A Price on His Head

June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

On the night he was betrayed – so powerful are those words, you know immediately to whom I am referring.  Matthew’s Gospel shares with us two versions of a “price” on the head of Jesus.

First we have an unknown woman.  Who approaches him and pours a priceless perfume on his head.  The Fathers have encouraged us to see this as an image of faith and prayer.  An image of how Jesus “God With Us” is close enough to touch and be touched.  Compassionate enough to regard especially the least in his culture as worthy of approaching him.  Both John’s Gospel and Matthew’s Gospel record how the cost of this precious anointing was questioned.  But the point of the story, I think, is the value of the person so honored.  Jesus is priceless for those who have faith, for those who seek the face of God.

Next, we have Judas.  Who trades for the head of Jesus.  Thirty pieces of silver was the price.  The priceless one – devalued.  Sold.  (A temptation Jesus himself had refused when he was offered the whole world in exchange for selling his soul.)

Matthew puts this into context earlier in chapter 6: 19-21:

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Which reminds us of what really matters.   Yet it’s interesting that in terms of the story, in terms of the ultimate outcome of God’s Inbreaking Kingdom, price holds a Paradox.  The ultimate humility, the ultimate Incarnation, was to join with those who suffer most deeply:  the tortured; the mocked; the abused; the humiliated; the innocently imprisoned, tried, convicted, condemned; the betrayed.  All the disciples expected their Messiah to achieve worldly glory, an earthly kingdom, but instead, as we see throughout the Old Testament as well, God always surprises us, choosing the unlikely person or situation – hiding Himself in the most amazing ways.

Jesus had to fail and to be betrayed in order to join with us in those ways.  And in that joining, to lift us up into His humble exaltation.

So I have to wonder… to ponder… the fate of Judas.  To be honest, I hope he was saved.


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