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Sermon 09 - John 12 - Extravigant Love - March 7, 04

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1.      ((illus)) One of the great joys of life is to have a few friends that when you go to their house you are treated like a member of their family.  You just walk in, go right to the refrigerator and take out whatever you want.

a.    As your pastor, I want to be your friend.

b.    I’ll be over after church. (Just kidding!)

2.      Jesus had that kind of friendship with Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus.

a.    As you read the Gospel you get the impression that Jesus could not wait to get to their home from time to time

b.    because it was the one place that he could walk in, loosen his robe, take off his sandals and plop down on the sofa and just be himself.

3.      One day Jesus was told that his friend, Lazarus, was desperately ill, and instead of immediately going to help, he delays and then he was told that Lazarus had died.

a.    But it set the stage for the greatest of Jesus miracles.

b.    By raising Lazarus, Jesus became an instant celebrity in Jerusalem.

c.    After raising Lazarus from the dead, the Scriptures say that Jesus retired for a time to the dessert. (11:54)

4.      And in our Scripture for this morning, Jesus comes back for the first time to their home in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem.

a.    In that town was also Simon, a leper that Jesus had healed

b.    As you can imagine everyone’s so delighted to see Jesus that they through a dinner party in his honor and it takes place at the house of Simon.

c.    And we’re going to look at that occasion in John’s Gospel, chapter twelve, verse one through eight.

John 12:1-8

1 Six days before the Passover ceremonies began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead.
2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus sat at the table with him.

3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with fragrance.
4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples—the one who would betray him—said,

5 “That perfume was worth a small fortune. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.”

6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief who was in charge of the disciples’ funds, and he often took some for his own use.
7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did it in preparation for my burial.
8 You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer.”

5.      PRAYER: Lord, this morning in your presence, we find this woman Mary at Bethany to be our role model. Help us to pour out to you all that we are. Help us to give you our attention in this moments as we give attention to your word. And we pray that by your Holy Spirit you would illumine these verses that we might obey you more diligently, and that we might love you more recklessly, to your glory and to your name in this world. For we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen


John 12:1-8


1.      I have A QUESTION I would like to ask you women: How would you handle a $12,000 bottle of perfume?

a.    Very carefully – yes, very carefully. 

b.    You’d probably keep it under lock and key.

i)        In my study I’ve seen figures of the worth for this flask of perfume anywhere from $60 - $12,000.

ii)      It represented what a person would normally make in a whole year – so you fill in the worth from your own income.

c.    Mary, because she was a single woman, may have kept it buried down deep in her hope chest.

d.   This was a pint of pure nard, which was an fragrant ointment that was imported from the hills of northern India.

2.      Now here’s a BIGGER QUESTIONCan you think of one man that is so special that you would pour it all out in one evening for him?

a.    Well Mary found that man in her life.

i)        This account is in Matthew and Mark, as well as John.

ii)      Don’t confuse this event with Luke 7 where a prostitute come and poured perfume on Jesus feet and then kissed them.

iii)    The Mary of John 12 is a virtuous woman

3.      Envision the scene, the party’s in full swing.

a.    You can hear the clink of pottery, the laughter, the animated conversation around the table.

b.    Mary gets up from her place, she circles the table, and stopping at the place of Jesus she suddenly falls to her knees.  (parallel passages include his head)

c.    She takes an alabaster flask and she breaks off the long narrow neck. She then takes the flask and pours the contents on Jesus’ feet.

d.   Instantly around the room people begin to smell this aroma.

i)        And the guests begin to elbow each other and say “Nard, nard, it’s nard.

ii)      She poured out a whole pint of pure nard!”

4.      And that’s not all.

a.    It says that reached up and pulled off her head covering which was the proper dress in polite company.

b.    And after pulling off her head covering she shakes her head and the long tresses of her hair fill out and fall down around her shoulders. Mary then takes her hair and begins to massage the ointment into Jesus’ feet.

