TEXT: Luke 7:36-50
The scene is Bethany, just a few miles from Jerusalem, & the time is the night before Jesus’ triumphal entry. In just a few days He will be arrested, tried, convicted, & crucified. And Jesus knows it. He knows exactly what is going to happen.
So what does Jesus do on this night? He goes to a party given in His honor by Simon, the Leper. He goes to enjoy good food & conversation, a last visit with His friends before He goes into Jerusalem, & before He dies.
As Jesus is reclining at the table along with His disciples, a woman, who must have been a part of the crowd there, is so overwhelmed with emotion that she takes an alabaster jar containing very expensive perfume, breaks the container & uses all of the precious perfume to anoint the head & feet of Jesus.
Some there began immediately to criticize her. Listen to Mark 14:4-9. “Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ’Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages & the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly.
“’Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ’Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, & you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.’
“’I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’”
And Jesus was right, for what she did that evening has been told & retold down through the centuries as an example of pure, impulsive, unadulterated love.
I don’t know if you have ever experienced that kind of love or not. If you have, it probably took you by surprise.
- It may have been when you walked into your teenager’s bedroom & saw that he or she had made the bed, picked the clothing up off the floor, hung them all neatly in the closet, & emptied the trash. The room was a model of neatness, & you just knew that your child must have done something wrong, & was trying to win your favor. Or else your child was expecting something in return.
So, you begin to question your child along those lines, only to hear this reply, “Mom, it’s no big deal. I just did it because I love you.”
- Or maybe your husband came home with a dozen roses. It wasn’t Christmas or your birthday or anniversary or Mother’s Day. It was just another day, & he brought you roses. You knew that he must have done something wrong, or that he was preparing you for some bad news.
But he says, “No, honey. I bought these flowers because I love you. There’s no other reason. I just love you.”
It is an unexpected act of pure love. And we see that kind of love in this story in a very beautiful way.
You see, it’s sad to say, but most of the people who followed Jesus came to Him for selfish motives, whether they thought about it that way or not.
- Sick people came hoping that He would heal their sicknesses. Poor & hungry people came because He had the reputation of having compassion upon them. His disciples followed Him because He talked about a kingdom, & they wanted to be a part of it.
- Religious leaders followed Him because they wanted to trap Him by His words.
Great crowds followed Him. But most of them were there because they were wanting something, not because they loved Him.
There is no record of anyone ever coming to Jesus & saying, “Lord, I love you.” Of couse, after the resurrection, when Jesus asked him, Peter said that he loved Him. But we have no record of anyone else doing so. In fact, hardly anyone even bothered to come back & say “Thank you,” after He had healed them.
Today, we’re going to see a wonderful demonstration of a person’s love for Jesus…a love that has not been verbalized, but had been expressed overwhelmingly. What made this woman’s expression of love an overwhelming one:
1. SHE FOUND A WAY TO EXPRESS HER LOVE
That is why this story is so special, because this woman is overwhelmed by love, & she found a way to express it.
It was customary in that day for outsiders to hover around during banquets so they could watch the “important people” and hear the conversation.
Now, we’re not even sure who the woman was. Her name is not given in either Matthew or Mark’s gospel accounts. (v. 39)…Her sins are not named, but we get the impression she was a woman of the streets with a bad reputation. John tells us that her name is “Mary,” so some think that she was Mary Magdalene. Others think that she was Mary, the sister of Martha & Lazarus. But we really don’t know for sure just who she was.
Verse 37 (Luke) “and behold a woman in the city which was a sinner.”
Now can you imagine, you in your house, got everything together nice and right and a prostitute shows up. Some scholars point out that the alabaster jar contained expensive perfume of a kind commonly used by the ladies of the night – prostitutes who walked the streets. It was a tool of their trade. They doused themselves in it to make themselves more appealing to men who would pay for their sexual favors.
If that is true then this story takes on an even deeper meaning. Because it means that this woman took a tool of her trade & broke it to give to Jesus, & in essence said, “With the same enthusiasm that I once gave to the sins of the world, I now give myself to You.”
