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Extravagant Love on Everlasting Display, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
March 23, 2023 7:05 am

Extravagant Love on Everlasting Display, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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Picture the moment when Mary showered Jesus with love.

She breaks open the jar. The scent must have filled the room instantly, and of all things, she poured it out on His head. John adds that she poured it on His feet and massaged His feet with her hair. This was her profound moment of devotion. This was her sacrificial worship, the most significant of her life. Mary of Bethany loved Jesus.

And in Mark's Gospel, we read about the dramatic moment when Mary burst onto the scene with a personal gift for Him. It was an expensive jar of exquisite perfume. Well, the onlookers had mixed feelings. Some thought her gift was lovely.

Others thought it was wasteful. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll describes this intense encounter found in Mark Chapter 14. It's the second message in a brand new teaching series designed to prepare us for the Easter celebration coming soon.

Chuck titled his message Extravagant Love on Everlasting Display. On these five Sundays moving toward Easter Sunday morning, we are journeying with Christ in various scenes along the pathway of His final week of life, or thereabouts. We've come in our journey to Mark Chapter 14. I'll be reading for you verses 1 through 9.

Please locate Mark 14. I'll be reading from the New Living Translation as you follow along in your Bible. It was now two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law were still looking for an opportunity to capture Jesus secretly and kill Him.

But not during the Passover celebration, they agreed, for the people may riot. Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While He was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over His head. Some of those at the table were indignant. Why waste such expensive perfume, they asked.

It could have been sold for a year's wages and the money given to the poor. So they scolded her harshly. But Jesus replied, leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.

I tell you the truth. Wherever the good news is preached throughout the world, this woman's deed will be remembered and discussed. You're listening to Insight for Living. To dig deeper into the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled Extravagant Love on Everlasting Display. Certain scriptures deserve special attention.

It's as if when we come to them, the Lord is saying, you certainly may read this. You must imagine the scene, but don't touch it. Don't fuss around with it. He says to preachers like me, don't exegetically pick it to pieces. Let it be.

Let it be. It's as if we've come across something sacred, so significant that to fuss around with it and put our hands on it would cheapen it. Years ago, a group of tourists making their way through Germany came to the house of the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven. The small group upon entering, of course, the guide led them ultimately to the conservatory where the great master had spent hours toward the end of his life, completely deaf, hearing the sounds and the bones of his head as he rested them on the on the piano bed. He said to all those in the group and here, here is the master's instrument. Abruptly, a well-meaning but thoughtless woman pushed her way to the front of the group and and sat right down on the on the bench and began to play one of Beethoven's sonatas. As she said to the guide, I'm sure there are many people who would love to play this piano. He frowned and reached over and put his hand on her hands to stop her and he said, not long ago I had a group here and in the group was Inyas Patarevsky and several of our tour members asked that great pianist if he would please play for us. Oh no, no. He said I'm not worthy to place my hands on the same keys as the great Beethoven.

Very appropriate response. Sometimes we preachers need to know when we've come to such moments. We're there today.

We're there. I feel the same way in other scriptures as well. Some of the psalms of lament need no comment from me.

They speak for themselves. And then there are various prayers of the saints woven through the fabric of scripture. Again, it's time to back away, read them, respect them, don't overanalyze them. Prayers are never meant to be overanalyzed.

We're to enter into them and let the wonder of them enter into us. There are also times of great anguish and grief. As is always helpful when being with those who have suffered loss, the less words you say the better. Just be there. Feel with them the anguish of their souls.

You don't have to talk. The scene portrayed for us in Mark 14 is one of those scriptural treasures. We're free to read it, of course. Our imaginations should kick in as we put ourselves in the place of those who were there, but we should treat it as a literary treasure that it is and leave it at that. It may help if I set the historical stage for us, sort of set the table, if you will. What's happened right about now is the most significant event in the year of every Jew, Passover, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I don't know if they did it back in ancient days like we do it today, but if they did, every calendar would have that date circled because it would be the reminder that that was when their forefathers were delivered from Egyptian bondage and led by Moses into the exodus out into the wilderness for the next 40 years. A time of deliverance never to be forgotten to this day. To this day still the most significant event of the year.