5.      :5 - Well, Judas can not handle this and he immediately announces to the group the cost of this perfume.

a.    Here are the first words recorded in the Gospels of Judas.

i)        Sad that the last words were - Matthew 27:4 -  “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”…

b.    But isn’t that just like Judas and who would know better than Judas.

i)        Not everybody knows the cost of an Armani suit, but those things mattered to Judas.

ii)      And so he gets a social conscience all of a sudden and says, “Why we could have done some real good in this world if we had given the money to the poor. I mean, what was she thinking. She could have given this money to some food bank.

c.    Do you know what shocked Judas

i)        I don’t believe it was the money.

ii)      I believe that it was this shocking, public display of Mary’s extravagant love.

6.      I don’t think that many of us enjoy PDAs – Public Displays of Affection.

a.    Especially those of us in the church.

b.    ((illus)) Now we just had the wedding of Ted and Kelly and they did great.

i)        But I must confess that in recent years I’ve had a little, unannounced, crusade going – to tone down what goes on at the end of weddings when I tell the couple that they may now kiss. 

ii)      I have encouraged couples to engage in a nice conservative, protestant, evangelical kiss – done decently and in order; none of this sloppy agape stuff.

iii)    But nobody listens to me.

iv)    I have seen things take place inches from my eyes that cause me to blush. 

¨      How do they hold their breath so long?

¨      I’ve seen mothers cover the eyes of their children in the congregation.

c.    I coach couples that they should not make this kiss as if it was their first kiss. 

i)        But that they should not make it seem as if it is their last kiss either.

ii)      They never listen to me.

iii)    It seems that there is something about love that just makes people go over board.

iv)    They lose all sense of proportion. 

v)      Why people who are in love even sing, and cry and dance.

¨      They buy new wardrobes, they get new hairstyles every other day.

¨      I’m a parent and I can remember telling my boys not to blow all of their savings on a dozen long stem roses for a girl that just met last weekend.

¨      But they don’t listen.

vi)    Be reasonable.

7.      One philosopher said that the heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.

a.    Come to think of it, we adults lose touch with reality sometimes when we’re under the influence of love.

b.    ((illus)) I heard of one dad in a church who had a daughter, out in Texas, that finally, when she was somewhat advanced in age (39 years old), got engaged. This dad was so excited that, being the Texan he was, flow in a 300 pound wedding cake from California. When it arrived at the church, a fork lift had to be used to get it off the back bed of the truck. The mother was so embarrassed that she said to her husband. “This is way too much, we’re only inviting 300 guests for the reception. The father said “So!”

c.    This father’s love went way overboard.

8.      Now think about it for a moment. 

a.    When our heavenly Father thought of us, His love went way overboard.

b.    Think about that love when He created the world.

i)        Aren’t you glad that He did not make flowers the same way that Henry Ford originally made automobiles – all the same, all the same color.

ii)      Suppose we had in this world your basic stripped-downed generic model of flower – a yellow daffodil.

iii)    We would thank God for all the flowers in the world.

iv)    We would think God so amazing that all the flowers in the world were just daffodils.

c.    But God’s love went way overboard. 

i)        He gave us yellow daffodils,

ii)      he gave us azaleas,

iii)    he gave us roses,

iv)    he gave us hydrangeas,

v)      he gave us hibiscus.

vi)    The beautiful gardens in the Spring time.

vii)  And if you’re in the “South” in the Spring time with the dog woods and azaleas – it is a riot of colors.

9.      God has a super abundance that he gives to us out of his love for us.

a.    And he has put us in Florida during the present season when the sweetest fragrance known to mankind is blossomed – the orange blossom.

b.    Have you ever thought of it this way.

c.    God has poured out a super abundance of His love and let us live in Southwest Florida with an abundance of sunshine,

i)        beautiful beaches with beautiful sunsets,

ii)      and abundant beauty all around us.

iii)    God is love and His love goes overboard.

