About ten years ago, my wife and I bought a house that came with a beautifully cultivated lawn. Wanting to maintain that progress, I’ve hired several lawn care companies over the years. If one lawn crew didn’t do a good job after some time, we switched to a second company or even a third. It didn’t really matter.
But in the last ten years, my two sons have reached the age where they can run the lawn mower. And with both of them, their first few weeks or months of mowing were unsurprisingly less than ideal. They left tall strips of unmowed grass all across the lawn. But I didn’t fire them and hire someone else. They’re my sons. The lawn care companies were a means to my end goal. What was my goal? I wanted a nice lawn, and they were a path toward that destination. But with my sons, they weren’t just a way to get the lawn mowed. They were the most important part.
We see this same dynamic in today’s reading. In Mark 14:3–9, an unnamed woman anoints Jesus with ointment worth almost a year’s salary—an extravagant expression of her devotion to Jesus. Onlookers thought it was a waste. But Jesus wasn’t a means to an end. He was Himself the goal. In the following verses (Mark 14:10–11), we see that Judas does not honor Jesus like the woman had. He betrays Him for thirty shekels of silver, the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32). Why would Judas, “one of the Twelve” (Matthew 26:14), do such a thing? Several motives have been suggested.
It’s possible Judas was disillusioned with Jesus. Like many, he may have thought that Jesus was going to take the throne of David and, like the great kings of the Old Testament, defeat the earthly enemies of God’s people. Whatever the motive, Judas’s betrayal reveals his heart. To Judas, Jesus was the Messiah who failed to bring him what he wanted: money and national deliverance. In contrast to the unnamed woman who sacrificially lavished devotion to her Lord, Judas approached Jesus as a means to an end.
Even today, we might never “betray” Jesus for any amount of money. We might even give sacrificially to the work of the Lord. But what is uppermost in our hearts—what Jesus can provide for us, or Jesus Himself?