They're there. However, not everyone was in a mood of remembrance and a worshipful heart. As you read in the first verse of Mark's words in chapter 14, of all things, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, those who should have been most consumed with the time of the year were preoccupied with murder. In their mind was one hope, and that was to capture Jesus secretly, push him through trials take him to torture and then to death, get rid of him, this phony Messiah. So they thought.

Now why secretly? Understand, again, it's Passover and the population of the city of Jerusalem swelled multiple times its normal number. And so the streets were packed with people, the stores were busy.

There was no way to get away from the crowds. And a number of those in these crowds of people would be followers of Jesus. They had by now trusted in him. They saw him as the promised Messiah.

He was the prophet that had been promised by the living God. And so they knew that if they acted in public and the word got out, there would be a riot. That's the last thing they wanted. So their whole plan was a deceitful plan behind the scenes.

They needed someone to help make that plan work. They found him, as we'll see in our next time together, as we follow the trail of a traitor and expose the one who betrayed Jesus, even Judas, who appears interestingly in this scene. Though he's not mentioned in Mark, he's here.

When you get to verses 2 and 3 of this 14th chapter, you see that Mark has escorted us out of the busy city of Jerusalem and up into a quiet and quaint village named Bethany. They're in the home of a man who had once had leprosy, but had now been cleansed of it. But he would live with the stigma the rest of his life, Simon the leper.

Simon must have loved Jesus. He wanted him there in his home for a meal. And with Jesus came the disciples, and they are reclining at the table. Interesting way to put it, we don't recline at tables today. We sit around tables. But in those days, tables had no legs, table tops set on the floor, and pillows were provided around the edges for comfort.

And people reclined on their side and they would eat with their hands and fingers from the table and drink from the chalices that were provided. So they're engaged in this meal. What they talk about, we're not told.

I imagine, and it's only that, worth nothing more than an opinion. I imagine Jesus said very little, if anything. He's preoccupied.

The time of the torture is soon to come, only hours away. So the small talk around the table, the passing of food, the eating of it, the conversation doesn't really matter enough for Mark or any of the Gospel writers to mention. But all of them tell of the interruption that occurred that was such all eating and all talking stopped. You see, this is an all men's dinner, not uncommon in that day especially. What was also true back then is that when all men gathered around a table, women had no place.

They would not be there. Perhaps some would serve, but not even here would there be one or she would have been mentioned. This is an all men's gathering and suddenly through the door unannounced and unexpected came a woman. We don't know her name from what Mark writes, but thanks to John and Matthew, we know that she is Mary of Bethany. Common name in that day.

Mary walks in. It's not who she was that was significant, it's what she was carrying. And here we're to take this in with a great deal of interest. Most unusual, most expensive. We read that she was carrying a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive, exquisite perfume made from the essence of nard.

We're unfamiliar with those words. You do a little research on this and you find that this was made from the leaves of a rare plant, the oil excreted from the leaves. A plant in the Himalayas. Perhaps the most expensive of all perfumes. Back years ago when I was preaching on this, I did some research into expensive perfumes. I know just about as little as anyone in this place or any place could know about perfumes, so I had a friend of mine who knew that world to investigate for me, and she told me that the most expensive at that time was the French perfume, Jean Partout 1000. You buy it in half ounce sizes. You know the more expensive, the smaller the container. And back then, this was 25 years ago or more, it sold for $150 for half an ounce. This woman has a pound, a pound of this thick pungent ointment that she has brought with her, perhaps a part of what she had inherited from her parents. Perhaps never been opened, but saved, sitting on her shelf. We are told by each of the writers that it was worth a year's wage.

