An Extravagant Love
AN EXTRAVAGANT LOVE
In this passage we find the story of what we call, “the Alabaster Jar.”
- And this is a very unique story in the sense that it is the first time in the gospel of Matthew that someone approaches Jesus, not to ask something from Him…but to give Him something.
- To give Him something when so many others wanted to kill Him.
Now what you are going to find in this story is that some people couldn’t appreciate the gift for counting the cost.
- And so what you find then is a contrast that exists among those who surround Jesus.
- And as you see this contrast the question you have to ask yourself is, “Which of the two am I the most like?”
- Let’s look at this story and learn.
As you look at verses 1 through 5 you find that it was a dangerous time for Jesus.
- It is just two days before the Passover and the Unleavened Bread.
- And the chief priests and the “elders of the people” were “plotting together to seize Jesus by stealth, and kill Him.”
- However, they didn’t want to kill Him during the Passover when so many pilgrims would be in Jerusalem because they were afraid that the multitudes would riot.
- After all, Jesus had built a pretty good following of people who were amazed at Him.
- So they were planning another time to kill Him.
But it wasn’t up to them.
- God had ordained from the beginning of time that this lamb was going to be slain at the Passover.
- The typology and prophecy of God made hundreds of years before would be fulfilled so that no one could honestly mistake what was taking place…and who He was.
- So even though they planned otherwise…God’s plan would be fulfilled.
Now in verse 6, as Jesus’ day of crucifixion approaches, Jesus is in the little town of Bethany, which is just outside of Jerusalem.
- And the verse says that He is at the home of Simon the leper.
John’s account, found in John chapter 12, says that Lazarus was also there.
- So what you have is two people who are living examples of the power of Jesus are present at this supper.
- You have Simon the leper and the only way a leper would have a supper with guests is if he wasn’t a leper any more.
- And Lazarus, who just a few days before had been raised from the dead by the power of Jesus.
- And it may well be that the reason they are having this supper is out of gratitude for Jesus and what He has done for them.
But any way, while they are reclining at the table, Mark says, “a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume” came in.
- John says that this woman is Mary, the sister of Martha and more significantly for this story, the sister of Lazarus.
- And she takes this “alabaster vial of very costly perfume” and she “pours the perfume over Jesus’ head.”
- And if you take into account what John says, not only does she pour this perfume on His head, but she also pours some on His feet…and then she takes her hair and wipes his feet.
Now why would she do that?
- Well, just a few days before her brother Lazarus had died and was placed in the tomb.
- And Mary and Martha had been grieving his death and all of these people were consoling them, when Jesus came and raised Him from that tomb.
- And so now, apparently, for the miracle of raising her brother, she wants to express her love and gratitude to Jesus.
- She wants to do something for Him because He has done so much for her.
So what she does is she takes this “vial of perfume.”
- And notice in verse 7 how Matthew describes it.
- He says it was a “very costly” perfume.
- In Mark’s account in Mark 14:5 we are told that it was “worth about 300 denarii” which would be the equivalent of almost a year’s wages.
She takes the most expensive…most precious thing she owned.
- This was probably her life’s savings.
- And she takes that “vial of perfume”…and she breaks it and pours it on Jesus.
- Not just a little bit of it…not just a drop or two.
- She doesn’t open it and put a little dab behind each of His ears and say, “Jesus, I love you.”
- Just doing that would have been more of a gift than any one else had given Him.
- But she doesn’t do that.
- She takes this perfume…every bit of it…all she has…and she pours all of it over the head and feet of Jesus.
And look at the reaction of some who saw her do this. Look at verse 8.
But the disciples were indignant when the saw this, and said, “Why this waste?”
For some, what she did was too much! It was too extravagant!
- They were sitting there thinking, “You have gone to far!”
- “Couldn’t you have just put a little bit behind his ear there.”
- “Couldn’t you have just dabbed a little here and a little there, written a song and read a poem and said, “Jesus, I love you” and left it at that?”
Well, they may have been able to do that…but not Mary.
- You see, as far as Mary was concerned extravagance was not an issue when it came loving Jesus.
- When it came to expressing how much she cared for Him…how much she appreciated Him…how much she loved Him… concern about cost went out the window.
- She loved Him so much that she would give Him anything.
You see, Mary had no limits on how much she loved Jesus.
- A lot of people put limits on it.
- They love Jesus…but only until it becomes too costly… too expensive…or too demanding…too inconvenient.
- “Jesus I love you but don’t ask me to do this…or don’t expect me to do that.”
- Their love only goes so far.
- They want to do what is the absolute minimum that they have to do and stay in His good graces.
But not this woman.
- When it came to expressing her admiration for Jesus she was willing to give it all.
- A lot of people only play at loving Jesus…but she meant it.
And so, some of those who were present began to rebuke her indignantly.
- “Why this waste?”
- And look at vs. 9: “For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Mark says that “they were scolding her.”
- That word “scolding” there comes from a word that literally means…”to snort with anger.”
- I picture a “bull or wild animal that snorts.”
Isn’t that amazing?
- “Why did you waste it by giving it to Jesus?”
- Can you imagine?
- Someone gives this kind of gift…manifests this kind of love…this kind of honor to Jesus…and someone else sees it as a waste?
Today we see this manifested in a little bit different way.
- A young man tells his parents that he wants to be a preacher…
- Or some young man or woman decides she wants to be a missionary…and their parents change their minds for them because “mom and dad thought it would be a waste.”