10.  ((illus)) When Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Calilee, which we studied some weeks ago, Jesus would have been prudent if he would have made just enough wine for everyone to have just a half a glass of wine so that they might give a proper toast. But not such much that people could have gotten into trouble.  But John delights in pointing out that Jesus made 180 gallons of wine at that wedding for that couple.

11.  ((illus)) It would have been very prudent for the father of the prodigal son if, when the son came home, the father would have held out his hand and shaken the hand of his son and then said, “Now there’s your room, you go there and we’ll talk next week when things settle down.”

a.    But what did he do?

b.    Immediately he sent out invitations for a wild, expensive party.

c.    At midnight the father was seen swinging from the chandeliers.

12.  You see, God is love and love goes overboard.

a.    And at times, it makes no sense to be sensible.

b.    Mary’s gift did not feed any poor people,

i)        it did not clothe any naked people,

ii)      it did not house any homeless people.

13.  But I’m here to tell you that the church has always been guilty of lavish wastefulness in its worship of God.

a.    Some congregations express it in a building,

b.    some in a beautiful pipe organ,

c.    some with flowers and banners

d.   some more recent congregations will express their love in expensive technical equipment – a video projector, wireless microphones, and on and on.

e.    What practical purpose do some of these have? 

i)        Not a whole lot, except to aid us in our worship and praise of God almighty.

ii)      We love Him because He first loved us.

iii)    We sing love songs to our beloved. 

14.  :7-8 - John wants us to know that Mary is the smartest person in that room. 

a.    Only Mary could connect the dots and know what was going to happen next that was going to change these people’s lives forever.

b.    Mary could see that Jesus was about to die. 

i)        If you look at the next chapter, that’s Palm Sunday. 

ii)      The very next day is Palm Sunday.

iii)    And Jesus tells them to leave Mary alone because she had saved that perfume for the day of Jesus’ burial.

c.    Mary realized that Jesus was about to pour out his life for her and so she went and dug out her deepest treasure and poured it out for him realizing that she had been loved beyond measure, she went and gave beyond bounds.

15.  And this is the context in which we are going to serve the Englewood community in just five weeks at our Easter service

a.    where we break open our flasks and pour out our love and wash the feet of Jesus when we serve our community with the love of Jesus Christ.

b.    We will be giving to Him some of what is precious to us – sleep, comfort (no A/C), effort (coming early, leaving late), and just the ability to walk into a church building and worship without any demands made upon us – no distractions.

c.    But it will not be about these things, it will be about love.

d.   We will give Him this extravagant love gift because he has been so extravagant with us.

16.  Maybe God might be prompting you this morning to give an extravagant financial gift.

a.    (We’re still looking of either a building or property.)

b.    Paul reminds us that God loves a cheerful giver.

i)        Now, here at Grace we’re not as particular.  We’ll even take from anyone – even grouches.

ii)      The word for “cheerful” is the word “hilaros /hil·ar·os/” from which we get the word “hilarious.”

iii)    God loves a hilarious giver. 

iv)    God loves people who get lost in the frolic of giving and are just like Mary in giving. 

v)      They don’t know when to say “when.” 

17.  You say, “But what a minute, these are tough times. 

a.    Gas prices are going through the ceiling.

i)        I better be pretty cautious with my philanthropy.”

ii)      Well, my friend, that’s your call. 

b.    But I want to remind you that NO ONE HAS EVER OUT GIVEN GOD

i)        because when we shovel out,

ii)      God shovels in and God’s shovel is bigger than ours.

iii)    And what he shovels in is more important than just money –

¨      a peace that passes understanding,

¨      a meaning in life that is connected to the living God of the universe.

¨      And joy and passion for every day.

