Sunday, October 14, 2012
Pastor David Lewellyn
Follow the Leader!
Part 13–Extravagant Love

 

Opening:

Hello, and welcome to Life Center! My name is David Lewellyn and I am the Student Ministries pastor here. Pastor Joe is in Kenya these next couple of weeks where he will be serving and teaching Kenyan pastors and church leaders. Please, continue to keep him, and the team from Life Center whom he is with, in your prayers. It is really a cool thing that we have a church and a pastor that care not only for our local church, but the church, and those in need, globally. Way to go Life Center!

ILL: This past week I received a gift. It wasn’t my birthday, or Christmas, or any other special occasion. It was a “just-because” gift. Don’t you love “just-because” gifts? This particular gift was a pair of socks. Now you may be thinking, “That’s a terrible gift.” and, in a normal situation, you would be right. And, while we’re on the subject, I might as well mention, on behalf of all your children, let me plead with you, please, no more socks for Christmas. Unless they are implicitly requested, and you and Santa both are in agreement that it will be a good gift, no more socks on Christmas. That’s the rule for an ordinary situation, but as I alluded, my situation was not ordinary.

A while back I had been talking with the people who gave me the gift and had mentioned that I liked a certain type of socks. They remembered, months later, that I liked these socks and wanted me to have a pair. So they bought them. I think maybe next time I’ll mention what kind of car I like. With the gift, they included a nice note thanking me for my influence in their lives. It was very meaningful and appreciated. Now, it was not meaningful because it was socks. It was meaningful because they thought of me. They remembered what I liked. They took time to appreciate me. It was a thoughtful gift. They did a beautiful thing for me. And it looked like socks.

In the scripture we are reading today, we learn about woman of whom Jesus says, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” We are going to learn what she did and how we can make the things we do for Jesus beautiful. We are going to learn about extravagant love. Let’s begin by praying.

Prayer:

 

Jesus, if anyone is deserving of extravagant love, it’s you. As we take time today to consider the love you have for us, let us respond with lives that are beautiful and extravagant for you. Teach us as we study the Bible today, and help us to know you more. In Jesus name, amen.

Introduction:

 

Today, we are going to be talking about extravagant love for God, so i’ve asked to move worship to the end. I think it’s a fitting response to the passage we are going to be reading today. So we are going get started today with the message.

As we begin, I’m going to ask the ushers to come and receive today’s offering. Thank you for your generosity as you give.

 

Today, we are continuing our study in the book of Mark. We have five weeks to go before we finish this great account of the Gospel, and the story is getting tense. We are in the last week of Jesus’ life, and Jesus has preached, healed, done miracles, predicted his own death, cleansed the temple of the money changers, been involved in a series of conflicts with the religious leaders, and as we learned last week, has taught that the temple and the surrounding structures will be destroyed. Jesus’ opponents are furious and are looking to kill him. That is where we will pick up today.

 

As we study today’s scripture, we will be using the SOAP method. This is the method we have been using throughout this series and it’s a method many of us use in our daily time with Jesus through PBJ or prayer, Bible, and journal.

Scripture: Read the Bible.
Observation: What does it mean?
Application: What does it mean to me?
Prayer: Pray it back to God.

 

I’m going to read through today’s story in Mark 14 and then make some observations about it. After we look at what it says, we are going to end with the application–what we should do with what we learn today.

 

Here’s the big idea:

The Big Idea: Extravagant love is the proper response to extravagant love.

 

Scripture:

 

Mark 14:1-11

Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2 “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as 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.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Observation:

 

Mark 14:1-2

1 Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2 “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

Let’s take a minute to look at the context Mark gives for where and when this story takes place.

 

Passover is a celebration in remembrance of God delivering the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. After a series of plagues on Egypt aimed at encouraging Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from their slavery, God commanded his people to kill a lamb for a meal, and mark the sides and the top of their door frames with the blood of the slain lamb. By doing this, the firstborn children in their home were spared, while the firstborn of the Egyptians and those without the blood covering their home would die. God passed over those homes that were covered by the blood. Hence the festival was named Passover.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover were held right next to each other, and most often celebrated as one big seven-day festival.

