Extravagant for the Lord
Extravagant for the Lord's Sake (Mark 14:3-9)
We do not normally relate the word extravagant and the Lord Jesus Christ. He lived a simple life with the bare essentials. Yet at the appropriate moment He commended an extravagant gift on His behalf. This account is recorded by Matthew, Mark, and John. This extravagant gift so impressed the Lord Jesus that He promised the giver, Mary of Bethany, universal and unending commemoration.
There are times when extravagance is appropriate for our care of Christ's body on earth, the church. Most of the time our tithes and offerings are appropriate gifts. But at critical times we should give out of spontaneous love in a way that does not calculate.
Sometimes the Cause of Christ Calls for Extravagance
There are occasions when we should meet to show gratitude to the Lord Jesus. Such an occasion was held in the home of Simon the Leper. It was a banquet of thanksgiving for Jesus' healing of Simon's leprosy. The meal probably honored Jesus for the resurrection of Lazarus as well. There were plenty of people to show Jesus their gratitude. At least fifteen men plus Mary and Martha gathered for the evening. Yet one present showed a lavish expression of gratitude.
Such gratitude offers to Jesus something that is of ultimate value. Mary offered to Jesus a Roman pound of pure nard. This aromatic perfume comes from the dried root of a Himalayan plant. It represents something rare that was treasured for years, held back for just the right occasion. Is it not appropriate that today we give to Jesus something we treasure and have retained for one of life's rare occasions?
Such an extravagant gift may be unrepeatable. An alabaster jar of translucent stone held the perfume. The lid of such a jar was crushed or broken only once, and everything within had to be used at that time, and never again. At this time in our Christian life and Travis Avenue's history many of us need to open up treasured things and give them in a one-time-only act of lavish generosity.
Such extravagant giving may be risky. In Jewish culture of Jesus' day a woman seldom did what Mary dared to do. She entered a room of men, anointed Jesus' head and feet (John), and put on a public display of her loving gratitude. The disciples did not understand and criticized her. Not everyone in our family, friends, or observers will understand a lavish thing for Jesus, but He does.
Such extravagant giving relies more on devotion than calculation. Mary of Bethany did not calculate. Her heart moved her to a self-forgetful act of unrepeatable generosity. The beauty of her act is the spontaneity of it. Is there ever a time when your love for the Lord Jesus moved beyond careful calculation and became an instant of such devotion?
Such Extravagance Can Create Misunderstanding
Some respond with indignation in the face of such extravagance. Even the disciples by their looks and remarks muttered their disapproval. They were simple people and the very act did not square with what they knew of Jesus Himself. Yet there was a deeper cause. Their indignation grew out of the roots of their own littleness and covetousness. How do you react to the generous acts of others on behalf of Christ's church? Is it with envy, indifference, hostility, or the desire to emulate what they have done?
The root of such indignation is an attitude of calculation. The nard perfume could have been sold for the equivalent of a year's wages. It could have fed 300 people for a day or one person for 300 days. They considered its use on Jesus a waste. It is true that we always have to calculate, to plan, to be rational. But there are also times when our giving needs to move beyond calculation to expression of gratitude that cannot be counted.
The Lord Jesus Commends Such Extravagance
The Lord Jesus accepted this act as what was due to Him. In this is an explicit claim to His own divinity. Jesus speaks in defense of all those who are appropriately extravagant for Him.
Jesus commends the beauty of extravagance for His sake. "She has done a beautiful thing to me" (v. 6). He calls the act a thing of self-evident moral beauty which does not need defense, no less criticism. Rather than depreciate what she did, the others should have seen the beauty in it. When we spontaneously give without calculation there is a beauty in it that speaks for itself.
Jesus acknowledges the timeliness in extravagant giving. The opportunity for ministry to His body would be impossible in a few days. Other opportunities for generosity would always be present. For us it is different. We are the ones who are running out of time. Consider how you will reflect on your giving in the last days of your life. Your church stands at a critical and historical moment in need of your support. This time will not return again.
Jesus unfolds the implication of extravagant giving. She did more than she knew. She had anointed His body for burial. She did not know this. Whenever we give extravagantly for the cause of Christ we do not foresee all the consequences. The provision of facilities for a great biblical and evangelistic church has consequences beyond what anyone can foresee. Thousands will benefit in the untold years ahead because some of us were extravagant to make provision today.