Summary: What this woman does stands in stark contrast to all of the other players. When we read of her deed side by side with Jesus’ hate-filled adversaries, the treacherous Judas, and the confused and misguided disciples, we can’t help but ask ourselves, where
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
According to businesses, Valentine’s Day is the third biggest day of the year for buying gifts. Christmas is first. Mother’s Day is second. I am not sure Father’s Day made the list. When it comes to candy, flowers, and cards, Valentine’s Day moves to second place right behind Christmas. I don’t want to put any pressure on you guys, but 70% of folk buy their sweethearts a Valentine’s Day present. The price of the gift will average over $140. According to the research, if it weren’t for the skinflints in this room, the average would be a lot higher!
Of course, wise men know that the buying the right gift can be as important as the amount of money spent. Flowers, candy, and jewelry are always good on Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, a vacuum cleaner, a diet book or a new tractor is not.
I am sure you heard about the gal who dreamed of owning a new Ferrari sports car. When her husband asked what she wanted for Valentine’s Day, she told him, “Something that goes from 0 to 200 in sixty seconds.” He bought her a shiny new silver bathroom scales. The funeral is on Tuesday.
Today’s text is a Valentine’s story of sorts. It’s not about married love or romantic love of any kind, though some have tried to read it into this text. The story poses the question that faces every believer—when it comes to our love for Christ, how much is too much?
Those on the One Year Bible schedule read this passage on Thursday. On the surface, this text might seem like a detour from the main event. The fact remains. It is part of Jesus’ story for a reason. Matthew, Mark, and John all write about it. Matthew and Mark’s accounts are nearly identical. John adds quite a few more details.
The story is important because of when it takes place. The event happens at the beginning of Jesus’ last week. The countdown to the cross has begun. John tells us the dinner was in honor of Jesus and his raising of Lazarus from the dead. The meeting place is noteworthy. Matthew and Mark say it took place at the home of Simon a leper, presumably a man Jesus had healed earlier. John doesn’t say where it took place, just that Lazarus is there. His sisters Mary and Martha are helping with the meal. Most of all, this is important because of what Jesus says. Whenever the gospel is preached, he announced, this woman’s act of love would be remembered. We are doing just that today.
We will miss the main point of the story, however, if we miss the context in which Matthew places it. He intentionally recalls this story in the midst of telling about the plot to arrest and crucify Jesus. The dinner had taken place four days earlier. It is sort of a flash back in time. What this woman does stands in stark contrast to all of the other players. When we read of her deed side by side with Jesus’ hate-filled adversaries, the treacherous Judas, and the confused and misguided disciples, we can’t help but ask ourselves, where do I fit in? If I had been there, whose side would I have taken? These characters may be all long gone, but their story is played out every day—especially on Sundays. This is the story of four loves.
First, the adversaries who fill the background display antagonistic love. Dare we even call it love? Probably not! For the three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry, the adversaries had been there. They plotted against him, questioned him, mocked him, and tried their best to rally others against him. More than once, they had plotted to kill him. They were just waiting for the right opportunity. Did you ever wonder why? What motivated these religious leaders, most of whom enthusiastically professed an undying love for God, to take such a negative attitude toward Jesus? The dynamics are still with us.
Jesus made two big mistakes as far as his adversaries were concerned. He didn’t meet their expectations. To a man, those who opposed Jesus would have claimed to be waiting for the Messiah long promised in the Jewish Scriptures. But they had already decided what the Messiah could and could not do. He would always take their side. He would oppose their enemies. He would support their convictions. Jesus didn’t do that. He called sin sin whoever did it. No one got a pass because of race, politics, or social standing. He refused to reinforce their prejudices. He welcomed anyone and everyone who would come in faith to the kingdom of God.