An Extravagant Gesture

Lou Lotz

Read: John 12:1-8

Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor? (v. 5)

American writer E. B. White said: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” I wonder if Jesus faced a similar struggle. Jesus told the rich young ruler to “sell what you possess and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). Yet when Mary sloshes a jug of expensive perfume over Jesus’ head, perfume that could have been sold for an enormous sum and the money given to the poor, Jesus tells his disciples to quit complaining. “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me” (John 12:8). Make up your mind, Jesus.

As a pastor, I was involved in several building campaigns over the years, and in every campaign I heard the same kind of objections. How can the church justify constructing a million-dollar atrium when there are villages in India that have no sewers? How can we spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new gymnasium floor when mission work goes unfunded? I never knew what to say.

Jesus defended Mary. Her heart was full of gratitude and it spilled over. To Jesus, Mary’s extravagant gesture was not a waste, it was an act of love. I wonder if some bystander at Jesus’ crucifixion saw this poor young man dying and thought, “What a waste.” But it wasn’t, it was love. —Lou Lotz

As you pray, thank God for the extravagant gift of salvation.