The Life and Teaching of Jesus – Part 35 – What a Waste


What a waste

What would you consider it means to be wasteful? Sometimes we can waste things of extreme value, things of much more importance than time or money. The text this week began with Jesus making an announcement about His coming death. Then we are told about a lady who anoints Him with some very expensive oil. (We know from other passages she was called Mary). Finally, we were told what Judas did and how he begins the process of betraying the Lord.

There are a number of ways to look at the death of Christ. He was a substitute for us who died in our place, for our sins, however it is the aspect of Jesus dying as a sacrifice I want to look at.

It was customary in those days to take something like this an expensive oil or perfume and put a single drop on each of the guests as they arrive.  But Mary took the whole Jar (which by the way would also have been valuable) and she broke it (thus rendering the jar worthless) and poured all of it on His head. She took the most valuable thing she would have owned and sacrificed it for the Lord. We see her reward is to be criticised by the whole group saying, “why was this oil wasted”. If you ever do anything worthwhile for Jesus Christ, you-will-be criticised. You may be criticised by your family, or your friends, and sadly often even by people within the church. Criticism is never an act of love, on occasion someone may come to you with a correction and that can be out of love, but criticism is not loving and rarely comes before you face to face. Usually it is done behind your back and to another third party. Godly concern and coaching or even correction come and gently speaks to you face to face.  However, criticism is different and the moment it leaves the mouth of the critic and lands in the mouth of a third party it then becomes nothing more than gossip. And you just have to read James Chapter 3 to see what the bible says about gossip.

The question we have to ask ourselves as Christians is not why am I being criticised. The real question is how can we do the work of the Lord and serve Him without reward and experience unjust criticism, and not be worn down by it. Criticism hurts look at the passage and the way it is written where is says they criticised and rebuked her harshly. On this occasion, Mary is the one person in the room who recognises the sacrifice Jesus is going to make for her, and thinks this perfumed oil is nothing compared to what he is going to give up for me. She sacrifices the most valuable thing she owns and she is criticised for it. Jesus understood that, and this is why He said this; She’s done something beautiful, she has come before him and don’t miss the big point that in making her sacrifice she has also anointed His body for burial. Jesus response says; you will always have the opportunity to help the poor, and you should. I am not always going to be here, if you had listened and taken in what I said about being sacrificed and dying for sin, you would realize there is a limited opportunity here to do something sacrificial for me. Mary took that opportunity. I believe she understood the whole big picture, more than even the disciples. Jesus on many occasions had said, “I am going to die”.  Maybe she was the one follower who sat at His feet and realized completely what He meant, while the others missed it.

She may not have had much reward from the others seated around but look at what she gets from the Lord. Maybe one of the lessons we can learn from this passage is, you may get criticised today, but you will be honoured later. Do all you can to honour the Lord today and accept the criticism, because He will honour you later.

A Northern Irish farmer was known for his generous giving and his friend couldn’t understand how he could give so much away yet remain so well off. One day a friend said to him, we don’t understand you, you give away far more than the rest of us, yet you always seem to have more to give. Oh’ he said that’s easy to explain. I keep shovelling my stuff into God’s bin and he keeps shovelling back into mine at exactly the same rate. How does that work said the friend, if you are both shovelling at the same rate. Well, he said, God has a much bigger shovel.

Mary was devoted, he was disloyal. Earlier I said the chief priest and scribes had a problem, they had a dilemma. In the opening verse we looked at tonight the “chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him”. Here is verse 11 Judas solves their problem. One other observation, it was Judas who called what Mary did a waste. That’s ironic because Judas was about to waste his entire life. He wasted his very soul which he sold as we shall see later, for just 30 pieces of silver. That is the greatest waste of all. More than a waste of money, a wasted life, a wasted opportunity to give over your life in service of the Son of God. When Jesus announced His death, Mary responded by sacrificing for making arrangements for His burial. Judas responded by making arrangements for his betrayal.

What are we to make of all this; Let me make just a couple of final suggestions. If God sent did indeed send Jesus to be a sacrifice in the way that Mary understood. If God indeed sacrificed His son for us, then how should we respond. Don’t waste the opportunity, don’t waste your life. Don’t miss your opportunity to recognise that truth and trust in Him for your eternity. God sacrifices His son, and in this story,  Mary responded by sacrificing an incredibly value bottle of perfumed oil. Maybe we too should sacrifice something of value for the Lord. If Christ really sacrificed himself for us, then no sacrifice is too great for Him. Remember this, you cannot out give God.  Have you ever planned to spend something on yourself and then decided to give the Lord?  Have you ever planned to spend time doing something for yourself and then gave that time over to the Lord instead? Here is the big point. God sacrificed His son, His most valuable precious possession and anything we sacrifice for Him will always be worthwhile and appropriate.  If you to make a sacrifice, a sacrifice of time, of money, of talent, or of anything. Then God is going to honour you.

I heard of a story told in India during my father travels there as a missionary in the 1960’s. A modern-day Christian parable if you will used to connect with the people of that culture, at that time. The story is told of a beggar in India, who sat by the roadside begging for alms. As he held out His bowl with a few rice grains in the bottom and people passing by would drop in a handful of rice. One day he saw that a grand possession was passing by and he though, Oh, this is good, maybe the Prince is coming my way, surely, he will have gold coin or something more precious than rice today. It was indeed the Prince stopped by the beggar who held out his bowl and waited eagerly to see what the Prince would put in it. Too his surprise the Prince asked, “how much of you rice will you give me today”. The beggar answered, “I cannot do that, this is all I have”. Again, the prince said, “I want you rice”.  Again, the beggar said,  “no, if I give you my rice I will starve”. Again, the Price asked and said, “give me some of your rice please”. The beggar finally reached into his bowel and took out three grains of rice and put them in the hands of the Prince. The price then reached into his bag and took out 3 Gold coins and dropped them in the beggar’s bowl. The beggar looked at them regretfully and said, “why didn’t I just give over to you everything that I had in my bowl”.


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What a Waste