The woman admitted she was a sinner and gave evidence that she was a repentant sinner. If you check a harmony of the Gospels, you will discover that just before this event, Jesus had given the gracious invitation, “Come unto Me…and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28-30). Maybe this woman heard of it, she looked upon herself and had seen that she’s so tire of the things that she’s doing with her life, and perhaps she decided to turned from her sin and trusted the Savior.
A woman of this type, especially a prostitute, would not be welcomed in the house of Simon the Pharisee. But verse 37 would tell us, “when she knew” Now there are hundreds of people outside the house but this woman knew that Jesus was there and she has made it up in her mind that I have to get to him. The woman may have told herself,
- “This is my chance and nothing is going to stop me.”
- “The crowds of people aren’t going to stop me, what they think of me is not going to stop me.”
- “Who’s ever house this is that I am going into is not going to stop me.”
This woman had seized the opportunity to express her love and gratitude to Jesus, she never thought of being welcomed or not, she never thought of all the Jewish traditions and what might other people think about her, she became a party crasher just to express her deep love for the Lord.
Now chew on that for a moment, just think about it for a while. Have you ever stopped to think what a difference would be made in the church if we could become as enthusiastic for Jesus and to become expressive in our love and gratitude towards Him, as we have been enthusiastic for other things?
Illustration: (Basketball games, boxing…) I do think you can be a basketball fan, a boxing fan & a Christian at the same time, but there are some who seem to have their priorities mixed up.
I’ve watched Basketball, & I know that there is a price to be paid in order to watch them there. Unless you’re among the early birds, you won’t find any close-in parking places. You’ll end up kilometer away & paying at least 40-60 pesos to park your car. And when you finally do get into the stadium you’ll often find yourself sitting among inconsiderate people blowing smoke in your face, & spilling their drinks around you.
You’ll cheer yourself hoarse, hollering & screaming & behaving like some kind of fanatic. You’ll pay too much money for a cold hot dog, & drink watered down drinks. And when you leave you’ll walk kilometer to get back to your car. Yet, you’ll tell anyone who’ll listen, “I had a wonderful time!”
Have you ever stopped to think what a revolution could take place in the church if we were that enthusiastic for God and for the things of God? Well, that woman was, & without hesitation or reservation she found a way to express it.
What are the avenues in which we can express our love for Jesus:
2. SHE EXPRESSED HER LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY
It was an extravagant & foolish act in the eyes of those who watched. (John 12:1-3) An offering that honors the Lord must first of all be something dear to us. It simply means that extravagant love is precious to us. When Mary brought her offering it was precious to her. Judas said that this oil would cost three hundred denarii. At the time a man’s wage was one denarius for a full day’s work. Thus we have a man’s wages for one year being used to anoint our Lord.
Mary’s action of anointing and wiping Jesus’ feet in public was an act of loving extravagance, of spontaneous generosity.
Webster’s dictionary defines extravagance like this: “Spending more money than one can afford, or spending foolishly, carelessly or wastefully; using too much of anything involving expense; going beyond what is reasonable, justified or normal; exaggerated, overemphatic.”
Mary’s deep love and gratitude for Jesus was not expressed by carefully planned and calculated actions of expression. Hers is a love that is full-to-overflowing with spontaneous, unmeasured giving towards Jesus in response to all that he had done for her. Her loving extravagance and spontaneous generosity towards Jesus was an act of sacrificial giving.
William Barclay says, “It occurs in the simplest things—the impulse to send a letter of thanks, the impulse to tell someone of our love or gratitude, the impulse to give some special gift or speak some special word. The tragedy is that the impulse is so often strangled at birth. This world would be so much lovelier if there were more people like this woman, who acted on her impulse of love because she knew in her heart of hearts that if she did not do it then she would never do it at all. How that last extravagant, impulsive kindness must have uplifted Jesus’s heart”
You might think that the alabaster jar did not have to be broken. She could have just opened it up & poured a few drops of that expensive perfume on the head of Jesus. Everybody would have said, “My, what a wonderful act of devotion.” Or, she could have poured it all out, but saved the jar so that it could be filled again. Everybody would have said, “My, how generous! How much love she must have!”
But this woman broke the jar so that it could never be filled again. She had given it all…Simply saying to Jesus, “You alone deserves my all, my best.”
True love is often extravagant, isn’t it? Love can make you do wonderful things, and to do it extravagantly.
