I have been struck this Easter by the choices of a woman who is twice charged with extravagance by others and yet on both occasions lavishly praised by Jesus.
Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, is lifted up by Jesus as a great example of godly extravagance.
Perhaps the most obvious occasion of Mary’s excessive behaviour towards Jesus is when she broke the jar of costly perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. Her extravagant love has rightly been spoken of by Christians all over the world – as Jesus said it would be.
Presumably this is what Max Lucado was referring to in the quote I lifted off of brainyquote.com.
There is a time for risky love. There is a time for extravagant gestures. There is a time to pour out your affections on one you love. And when the time comes – seize it, don’t miss it. Max Lucado
But what of the other occasion?
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” …
While Martha may have tolerated Mary spending a moment with Jesus, this was going too far. It was excessive! Time and energy were limited and Mary was not spending them on what Martha needed her to. This was extravagant time use and then some.
Or was it?
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Did Mary love so extravagantly because she first listened so extravagantly? Would loving extravagantly come more naturally and be less of a dilemma if I was more excessive in the time I spent sitting at Jesus feet? If I sat at his feet to soak up his words to me, reading scripture, fixing it in my heart and mind and praying would I not delight to soak the feet of others with the best that I had to offer?
Dear Father, teach me to listen to you extravagantly. Not just in the amount of seconds and minutes I clock up, but in the portions of my affections, passion, energy, and concentration that I allocate to hearing you speak. Forgive me that I am so quick to criticise myself for spending time quietly with you that ‘should’ be sent on more pressing matters. May I gaze more at your fathomless love that I may rest in who I am in you, in all I have in you and from that place of peace to reflect the extravagance of your love in my life. Please show me where restraint is caused not by wisdom, but by fear and greed. Mary did what she could Lord when she poured out that perfume. You call us to good as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10). Please help me to have a keen sight for the opportunities you give me to do good and to extravagantly do what I can in those opportunities. Thank you for the loud message of your grace that you speak to me, and for your Holy Spirit who has given me ears to hear it. Thank you that your extravagance covers all my miserly, ugly, mean-hearted rebellion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.