Every Jewish man within fifteen miles of Jerusalem was required to attend Passover in Jerusalem. Many others, from much further, would also go out of their way to attend. Every Jew would aspire to participate, at least once in their lifetime, in a Passover meal in Jerusalem. All that to say, Jerusalem, at this point, is a busy and crowded place with people from all over–including Galilee.

Jesus was from Galilee. There would be many people from Galilee in Jerusalem during Passover. The people from Galilee were known as the hot-blooded, rowdy type and would most likely not take kindly to anyone trying to arrest another Galilean, especially one some thought to be the Messiah.

The people from Galilee, as well as many other Jewish people, had great expectation regarding Jesus. Since Passover remembered the time when God delivered the nation from oppression, Passover was a time of patriotic feelings and national pride as well as an anticipation that God would once again free them, this time from the rule of the Rome. Because of this tension, extra Roman guards were brought in and placed in strategic areas around Jerusalem to try to avoid any rebellions.

The chief priests and teachers of the law were looking for a way to arrest and kill Jesus, but they wanted to be clever in how they did it because they didn’t want those who saw Jesus as the messiah to riot. They knew the political tension and didn’t want any rebellion to be traced back and blamed on them.

Throughout Mark we have seen that the religious rulers have continually wanted Jesus dead, and now they are looking for a way and the perfect time to do it. Here they are planning to kill the innocent son of God with no regard for God himself, while they are putting a great deal of thought into how to politically protect themselves from those who may be upset at the arrest of Jesus. They did not fear God, but man. Their priorities were backward.

It’s in this tense climate of political unrest and men seeking to kill him, that we find Jesus. Continuing at verse 3.

Mark 14:3

 

3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as 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.

Sandwiched between the chief priests and teachers of the law planning to kill Jesus and Judas Iscariot betraying him and looking to hand him over to be killed, where do we find Jesus? A Party!

 

Within hours, Jesus is going to be leaving Bethany to go to Jerusalem where he will celebrate Passover for the last time. As others celebrate and remember the lamb that was slain to free their nation from the slavery of the Egyptians, Jesus was going to become the lamb and be slain for the freedom and redemption of all mankind. Yet here we see him, reclining at the table.

Ladies, I would like to point out that this is Biblical. We’re talking about Jesus here, eating as he is reclined. It is a Biblical defense for eating in a recliner so one may fall asleep easier after eating ones fill. The Bible isn’t clear, but there might have been a football game on, too.

Jesus is at a party, eating with his friends. And what a party this was! In John’s gospel there is a parallel version of this story and we are told a portion of the guest list. Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead was there. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus were present, the disciples were there, and it is hosted at the house of someone named Simon the Leper. Lepers were not allowed to be around people who are well, so it is not far fetched to imagine that this is a former leper whom Jesus has healed. This would be a fascinating group of people to share a meal with. This would also be an intimidating group to share a meal with. These are some of the people who know Jesus best.

Can you imagine trying to participate in dinner time conversation by telling your most entertaining and interesting story only to have Lazarus look at you and say, “I used to be dead.” You’re not topping that! This was probably a bummer to Peter whose’ “I walked on water” story probably usually killed at parties.

This must have been quite the party, but something happened that overshadowed all the interesting things that must have been going on. It was something they would never forget.

A woman, whom John identifies in his Gospel as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, enters the room holding an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. She makes her way directly to Jesus and in a remarkable act of love, breaks the jar and pours the perfume over his head. The aroma of the expensive perfume is now permeating the room. I imagine the conversation stopped as the scent reached the nostrils of the dinner guests and they looked upon the scene stunned.

It would not have been difficult for the guests to notice that the perfume was expensive and the gesture of her pouring the entire contents of the jar on Jesus was extravagant.

The presumed silence was broken quickly as we read in verse 4.

Mark 14:4-5

 

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

Imagine this woman who has just displayed such focused adoration and devotion to Jesus, with little or no thought to what those around her would think, now being quickly brought to reality by hearing Jesus’ disciples, whom she probably admired, criticize her harshly.

