Summary: A woman gives her most valued asset for the purpose of worshiping Jesus. We must also give sacrificially in our worship.
There’s no doubt that the topic of giving and anything related to our finances is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for pastors and it’s uncomfortable for congregations. But God never said that we should be comfortable with His Word, but He did say that His Word would nourish us and sometimes with nourishment and growth come growing pains, and pain is not a comfortable word.
As you have discovered if you have been trekking through our study on the 40 Day Journey To A More Generous Life, God’s Word is laden with messages on the act of giving – on the worship of giving. So why don’t we preach about it more? Maybe, just maybe because it hits at the deepest core of our sin – pride. We’re too prideful – sometimes our thinking is a self-centered way of thinking which goes something like this: “This is my money. I work for a living. I have slaved over this job, put my life on the line, built this career and have earned this position and have been compensated adequately for the work I have done”. When all along it is truly God’s money. It is God that opens doors to the job opportunities in our life, not our hard work. It is God and His will that is in control, not ours. It is not our hands that bless us, it is the blessing of God’s hands upon our lives (and we praise Him for that). When we submit to Him and we take hold of the fact that He is the One who blesses and wills, then we will be doubly blessed and we will want to pour that blessing on others, instead of selfishly keeping it to ourselves to build ourselves up and our own glory. And when we give to others, we do not give ourselves glory, but all glory goes to the One, our Lord and God, who blesses and thus we live a generous life. God doesn’t need 40 days to make you a generous person – He just needs an open heart and mind.
Sacrificial worship is the topic of this message today. What do you think of when you hear the word sacrifice? Is it a bad word? A good word? Do you think of something that you what to do or of something that you don’t want to do.
The woman who anointed Jesus understood sacrifice - to a point where she took on a no holds bar attitude toward her worship of Jesus – there was no limit or barrier in regard to how much she was willing to sacrifice to Him.
Let’s look at the passage again:
6” Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had leprosy,”
7” During supper, a woman came in with a beautiful jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.”
The setting is Bethany – a small community outside of Jerusalem and a place that many came to see lodging during the annual Passover celebration – and this would be Jesus’ final Passover. He is visiting Simon, a man He probably healed of leperousy, and according to John 12, the famous Lazuras, who He raised from the dead, was with them. These three men are reclining around the table along with the 12 disciples. Lazuras’ sisters, Martha and Mary, were also in attendance and Martha was at her usual job of serving the food. John records that her sister, Mary, was actually the woman who anointed Jesus. I could imagine Mary, excited that her brother’s healer had come to town, probably rushed home and brought back with her this expensive perfume and so this introduces the primary object of this story.
This perfume’s worth is described by the gospel writers as being costly and high priced and John’s and Mark’s account give us the disciple’s estimation: 300 denarii! Now it is hard to translate what that would be in today’s US dollars, but scholars have done some research and estimate that a denarii translates roughly into $20 US. You do the math… that’s $6000 worth of perfume. 300 denarii was the approximate yearly salary for a common laborer. You may think – what kind of perfume is this?
This perfume was made from the oil of an herb plant called nard and was only found in India in Biblical times, so this was a precious import and it could very well have been a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation. In biblical times, perfume was stored in an alabaster jar and could only be used once. Once you broke the seal of the jar, it had to be used at that moment, or it would loose its fragrance. Mary knew that this would be a one time deal. She was willing to give it all or nothing.