Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Determining Extravagance

As we continue on the journey through Holy Week we now find Jesus in the little village of Bethany. This village is located just outside of Jerusalem and is home to Lazarus and his sisters. Jesus has joined with Simon the Leper for dinner. To read the full account according to Mark go to Mark 14:1-9.

Jesus is eating dinner at the house of a person that he should not be at, or at least according to all the religious leaders and human created religious traditions. The fact that Simon's identity is that of the Leper gives a clue that he has a past that is less than acceptable to the religious establishment. To further complicate the issue a woman approaches Jesus. In the other Gospel accounts the woman is a woman of ill repute. So Jesus is in a house he shouldn't be in and a woman he should not have contact with him pour perfume all over him. This is too much for those gathered, who by the way were the disciples and some of the religious leaders.

The claim levied against the woman in Jesus direction is that she has wasted that which is very expensive. Interestingly the issue is not the company Jesus is keeping, rather it is the extravagant gift lavished upon Jesus. Right away the practical voices erupt to point out all the practical things that could have been done with the value of the perfume rather than dump it on Jesus' head. No attention is paid to the sacrifice this woman has made. There is no recognition of this woman more than likely putting her livelihood at risk, certainly her security in terms of earthly things was being poured out on Jesus. Nope, the focus is the waste and so they rebuke the woman, not just rebuke her but do so harshly.

At this point Jesus enters the conversation with what are some of the most misused and confusing words he shares. "The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime you want. You will not always have me." Jesus is calling the bluff of the complainers. The concern for the poor was not new and has not seemed to go away, yet all of a sudden these people, who could do something about the poor, are concerned about this act of extravagance offered by this woman. The people who were suppose to best understand the extravagance of God seem to miss it. It is save to assume those complaining about the actions would not have sold the perfume for giving to the poor, rather they would have horded up the value as a sign of their own extravagance. While those gathered try to make this about finances and serving others, reality is the issue at hand is the state of our hearts and determining what is extravagant.

What is the most extravagant thing you have ever done for another person? Now the harder question, what was the motivation behind that offering? Offering extravagance is not often the issue, rather it is right motivation and right offering. The woman in the passage is not trying to gain anything, her motivation is to shower, literally, Jesus with the extravagance of her heart. In this simple act she is offering to Jesus her life, her security, and her future. Any of the material things of the world Jesus had at his disposal. If he needed to be anointed with perfume before burial, he could have cared for that. The issue was the extravagant love this woman had for Jesus, a level of love which put everything on the line.

It seems to me the most extravagant thing we can offer to another person is our very life. When we offer or being to another person, not so we might gain, simply because of love, we are showing the greatest form of extravagance. There are many gifts we can purchase and give to other people. Stores are filled with items for us to purchase and offer to someone as a sign of our care, affection and love, still a store cannot sell us the most extravagant thing.

Jesus helps us determine extravagance, that he would lay down his life for us. There was nothing for him to gain. There was not secret motivation. Simply a love beyond comprehension. Like the love the woman at Simon the Leper's house, the extravagance has nothing to do with the perfume, and every thing to do with offer of a life. Take time today to bask in the extravagance of Christ in our lives. Also take time to lavish that extravagance on other people.

To prepare your heart, I offer this song as a way to focus on who God is and what extravagance is:

1 comment:

Beth Bouwens said...

Aaron, I preached on God's extravagant love this last Sunday using the extreme example of this woman. Also included "Your Love is Extravagant by Casting Crown. God is extravagant! Thanks for sharing this.