Greg Laurie — Do What You Can, While You Can
Here now before us in Matthew 26 is the story of a woman who actually was accused of waste. In reality as we will see it was the very opposite of that reminding us that things are not always as they appear. I am convinced that when we get to heaven we are going to see everything differently. I suggest to you some things that we thought of as good on earth will be seen from the eternal perspective as not so good. Some things that we thought of as bad on earth will be seen from a heavenly viewpoint as actually very good things in our lives.
In life here on earth our definition of good is prosperity. You are doing well. You are making a lot of money. Your health is very good. Everything is going well for you. There is nothing wrong with that. God can bless you with those things. You can even take those gifts and use them for his glory. But for some people sometimes those things can be a distraction in their lives. On the other hand we look at difficulties in life like sickness or disability or failure as a bad thing. I suggest to you when we get to heaven we may look back on those hard times and realize those were some of the best times because those were the times when I was becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.
My point is things are not always as they appear. The critics of the woman we are going to be reading about in a moment unfairly judged her actions. They accused her of great waste. In contrast Jesus Christ saw her heart and commended her. In fact he singled her out and acknowledged what she did. Here is the question. What do you want more in life? The approval of God or the applause of man. If you have God's approval you won't always have man's applause. In fact sometimes if you have God's approval you will have man's opposition. When I say man's I mean the culture will not applaud the man or the woman that totally follows Jesus Christ. When it is all said and done who do you care about more. God's opinion or someone else's opinion.
Here now is this amazing story before us of this woman bringing a special gift to Jesus. It is met with criticism but ultimately she is commended for what she did. Our text is Matthew 26 starting in verse 6. "And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when his disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, 'why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and the money given to the poor.' But when Jesus was aware of it, he said to them, 'why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for me. For you have the poor with you always, but me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on my body, she did it for my burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.'"
Here we are now 2000 years later reading this story just like Jesus said we would and what we should be doing as well. We now find Christ on the road to calvary. By that I mean he is on his way to die on the cross. There is a chain of events that are going to unfold before us now that will ultimately lead to the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. He has already had a lot of confrontations with the religious leaders at this point. They were angry at him. They wanted him dead plain and simple. They couldn't do it at this exact moment because people were gathered together in Jerusalem for the passover. Though they hated Christ he still had a lot of people that admired him. They would wait for what was in their estimation the right moment.
Meanwhile Jesus knowing exactly what was happening around him decides to spend an evening with friends. He goes to Bethany. He goes to the home of a man named Simon the Leper. I think there was some lively conversation going on that night. Christ had just delivered the olivet discourse. Matthew 24 which we looked at in depth. So I am sure there were a lot of questions about that. Then to make things even more interesting in their presence was the resurrected Lazarus. Can you imagine talking to a person that died and came back to life? "Lazarus what was it like man? What did you see on the other side"? All of this conversation is going on. There was excitement in the room. There is a woman there who is so deeply moved by what she sees she wants to do something incredibly extravagant to show her absolute devotion to Christ. Verse 7. "A woman came to him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table".
Can you imagine? You are sitting at a table and someone is pouring perfume on your head. This is more than just perfume. This is very expensive imported kind of scent and perfume and so forth. Another Gospel tells us this woman was Mary. There are a lot of Mary's in the Bible. This is Mary of Mary and Martha fame. Remember her. Whenever we read of Mary she is always at the feet of Jesus. I love that. Here she is at his feet anointing his head with oil. Then we read of her in an earlier story when Christ comes over to her home for a meal and Martha is frantically working in the kitchen to prepare him a feast. Mary decides to just sit at his feet. How often do you get a chance to hear the Word of God from the Word of God himself?
Here is Mary at his feet again. She is perceiving something that no one else seemed to understand. She is understanding that Jesus was going to the cross. You say, "Didn't everyone know that". No they didn't. These guys still thought he was going to establish an earthly kingdom. That is why they would argue about who would have the top spot in the kingdom. Though he spoke repeatedly about his death and his resurrection and gave details I am going to be betrayed. I am going to be crucified. He gave them everything they needed to know. It just went right over their heads.
Suddenly to Mary she has an understanding. Maybe it is women's intuition. Maybe it is a spiritual insight that no one else seemed to grasp. She suddenly understands Jesus has been saying what he meant and he has been meaning what he said. Jesus is going to go die on the cross. It broke her heart. She wanted to do something really special for him. She thinks, "What is the most valuable thing I own. It is that family heirloom of that beautiful fragrant anointing oil". Possibly from India. I will pour that on Jesus to show how much I love him". Judas is watching this. With a first century calculator in hand, a man who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing, instantly calculates the value of what she just did. This special perfume had a street value of wait for it. $25,000 to $35,000. She just poured the whole thing on Jesus.
What a waste Judas says. Surprisingly the others chime in and parrot his statement. Judas is typical of so many today. Many like dutiful pharisees only want to give that which is absolutely required by God. They want to give the bare minimum. What is the least I can do and still technically be a Christian? Or as I have actually heard it said, "How much can I get away with and still be saved? "How far can I go before I would be in danger of jeopardizing my relationship with God"? That is not a good question to ask. You should be asking the opposite question which is, "How much more can I do for the one who has done so much for me"?
You know a lot of us just kind of paint by the numbers. We want to do the bare minimum and get on with our lives. We will go to church once a week. Maybe not always once a week. Maybe twice a month. We will sort of check in. We will read the Bible if we find the time in our busy schedule. We will pray briefly before meals and maybe before bed. We will give in the offering maybe. In many cases people will give more to a waitress than they will give to the Lord. We will ask questions like do Christians still need to tithe? I mean actually 10%. What we are really trying to say is I don't want to give that to the Lord. Instead you should be saying, "That is entry level right there. 10%. I will give that to the Lord. No problem. How much more can I give"?
