Summary: Today, I want us to read 3 stories about 3 women who are remembered for their extreme giving. And as we read them, I have the same question with these stories as I do for the extreme stunt people of our day…what does this have to do with me? Could their
See if you recognize these men...Evil Kenevil – motorcycle stuntman 4 of to 20 most watched sports events ever. Broken over 35 bones…Houdini still known as best escape artist ever – would dislocate his shoulder to escape straightjackets and in Chinese Water torture act, hold breath for more than 3 minutes...Criss Angel – modern day Houdini, levitates in front of thousands outside, blew himself up in a sealed box and cut himself in half, jumped out of a van for a stunt and broke his neck…Robert Peary, north pole, got there on eighth try in 1909, lost 8 toes to frostbite on 1st try, had other 2 toes cut off to walk better….Chuck Yeager – world’s most famous test pilot, first man to break the sound barrier, (broke 2 ribs 2 days before famous test, went to vet to get fixed so air force wouldn’t take him off) flew 61 missions in WWII… What do all these people have in common? They are all extremists. People like this are all around us. fun to watch, great for television…but are exercises of the extreme good or bad? Some would say good. Everyone told Columbus he would die trying to reach the new world, but his determination led the way for our ancestors to come to America. Columbus discovered not only new routes to the west, but he also discovered certain trade winds and ocean currents that are still used today. But some would say bad. With all the extreme sports and things we see on TV like Espn’s X games, more and more people are getting hurt and even killed trying to do these things. Here’s my question…does it have anything to do with us? REAL people? Again, fun to watch, but does it serve any value, other than just cable tv shows? Is there any real value in exploring these extremes? I asked the same question when I read 3 stories in the Bible recently about extreme giving. During the last two weeks in our Firstfruits series, we’ve talked about giving our best and making a commitment. No doubt the Bible teaches us to give. But there are 3 stories in the Bible about giving, that to me, can be called nothing less than extreme. Today, I want us to read 3 stories about 3 women who are remembered for their extreme giving. And as we read them, I have the same question with these stories and the extreme stunt people of our day…what does this have to do with me? Could their examples teach us anything about our giving? Or is this, like extreme sports and stunts, just for crazy people?
Let’s look at the first one. Mark 14:3- 9 (read scripture)…Here we have our first example of extreme giving. One woman gave something expensive. Now to put this into perspective, Mark let’s you know this was worth a year’s wages. So in today’s terms in our culture, that might be a $30,000 bottle of perfume. I thought and I thought, and I really couldn’t come up with a modern day example where someone gives a gift like this. Sure, rich people make large and public donations, but never this much. It’s extreme, even by today’s standards. Maybe the lesson, the application, is not so much in the gift, but in the woman who gave it. This was not the gift of a wealthy woman. But a destitute woman. A woman who was known in the community as an immoral woman. Her name was Mary (from John’s gospel). Mary was a woman who most likely made her living selling herself to others. So why in the world did she “waste” this expensive bottle of perfume? Why not to the poor? First of all, where did she get it? Scripture doesn’t say, but I have an idea. Probably payment from one of her clients. Maybe it was extortion. Maybe she stole it. We have no idea. All we know is that this is an extremely expensive bottle of perfume. Kept in a jar that was sealed. Could only be opened one time and had to use up all of it. So why did she keep it? I can’t prove this, but I have a theory. Somehow at some point in her life, Mary made some bad choices. She probably dreamed of getting married one day, but instead men had become a source of funding, not for a family. But she dreamed of maybe one day, finding just the right guy who would see past her “profession” and be willing to settle down with her. And in that day, when a wedding would occur, the family of the bride would pay a dowry, a fee if you will, to help them start. I couldn’t find it in any of my commentaries, but I would venture that it’s possible that Mary was saving this for the hopes that when she met the right guy, this cold be used to help start their life together. It turns out, that man was Jesus, but not in the way she thought. When she first met Jesus, he didn’t want to use her. Or marry her. He came to forgive her her sins. And I believe that she realized she would never find another man like Jesus. So she decided to give this gift, what she had been saving, to Jesus. The scripture says that this was done to anoint Jesus for his burial. Was Mary aware of this? Probably not. I think instead, what is clear here is that this is an extreme act of love. This is Mary saying “Jesus, I’ve been waiting for a man who would love me and I could give my life to. And it’s you.” And so she gave Him the best gift she had. And from the rest of the Bible, we see this wasn’t a one time gift. From now on, Mary would never leave His side. One could argue that among all Jesus’ followers, including the disciples, including Peter, no one loved Jesus more than Mary. That’s why she’s there at his arrest, even though the others ran. That’s why she’s at His crucifixion, right there at the foot of the cross. At that’s why she’s there on Sunday morning at what was supposed to be His grave. And maybe this is why, that out of all of Jesus’ followers, she is the first to see Him resurrected. Why? Because she gave an extreme gift. An extreme gift of love.