- Can you imagine?
Or a man quits his high paying job with all these wonderful benefits…in order to be able to attend church…or do more work for Christ…or to better fulfill his God given responsibilities to his wife and kids…and people say, “What a waste.”
John says that Judas is the one who actually spoke these words recorded here in Matthew .
- These are the first recorded words of Judas in the Bible.
- Did you know that Judas is the only man in the Bible to ever express a concern about wasting the Lord’s money?
But let’s not be too hard on Judas.
- Judas may have spoken these words but Matthew makes it clear in vs. 8 that he spoke for a lot of people present.
And do you know what this tells me?
- This tells me that these people hadn’t listened.
- They hadn’t listened the day before when Jesus spoke in the temple about “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and with all your strength.”
- If they would have they wouldn’t have criticized Mary like this.
But you see, this is just another example where the teachings of Jesus just goes in one ear and out the other.
And so, they turn on the one person in the room who had understood what Jesus was saying.
- They turn on one of their own.
- Isn’t that sad?
- She comes and she gives this kind of gift…she gives the most precious thing she has.
- She manifests a love for Jesus that has no limits…
- And because she does…because it doesn’t fit with their way of thinking…she is harshly criticized by others who claimed to love Jesus.
And it happens today.
- Some one has a deep love and devotion for Christ…and so they dedicate themselves to serving Him.
- And they give of themselves…and of their time…and their money.
- And they make tremendous sacrifices for the sake of Christ and His cause.
- And they are out teaching the word…and holding Bible studies.
- And they go door to door…or they go to a foreign field.
- And others are sitting there watching and in their mind they think, “You’re being too extravagant…you’re going too far.”
And let me tell you, we do this in reference to other congregations.
- We see them doing all these works…running nursing homes…and medical clinics.
- And food banks…and clothing rooms…and soup kitchens…and homeless shelters.
- And rehabilitation programs…and drug counseling centers.
- And sometimes we sit back and we say, “You have gone too far…that is too extravagant.”
- And so we scold…and we attack…and we criticize.
And do you know what I think Jesus would say to us when we do that?
- The same thing He tells these people here in verse 10:
- “Why do you bother the woman? For she had done a good deed to Me.”
- How dare you to put limits on the way they express their love to Me.
- How dare you to tell someone that they are being too extravagant in the way they love God?
- How dare you to criticize one who is doing these things for Me.
Let me tell you what I have seen.
- Years ago, an old man who went to the hospital every day to visit people there.
Realize this…in scripture Jesus speaks more against insincere, going through the motions, uncommitted, lukewarm, love and devotion than He ever does against what we might consider an extravagant expression of love.
Let me ask you this.
- Could it be that the reason we are so quick to criticize the Mary’s…is because it is a way of defending our own shallow expressions of love?
- Could it be that the reason we are sometimes quick to attack the Mary’s is because the spirit and love they show rebukes us?
Let me tell you something…there are enough darts being shot at us from the enemy that you shouldn’t have to worry about getting shot at from the back.
- Especially when their only motivation for doing so is that you manifested your love for God in a way that they personally didn’t agree with.
Jesus says, “Why are you bothering her?” She has done a good deed to Me.”
- “I challenge you to find any other deed in the Bible where Jesus poured out such praise.”
Verse 11: He says, “For the poor you have with you always; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume upon my body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.”
In this verse you find another reason why Mary poured this costly perfume on Jesus’ head.
- He is going to die…and she realizes it.
- The others have heard him say it before but they don’t want to hear it.
- They block it out.
But not Mary.
- She has spent some time at the feet of Jesus…and she has figured out that He means what He is talking about.
- He is going to die…and she only has a short time to show her gratitude and how much she loves Him.
- And what she does here is she sends her spray of flowers before the funeral instead of after, so He can smell them and enjoy them.
Maybe we ought to do more of that today. Express our love before they die.
Now look at what Jesus says in verse 13.
“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her.”
Notice this. He says the “gospel” is going to be preached.
- People aren’t going to go into all the world and tell everyone about a man who simply died.
- They are going to go and tell everyone the gospel… some “good news.”
- They are going to tell everyone that He died…and was buried…but then He was raised!
So the “gospel”…the “good news of Jesus” would be preached to the whole world…
- And where ever it is preached…what Mary has done will be spoken of too!
Why? Why would what Mary did here be spoken of too?
- What does what she did have to do with the gospel?
Because when you preach the gospel you call people to love Christ.
- And how should they love Christ?
- The same way Mary did…she loved Him extravagantly.
Now look at verses 14-16.
In these verses Judas goes to the chief priests and betrays Christ.
- What a contrast between what he does and what Mary does.
- Here you have a woman who carries out this gorgeous act of love…and then you have this one who is stirring everyone up and getting them all upset.
And I think the point is clear.
- There are some who are giving of their time and their means…and themselves…doing what they can for Christ.
- And at the same time there are those who grumble and complain at any act that is done for Christ.
- And the hard question is: Which of these two…Mary or Judas…are you the most like?
Mary loved Jesus because He raised her brother from the dead.
- She looked at her brother and that empty grave…and she gave Him all she had.
You know He has done more than that for us…He has saved us from our sins.
- Shouldn’t we love Him the way she did?
And, when Jesus died on that cross…wouldn’t you say that was an extravagant act of love?
- Shouldn’t we love him the same way?
Let’s be careful about criticizing others.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023