To a casual reader, it might seem as if Matthew and John were writing about the same incident. The two stories, however, contain details that differ significantly. Mary anointed Jesus six days before the Passover, and the unnamed woman anointed Him two days before the Passover. It seems Mary anointed Jesus while He was visiting her, her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus in their home; the unnamed woman anointed Jesus in the home of a man named Simon the Leper. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair; the unnamed woman poured her perfume on His head.
Both women were expressing their love for Jesus in a costly act of worship, spending the equivalent of a year’s wages in a few minutes of adoration. Both women obviously believed Jesus was God! He was worth it.
Both women were rebuked for what they did, the unnamed woman by Jesus’ disciples, and Mary by Judas Iscariot. This gives us some more insight into Judas’s evil character. The disciples’ rebuke of the unnamed woman was motivated by concern for the poor, certainly a worthy motive. Still, Jesus rebuked them, correcting their perspective. Four days later, they again watched as another year’s wages was spent on Jesus’ feet. Even after being among those rebuked by Jesus four days earlier, Judas still grumbled about it. Beyond that, John informs us that Judas really wasn’t concerned with the poor. He often stole money from the box where Jesus kept money that was to be given to the poor, and he wanted the perfume to be sold only so there would be more money for him to steal.
Judas was a classic example of someone whose true god is money. Anyone who enriches himself in ways that are sinful or unethical proves that money, and not the Lord, is his god. People have often speculated what Judas’s motive was in betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The answer is that he saw an opportunity to make a large sum of money easily.
Q. Let’s pretend that your parents spent thirty thousand dollars in one day on your sister, buying her all kinds of expensive and unnecessary things. Let’s also pretend that you complained about it, saying that the money could have been spent on a much more worthy cause, perhaps given to the poor for the basic necessities of life. If your sister responded as Jesus did, essentially saying that she was more important than all the poor people who could have been helped, what would that say about her?
A. It would prove she had a huge ego and was incredibly selfish.
Q. Then what about Jesus? Didn’t His answer prove the same about Him?
A. No, because Jesus was God. He is infinitely more valuable than all the people of the world, rich and poor, combined. It would be impossible for Him to think a thought or say a word that could be considered egotistical. He has no equals and couldn’t do anything that could rightfully be considered selfish. Selfishness is a sin that can only be committed by a human being.
Application: When Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with her expensive perfume, the house was filled with the fragrance. Likewise, when we sincerely worship Jesus from our hearts, there seems to be a heavenly fragrance of God’s Spirit that fills the place where we worship.