I simply want to begin my message today with this statement:
What seems extravagant to one person is completely appropriate to another person.
There are things you don’t mind spending a lot of money on and there are other things you think are ridiculous to spend too much money on. Personally, I’m not a collector of things and I’m not big into possessions. But I don’t mind spending more money on great food, sporting events, or travel opportunities. We’re always judging each other based on what we personally value.
But it isn’t just comparing ourselves to others that shows this extravagance versus appropriate contrast. Think about yourself. Think about the first time you saw someone pay for avocado toast. Now you think it’s totally appropriate to pay $12 for bread and avocado. Or do you remember when you used to only fly coach and what you thought about people in first class? But now flying first class not only seems appropriate, you’ve actually forgotten that there are other options. Here’s the definition I want us to use today for extravagance:
extravagance – lack of restraint in spending money or use of resources
When you see someone fully dedicate themselves to live for Jesus, does that seem extravagant or appropriate to you? When you see someone give a large % of their income to the mission of Jesus, do you find that extravagant or appropriate? When you see people in this room passionately expressing their worship for Jesus, is that extravagant or appropriate? Are these individuals going a little too far with their devotion or is it that we don’t fully understand just how worthy Jesus is? I’m calling this message, “Appropriate Extravagance”.
What we are about to read happened on Wednesday, two days before the crucifixion of Jesus.
Mark 14:1-12 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.” While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “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.” Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
There is so much that stands out to me from this moment. It’s only two days before Jesus will be on a cross. He’s in the home of a guy who used to be a leper and is still known as that. And this story is about a beautiful gesture from a woman. Jewish women did not ordinarily attend banquets with men except in the capacity of servants. The way Jesus is constantly elevating women should be something that inspires us about Him.
Though she isn’t named here, we find out in John’s account of this story that this is Mary – the sister of Martha and Lazarus.
We live in a world that is seduced by appearances. One of the definitions for seduced is “to lead astray usually by persuasion or false promises”. Notice who the people in this story appear to be. The religious leaders have appeared to care most about God. Judas has appeared to be a close follower of Jesus. This woman appears to have wasted her money. And in just two days, Jesus will appear to be weak and defeated.
Things are not always as they appear to be and unfortunately, we are not always who we appear to be.
Regardless of who you appear to be, Jesus knows who you really are. And eventually, if you stay around a group long enough, they’ll know who you really are too.
In the most significant moments of your life, you can only bring who you have become.
As all this is taking place in Bethany, the stakes are enormous. It’s not just another day. We all find ourselves in certain moments that matter way more than others. And I can’t stress this enough: You can only bring who you actually are into every moment.
The day you get married, that’s a huge moment. But the man or woman you bring into this marriage can only be the person you have become. The day you get assigned a significant role in your company. That’s big, but again, you only bring who you are.
What happens here in our text isn’t just random or some one-time occurrence for the characters mentioned. They all simply brought who they were. This is a massive insight I hope makes an impression on all of us. Let’s look at each of them.
The Religious Leaders – They’ve been looking for ways to kill Jesus. After Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath:
Mark 3:6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Mark tells us that it was “some of those present” who had a problem with this woman’s extravagance. But John tells us something different. Look at this:
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.
It was Judas. He appeared to be outraged by this act. He appeared to care about the poor. But in reality, he was a thief. He had a habit of stealing money. Now if you’re like me, you’re thinking, “Why in the world did Jesus let Judas be the treasurer?”
Just like the religious leaders didn’t make a one-time mistake here, Judas doesn’t have a greedy moment. Judas, through his decisions and habits, has become a greedy person.
Matthew 26:14-16 Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
30 pieces of silver. We read in Exodus 21:32 that this was the price for a slave. One commentator makes this statement:
Judas sold his Master for the price of a slave.
And then there’s Mary. What caused her to worship Jesus in such an extravagant way? As you might imagine, this wasn’t the first time for her. When Jesus comes to the home of Mary and her sister Martha, Martha is distracted with all of the preparations…but not Mary.
Luke 10:39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
When Lazarus, her brother, had died:
John 11:32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
She’s had a habit of giving her attention, love, and worship to Jesus. She has no problem breaking this alabaster jar that contains perfume that’s worth more than a year’s wages. But everyone present thought it was excessive.
We are all after something most. And whatever we are after most, we covet it.
covet – yearn to possess or have
The religious leaders most want power and control.
Judas most wants money.
This woman wants Jesus more than anything else.
What you value most determines what you see as extravagant or appropriate.
Serving whole-heartedly: extravagant or appropriate?
Giving generously: extravagant or appropriate?
Worshipping in an expressive way: You’re seeing this here at Epic more and more. Is it over the top or is it a rightful expression because of how worthy God is?
Judas gives up Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
Mary gives up more than a year’s wages to have Jesus.
How will Jesus respond to Mary’s perceived extravagance? We know Jesus loves and cares for the poor, so you might expect Him to say, “That’s right, Mary. You should have given this to the poor.” But He doesn’t say that. Instead, He says, “Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing to me. Her story will continue to be told.” Jesus is saying, “What she is doing for me is not extravagant or excessive; it’s actually appropriate.”
What the world calls a waste, Jesus calls beautiful.
On the cross, Jesus willingly gives up his life. To the world this looks like a complete waste. To me, a sinner in desperate need of redemption…it looks like the most beautiful thing I can possibly imagine.
Sometimes, when I see the price Jesus paid for us, I think, “It’s too much. I’m so messed up. He’s perfect. It’s just too extravagant.” But Jesus says to me, “Ben, I hear you. But you need to know that because of my heart for you, this price seems totally appropriate to me.”
Give your life to Jesus.
There’s an important statement from Jesus as he describes Mary’s actions. It’s at the beginning of verse 8. “She did what she could.”
Will you? What do you have? What will you give? How will you worship? Who will you serve? Who can you invite to Easter? Just do what you can. Let’s live in a way that Jesus says, “She did what she could. He did what he could."