Commentary by Walter Albritton


March 7


Extravagant Love and Tragic Betrayal


Matthew 26


Key Verse:  And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I! – Matthew 26:21, 22


            In Chapter 26 of his gospel, Matthew portrays the extravagant love of Mary for Jesus and the tragic betrayal of Jesus by Judas. Many other emotions are vividly displayed in this passage. Two of them are the self-righteousness of Judas, in response to Mary’s act of devotion, and the hatred of the Jewish leaders who wanted Jesus killed.

            Mary’s love for Jesus is inspiring. The betrayal of his master by Judas is despicable. This Sunday we should look deeply into the hearts of Mary, Judas, and ourselves.

            Mary’s love for Jesus sprang from her gratitude for the forgiveness of her sins. While others condemned Mary, Jesus lifted her up from the bog of despair. He restored her sense of self-worth. He helped her experience a new kind of love. She finds victory in Jesus. Her guilt was washed away as the broken chords of her heart began to vibrate again. She felt clean for the first time in years. There was a new song in her heart, a song of redemption and release.

            Mary was no longer consumed by things and their value. The jar of precious ointment was valuable in the sight of Judas, but not to Mary. She saw it as having no value except to honor Jesus. She was motivated by love, not dollar signs. Judas was pathetic. His self-righteousness stinks. He criticizes Mary for wasting the ointment on Jesus when it might have been sold for money that could have been given to the poor.

            The pitiful attitude of Judas is still alive in many of our churches. Misguided church leaders sometimes create division by opposing certain expenditures while claiming the money should have been used to help the poor. Those who wail the loudest in defense of the poor are usually the stingiest givers.

             Jesus, on the other hand, was deeply touched by Mary’s extravagant love. He commended her while chastising the disciples who criticized her. While Mary was not likely aware that Jesus was going to the cross right away, Jesus was quite aware of his destiny. So much so, that he saw the deeper meaning of the ointment – that “she did it for my burial.” This generous kindness Jesus did not overlook.

            Jesus paid a beautiful tribute to Mary. She must have blushed when Jesus declared to the others, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” His has confirmed his words.

            Mary’s single desire was to honor Jesus. As far as we can tell, she had no other motive in anointing his head and washing the feet of her Lord. We may profit from examining our own motives. Most of us have so many desires that life becomes confusing. We want to be promoted. We want a bigger salary. We want recognition among our peers. The truth is, we only emerge as genuine disciples of Jesus when, like Mary, we desire nothing more than to honor our Lord Jesus.

            Poor Judas. What were his motives? Scholars cannot agree. Was it greed? Was he trying to force Jesus to assert himself and take over Jerusalem as the new king? Was he disillusioned with Jesus, and thus willing to betray him for thirty pieces of silver? Was the betrayal the will of God and Judas a pawn in God’s hands? We shall not know his true motive this side of heaven.

            For me the primary reason for Judas’ betrayal is given to us by the Holy Scriptures: Satan entered into the heart of Judas. For that to happen, Judas became willing to be influenced by Satan. I believe he had been a sincere follower of Jesus, but when the chips were down, he caved in to the influence of the Evil One. He allowed himself to be deceived by Satan. Satan blinded Judas momentarily but long enough for him to make the most tragic decision of his life. So remorseful was he about that fateful decision that he decided suicide was the only way out.

            Satan prowls around each of us, seeking ways to pull us down and cause us to bring dishonor upon our Lord. There is wisdom, then, in our asking ourselves the question which Judas and the other disciples asked, “Lord, is it I?” When the Spirit convicts us, causing us to examine our motives, we should quickly cry, “Lord, give me the strength to resist Satan and to honor you in every way possible for the rest of my life.” That is a prayer I believe Jesus delights to answer!

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