Several of the Gospel writers, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described a surprising scene between Mary and Jesus.
To the shock of the onlookers, Mary presented Jesus with a beautiful vase filled with expensive ointment. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll recounts this moment and helps us understand the implications. This is message number two in a brand new six-part series that focuses on the Easter season. Teaching for Mark chapter 14, Chuck titled his message, Extravagant Love on Everlasting Display.
In the event that you missed Chuck's opening remarks from the previous message, we'll begin with helpful highlights. When you get to verses two and three of this 14th chapter, 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
And when he does, it is really worth reading. Leave her alone. Mary still has said nothing. She's simply going about what she came to do. Jesus commends her for her extravagance, having rebuked those disciples who were criticizing her. God bless you, Mary, Jesus is saying. Acknowledging the fact that her act will be rewarded from here on.
In fact, if you read closely, please do that. Look at the end of the passage. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. Look, I tell you the truth, anytime you read that from Jesus, it's saying, listen, listen up. Wherever the good news is preached throughout the world, this woman's deed will be remembered and discussed.
Here we are, 21st century, still reading it, still discussing it. How magnificent. Good for you, Mary. You have honored me as no one has up to this point. How magnificent is your extravagance? I'll leave the passage there and let it speak for itself. I'll let the aroma of it go with you through the afternoon. But not until I have finished with a couple of points of application. Very personal words to all of us regarding extravagance. Hold on tightly, you'll hear words like this very seldom in churches like ours. I want to extol the rare presence of extravagance. My first point in application is there's a great difference between the price of something and the value of something. Bean counters never get that.
Never. The question always is, how much did that cost? What, how much he or she paid for that? That's what these disciples are thinking. That's why they called it a waste.
I mean, they're pouring that out on his head, on his hair, on his beard, on his garments, on his feet. They saw no value in what she did. All she did see was value. She forgot the price. Unconvinced it's the most priceless thing she owned. And therefore, only that was good enough for her savior. Not once does she defend her act. Not once does she explain her motive. Jesus read everything. The disciples missed it.
Even if she had tried, they would have silenced her with their critical comments. Now let me go one step further. Every once in a while, when the moment is right, be like Mary. Go ahead. Break a vase.
Go ahead. Are you going to take it with you? I've buried a lot of people and they all die the same way. Hands open and not a crying dime in their pocket.
Some of them with families and deep regret that they didn't enjoy more of life because everything was so tight, so carefully handled, so cautiously protected. I realize when I speak, there are many who are unable because they haven't much. I understand that.
Please don't think I missed that. But I think more of us than not are able to enjoy more than we do. Summer's coming. Are you planning a nice vacation? Even if it's three days, are you telling your family about it? Are you saving for it? Are you looking forward to a time away? Is it going to be at least part of it extravagant? Will you really, truly pull out all the stops? You love the one you married.
When is the last time the two of you really did something worth remembering? I find myself every time we sponsor a cruise at our Insight for Living ministry, I have to give a little speech because normally people get on board making sure their friends don't see them. So they're able to get on board. I'm just joking.
But some of them have been put up with a lot of flack at home. Well, we're glad you can afford a cruise, stuff like that. So I say, you know what? This is your moment to enjoy it. And if you want to know some good advice, stay out of the gambling room and spend time doing some of these excursions we're able to do together. Live it up. Live it up. You will never have a week like this. This is your week. Enjoy it to the fullest.
And since their friends aren't around, they applaud. That's a great idea. That's what we're going to do.
You have plans for something like that? Or are you talking yourself out of it because money's tight? Believe me, I know that.
Believe me, I realize that. Money was tight in the first century. I don't know what Mary's condition was at home, but I would have a feeling she lived rather frugally. But this was her moment to express the maximum expression of her devotion. And she did it with extravagance.
I close with a touching story and it's true. Only Cynthia knows it because she was there with me through it all. We fell in love with a couple that had fallen in love together. They were both in medical school. And as soon as they finished, got their degree and completed their specialties, he was in oncology.
She was OBGYN. They married. They practiced their medical practice in the places where they lived there in that part of the country.
As I recall, it was in New England. And then they had an opportunity to team up together and to move to the other side of the country, which they did. They had two boys in the process, busy, rambunctious little guys. But they continued on and they were such great, great medical folks. Their practices swelled and he began a little larger practice than she did.
Hers remained rather small. And she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer. It was inoperable by the time it was found and he knew too much about cancer to need to ask about anything. And so this dear man decided we can spend the rest of our weeks, months, however long we have together, just sighing and crying, or we can make the most of it. He put his practice on hold, set it aside four to five months while he would be away. He didn't know how long he'd be gone.
She lasted about that long. And a part of their time together, he took the family, the dad took the family to Hawaii, planned a marvelous 10-day vacation. They rented a hotel room that actually was a suite they could enjoy. And by then she was hardly able to walk. So as the boys played in the surf, he would set up her umbrella on the beach and the lounge chair, and then would carry her because the wheelchair wouldn't roll across the sand. He carried her to the chair each morning and let her watch the boys play in the surf. The joy of her life for those two kids as she watched them. She also did something I've never heard anyone else do. Maybe you've heard of this.
