"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the Leper, there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, He said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, WheresoeveA r this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." Matthew 26:6-13
Mary Anoints Jesus for Burial
Burial customs in the ancient Middle East included anointing the body of the deceased with "spices and incense for purification and odorific purposes (Luke 23:56; John 19:40), the wrapping of the body in cloths, and the placement of a special face cloth (John 11:44). The body was placed on a bench (miskab, "resting place"), often with a specially carved headrest (Eerdman's, 2000).
Jesus told his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem where He would be betrayed, arrested and crucified, and rise again on the third day. No doubt Mary, being one of Jesus' close friends, heard his words and understood that these things would be accomplished very soon, as the great Passover feast was close at hand and Jesus was going there. So she determined to do what she could for her Lord, who was soon to be lifted up for the sins of the world. Mary took money that she must have been saving for quite a long time - three hundred denarii, a year's worth of wages in those times - and purchased precious and expensive oil of spikenard to anoint the Lord with. But the expense of the nard was not a consideration in her singular act of worship and adoration for her Lord. No gift was too costly, no bestowal so extravagant in the worship and service of Lord. Mary loved Jesus with all of her heart, soul, mind and strength, and her gift was in proportion to her love for her Savior. Her worship was made extravagant because it was fragranced with the love of God which was shed abroad in her heart through the indwelling of his Spirit within. Her Lord had been so good, so gracious to her that she could not contain her love for him. So she broke open the box of her thanksgiving and love and the praise just overflowed and filled all the place with its heavenly fragrance!
Extravagant Worship versus Religion and Formalism
The pretentious protest of the pilfering prelate, Judas Iscariot - "why was not this oil sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor" - stands in stark contrast to the extravagant worship of Mary. The guests at Simon the Leper's house, they brought no gift to Jesus. But Mary brought everything that she could, the most luxurious gift she could bestow, her all. The guests complained of the waste of precious money on perfume. But Jesus praised this self-sacrificial act of devotion and service, for Mary did her best and brought her best out of her abundant love for her Lord and Savior. In fact, Jesus so extolled Mary's selfless worship and devotion that He declared that wherever the gospel would be preached that her actions would be told for a memorial of her. Earthlings scorned her worship. But heaven endorsed her worship. The "praise police" attempted to arrest her praise. But Jesus promoted her praise. And she praised Him freely because He had set this woman free from a prison of sin and hopelessness and gave her a new life, a new love, and a purpose for living. Her worship was in proportion to all the goodness and mercy that God had shown her.
It is often the case that those who have neither great love for the Savior nor appreciation for his grace, mercies and compassion toward us all, purchased at the infinite cost of his shed blood, will protest the generous and heartfelt expressions of love and worship by those who really love God. The unadorned ardor of the righteous condemns the austere offerings of those whose praise is polluted with a sense of self-righteousness, or an exaggerated sense of self-worth, or stinted by thanklessness or faithlessness. Had it not been for Mary's extravagant worship, our Savior would have left that feast without the honor, adoration and thanksgiving due his holy name.
An Appeal for Extravagant Worshipers
What category does your worship fall into, professed follower of Christ? Are you lavishing an abundance of love, adoration, thanksgiving and heartfelt devotion upon our Lord? Or are you worshiping out of a sense of obligation and formality? Are you giving you all to the Master in pure love? Or are serving the Lord stintingly out of a divided and joyless heart? The Lord is looking for true worshipers who will be extravagant in their worship and be unreserved in putting all their heart, soul, mind and strength into his praise, for their count Him worthy of their highest praise. Let us enrich Him for the abundant gifts of His lovingkindness and grace He has so freely bestowed upon us all. Let our lips praise Him continually for all of the good things that He has done for us. Let us remember always that He paid that awful price for our sins on Calvary. It should have been me upon that cross. But He gave His life so that I could be free from the wages of sin and death. He paid an infinite price for me. So I ought to give Him an unreserved praise. I can afford to give Him an extravagant worship. I can tell others - I have so much to tell them - about what He's done for me, how He took my sins away and set me free! I don't have to "scrimp" on my Lord's worship. I can give Him a whole burnt offering - give my life, my plans, my all to Him to do His bidding. Where He leads me, I will follow. Where He sends me, I will go. His will I will obey. Amen.
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