Sacrificial giving. The woman with perfume is an amazing person, commended by the Lord for doing “a beautiful thing…” What a wonderful example this woman who lavishly pours out abundance, more than she has, on the feet of Jesus.
Let’s look at Simon: I learned something new in studying this scripture. It’s a theory. (For further study see http://www.goodnewsaboutgod.com/studies/spiritual/home_study/judas_father.htm.) Simon is called the leper, yet he obviously does not have leprosy , or he would not be in a house with others. The only explanation is that he used to have leprosy, and now, being healed of the disease that so dramatically characterized his life, the label sticks. Sally and I are getting a kick out of watching this seasons silly show, America’s got Talent. The background of one of the incredibly talented singers is that he is a car washer. No matter how far he goes, that will always be part of his story, an incredible turn around in his life. Simon the leper.
Other passages indicate that Simon the Leper is a Pharisee. This explains why the opening verses of chapter 14 put this in the context of the Pharisees looking for Jesus… it appears that Simon the Leper, a Pharisee, becomes part of the story. But more amazing –we may know Simon’s last name: Iscariot, the father of Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus. I had never seen before that Judas father’s name is Simon: John 6:70-71.
Lord, Come to my Messy House says Simon, Simon the Leper who ought to have been grateful for being healed, Simon the Pharisee, who ought to have recognized the Messiah of Israel, Simon Isacariat the father of one of Jesus disciples, joined the plot to betray Jesus and let his home be used as the stage to help track Jesus’ whereabouts (Mark 14:11). A hundred years ago when I first served for a brief time as an interim pastor in Pasadena, the first time I served communion, a visitor was there. He had tears in his eyes, he cried as I read the words. I later heard his passionate story about everything that was wrong and how much he needed God. The next day, I went to his apartment to follow up, I rang the intercom, and the occupants had never heard of him. I had the right place -- he lied. This man got away with a few bucks in a deceptive scam, never to be heard from again. I felt more sorry for him than the church. There are those who take advantage, and if I am played for the fool at times, so be it, but I look at Christ, who surely knew the character of Simon, surely knew the plot that was afoot, definitely knew what Judas, one of the disciples was about to do, and he let it go… Simon the Leper, every reason to be thankful, but instead chose an insincere path. He had everything going for him, but he had nothing.
The woman. I love the words, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” A beautiful thing. There is our proper response modeled by this woman. Who is the true host of this house? Who practices true hospitality. Not Simon, but this woman. A beautiful thing. Invite Christ into your home to bless him. He will bless you, but the first act is to bless him. Make the blessing of Christ to be the passion of your life, the extravagance. Have you ever splurged when you don’t really have the money, bought the deluxe package when basic would do, the leather interior instead of standard. I don’t know about luxuries when it’s right or wrong, but for Christ, we are always called to splurge, to give more than we have… One person spoke of two ways acts demonstrated by this woman: A powerful devotion and an enormous sacrifice.
A powerful devotion.
The woman is motivated by love: she breaks the jar and pours all the perfume, a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death, all over his head. The woman does not know how to honor Jesus correctly, a woman is not supposed to approach a man in such a way…. more importantly, the woman doesn’t know how to do it wrong. I see people around Sumas, and I realize that maybe there are other ways to express Christianity in ways that I am not familiar. I mean this is a great compliment, I am going to compliment Kim Smith, she is going to be baptized – she is excited, and you know how she has been inviting people, this is a compliment, she has been saying, bring lobster, because the water might boil… Maybe she doesn’t know how to fit the mold, but maybe she doesn’t know how to do it wrong either. The Lord is going to use Kim to teach the rest of us something…she has a different style, a different way… The woman is overwhelmed with love. Lavishing this expensive perfume on Jesus, she is pouring out her heart, praising Jesus, honoring Him, in effect, worshipping Jesus, and sacrificing to Him.
As we think about how to do church, we are concerned with truth and right beliefs. We are concerned with right behavior. This is good. But we need something else. The “something” the woman demonstrates for us. She shows us right emotion, right feeling. She shows us the heart. There is something beautiful about a heart for God that responds in an intensely personal way.
The disciples think the woman is out of her mind. They criticize her because she is being too emotional and she isn’t moderate./// The woman doesn’t care. She’s not afraid of public opinion. She’s not afraid to do something out of the ordinary. She doesn’t ask the disciples if it’s Ok. She doesn’t even ask Jesus. She breaks the tradition. She doesn’t know how to do it wrong. Her love is so great it expresses itself in an exceptional act of devotion. For this, Jesus praises her: “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
Ask the Lord to refresh your heart, to give You the same powerful devotion as this woman. Ask the Holy Spirit to transform our daily worship from being a moderate, controlled response to one of intense affection and devotion like this woman.
An enormous sacrifice.
The woman sacrifices her incredibly expensive perfume as an expression of her love and devotion to Jesus. She could have sold it for a large amount just as the disciples thought she should - it is worth more than one year’s wages. In today’s market value, it might be worth $50,000. I looked up the most expensive perfume in the world -- $215,000/bottle, Clive Christian’s Imperial Majesty. Imagine taking such a bottle of perfume and pouring it all out? A year’s worth of work, completely gone, just like that.
For an offering to be meaningful, it is going to cost us something. We must give up something that is of value to us. I am not sure if I really know sacrificial giving. At times I’ve given so much money that I decided to not go out to dinner! Is that sacrificial giving? Wholehearted worship demands everything we have, and everything we are.
The disciples suggest that the money could be given to the poor. They don’t understand the woman’s motive. They thought the Lord has commended them to love their neighbor but they don’t realize that to do this they must love their Lord first. Jesus is telling them to sacrifice to Him first as he is about to be sacrificed on their behalf.
The lesson: to give more than you have, to sacrifice for Christ when it makes no earthly sense, incredible generosity… not for a return, but simply as an expression of love and devotion. Like so many millions before me, I have found that God’s economy is different from man’s economy…somehow the Lord provides as we give… this woman is among the richest of people….
What a beautiful thing this woman has done. A waste? No more than Jesus “wasted” life in dying on the cross. Her devotion is to be admired. Her extravagance is to be an example. To invite the Lord into your home and give him the dignity and devotion, to love and praise him, to sacrifice for the Lord through your extravagant time, energy, resources, more than you have, more than makes sense, to be outrageous…
God Himself is extravagant. God gives us an extravagant gift in the person of Jesus Christ. You cannot outgive God – anything we do is but a foreshadowing. A tiny jar of perfume… What a beautiful thing she has done to Jesus! - a heavenly fragrance -. This bottle of perfume presents the Gospel of salvation.
Simon the Leper had everything but rejected Christ. The woman with perfume shows the better way: to love Jesus beyond reason and sacrifice beyond what makes sense.