 

They probably thought they were impressing Jesus with their spiritual sounding language about how they could use the valuable gift for a better, more noble use. I can imagine them getting competitive with each other. Trying to one up each other as they set straight the women holding the broken jar. Trying to impress Jesus.

John’s gospel tells us that this criticism began with Judas, the future betrayer of Jesus. And it was Judas who would have been capable of calculating the value of this perfume quickly being that he was in charge of the groups finances–more than a year’s wage.

ILL: The current median income in Spokane is somewhere between thirty and thirty-five thousand dollars a year. If this story would have happened today in Spokane, Washington, in this room, we would be looking at a $35,000 dollar puddle of perfume quickly evaporating into the air. Quite expensive.

Mary’s attackers make two accusations regarding her extravagant act. First, that it was a waste, second, that it could have been put to better use. They rebuked her harshly.

When Mark tells us, “they rebuked her harshly” the english translation is actually not strong enough. The word Mark uses (embrimaomai) is a word used for horses snorting. They were snorting out their anger as they rebuked her.

John tells us that even though Judas was saying he was upset because the money could have gone to the poor, he was actually distressed because he was in charge of the finances and liked to skim money off the top. Because the perfume wasn’t sold, it was not a possibility for Judas to personally profit from the valuable jar.  

As they are rebuking her, Jesus intercedes beginning in verse 6.

Mark 14:6-9

 

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Mary’s accusers might have thought that Jesus was on their side, but they were quickly corrected. Jesus now stood between Mary and her attackers and Jesus defends her.

 

Jesus addresses each of the two accusations.

First, the woman’s accusers saw her act as wasteful, but Jesus saw it as beautiful.

It is true that the woman’s act was impractical and nonproductive, but to Jesus this made it all the more beautiful. What makes something beautiful and acceptable to Jesus? We are told in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Here we see that it is not what we do, but the love behind it that makes our lives beautiful

 

ILL: I hate dandelions. They are awful. There is nothing dandy about them. However, My daughter, who is two years old, does not yet know to hate dandelions. She thinks they are flowers.

Sometimes my daughter will find a dandelion and pick it, then she will find me and say, “flower daddy, daddy’s flower.” Which means she wants to give me the dandelion. She knows that giving someone flowers is a way to let them know you love them. Never once have I thrown a dandelion she’s given to the ground and ran away crying, feeling unloved because she gave me a weed instead of a real flower. I am delighted that she loves me.

It was never the weed that mattered it was the love in which it was given. She was motivated my love. Motive matters a great deal!

It’s the same way with Jesus. When our motive is love and the things we do are driven by love, they becomes a treasure to God. And when it’s not, when love is absent it really doesn’t matter what we do; It is without meaning. The motive matter a great deal to God.

The woman gave the perfume out of a heart full of love for the man who would soon give his life for her. Her motive was love. This was beautiful to Jesus.

Second, The woman’s accusers saw her act as inconsiderate of the poor, but Jesus saw it as full devotion.

Jesus defends the woman by saying, “7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could.”

Jesus tells the accusers that the woman put Jesus before everything else, including the poor and it was a good thing. So was Jesus against helping the poor and those in need? Absolutely not! It’s quite the opposite.

The Bible tell us in James 1:27

James 1:27

 

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Here we read, if we don’t take care of those who are in need, we don’t truly understand the heart of Jesus. His heart is to serve and love those who need it the most!

 

Jesus himself tells us what will be said on the day of Judgement in Matthew 25 and it is directly related to how we treated the poor and oppressed.

Matthew 25:34-40

 

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Jesus so identifies with the poor and afflicted that he says, what you do for them, you do for me. Scripture tells us that Jesus himself was poor and had nowhere to lay his head. Within days of this incident with perfume, Jesus will have absolutely nothing. Hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, naked, afflicted, these are not just words to describe the poor, they are words to describe our savior.

 

The great irony is that as the woman poured this perfume out on Jesus head, she was doing it for the poor. She was doing it for Jesus. It’s impossible to be a disciple of Christ without serving.

Jesus says about the woman, “She did what she could do.” This was total devotion. She gave all. An incredibly expensive gift. She gave the best she had and she did it with incredible love! In just moments $30-35,000 was gone and evaporated in the air all for Jesus.