I hadn't. She took the time while in the room as well as on the beach to write out birthday cards for each one of the two boys' birthdays as they would come with dates on them, whatever the year, 1997, 1998, 1999. Each one addressed each of the sons. They were not to open them until their birthday. And she wrote her own handwriting, her love note to them. She did the same for their graduating from high school long before they were even in high school.
And then even their graduation from college, congratulating them for accomplishing that. And if you could believe for the day of their wedding, when and if they married, she wanted them to have a note from their mother written in her own hand. She did that. It was part of their time together. In the evening, he and she listened to love songs in their room or they would watch old movies that they enjoyed together late into the night.
He said, I must have told her I love her 20, 30, 40 times a day. I covered her with my kisses. And she with me. When she died, I was asked to do the burial.
It was an unusual experience. 10, 11 years earlier, I'd married them and now I'm burying her. Had a little time with him and I embraced him and told him how pleased I was with how tight they had stayed. He said, oh, you have no idea. She said to me, I really don't want you to stay single. The boys are going to need a mother and please, as much as we've loved each other, I want you to move ahead with your life.
God will give you a wonderful woman. I buried her and I'm grateful to say that it was in a matter of a couple of three years he met a lady and she had a number of children, so they all came together. Looked like recess let out, as a matter of fact, when they were all together. They would come to our Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center conference and we had the joy of meeting her and entering their lot. But I've never forgotten the extravagant way he looked upon her death.
He loved her to the end. How marvelous. Extravagance isn't always in some possession or something you purchase. It's in demonstration of your life. Can you think back over the last five years and remember one time that you poured yourself into something without restraint? You cast caution to the winds and you let it all out. And you wrote in that letter how you really felt about this individual. And you let your love shine through.
Don't forget those closest to you. When's the last time your children heard you tell them how much you admire them? Adore them? And your mate in life? Perhaps you've lost your mate or perhaps it didn't work and you've gone through the sadness of a divorce. Have you fully forgiven? Have you let that go? Have you been extravagant in your forgiveness? Or do you drag that around that only adds to your morbidity and your negative spirit? Let it go. Let it go.
Mary poured it all out then left the room filled with this aroma, the fragrance of her worship. Bow with me, will you? For you without Christ, you have unfortunately not realized how extravagant God's love has demonstrated for you.
Do you know something? He sent his one and only son, S-O-N, to come to this earth and die. Die for you. He died for you. And he offers you the gracious opportunity to take the Lord Jesus, his son, as your savior and to enter into his extravagant life filled with his forgiveness and hope and love and plan for your life, whatever that may be.
He wants to change you from the inside out, but it must begin with your decision. Make that decision now. I urge you. King of our life, we crown you now. Thine shall the glory be, lest we forget thy thorn-crowned brow. Lead us to Calvary.
Lest we forget Gethsemane. Lest we forget thine agony. Lest I forget thy love for me. Lead me to Calvary. Through Christ we pray.
Everyone say, Amen. And with his closing prayer, we conclude a message that Chuck Swindoll titled, Extravagant Love on Everlasting Display. This is message number two in a brand new six-part teaching series.
For more information and to access Chuck's study notes, look for the series called Compelled by the Cross at insightworld.org slash studies. You know, here at Insight for Living Ministries, we never tire of proclaiming Christ and Christ crucified. And that's because no one can find deliverance, God's love or purpose in life apart from the gospel. And those who give generously are the ones who empower us to proclaim the good news.
We do that every day through multiple languages in dozens of countries worldwide. And gratefully, not a day passes when we don't hear from someone who's discovered how to cultivate a relationship with God as a result of the teaching they hear on Insight for Living. Let me give you an example. Very recently, someone left a vulnerable message on Chuck's Facebook page that said, The Bible teaching on Insight for Living brought me through a nervous breakdown. You taught me that God makes all things new. This helped me renew my mind through Christ our Lord. Thank you. Well, if you're among those who give to Insight for Living, rest assured your gift enables us to deliver this message of hope to those like this listener who need it most. To give a donation today, call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. In addition to receiving your donation, please take a few moments to share your personal story with us as well.
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.... Treat yourself to a vacation you'll never forget on the Insight for Living Ministries cruise to the great frontier with Chuck Swindoll. Honestly, I had no idea that a cruise to Alaska could be so much fun. And without a doubt, the stunning views took my breath away. God's artistic genius is on full display in Alaska.
In fact, I guarantee this. You'll come home refreshed and filled with awe for His majestic creation. Yeah, at one point our ship was getting chased by dolphins.
They were playing and spinning in the waves. It was amazing. You'll have plenty of time for adventures on shore, lingering conversations around mealtime, and strolling through the idyllic ports of call. You'll be a part of some of the best parts of our day, laughing, singing, and celebrating our God. Plan to come with us, won't you?
The dates are July 1st through July 8th, 2023. To learn more, call 1-888-447-0444. That's 1-888-447-0444. Or visit insight.org slash events.
The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us next time when Chuck Swindoll describes the shocking betrayal by one of Jesus' trusted friends, here 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.
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