The Bible talks about bringing your tithes and your offerings to the Lord. If you don't think that way, if this is some duty for you, and you are just doing it because you have to, you are missing the point. All things in moderation. That is my motto. That might be good for some things but it is not good for your relationship with God. You should not follow Jesus in moderation. You should follow Christ whole heartedly. Maybe this is why the world was changed by the lives of the early church. As modeled by Mary there was a sense of abandon with them. They didn't play it safe. They took risks. God would tell Philip to go into the desert and he would go. God would tell Peter to take the hand of a crippled man and pull him to his feet. He would do it. They were willing to take a risk for the kingdom of God. In fact, we are told in Acts 4:13 that many of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John for they could see that they were ordinary men who had no special training. Listen to this. They recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
Can people tell when you have been with Jesus? When you leave church do you think people can tell you have been with Jesus? Or you were just at church? I have actually been told by servers in restaurants that some of the most difficult people to deal with are Christians after church on Sunday. Sometimes they are rude. Usually they are cheap. They don't leave a tip. Then to make matters worse they leave an evangelistic booklet for them you know. And so sometimes when we have been with Jesus in theory we are not the best witness. We get in our car. Wasn't that a great sermon? "Get out of my way you idiot". We are honking. And that is in the church parking lot still.
Okay. I think we are missing something here. Let me ask you this. When is the last time you took a risk for your faith? When is the last time you left your comfort zone and engaged a person with the Gospel? When is the last time you said or did something bold for the kingdom? You say, "But Greg what if I fail"? OK. How about this one? What if you succeed? What if God blesses? Won't you take that step of faith? What was it that brought this sense of abandon and sacrifice for Mary? Listen. The thing that moved her was Jesus himself. In her view nothing was too good for Jesus. I am going to give him my very best. I want to show my love in a way that he will see. She brought this wonderful gift to offer to him.
You know sometimes there are people that we love deeply and they are taken from us suddenly. It might be a grandparent. It might be a parent. It might be a spouse. A son. A daughter. A teacher a pastor. Someone that we valued in life. We realize we never told them how much we appreciated them. I wish I would have told them this and that. When I talk to people who have lost loved ones they will often go back to that last conversation they had with that person and say, "I wish I had said this. I wish I had not said that". Here is my suggestion to you. Don't wait to bring your flowers later at a person's funeral. Bring your flowers now. If there is someone you love, if there is someone who has impacted your life, if there is someone you have never shared that with before the day is over write them a card. You might even send them a little candle. Send them an email. At the very least send them a text. Say something about them. You could post it on social media and Instagram. I appreciate this person. I love them. I value them. Say it now. Don't wait until later.
That is what nary was doing for Jesus. She was bringing her flowers now showing him how much she cared about him. Well listen. Not everybody appreciated her generosity and sacrifice. Look at verse 8. "But when his disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, 'why this waste?'" By the way the word indignant here could be translated to feel pain, to grieve, or to growl with displeasure. "Why this waste? This is outrageous". Now on the surface there is a certain legitimacy to this complaint and criticism. After all was this a practical thing to do. Is it really good stewardship to pour out this expensive perfume on Jesus? In one sense no. In another sense yes. John's Gospel gives us a significant detail on this story. In John's version of the story we read this. "One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him objected saying, 'why was this perfume not sold and the money given to the poor.'" The then John adds this little tidbit. "He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief".
You see Judas was a treasurer. He held the money for the disciples. Don't forget that he sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver. He was a greedy man. Interestingly he projects his sin onto a woman who was not guilty of it at all. Sometimes when we are critical of other people accusing them of something that may be our issue. If we are always harping on a certain thing, in other people's lives is that our issue. Actually as I point one finger at you do I have three pointed back at me. Sometimes we will see someone who is so critical of what others say and do and then it will come out that they are guilty of something far worse. That is Judas. "This is a waste".
Ironically do you know what the name Judas means? It means Son of Waste. Is that a good name to give to a child? I am going to name you Son of Waste. Dad does that mean that you are waste and I am the Son of Waste. You are the Son of Waste. Would you play with a kid with the name Son of Waste? The Bible tells the story of a boy that was born. His name was Ichabod because he was born after the ark of the covenant had been taken out of the temple. His mother died in childbirth. They gave him the name Ichabod which means the glory has departed. Would you want to hang around with a person with a name like that? Hey my name is the glory has departed. This is my buddy Son of Waste. Those are some unsavory characters for sure. Here is the interesting thing. Judas was guilty of the very thing he had accused Mary of. He is the clearest example of waste in all of the Bible betraying Christ for some coin. Then he had the audacity to accuse a woman with a good heart of wasting a gift she gave to Jesus.
This is typical of hypercritical people. Maybe when we get together on that final day you will have all of your parties and events and experiences. Then I will talk about what I went through as a follower of Jesus Christ and check this out. Even if you win you still technically lose. By that I mean even if you "Win" meaning you got all of the things this world offers. You had all of the experiences one could have. There is still a judgment waiting for you. Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul". In reality life doesn't usually work that way now does it? The person that chases after those things is into their second, third, fourth marriage. Estranged from their children. Lonely. Miserable. Empty. Sometimes the substances they have abused have taken their toll even on their physical body.
The point is I don't think we have given up much of anything to follow Jesus Christ. It is not a waste at all. He came to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. Here is my question for you. Are you sure right now your life is right with God? Do you know God? Because I am telling you if you don't you are wasting your life right now. Whatever you are chasing after that is a waste of life. The life that is well-lived is the life that is lived for the glory of God.