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Tuesday
May142019

The Expensive Gift

Matthew 26:6-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019.

Today is Mother’s Day and we want to honor each and every mom that works hard every day to take care of her family.  Today’s story is not necessarily about a mother, but it is about a woman who gives an expensive gift of love to Jesus.  I would say that a woman who gives expensive gifts of love to those around them is a very fine definition of what it means to be a mom. 

As we look at this story, I pray that all moms will find encouragement for their life of sacrifice, and I pray that the rest of us can also hear the call of the Holy Spirit showing us how to love in every situation.

She gives what she feels led to give

In this passage, the woman is unnamed, but we are told that it occurs at Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper during the week before Christ’s crucifixion.  This would make it highly likely that this passage is a parallel account of John 12 where a similar account takes place.  There we are told that this is Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus (the one who Jesus raised from the dead).  Simon the Leper is most likely someone who was healed by Jesus, otherwise he wouldn’t be receiving dinner guests.  Regardless, it isn’t important if we know the woman’s name for today’s purpose.  However, I will refer to the John 12 account from time to time.

Jesus seems to be at a meal that is interrupted by this woman who pours a small flask of expensive oil upon his head.  This is something that would not be very welcome in our society, but it would have been considered an honoring thing in this society.  The oil would smell nice, which would honor the person with both its costly value and its odor.  Also, anointing had the added social connection to the beginning of a priest’s service or the beginning of a king’s reign.  Israel would anoint their priests and kings as they launched their term of service.

However, we must recognize that the motivation behind the woman’s action is not made clear in the story.  One thing is certain; it is the Holy Spirit that is leading her to do this.  She loves the Lord and sought a way to show it.  Often our love for another person causes us to give things that cost us dearly.  In fact, the most costly thing that mother’s give is themselves.  What is it that stirs a woman to give herself to children, a spouse, and family?  I believe that it is the Spirit of God that stirs these things up in our hearts.

Others don’t understand her gift of love

We are told that the disciples are shocked that this expensive gift is being “wasted” in this way.  John 12 tells us that Judas the Betrayer was the one who led this rebuke, but clearly at least some of the other disciples joined in with him and voiced their disapproval.  The oil could have been sold and the money used for the poor.  Now, several things stick out with this objection.  It sounds very pious and also like good financial advice.  However, it doesn’t have the heart of the woman whose love is being spurred by the Holy Spirit.  In John 12 we are told that Judas was skimming money out of the treasury bag, which he carried.  Clearly his motivations are evil, but he masks the true intentions by mentioning the poor.  As for the other disciples, their motivations are not evil like those of Judas.  However, they are caught up in a wrong spirit that criticizes the woman’s gift.

People can often object to how we spend our time, our energy, and our money.  Those things that we do that are motivated by our flesh and selfishness are often deserving of such rebukes.  However, love often gives “wastefully.”  How much was Jesus worth?  In John 12 we are told that the oil was valued at 300 denarii.  This term is usually defined as 1 day’s wage for a common laborer.  That is ten months of wages!  In our terms today we would be talking about $20,000 or more.  That is a lot of money that might even make the most giving of us think twice.  Christ is not physically here for us to show our love like Mary was able to do.  How do we love Christ?  We do so by loving his followers as he loved us, selflessly and sacrificially.  We do so by obeying his command to share the Gospel with the world around us.  Now, there is no law of God that limits the actions of our love.  Yet, people will often criticize you when you love extravagantly.  They will tell you that you are forgiving too many times etc. and criticize your response.  However, don’t pay the critics any mind.  Just ask yourself this.  How is God leading me to love this person in this situation?  Then stick to what you believe He is saying.

Christ receives and defends her gift

It doesn’t really matter what others say about how you have loved those who are in your life.  It only matters what Jesus thinks about our love.  Christ not only receives her gift as a gift of love, but he also defends her before the other disciples.  Countering their “It should have been given to the poor” argument, Jesus states that the poor will always be there to help, but the opportunity to do this was quickly slipping away.  Jesus would be crucified within the week.

It is amazing that people will end up sacrificing the specific person or people that God has put in their life for the sake of the unnamed masses of humanity.  There is nothing wrong with loving humanity and giving to causes that touch them with compassion.  However, if I don’t actively love the specific people in my life then I am a hypocrite.  Another way to think of it is that, we can neglect our love of the human in front of us for the sake of our love of humanity.  It is almost impossible to love humanity in a concrete way, but it is possible to love the individuals in your life today.

God is not worried about waste in the same way that we are.  Sure, we should not waste our money and live on frivolous and selfish things, however, neither should we let others who have a vested interest in our time, devotion, and money, tell us how to use it.  Rather, let us ask the Lord each day how to give love to the people in our life, as well as what organizations to support that are reaching people who are not in my life.  Just know that God has your back.  He simply wants you to grow in your ability to love, to become more like Him.

Her gift of love is greater than she knew

Probably no mother has completely understood the full impact of their sacrificial love.  We should do our best to help them through countless thankful actions, but even we do not completely understand.  Yet, God does.  Jesus explains in our passage that she is anointing him for his coming burial.  We know from the Gospels that none of the disciples really accepted the idea or understood that Christ really would be rejected and executed.   There is no reason to believe that Mary understood any more than they.  Her significant sacrifice was doing something beyond what she intended.

It is important for us to quit analyzing our actions of love after the fact in such a way that we are left feeling worthless.  We may even judge them as worthless or wasted ourselves.  For every child who has squandered the love of a great mom, is a mother’s heart that wrestles with self condemnation and sometimes the condemnation of people around them.  Yet, we are in the worst position to judge the value of our love.  Only God knows the true value of the blood, sweat, and tears that you have poured out in love for your family.  And if it is done in devotion to Christ, it is infinitely more valuable.  Incalculable.  Priceless!   Don’t let the spirit of this world cloud up or infect your heart with fear and doubt.  Rather, keep asking the Holy Spirit for guidance and trust that He will lead you until you hear Jesus say the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

By the way, the actions of Mary’s love left the room smelling of a pleasant odor.  The attitude of the disciples, however, was stinking it up.  Is it a pleasing odor before the Lord?

The Lord honors her gift of love

Let me close by recognizing that Jesus said this woman would have the honor of being so connected to the Gospel that 2,000 years later her story would not only endure, but also be proclaimed alongside of the Gospel.  What an honor!  However, it is still only a temporal honor that is in this life.  If the world were to stand another 2,000 years, few of us would have the honor of having our story remarked about all around the world.  The greater honor is not the honors that we are given in this world.  The true honor is that which will be given to us in the New Heavens and the New Earth after our resurrection.  Let’s love one another, but especially today; let’s reciprocate some of the love that mothers have selflessly poured into our life!

Expensive Gift Audio