If you want to do something beautiful for Jesus, you too have to give your best. I don’t just mean the best of your talents, or time, or your most prized possessions, it’s much bigger than that, I’m talking about your heart. All of who you are.

Can the same be said of you that was said of the woman? Can you put your name in that verse? Can Jesus say to me, “David did what he could.”? Is my love for Jesus extravagant? Is your love for Jesus extravagant?

Jesus tells us that the woman’s act was done to prepare him for burial. She somehow perceived that Jesus was going to die for her. Her act of extravagant love was a response to the extravagant love of her savior.

So too, our love, when in response to the love of Jesus, can never be too extravagant, or too costly, or too devoted. His love is too complete to be worthy of anything less than our absolute best.

Jesus sees the motive of the woman and he blesses her because of it. “Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Here we are fulfilling this prophecy. We tell of the extravagant love of this woman! The woman who did something beautiful for him. The woman who now inspires us to do something beautiful for him.

This story began with the chief priests and the teachers of the law looking for a sly way to arrest and kill Jesus, and now it ends with a close disciple of Jesus giving them their wish. Let’s continue onto verses ten and eleven.

Mark 14:10-11

 

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Well, people don’t really name their kids Judas anymore, do they? Just as the woman was memorialized and now has a legacy for her devotion and extravagant love toward Jesus, Judas, too, has a legacy. Judas’ legacy is a legacy of dishonor and betrayal.

 

It is good to remember that sandwiched between a story of those trying to kill Jesus and a close friend of Jesus choosing to betray him, we read a story of extravagant love and devotion, serving as a reminder that no matter the circumstance, we can do something beautiful for Jesus.

Okay, let’s move on to the application.

Application:

 

I think, on the surface, the application is pretty simple: be like the woman who had extravagant love for Jesus. But how do we do that? As we talked about earlier, it wasn’t just about what the woman did for Jesus, it was about her motive. It was her love for Jesus that drove her. So how do we act like the woman did? How do we have her same motives.

If we want to act as Mary acted, we need to see what Mary saw. Our love is a response to a greater love. Jesus tells us that Mary understood that He was going to die for her. He was giving his life for hers. This selfless love is what moved Mary to act with reckless devotion and extravagant love. Extravagant love is the proper response to extravagant love. Mary knew that Jesus loved her, extravagantly.

John 3:16-17

 

16 “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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

The woman poured our her expensive perfume on Jesus. Jesus poured our his life for the woman. Jesus stood between the woman and her accusers. Jesus stood between her and death. Jesus loved extravagantly. He spared no expense! He gave his all. There is nothing too extravagant for us to give him in return. With our whole hearts, out of the motivation of love and gratitude, our response needs to be to give him everything!

 

This story shows us that Jesus treasures acts done to him out of the motivation of love. I wonder if up in heaven somewhere sits a small broken alabaster jar once extravagantly given to him by a grateful woman, or some dandelions given to a mother from the loving heart of her child, or a cup of cool water that was once given to the poor and thirsty, or a pair of socks thoughtfully given to a friend.

These are the things Jesus finds beautiful. Not because of the things they are, but because of the love with which they were given. A love in response to the greatest love.

So here is the question: Does he have anything of yours?

What are you giving to Jesus out of response to his giving you everything? Are you giving your everything. Are you living beautifully for Jesus. Are you living a life of extravagant love?

As we now go into a time of singing, I want to encourage you to take some time to consider the love God has for you. Consider the fact that he loves you so much that he poured out his own life for you. And as you consider this, let it motivate you to worship extravagantly. Not holding anything back. Give him your all as we sing together of the goodness of God. Let’s make it a beautiful sound to him, because it is motivated by our love and gratitude to him.

Prayer:

 

Thank you for pouring out your life for us. Thank you that you spared no expense in your extravagant love for us. Guide us now as we live and love extravagantly in response. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Closing:

 

The Big Idea: Extravagant love is the proper response to extravagant love.

Love extravagantly this week in response to the God who loves you, extravagantly!

 

See you next week.