Summary: Sermon 4 on the astounding mathematics of grace. This is account of Mary anointing Jesus with the expensive perfume. I also have graphics available.
What is Jesus worth to you? You could look in a Kelly Blue Book and find out real quick what your car is worth? You could talk to Jason and he could recommend a good appraiser who could tell you exactly what your house is worth? You could sit down with Amber and let her do her insurance thing, and with several questions she could give you an idea of what your possessions are worth. It’s kind of morbid, but if you want to buy life insurance you can even get an idea what your life is worth in least in dollars. But what is Jesus worth to you? How do you value your relationship with your Lord and Savior?
If you were to have asked Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus what Jesus was worth, I think I know what her answer would have been. She would say something like, “everything,” or “all of it.” In John 12, we come across an account that is either most flagrant waste of money, or the most extravagant act of love. How you see it will depend entirely on what is valuable to you.
This is the last sermon in our series on kingdomnomics– four stories from the four gospels that each challenge the economy of the world. Jesus confounds the economists. He scandalizes Wall Street. He scorns the experts on Madison Avenue. He ignores the Ivy League Academics. He completely rearranges our priorities and redefines our understanding of what is value and worth.
I know that we are getting in the frame of mind where we are thinking about Jesus’ birth, but in this account, we are less than a week before the crucifixion and Jesus’ death on the cross. Even in the shadow of the cross, though, Jesus, has already shown that He is the Lord even over death, for in the previous chapter He raised Lazarus back from death. It was an emphatic declaration of his authority over the grave. The Jews believed the spirit left the body after three days, but Jesus raised him on the 4th day. In the shadows, however, the religious leaders are already plotting how they might arrest Jesus and take him into custody.
Tomorrow, Jesus will enter Jerusalem for the very last time before his arrest. It is a triumphal entry. Fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah, the crowd hails him as the king of Israel. Their allegiance is short-lived. Popular opinion can be a fickle thing. Just as one crowd hails his entry into Jerusalem, another crowd on Friday will shout and demand his crucifixion.
None of this is a mystery to Jesus. It is not unexpected. He was not caught off guard. He has predicted his death before, and has even prophesied what sort of death he will die. He will do so again before the end of this chapter.
But before Jesus enters the arena where the fate and sin of the entire world hang in the balance, he enjoys one last respite. Just a few short miles and a few short hours from his appointment with destiny, he enjoys the hospitality of beloved dear friends. Throughout his ministry, Bethany and the home of Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus has been like a home. Even though the Son of Man had no place to lay his head, here there was always a warm meal and a bedroll.
Today, this love will be poured out in the most extraordinary of ways– some would even say shocking or scandalous. It was not unusual to wash the feet of a guest who enters your home, especially an honored guest. That was merely common courtesy. What was unusual was to do so with a pound of expensive perfume.
This is not a small drop, just a fingertip applied to the top of the bottle and dabbed on the skin. We know from Matthew and Mark that Mary anoints Jesus generously. She begins by anointing his head and moving down to his feet. It’s the whole bottle. It runs everywhere– down his body into his clothes. Mark says she “breaks the bottle.” This is a one-time extravagant act. She is not saving any until later. She’s all-in on this. The quantity is so great that the whole “house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
Imagine the shock on everyone’s faces around the room. See their mouths falling open. Hear the breath being taken in and then held. Hear the whispers and murmurs. Some said it was a waste. Finally, Judas blurts out what everyone is thinking, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” Like Judas, everyone in the room probably could have thought of at least a dozen different things that money could better be used for. Once again the economics of the kingdom flies in the face of the economics of the world. Mary’s act makes no economic sense. Anyone who loves the bottom-line is horrified by her display. Again we are astounded by the mathematics of grace.