Summary: When Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive oil, the disciples criticized her. Jesus defended her extravagance of love. We cannot anoint Jesus, but what we do for the least of his disciples, we do to him.
THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF LOVE
The average cost of a funeral is $6,600, and that does not include a vault or the gravestone. Sometimes because of guilt feelings, sometimes because of pressure from funeral directors, and sometimes because families are not thinking clearly, we spend more on paying our final respects to loved ones than perhaps we should.
On the other hand, There is a cost-consciousness that is miserly; and there is an extravagance that is neither pretentious nor self-indulgent, but an extravagance of love, not—as Paul would say—to be despised. Mary, who was always at Jesus’ feet showed such a love:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:1-3, NIV).
The moment is marred by…
I. A PLAUSIBLE PROTEST (John 12:4-6)
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (NIV).
A. The parallel accounts show that while Judas was the instigator and motivated by greed, the others blindly joined in the protest.
1. Human nature has not changed. One vocal, disgruntled individual, regardless of his or her motive, can get a following rather easily.
2. Judas’ argument sounded so plausible, even spiritual. Of course, we know his true motive, because the Holy Spirit has revealed to John what only Jesus knew at the time Judas made the argument.
3. We should be slow to condemn manifestations of the love of others, especially during times of grief, and Mary seemed to anticipate the great grief that the others would not feel until a week later when Jesus went to the cross.
B. Driven, perhaps, by guilt some people actually go beyond their means when planning the funeral.
1. While we should always consider our motive and our means, there is a cost-consciousness that quenches the spirit, causing it to shrivel like a raisin.
2. Mary obviously had the means, and Jesus makes it clear as to her motive:
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (vv.7-8)
II. THE PROPHETIC PERSPECTIVE (Mk 14:6-9)
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (NIV)