Mike Gerhardt, 4-14-19, Extravagant Worship. John 12:1-11. Palm Sunday is when the crowds turned out to welcome Jesus by waving palm branches. The palms, easily attain, showed superficial worship for in a few days the crowd would be calling out crucify Him. John puts Mary’s sacrificial worship in stark contrast to the superficial. It reminded me of Babette’s Feast Karen Blixen: two spinster sisters lead a small church of eleven self-righteous people filled with pride and suspicion. One-night Babette arrives, drenched and exhausted, a refugee from France, with a letter that says she can cook. 14 years she lives with the sisters to clean and cook. Then a lottery ticket, sent by a friend, has won Babette 10,000 francs. The two sisters grieve her leaving. Babette prepares a meal to honor them. The eleven members and guests come to the feast. Babette makes a gourmet dinner of turtle soup, caviar, quail, pastries, and champagne. She was once a great chef in Paris. The sisters also discover that she has spent her 10,000 francs on the feast. It would seem the meal was wasted on this group of pious sour-faces. Yet the gourmet dinner transforms them. The grace of the turtle soup and caviar created a space in which old feuds were settled, friendships were rekindled, and genuine fellowship was experienced. Babette’s extravagant gift exemplified genuine love and others followed. Jesus received Mary’s extravagant gift, an example of genuine sacrificial worship. To love Jesus with our whole heart is to be like Mary.
Extravagant worship doesn’t count the cost. Judas reported the perfume was worth a year’s wages. It was a commodity used to store their wealth in the absence of stock markets. This jar was Mary’s life savings. Maybe this was gratitude to Jesus who had brought her brother Lazarus back from the dead. In less than a week Jesus would pour his life out on a cross to pay for all sin. How have you shown extravagant love for someone? The most expensive gift officially is an engagement ring. After you're married the gifts are different: hand mixer, set of pans, a cheese slicer and every bride's valentine dream gift a vacuum cleaner. You’ve seen the ads for diamonds where the model is given a gold necklace that is studded with huge diamonds, tell her you would marry her all over again. Diamonds are forever, as well as the payments. If you were to bring home a $7000 diamond necklace, not only would that surprise your wife but may cause heart failure. What were you thinking? How are we paying for this? I would never do that to my wife. What about for Jesus? Justin spoke on this last week. Mary challenges us. Her story is also meant to inspire us, to show the joy of giving our most precious gift in worship to Jesus.
Extravagant worship makes an impression. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Mary created a big stink. Good sermon title. You can’t hide odors once they are let out. Not what you're thinking: think baking bread in a house. Mary’s perfume was pure Nard, not diluted in oil like normal. Everyone in the house knew it; everyone in the vicinity knew it. When worship of the Lord is extravagant those around will know it. Sacrificial worship affects those who haven’t received Jesus as Savior. They sense His presence. Jesus' Spirit is like perfume on us and they can sense it. When we take our worship outside this place, our lives carry that fragrance where ever we go. We spread the sweet aroma of Jesus. When you love someone, who is going through a difficulty, you will be a blessed aroma to them. Now when we don’t give ourselves completely to the Lord, we smell differently. The world can notice it. When we are petty or bicker, complain or criticize, judgmental or uncaring, we are a stench to others. The aroma is in living an unselfish life sold out to Him. 2 Cor. 2:14-16 Paul wrote: For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. Even if when we are faithfully spreading the aroma of Christ, there will be those who don’t like the smell. Mary found that out.
Extravagant worship often ignores Criticism. This was not an attempt of Mary to be ostentatious. It was a sacrificial worship. Nard was perfume imported from the Himalayas. Judas noted that $20,000 was just wasted. The alabaster jar was also expensive. If I were to pour out $20,000 of perfume right here as a love offering to Jesus, there would be some who would be critical of me. Maybe all! Elbert Hubbard: To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. There's not the least thing that can be done for Jesus, but people will talk and find fault. When you do something extravagant for the Lord people will criticize. No good deed goes unpunished or goes uncriticized. Judas set that tone. If you’re going to criticize, make it sound spiritual. If you want to criticize someone’s worship, read this story again. Judas’ complaint sounded reasonable. Giving that money to meet the needs of the poor may honor the Lord. But Jesus saw her genuine expression of extravagant love. I think Mary also knew that she was in trouble for letting her hair down in front of a roomful of men. This was another expression of the intimacy and love she felt for the Lord. When you give unselfishly to the Lord, there will be criticism but give anyway.
Extravagant worship pleases the Lord. Leave her alone, Jesus replied. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. Mary is praised. The Lord is blessed when we seek pleasure not in things but in Him. It struck me how much I am like Judas, tight-fisted and stingy. Not only about treasure but time and talents. We need to ask, when have I been extravagant in my devotion to Jesus? Jesus showed us extravagant love. Mary anointed Jesus; he rode into Jerusalem & gave himself up to die for us. The perfume has long since evaporated but the memory of Mary's worship will survive forever. Reaction to Mary. Judas: what a waste. Jesus: what a blessing. Jews: what a disaster. Phillip Keller: The delicious fragrance ran down over his shining hair. It enfolded His body with its delightful aroma. Even his tunic and flowing undergarment were drenched with its enduring pungency. Wherever he moved during the ensuing days, the perfume would go with Him. Into the Passover; into the Garden of Gethsemane; into Herod’s hall; into Pilate’s patio; even into the cruel hands of those who cast lots for his clothing. With each crack of the whip, Mary’s gift was remembered. With each nail driven in, the aroma of her love was there. To worship Him regardless of criticism, from a heart of sacrifice. Like Mary’s alabaster jar, may we be found broken before Him in worship!