Who is worse – the person you have helped who turns on you or the person who has always hated you and wishes you were dead?
It’s probably not a choice you’d be expecting to make but it is the scenario that Jesus was faced with. All four Gospels* tell the story of Jesus’ feet being anointed with an expensive ointment by a woman named Mary of Bethany, who creeps in to a banquet where he is the guest of honour. Simon, a seemingly gracious man, is the host of the meal.
As Mary pours out the expensive ointment the casual conversation around the meal table takes a turn for the worse. Simon, complains that the ointment is worth a small fortune and should have been sold to help the poor. Some of Jesus’ followers join in the rebuke, complaining that Mary is a “sinner”, meaning a prostitute, and shouldn’t be making contact with him. The plot thickens.
The story has a small prologue which reveals that local priests who, with the support of other religious sects like the Pharisees and Zealots, are plotting to kill Jesus in secret. We also learn that Simon is a Pharisee who has suffered in the past from leprosy which was considered an incurable disease. Without Jesus’ healing he would have remained a social outcast like Mary. Judas, a Zealot, is so incensed by Jesus’ lack of indignation, that he decides to ‘sell’ him to the priests for 30 pieces of silver – the price of a slave.
The one who receives Jesus’ forgiveness is not the one whose physical disease has been healed but the one who has had a change of heart. With which person in the story would you identify yourself?
(*The story is compiled from Matthew 26:1-16; Mark 14:1-11; Luke 7:36-50 & John 12:1-10)
from Frank Eames