All of us can remember buying things we couldn’t afford, to give to people we love. We sacrificed to purchase those treasured mementos. But love does that. Love does things that may appear to be foolish & wasteful as it tries to say, “This is how much I love you.”
Mary was not content with convenient “minimal requirements,” or half-hearted gesturing; she went all out; by anointing Jesus with all of the perfume; nearly a whole year’s wages worth; she symbolically was giving herself completely in loving service of Jesus. Her loving, sacrificial example of serving Jesus in this way teaches us that we cannot fix a price on unconditional love; in true love there is no such thing as waste; true love moves us to act with extravagance and generosity, like Mary.
So in this one fleeting moment, when the opportunity was there, she seized it. Oh, yes, there were those who criticized her, but Jesus knew her heart & what she had done. No wonder He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
- In your worship… True worship is always costly. True worship always requires us to give up our best for God’s best. Oswald Chambers said it this way: “my utmost for His Highest.”
Illustration: (Seeing celebrities, basketball players, etc.)
Too often Christians we simply coast through worship service by simply going through the motions. Going through the motions of singing songs and taking notes is cheap; extravagant worship means giving your best to God.
Football players have a saying — “leave it all on the field.” It means that during the game they don’t hold anything back. They give 110%. God expects us to do the same thing as Christians. He wants us to be totally dedicated to Him. I
- In your giving…
- In your time…
- In your life…
- In everything…
Illustration: (Alligator Worshipers)
GIVE WHAT IS BEST, EXPRESS IT EXTRAVAGANTLY and GENEROUSLY TO THE ONE WHO HAD FIRST LOVED US GENEROUSLY AND EXTRAVAGANTLY!
3. SHE DID WHAT SHE COULD
Jesus followed up with these words, “She did what she could.”
When I stand before the throne of Almighty God, & when He opens the Book of Life & comes to my name, & sees all the sins that are blotted out by the blood of Jesus, more than anything else I long for Jesus to say, “Father, this is Jhun Cunanan. He is mine, & he did what he could. Many others did more. Some did less. But he took what We gave him & he did what he could.”
I can think of no higher tribute than that. This woman didn’t have much, but what she had she gave to Jesus – not to Simon, the Leper, not to Peter, or James or John. She didn’t do it for anybody else. What she did, she did just for Jesus.
Now ask yourself, “What have I ever done just for Jesus? How have I expressed my love to Him?” “Lord, I just want to tell You that I love You, & I don’t know how else to do it, except to take the most valuable thing I have & give it to You. So I offer You my life, Lord. It is Yours to make into whatever you want it to be.”
As a part of an assignment for a doctoral thesis, a college student spent a year with a group of Navajo Indians on a reservation in the Southwest. As part of his research he lived with one of the Navajo families, sleeping in their hut, eating their food, working with them, & generally living the life of a 20th-century Indian.
The old grandmother of the family spoke no English at all, yet a very close friendship formed between them. They spent a great deal of time sharing a friendship that was meaningful to each, yet unexplainable to anyone else. In spite of the language difference, they shared the common language of love & understood each other. Over the months he learned a few phrases of Navajo, & she picked up a little of the English language.
When it was time for him to return to the campus to complete his thesis, the tribe held a going-away celebration It was marked by sadness since the young man had become close to the whole village & all would miss him. As he prepared to leave, the old grandmother came to tell him good-bye. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she placed her hands on either side of his face, looked directly into his eyes & said, “I like me best when I’m with you.”
Isn’t that the way we feel in the presence of Jesus? He brings out the best in us. We learn to see ourselves as worthy & valuable when we’re in His presence. The hurts, the cares, the disappointments of our lives are behind us when we look in His eyes & realize the depth of His love.
God loves you more that you can ever love Him. And when we extend His invitation it is always an invitation of love. You see, I can never pay Him back, nor can you. I can do anything & everything in the way of sacrifice, but I can never repay the debt of love that I owe.
God doesn’t require the debt to be repaid. He just wants us to accept what He has done, & to love Him for it. He has given His only begotten Son. Do you love Him for that?
Then express that love this morning, & show God that you really do love Him. It may be in a decision that you need to make. If so, we extend that invitation, & pray that you will respond as we stand & as we sing.