Summary: We must be willing to joyfully give our all to the Lord.
Jesus asks an awful lot of His followers. He asked His disciples to give up their businesses and their homes to follow Him around the countryside for three years. He asked a rich young ruler to sell everything, give the money to the poor, and follow Him. He asks us to take up our cross and follow Him. He even had the nerve to ask a starving little boy to give up his lunch. Most people wouldn’t bother with somebody like that.
But it’s okay for us, isn’t it? We know that Jesus loves us, and gave His life for us. We know that He promised us an abundant life. We know that there are great blessings in store for His people. So why wouldn’t we be willing to offer Him whatever He asks for?
And what is He asking you to give Him? The answer is easy, but living it out isn’t. He wants us to give Him everything, just because we love Him. He wants us to give, and expect nothing in return.
When you give your all for Jesus, others won’t get it.
Even the text this morning doesn’t make sense. At least not at first glance. Where is Jesus? At the home of Simon the Leper – who’d have thought the Lord would go there, and why would a leper offer his home and hospitality to a teacher like Jesus? Why would the Master even think of going there? A leper wouldn’t have been allowed to interact with others unless he’d been healed. Had he been one that Jesus had cured? Luke tells us that he was a Pharisee. Would Jesus have mercy on one of those who was out to kill Him? And if so, is Simon’s invitation an example of a changed life giving everything to the Lord in response to God’s mercy? I believe so.
Who is this woman? John identifies her as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Luke tells us she was a sinful woman, living nearby. We already know that the town was Bethany, and that Mary lived there. Mary loved Jesus. That consuming passion motivated everything she did. She was already on the outs with her sister because she preferred to sit at her Savior’s feet than to be busy doing anything else. She already had a bad reputation in Bethany. And now it was getting worse. Who wants a lazy woman who’s already lying around the house wasting even more money.
Judas was furious at Mary’s waste of money. And he had a good point. The perfume was very expensive. Many poor people could have been provided for if instead of wasting the perfume, it had been sold. God could have done a lot of good things with that kind of offering. It was this act that pushed Judas over the edge. He was the one who held the money for disciples. He knew how much it was going to cost to prepare the Passover meal. He knew how much they didn’t have. How could this woman be so wasteful and extravagant. Judas didn’t get it.
But then he wasn’t alone either. The rest of the disciples were also indignant. They knew Mary and her love for Christ, but here they are mad, because she’s giving everything.
We know what that’s like, don’t we. When we follow Jesus more than any other, when we give of ourselves to Him, even to our own hurt, at best, people look at us as if we’re a little “off”. At worst, they rally around us in hate.
When you hang on to what you have, there is no room for you to receive more blessing.
Wilson Johnson, the founder of Holiday Inn, once said, “When I was forty years old I worked in a sawmill. One morning the boss told me I was fired. Depressed and discouraged, I felt like world had caved in. When I told my wife what had happened, she asked me what I was going to do. I replied, ‘I’m going to mortgage our little home and go into the building business.’ My first venture was the construction of two small buildings. Within five years, I was a multimillionaire! At the time it happened, I didn’t understand why I was fired. Later, I saw that it was God’s unerring and wondrous plan to get me into the way of His choosing.”
I guess it’s always easier to see it that way when you’re on the other side. When God is prying your fingers away from something you think is very special, it can really hurt. It’s not that we don’t want to give everything to the Lord, it’s just that doing it is so hard. It’s frightening to let go. After all, most of us don’t have much. If we let go of what little we have, how do we know we’ll survive. How can you afford to invite someone to dinner when you barely have enough to feed yourself? When you don’t have many friends, how can you risk losing the ones you have to offer friendship to someone they don’t like? How can you lift your voice in support of the one everyone is angry at? You might lose everything if you obey that much.