Waste not, want not,” Ben Franklin warns. Those of us who
are children of the Depression or children of children of
the Depression have learned how to squeeze the life out of every
single penny. So it strikes us as odd that Jesus not only allows
but even applauds what appears to be careless extravagance.
Mary does a reckless thing—embarrassing and perhaps too
intimate. No doubt several squirm and look away. “Why was
this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money
given to the poor?” A laborer’s family could live for a year on
what that one bottle of perfume cost, and this woman’s gone and
poured it all on Jesus’ feet, for heaven’s sake.
Whatever your opinion of Judas, you have to concede his
point: The extravagant use of this perfume contradicts all that
Jesus taught about simplicity and selflessness. Jesus championed
the rights of the poor, called them blessed, and claimed
they would inherit the kingdom of heaven.
It seems out of character for Jesus to allow the waste of this
expensive perfume, but it shouldn’t. The God we see in Jesus
Christ is a reckless, passionate, divine spendthrift. The God we
see in Jesus Christ is a shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine
to go after one lost sheep. The God we see in Jesus Christ is a
woman who tears her house apart looking for one lost coin, and
when she finds it, invites the neighborhood to celebrate. The
God we see in Jesus Christ is a father who throws a party to
welcome a prodigal home.
The God we see in Jesus Christ continues to surprise us. If
the gospel is anything, it is outrageous; it demands an excessive
and extravagant response. There is nothing frugal about the love
of Christ or about the lives of those who serve him.
Help us, loving One, to share your outrageous grace with all we meet. Amen.
It is not appropriate to conclude that God disappears at the cross and only emerges again in the event of Easter. Christian proclamation of the cross begins with the understanding that even in Jesus’ utter abandonment, God was present. The Holy Week/Easter texts bring together the common themes of death’s reality, the powerful intrusion of the delivering God, and the manifold responses to resurrection. Paul argues that the gospel looks to many like nothing more than weakness and folly. The cross symbolizes defeat but is in reality the instrument of power and salvation. Isaiah 50:4-9a recalls the hostility that follows upon servanthood. A moment of acceptance, even welcome, will not hide from the servant the fact of the rejection to come. John 20 honestly faces the reality of death. Paul asserts in First Corinthians that the cross of Jesus Christ reveals the power of God.
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. When have you faced a task with your face set like int? How did your resolve impact the outcome of your work?
• Read Matthew 27:57-66. When have you attempted to seal Jesus in a tomb? When have you felt anxious or fearful about the change Jesus might bring in your life?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. In what ways have you discovered the Cross to be God’s wisdom for you?
• Read John 20:1-18. How does Jesus’ resurrection signal new life to you? What comes to you “green and fresh” today?
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