18.  As you think of your life, don’t be satisfied with just coming to church on Sunday

a.    or just writing out a check for church

b.    or just signing up to help with the Easter Outreach. 

c.    You need to see each act as breaking open a container of something that means much to you and anointing the feet of Jesus.

19.  ((illus)) It doesn’t have to be complicated.  When I was in my senior year of high school I attended Boone High School in Orlando. I was a young, growing Christian. And I knew that God had arranged the circumstances in my life to put me on that campus that year as a witness for him. I had recently discovered that people had written commentaries on the Bible and that, with Bible in one hand and commentary in the other, I could actually understand the Scriptures and apply them to my own life. But how could I afford these commentaries.  They cost as much as $3-$5. Here’s the scheme I arranged.  My mother gave me 50 cents a day for lunch. I gave up lunch to save for the commentaries and used the lunch hour to witness for Christ.  It works – at least until Mom found out.

Each Saturday night I would go to the Youth for Christ rally in downtown Orlando. On one particular night (and I’m proud of this) God touched my heart in an unusual way through something the speaker had said.  It made me want to give my all for him in a fresh new way. But I couldn’t run out and apply for missions service – I was still in high school.  I couldn’t go out on the street corner and preach a sermon. I couldn’t write a nice big check for the cause.

I was frustrated because I wanted to “pour out” my all to Jesus. I sat there as the offering was beginning to be taken not knowing what to do. And then there was that nudging from God’s Spirit. And this prompting was very clear – “Love me extravagantly and wash my feet by giving everything in your pocket.” That would not be so bad except I had almost  all of the money that I was saving for my next book in my pocket. As the offering plate got closer I tried making bargains with God – 10%, 20%, 50% - there was no peace.

By the time the plate got to me I knew I was to give it all and I did. I did not even count it I remember grabbing everything in my pockets, including the chewing gum, and putting it into the plate and when I did I said to God, “God through this act I am putting myself in the plate because I know how much you love me and I want to love you as much as is possible. I went home that night with a peace and joy that was priceless. Money or books could not have bought it. When we give that which costs us, we are expressing true love to God and we are washing His feet in love.

20.  ((illus)) Eric From the philosopher,  wrote some of the most powerful words about what happens when we give. He says The most widespread assumption about giving is that we are giving up. Something that we are deprived of – sacrificing.  For the productive person, giving has an entirely different meaning.  Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, and my power. The experience of heightened vitality fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing , alive, joyous. Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.

21.  We are never more alive in the presence of God  than at the Easter season.

a.    We again, come face to face with the extravagant love that makes this possible – that frees us from our sin  which separates us from God. 

b.    Someone has said that all sin is embezzlement.

i)        And so in Judas we see the face of sin.

ii)      But it’s also true that all love is extravagance.

iii)    And so in Mary, we see the face of love.

22.  Let me add A POSTSCRIPT. You don’t wash off the smell of nard just like that.

a.    When Jesus left that room, the aroma of that perfume clung to his body.

b.    That means that all through holy week, wherever Jesus went, people could smell the gift of Mary.

c.    When Jesus came down the hill riding on the donkey, people in the crowd could smell the perfume and said, “Wow, that’s nard, pure nard.”

d.   As Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin, the Sanhedrin smelled it.

e.    As Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate could smell it.

f.     When the soldiers stripped off the robe of Jesus, they smelled the sacrifice of Mary.

g.    And today, that sacrifice still lingers like a perfume in the memory of the church.

23.  It is the gift of love gone overboard.

a.    And it always brings a smile to the face of God.

Lord, thank you that you sat still that night and allowed Mary to lavish that pure expensive nard on your feet. Being a servant like you were, it may have been very difficult for you to receive that gift, but thank you for giving her that joyous, crazy exhilaration of giving to you and the joy it brought her.  Lord, as we contemplate  the opportunity of the Easter outreach in the coming weeks, we pray that we may give as an over flow our love for you and the joy we have in our hearts, because of your extravagant love for us. We pray in your name, Amen.

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