So if you want to know the cost, as I'm sure some of you would love to know, think about what you make each year. That was the value or the cost I should say of what was in this alabaster jar. She walks in, I'm impressed with this, she says nothing. Then she does something extremely extravagant.

She breaks open the jar, quite likely the first time ever in her life. The scent must have filled the room instantly. And of all things, she poured it out on his head. John adds that she poured it on his feet and massaged his feet with her hair.

I found this interesting. In his book titled Rabboni, Philip Keller writes, the delicious fragrance ran down over his shining hair and thick beard. 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 48 hours, imagine this, wherever he moved during those hours, the perfume would go with him into the Passover, into the Garden of Gethsemane, into Herod's Hall, into Pilate's Praetorium, into the crude hands of those who cast lots for his clothing at the foot of the cross. I would add, into the grave where they placed his body, that aroma must have filled that cave-like grave.

This special rite of perfuming the head of the body was a rare ritual reserved only for dying royalty. It was the most lofty honor that could be bestowed by a common person. Jesus recognized this, not those around him. It was a significant moment of momentous meaning.

In the verses that follow, the magnificent moment is almost ruined by the impudence of some of the men who were, we read it, indignant. They missed the whole point of her act of worship by a mile. This was her profound moment of devotion. This was her sacrificial worship, the most significant of her life.

Her deep desire to pour it all out for Christ without saying a word, I repeat. And here sit these carping critics. What an extravagant waste.

What are you doing, woman? It was an impulsive act of grandstanding to them. Did you notice? They're redignant. They scold her like you would a mangy dog that had roamed through the room. How thoughtless, they added, you could have even given this money to the poor, those hypocrites.

Why would I say that? Well, unfortunately we do not have John, what he wrote in front of us. If you take the time to read John chapter 12 verse 6, I encourage you to do that, you will see who spoke first. Judas Iscariot. And John adds, because he's writing after the fact, he was a thief. He was the one who held the purse. He was the one who stole from the treasury of the disciples.

Did you know that? He's the only disciple, not from Galilee, he's from Judea. Probably intelligence wise, the brightest of the bunch. So he was chosen to keep the money bag. What little bit they had, and he stole from that. He's the one who says, you could have given the money to the poor. He didn't care about the poor. He cared that he didn't get into it. And I love it that Jesus finally speaks.

Leave her alone. To others in the room, Mary's over the top gift seemed wasteful, but not to Jesus. In that special moment of connection, Jesus told Mary's critics to leave her alone.

Well, there's much more that Chuck Swindoll wants to show us. He titled today's message, Extravagant Love on Everlasting Display. If you'd like to learn more about this daily Bible teaching program, visit us online at It's possible you're listening to Insight for Living today and you've identified with Mary's love for Jesus.

Given the same opportunity, nothing would hold you back from expressing your affection for your savior. Well, I'll remind you that Chuck Swindoll and his creative writing team have put together a helpful resource for you. It's designed to help you dig more treasures out of this rich passage of scripture so you can benefit from the lessons that God wants to teach you. I'm referring to the interactive study notes we call Searching the Scriptures. You can take notes right on your computer or simply print out the document, and all the details can be found online at slash studies.

And did you know that many in our listening family are reading through the Bible together from start to finish? The Bible reading guide is posted online at Also on our website, you'll have access to sermons, charts, maps, helpful articles, and more.

So take a look at the resources we've prepared for you. This program and these free resources are made possible by those who financially support the ministry of Insight for Living. And if it's been a while since you've sent a donation, we invite you to join us in this worthy effort. If you're listening in the United States, here's the number to call, 800-772-8888.

Or you can give online at slash donate. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us again when Chuck Swindoll's brand new series, Compelled by the Cross, continues next time on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Extravagant Love on Everlasting Display, was copyrighted in 2022 and 2023, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2023 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-22 14:33:04 / 2023-03-22 14:40:34 / 8

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