for evil can be purposed by God for good, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20), the impact of that evil on those who commit it is great, calamitous, disastrous. When we find a teaching or doctrine that is hard for us to understand, let us hold on to what we know—Christ’s love for us, other parts of the Bible—until we gain light in time to come about what we do not yet grasp. And continue to serve Christ faithfully.

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