A few weeks ago I did something as a husband that turned out to be pretty smart. I bought my wife a dozen beautiful red roses for no other reason than I wanted to tell her that I loved her. It wasn't Jan's birthday; it wasn't our anniversary, or any special occasion. Very simply I was in a store, saw the roses and thought of how much I loved my wife. Man, did I score some points! Sometimes we just need to love someone extravagantly.
The dictionary defines the word “extravagant” as ‚”to exceed the limits of reason or necessity.” One of the most dangerous things that can affect our lives is to limit our expression of love to God and to other people by human reason and necessity. Christianity without extravagant expressions of love towards God creates a passionless faith.
The Cross of Christ is the best picture of God's extravagant love to us. The Cross is the standard by which we should base our extravagant response to Him and to the world around us. On the Cross He gave it all.
My daughter is a trained and gifted artist. I love her paintings. Each year we have a evening at the church where we do a concert and art sale and the proceeds go to funding a mission trip for the students in our school of ministry. Anna was asked to donate one of her paintings. These paintings bring $1,000.00 in a gallery. In Anna's email to me she said, “Dad I want to donate my favorite painting. I want to give something that I love to God.” Extravagant love is an unusual love.
Have you ever done something completely extravagant for Jesus? Something that exceeds the limits of human reason and necessity? The Lord is looking for extravagant lovers who are willing to risk reputation and life just give Him extravagant expressions of love.
John 12 records an act of extravagant love that took place 2,000 years ago. This act of extravagant love is a model for the Church today. The background for John 12 takes place right after the Lord called Lazarus from the tomb and brought him back to life. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were all still in that wonderful state of shock that comes when Jesus has just done a miracle. They were basking in that warm and wonderful feeling that surrounds us when God has just done something beyond our wildest dreams. The house where these people were gathered was filled with gratitude. Whenever people are grateful for what God has done that grateful attitude sets the stage for the grateful ones to exhibit extravagant love.
Most people wait for the “when I win the lottery” moment before they begin to think about doing something extravagant for Jesus. We wait for unusual resources to appear before we act. With this mentality we end up living lives void of any expression of extravagant love. Mary, the woman in the text of John 12, never won a lottery but she did possess something very valuable. She had a jar of scented oil. Mary didn't wait - she loved extravagantly with what she had.
The oil Mary possessed was called spikenard. It was made from the dried roots of an herb grown in Northern India. The oil was poured into alabaster jars and then imported to the Holy Land. The oil was expensive and was one of the most priced possessions a woman could have. It was part of her dowry.
John records this incident in chapter 12: 1 “Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus‚ the man he had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus' honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus' feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. 4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 'That perfume was worth a year's wages It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.' 6 Not that he cared for the poor‚he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples‚ money, he often stole some for himself. 7 Jesus replied, ‚'Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.'”
Most commentators believe that it was at this rebuke by Jesus that Judas left the room and began to bargain his betrayal of the Lord.
We learn some things about Judas from his words. Extravagant was not in his dictionary of life. Everything Judas processed had to do with what he could get out of life. Judas was the center of his world. Judas was a taker.
For Judas the extravagant love of Mary was something to be confronted and condemned. Judas would be the kind of person who would try to remove extravagant love from the lives and ministries of other people. Judas lived with a perverted practicality that tried to stop expressions of extravagant love.
Mary's act of extravagant love is still teaching us 2,000 years later. From Mary's life we learn some things about loving extravagantly.
EXTRAVAGANT LOVES DOES NOT CALCULATE THE COST
Verse 2 said that a dinner was prepared in Jesus' honor. Jesus was the center of the evening. They were grateful for what Jesus did for Lazarus. Mary's act of extravagant love gave honor to the Lord. That is what happens when extravagant love is acted upon - the Lord is honored. Mary's extravagant love expressed itself without self-protection and the fear of loss. When we love extravagantly nothing is off-limits. Extravagant loves does not use a calculator.
William Barclay once wrote, “Love does not stop to nicely calculate the less or more; love does not stop to work out how little it can respectfully give. With a kind of divine extravagance, love gives everything it has and never counts the cost.” Calculation is never any part of love.
EXTRAVAGANT LOVE GIVES ITS BEST AND ITS ALL
Verse 3 tells us that Mary anointed Jesus with the oil in the alabaster jar. The complaint of Judas was not that a measured drop was used. His complaint was that the full contents were poured extravagantly upon Jesus. He complained that Mary wasted an entire year of salary on Jesus.
How does someone begin to love the way Mary did? We are able to give our best and give our all when we understand what Jesus gave for us. Most Christians have forgotten what they have been saved from. We are only able to give our best and our all when we understand the depth of love that motivated God to give us His best and His all in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
EXTRAVAGANT LOVE HAS NO REGRETS
Mary did not complained. Mary loved and then she gave. She stayed close to Jesus throughout the crucifixion and later on she was always found to be near Him. To Mary being near to Jesus was all that mattered. Intimacy with Him was the priority of her life.
Our regrets have us look to the past and wish something had never happened. To Mary Jesus was her dowry - not some oil in a jar. When Jesus was near the only thing on Mary's mind was how she could show her love to Him. Regrets are birthed out of our past. Mary had no regrets. Her past, present and future were all defined by His presence. Extravagant love is not a regretful love - it is a love that is consumed with a passion that requires expression.
I remember when Jan and I were first starting out in the ministry. We sold our home and tithed from our profits. I remember giving with joy to the ministry we chose to bless. Years later, as we struggled through a tough financial season in the ministry, I felt a regret creep into my heart that I did not have those thousands of dollars that we had given. After letting that regret linger for a time I had to come to a place of repentance. My regret was soiling an extravagant expression of love. God had to remove the Judas that wanted to live in my heart. A perverted practicality had entered my heart. I repented and asked God to heal me. When we live in the immediate presence of God regret cannot take hold of our hearts because His presence dissolves the regrets of our past and invites us into the now-moment of His presence.
EXTRAVAGANT LOVES FILLS OUR LIVES WITH THE FRAGRANCE OF GOD'S PRESENCE
Verse 3 tells us what happens when we love extravagantly, “The house was filed with the fragrance.” In the natural realm the house was filled with the fragrance of spikenard oil, but in the spiritual realm there also lingered the fragrance that takes place when we choose to show extravagant love to Jesus. Extravagant love will change the atmosphere of our lives because it is His life that we are breathing in.
A question needs to be asked, “When are we supposed to show extravagant love to Jesus?” The answer is simple - whenever He makes Himself known. Mary could have simply sat at the feet of Jesus and done nothing. Something happened in Mary's grateful heart that put action to what she was feeling for Him.
God is calling His people to make choices today to give Him their best and to give Him their all. When we do this, our lives, and the circumstances of our lives, will be filled with the fragrance of extravagant love. The fragrance of extravagant love is the lost tool of evangelism for the church. Today, the people you live and work with are afraid of the world's economic condition. They are afraid of terrorism. They are afraid of tomorrow. The world stinks with fear. God is calling His people to extravagant acts of love so that the stink of fear that grips the world will be displaced by the new fragrance of God's presence.
May I offer a prayer for those who want to be extravagant lovers of God:
Father God, I want to become someone who will love You with extravagant acts of love. I want to take who I am and what I possess and give it all to You in some wonderfully extravagant expression of love. I am tired of living in the fear of people and in fear of the world's hopeless condition. I want You to change me into an extravagant lover of You and of other people. Change me God. I want the fragrance of my life to be the fragrance of Your presence. In the name of Your Son Jesus I pray, Amen