Extravagant Love

John 12:1-8

Many years ago when I was a college student I bought an expensive brooch for a girlfriend who at the time I regarded as my sweetheart. It cost two weeks income from the part-time job I was pursuing at the time to support my studies. My mother said it was extravagant! Have you ever extravagantly given to a sweetheart?

So how does this fit in with the above reading from the Gospel which is often read during Lent. Well let’s first set the scene.

Jesus is on his final march to Jerusalem. It is just over a week before Passover and tension is building. Jesus chooses to break his journey at Bethany. A public meal is held in his honour where Martha, Mary and Lazarus are among the guests. The presence of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus, is significant and symbolic of Jesus’ divine authority in his ministry.

Thus Jesus’ public ministry which started with a wedding feast a Cana moves towards its close with another social occasion at Bethany. But here the tone is different. Dark heavy clouds are massing on the horizon; there is a burden in the heart of Jesus. The celebration is muted. The talk is of burial rather than renewal.

As they recline at the table Mary comes forward with breaking open a bottle of very expensive perfume, called nard, an oil like perfume extracted from the nard plant grown in India, definitely not one of the lower quality brands sold in the Bethany supermarket!  We’re told that it cost a year’s salary! This act is reflected back by Jesus when he washes the disciples’ feet in the upper room at Passover meal.

There are several things I would like to say about Mary’s action.

  1. It was an expression of Extravagant Love. Mary took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus. Love is not love if it calculates the cost. I gives its all and the only regret is that it has not still more to give. It is a reminder of Jesus’s extravagant love for us. He suffered the pain and agony of a cruel death so that the way was opened for us to benefit from the love which God the Father has for each and every one of us.

Perhaps we need to ask the question – how much is my love for Jesus worth? Would I sell up all for Him? Heidi & Roland Bakker did just that when they gave up well paid professional jobs and a comfortable lives to obey God’s call to take the Gospel to the underprivileged of Mozambique.

2. Mary’s love for Jesus was humble.  It was a sign of honour to anoint a person’s head. But Mary would not look so high as the head of Jesus; she anointed his feet. Mary is mentioned three times in the Gospels and always in association with the feet. She anointed Jesus’ feet as an expression of devoted subservience. The last thing Mary had in mind was to confer an honour on Jesus; she never dreamed she was good enough for that.  True service for Jesus springs from a whole hearted commitment to him as Lord. At the feet of Jesus is where service begins.

3. Mary’s love for Jesus was unselfconscious. Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. In Palestine at that time no respectable woman would appear in public with her hair unbound. That was a sign of an immoral woman. But Mary never even thought of that. I hope you can all remember when you were head over heels in love. Maybe you kissed and hugged your sweetheart on the bus. You lived in a world of your own. You couldn’t care less what anybody else thought. Many of us are self- conscious about showing our love for Jesus and witnessing our faith, perhaps concerned about what others might think. Mary loved Jesus so much that it was nothing to her what others thought

.4.Mary shows a perceptive heart. This grew out of her love for Jesus. Although the full significance of her action is possibly hidden from her, she understood deep down in her spirit/soul what was to become of Jesus. In her encounters with Jesus we find her at his feet listening in adoration to what he had to say. She spent time with him and this enabled her to tune in and perceive something of the mind of Jesus. This path to the heart of Jesus is open to all of us. As we make it a priority to spend time at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word (and it needs the whole Bible to interpret his Word) we also begin to attune with the mind of Jesus and to discern how, where, and in what ways we can serve him.

5.Lastly, Mary’s loving act was fruitful.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. This same act is recorded in Mk.14:9. ‘…wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told…’ This simple act of extravagant love has become a light to multitudes in every corner of the world. Sincere service to Jesus, however much it may be opposed, and it was opposed by Judas who saw it as a waste, has the capacity to touch and bless other lives. Others will be blessed when we serve Jesus, sometimes far beyond our dreams. ‘Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the Lord’s work. Be sure that nothing you do for him is ever lost or wasted.’ 1Cor.15:58.  

I leave you today with this thought: Jesus extravagantly gave his love for us all on the cross how do you, and will you respond?


Get Ready-God is About to do Something Anew!

Mark 1:9-15

The season of Lent has just begun; traditionally Lent is a season of repentance, often observed by a choice to give something up in order to concentrate more fully upon God

The season holds an invitation for us to choose to see what God is doing, to draw near and to draw close, to leave behind the things that tempt and distract us and to seek God for the new things that he wants to do in our lives and in our communities!

As we continue to live through lock down in the Lenten season of 2021 I get the sense that more and more people are seeking the true meaning of life, and where to go from here. With the scourge of this pandemic many of us realise the true fragility of life. Many are searching to discover what lies beyond this life. If this is all there is to existence then nature has played a cruel trick on us. For we are the only creatures who are consciously aware of our own mortality. If this is all there is, then life is ultimately meaningless.

If you are searching and asking these questions well get ready for God is about to do something anew in your life

But first if we are seeking God, just like those people 2000 years ago who went into the desert to to hear John the Baptist, we must repent and regret the times when we have turned our back on God or done our own thing regardless of consequences; to say sorry and ask forgiveness. Having turned our back on God we must turn back toward Him.

John then recognises Jesus and directs his listeners to Him as the one who will baptise them with the Holy Spirit. Then while baptising Jesus something totally unforgettable happens. The heavens opened and the Holy Spirit took on visible form, and God spoke.

This story of the baptism of Jesus contains a message of power and of hope, of God the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus and reassuring him with words of affirmation:

“You are my son the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus was being made ready to call people to open their eyes and see that the kingdom of God, and their salvation, had surely drawn near.

God was doing something new.

God is doing something anew now, for his kingdom remains near, and he calls us to dare to enter into it.

For those who are searching for something different or for re-assurance that that there is a God who loves them. Let me tell you that God does love you for he sent Jesus into the world to rescue you. Jesus did something new by sacrificing himself on the cross,. This act of love and his subsequent resurrection defeated death and the power of satan and gave the promise of eternal life for all who turn to him.

Jesus is doing something anew, by inviting or re-inviting us into a new life in His family. God longs to pour himself into our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit to equip and strengthen us to live his way! He longs to affirm us with the words: “You are my son, you are my daughter, you are my beloved and I am pleased with you!”

By inviting us anew into renewed life in Christ God longs to hear us, his church family, announcing the good news We are presently living in a Covid 19 world where I believe, like in John the Baptist’s day, there is a great hunger for spirituality. Also a great hunger for belonging, stemming from a great lost-ness, as society becomes increasingly fragmented and disconnected It is up to us, God’s Church, His family, to proclaim his message of love and power to today’s generation.

God is here, he is with us, the story of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus is a message of wild possibilities! A message of power and glory! And I believe God is getting us ready to do something anew through us all. During these times of Covid lockdown there have already been several miracles that I am aware of. God is opening up the heavens and sending his Holy Spirit to flood us with his love.

This Lenten season let us dare to draw aside, to turn from our busyness, or otherthinginess, to listen to God, to gain a fresh vision for the mission to which he has called us. To hear his words of love for us, so that filled to overflowing with that love we can reach out to a world in desperate need, for this is why Christ came, and this is what he calls us to; so that rather than give something up we, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, take on something new

Let’s use this time to get ready… for God is calling us on, to partake with him in a new wave of the Holy Spirit bringing revival.