There’s an old story about an ex-prostitute who poured a bottle of perfume all over Jesus’ feet and wept while drying his feet with her hair. Judas stands by thinking, “What a waste. That could’ve been sold to benefit the poor.”
Of course, Judas really just wanted to fill the moneybag so he could help himself (as was his habit). But maybe in that moment he had convinced himself that his heart was of little consequence. And anyway, he was right wasn’t he? Wasn’t his analysis correct that this perfume represented a year’s wages and shouldn’t be wastefully poured on the ground? Shouldn’t someone stand for truth? Here was nothing more than an absurd emotional charade. Surely an objective, thoughtful analysis would lead to a better decision on how to use this precious stuff.
Heavy. That’s how I feel when I type those words. Because neither I nor my coreligionists have improved much on the example of Judas these 2000 years. Maybe it’s a guy thing. (Maybe not.) We still value analysis, truth, and wise decision-making that feed into strategic objectives. Spontaneous outpourings of lavish affection arising from faith? Not so much.
The amazing thing is that Jesus seems to say, “Let’s assume that you’re approach is right. Your filters stink. Your beliefs are wrong. You think I’m nothing more than a philanthropist magician. You’re not going deep enough. If you’re going to analyze this woman’s behavior, then consider this analysis: her actions are far more valuable than a year’s wages. Unbeknownst to her, she has prepared my body for burial and identified me as the Christ who must suffer and die. But furthermore, you assume that truth is truth and your heart is of little consequence. But I see what’s in your heart. I see that you’re a thief and it matters a great deal.
My heart is deeply and uncomfortably intertwined with the ways I process and speak truth. Yet somehow I’ve bought into the modernist myth of the objective analysis. Frankly, it doesn’t exist. Self-deception on the other hand is very real and very powerful. It’s SO easy to ride my truth horse into town, to make my stand, to take control, to sweep out the filth, and to leave feeling proud of my own courage. But I’d be dead wrong. I’d be Judas-wrong.
So Jesus comes in and says, “That might be a good idea if your truth didn’t stink so bad. See, if you knew me, you’d still get up on your truth horse and ride into town. Except the horse would be a donkey. And you’d come not to clean up the filth but to live among the filth. And the way you’d make your stand is to lay down to die.”
When the Pharisees objected to Jesus healing on the Sabbath, it’s amazing that he didn’t just say, “Ah, come ON guys! RELAX! I’m Jesus okay? You don’t have to be so strict all the time!” He says, “Alright let’s talk about the law then. Since you value it so much, why don’t you follow it? Furthermore have you considered that I might be the Lord of the Sabbath?”
Jesus engages analyzers on their terms, giving them better assumptions with which to form a thoughtful analysis that will lead to heart-felt christlikeness. Jesus helps the thinker think in better ways.
Jesus engages heart-givers on their terms, giving them better assumptions upon which to give their hearts in ways that will lead to thoughtful christlikeness. Jesus helps the feeler feel in better ways.
I just think it’s really cool that Jesus is a person and not The Force. As a person, he can relate to people in the ways they feel most loved. Jesus relates to me by giving me lots of intense and undivided attention. But for another person, it may look like his presence showing up in quiet moments to say, “We don’t have to talk. Let’s just be together.” Other people might feel like Jesus is always dropping little presents into their life or protecting them or helping them process reality.
But the end goal is always the same: to pull me—mind and heart—into a close relationship with him and to make me a mature person: Not the untouchable sage I think of when I hear the word “maturity” but a right-thinking, right-feeling, always-loving person. Ya know… like Jesus.