Summary: The reckless extravagance of love, especially God’s love.
Portraits of Jesus
The Prodigal Savior
Has it ever occurred to you that one of the characteristics of love is wastefulness? Maybe wastefulness isn’t such a good word; perhaps extravagance is a better word.
Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus displayed some of the traits of a prodigal? Before you tar and feather me let’s first take a look at what really is a prodigal. According to Webster’s, prodigal means to “recklessly extravagant” and a prodigal is “one who gives or spends lavishly or foolishly.”
Wastefulness, or “reckless extravagance” is a characteristic of love, and Jesus was a model of pure, perfect love. Perfect love is often the opposite of duty. So extravagant love can be illustrated like this: Duty does only what it has to do, love goes the second mile; duty is content with fulfilling its obligation, love is not content until it does more than is necessary; duty despises wastefulness, love thrives on it.
Perhaps some illustrations from life might be appropriate. Extravagant, wasteful love can be seen in the husband who buys his wife flowers (and flowers ain’t cheap), even though he knows that within a week they’ll wilt and die. Extravagant, wasteful love can be seen in the wife who prepares her husband’s favorite dinner, even though she knows when the meal is over there will be nothing left but dirty dishes. Extravagant, wasteful love can be seen in the mother who hugs her little child for giving her a flower. A flower he picked. A flower he picked from her garden.
Yes, love is wasteful. Yes, love is extravagant. Would you want it any other way?
In Mark 14:1-9 there is a beautiful story about an extravagant act of love towards Jesus. An act that was so extravagant, in fact, that it was criticized for its recklessness and wastefulness.
(read v. 3)
Lesson # 1: Love wastes because love does not count the cost.
Love never calculates. Love never thinks about how little it can decently give. Love’s one desire is to give to the limit. William Barclay has said, “We have not even begun to be Christian if we think of giving to Christ and to his church in terms of as little as we respectably can.”
(read v. 4-5)
Lesson # 2: Love’s waste will produce criticism.
Kenneth Gibble admits, “Had I been there when that woman emptied her jar of expensive ointment on Jesus’ head I would have hit the roof. ‘Why was the ointment wasted this way? It might have been sold and given to the poor.’ And I doubt whether it would have been any great concern for the poor that might have upset me. I think it would have been the principle of the thing, pouring away precious perfume like so much water. A dab or two behind the ear, all right. But the whole bottle! Outrageous!”
It wasn’t the cost that bothered the disciples, but it was how she had chosen to use the perfume. Had she used it for herself a little at a time they would never have thought of selling it for the poor. But it was her reckless extravagance that assaulted their sense of practicality. Thus, their criticism rose up sharply against her.
(read v. 6-9)
Lesson # 3: Love wastes because love goes beyond its duty.
The woman had no demand that caused her to anoint Jesus. It wasn’t her duty or anyone else’s to anoint Jesus that night. Love caused her to do what was beyond her duty.
Is it our duty to give ten percent of our income as a tithe? No. Is it our duty to attend every worship service? No. But because of love we do what there’s no logical reason or command for what we do.
Do you know what is the epitome of righteous waste? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The life of Christ is the ultimate in righteous waste. Is there any measure of logic to it? Does it have any mark of common sense for the only man who was completely perfect to die for the rest of humanity who are so sinful?
In His death he poured out himself in wasteful abandon, in reckless extravagance, to become our Savior. The Prodigal Savior. The cross became the sacrifice of all that is logical and reasonable and practical and sensible.
What a waste is this! It’s the most complete of all wastes. Yet in God’s wisdom, it is this waste -- this reckless extravagance -- that saves us. It’s the holiest of wastes and it alone brings salvation.
We have the choice of being practical and reasonable and sensible, like the disciples, or to be like our prodigal savior, Jesus, and become recklessly extravagant.