Extravagant Love

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 26:6-13, NLT

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

INTRODUCTION

This story is told in two gospels: Matthew and Mark. John alludes to the story and tells us it was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mark’s account adds some detail. Luke tells a similar story but it happens at Simon the Pharisee’s home and this is Simon the Leper. Obviously, he is no longer a leper but perhaps he still bears the scars or people identify him as the man who once had leprosy. We are not told but I think there is reason to believe Jesus had healed him and this banquet is in honor of Jesus his Savior. We know there were at least 17 people there but probably several more. Martha was being Martha and was helping with the serving. The story Luke tells is of a woman who has a reputation on the street and this does not seem to fit Mary although she did love deeply like the woman in Luke. This is a fantastic story about worship and love which you really cannot separate. I think the degree of your worship will be determined by the degree of your love and vice versa. Mary excelled at worship. You might say, “It was her strength.”

FIRST OF ALL: MARY HAD THE ABILITY TO FOCUS ON ONE THING

Remember the story in Luke 10 of Martha preparing lunch for Jesus and Mary sitting at His feet listening to every word. Martha came to Jesus an complained about her lazy sister…do you remember what Jesus said to Martha?  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary had this ability to tune everything out other than Jesus. I honestly believe that our worship is corrupted by vain thoughts. We come in here thinking about everything in the world except the right thing which of course is Jesus. We have had some tough Sunday School lessons lately and the one today was very hard on me. I struggle not to be distracted. I have the Martha tendencies. Luke says that Martha was distracted with all the preparations [Luke 10:40]. I sit on the front row so I will not be distracted. I close my eyes at times to keep from being distracted. There is no one in the building trying to distract me. My problem does not lie with others, my problem is within. I do not maintain my focus. Mary was a laser; Martha was a shotgun. A shotgun can make a lot of noise but a laser is much more powerful. When we come in here {Sanctuary}, we have to tune the world out. We have to tune everything out except Jesus.

I love the last verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn LOVE DIVINE ALL LOVES EXCELLING….

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise

Mary was lost in wonder, love and praise. What is it like to be lost in wonder? I think it is to be absorbed into the infinite greatness of Christ to the point that you don’t exist. Our self is consumed by his glory. Isaiah got lost in wonder and he cried “Woe am I, for I am a man of unclean lips.” Peter got lost in wonder and he cried, “Go away from me LORD, for I am a sinful man.”

A SECOND FACTOR IS THAT MARY WAS UNINHIBITED

As far as Mary was concerned, there was only one man in the room and that was Jesus. She did not enter the room thinking about Simon or Judas. She was focused on Jesus to the point that no one else was in the room. Mary was just being Mary, she was not distracted by all the others in the room. She really didn’t care what they thought about her gift or her manner of presenting it. She was so focused on Jesus that He is all she seen. This is why Mary can teach us tons on worship. She did not allow the distractions or the others in the room to hinder her worship.

Mary lived in a man’s world and the room was filled with men. It is very possible that those seated around the table were all men. We know Martha was there but she was serving which is what women are supposed to do in that culture. Mary in uninterested in the meal or serving the meal: she goes directly to Jesus and anoints his head with the costly perfume.

Is there anyone else in this room who thought like Mary? Is there anyone in this room that would embarrass themselves for the sake of Christ? Was there anyone else in the room who didn’t give a rat’s rear end what the others thought?

None of the men with the exception of Jesus appreciate what she did. They looked down on her with contempt and were openly critical. Mary did not use her brain, she wasted a year’s wage by pouring this expensive perfume on Jesus head. The men in the room were indignant. Why such waste? This perfume cost a small fortune. Today it would be worth 50-60 thousand dollars. The rational men in the room jumped on Mary, what she did was so dumb to them. But she did not do it for them.

Jesus rebuked them for criticizing Mary. “Leave her alone. She has done a good thing. She has done what she could.” Mary could not take Jesus place on the cross but she could anoint his body for burial. She was making every attempt to lighten Jesus load.

How inhibited are we in worship? I would say ‘extremely!’ We are self-conscious and crowd-conscious. We are more worried about pleasing or displeasing the person sitting beside us than we are Jesus. Mary gave her best; she refused to hold back. Do you give Christ your best when we sing? I know the answer. Very few people in this building give Him your best and the number one reason why you don’t is your lack of courage. You are afraid of what others will think of you. Who give a rip. Did they die for you? Would they die for you? He died for you!

A THIRD TIP THAT MARY COULD GIVE US IS BE EXTRAVANGANT IN WORSHIP

This bottle of perfume was costly, very expensive, much more than Mary could afford. The men were thinking…”This woman is crazy. Jesus is going to be dead by the end of the week, why the entire bottle. Why didn’t she use a few drops and save the rest.” You are thinking like rational men, she was thinking like a person in love. Love never gets out the calculator. Love does not think, “How little can I give and this gift still be respectable.” Love is self-sacrificing. Mary would have given 10 bottles of perfume had she had them. She wanted Jesus to have the most precious thing in her possession. She is probably wishing she had more while they are thinking, you did too much.

ONE FINAL TIP FROM MARY: SHE WAS A SPONGE–A CONTEMPLATIVE LISTENER

Mary was a listener. The first time we meet her she is sitting at the feet of Jesus soaking up every word. Mary was the only one of Jesus followers who seemed to sense that the end was near and I am not surprised because men are not good listener, she picked up on things they had missed. She could tell by what Jesus said and how He said it, the cross was immanent. She sensed His burden: the men didn’t have a clue. Jesus has less than a week to live. She acted before it was too late. She seized her opportunity. These men are going to have some regrets but Mary did all she could when she could. They accused her of wasting the perfume but nothing done for Jesus is a waste. Dr. Vance Havner use to say, “We have but one life and it will soon past and only what we do for Jesus will last.” Mary was a good worshipper because she was a good listener and very sensitive to what Jesus said.

CONCLUSION

Jesus lived a lonely life. No one understood Him. His disciples did not want Him to return to Jerusalem. They knew the Jewish leaders were hostile and were capable of anything but Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem and He would not relent. On the trip in, Jesus walked several feet in front of his entourage. He had talked of His death openly but no one wanted to hear it so they just tuned the part about the suffering and death out. Mary was one of the very few who had listened. She was sensitive to Jesus burden. She may not have done much on the grand scheme of things but she did what she could and Jesus appreciated her devotion, her love and her gift. Who can say what her act of kindness meant to Jesus? I don’t know and have no way of finding out but I can tell you how it would work in my life. If I had a rough ordeal in my path, an act of devotion, love and kindness like that of Mary would be a treasured memory. I would use that memory to help me get through the tough times. We know that Jesus thought of others while He was on the cross but He may have thought of Mary’s loving kindness. REMEMBER: Mary had a small window [6 days]. She anointed Jesus for his burial before He was crucified. It was a timely act. A once in a life time opportunity and Mary did not let it slip by. Who do you have the opportunity to help? Is there someone in your life that needs their roses before their funeral. You can wait until the funeral to send the roses but it would mean more to them if you did it now.

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