Think of the first words of Judas and Mary that we find in the Gospels. The very first words of Judas are what we find here in this story. Judas is complaining. It says in Matthew 26 that it’s the disciples who were indignant about Mary’s use of the perfume, but we learn from the other Gospels that Judas is the one who actually expressed this objection. Judas asked, “Why didn’t you sell this and get the money and give it to the poor?” But in John 12 we are told that Judas only said this because he was in charge of the money and used to help himself to it. By contrast the very first words of Mary occur in John 11 when she falls at Jesus’ feet and confesses her faith: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” That is quite a different attitude.
Another contrast is that Judas is obviously greedy. He goes to the chief priests and asks how much he can get if he betrays Jesus over to them. He goes on to sell his master for thirty silver coins. On the other hand, here is Mary who is not greedy and who would never betray her Savior for anything in all the world.
I think of this third contrast. Judas, we’re told elsewhere, is the one who kept the money bag. He was the treasurer for the disciples. Whenever any money was given to them to support them, he took the money and put it in the bag. And we’re told in one place he actually stole from the bag. But here is Mary, who breaks her jar in order to pour the very expensive ointment over Jesus.
Earlier when we talked about the need for understanding I asked if you are in a position similar to that of Mary? Are you sitting at his feet? Are you trying to learn from him? Now I ask the question, “Do you love Jesus enough to give him your all? Or do you love money, as Judas did, so much so that you hold back from your devotion to the Lord? I said in an earlier study that Matthew is very concerned about money, undoubtedly because of how as a former tax collector money had a hold on him. Lots of stories in this Gospel have to do with money. Do you love money more than the Lord? Are you more concerned with making a living or getting rich or having things than you are spending time with Jesus, loving Jesus, serving Jesus, and doing what you can to please him? You see, if you really love him because he first loved you, one question you should be asking is, “What can I do to show that I love him?” What can I do to serve him and serve him well?
No matter what you do, whether you’re like Martha and serve or whether you’re like Mary and sit at his feet, or whether you have ointment to break and pour out over him, or whatever it may be in your case, if you do it out of love for Jesus it will never be forgotten. You see, Jesus says that at the end of the story: “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
And we’re doing it right now. We’re remembering this woman. So many other people, and so many other deeds have been forgotten. Think of all those who were there at that very dinner all doing things that they thought were important. We don’t know about one of them. We don’t know what they did. What did Simon the leper do? We don’t know. What did Lazarus do? We don’t know. What did Martha do? We don’t know. Peter? John? All the others? We don’t know. Or I think of all the great things that supposedly have been done in history. Do you remember them? How many presidents of the United States can you name? Not even in order. You see even things like that are forgotten.
But when you do something for Jesus it is not forgotten. He himself said so. He said that if you give even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in my name it will be remembered. So that’s what I urge upon you. You want to be remembered? Everybody wants to be remembered. People spend most of their lives doing things to try and be remembered. But you know most of what you and I do will be forgotten.
I remember one of the figures in Washington, D.C., who occupied a prominent position, when he was about to step out of it and retire, somebody said to him, “Do you think you’ll be missed?” He said, “In Washington, D.C., you’re missed about as much as your finger is missed when you put it in water and make a hole and then pull it out again.” That’s how quickly the world crowds in to obliterate even the memory of our having been there. But you see, if you serve Jesus it will be treasured up. It will be remembered. The very last book of the Old Testament speaks about a book of remembrance that the Lord keeps in heaven in which he preserves the names of those who remember him and call upon his name. You want to be remembered? You remember Jesus. You want to be blessed? You serve him. You want to be helpful to others? You ask him what you can do, and become like Mary.