The painting and the extravagant worship

We’ve all read about the huge furore about Brett Murray’s painting “The Spear”.  The painting is of Jacob Zuma, our president, with certain parts of his body exposed.  How are we to respond? 

The Bible does teach that we are all made in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect.   Bible teaches that we should seek to build other up, not tear each other down.  The Bible also teaches that we should stand up for truth and justice, point out injustice, sin and immorality.  I’ll let you decide.

What was interesting is that two men, a business man and a taxi driver, were caught on camera defacing the painting.  What made them do this extravagant, impulsive and unlawful action?  In their own way they wanted to protest against the painting and against the ethnic tensions it’s creating in our country.  Their beliefs lead them to action; their convictions led them to extravagant conduct.

Mark 14:1-11 is an account of extravagant conduct too, although the woman pouring perfume on Jesus may be an extravagance that guys find hard to identify with!   Yet what we see in the woman’s actions is an attitude that is worthy of imitation – for guys and girls.  It’s an attitude that Mark wants us to imitate – which is why he included this account in his book.

In contrast to the religious leaders who are seeking to do a bad thing to Jesus, this woman has done a beautiful thing.  The woman really teaches us about discipleship, about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  

 

Faith comes before action 

The woman performed this action because she loved Jesus, not to make Jesus love her.  We as Christians obey, honour, follow and serve Jesus not to make Jesus love us, but because he loved us.

God rescuing the Israelites from Egypt at the time of Moses is a perfect example.  God first rescued them and only then gave them the 10 Commandments.  Obeying the 10 Commandments didn’t save them. God saved them.  The 10 Commandments were and are God’s guidelines for his already saved people.  The principle is sound: God’s grace leads to action.  Our actions, our obedience, our devotion, our  ministry and our godliness as Christians is not to make God love us, or to earn his favour, or to work our way into heaven, but a response to God’s gracious work in our lives.

The Bible does not teach Islam or Buddhism.  We cannot earn our way into heaven, no matter how expensive the perfume or how big the donation or how moral our lives are.  Faith comes before action.

 

Faith responds in action

Or as the apostle James says, “Faith without works is dead”.  This woman’s love for Jesus compelled her to action, even extravagant action.  She most probably lived in this village of Bethany just outside Jerusalem.  She had obviously heard Jesus teach and heard of the miracles.   This woman may well have been Mary the brother of Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead.  Now that Jesus was in town, there was no other action open to her but to demonstrate her love for Jesus in some kind of way.

She could not keep quiet, she could not keep still, and she could not keep away.

Your faith is seen in your actions.  Your actions demonstrate if you have faith or not.   Are you seeking to obeys God’s word, to live a transformed live, to be a godly husband or a godly  wife, to live with integrity at work and to demonstrate grace and justice to your children?  Are you seeking to serve Jesus and his people, even in extravagant ways that people might laugh at or ridicule?  Faith responds in action.

The deep inner convictions of the two men drove them to defacing the painting.  Their belief drove them to action – it’s the same with Christians.

 

3. Jesus is infinitely worthy of our worship

Mark 14:3 says, “A woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.”

We don’t know who Simon the Leper was, but we do know expensive perfume was put in alabaster jars and nard was a particularly expensive fragrance that was made from the roots of a plant found in India. One had to break the jar to open it.   The perfume was probably an heirloom passed from mother to daughter and had great sentimental and monetary value.   The disciples, in fact, are angry and say it could be sold for 300 denarri – more than a year’s salary of an ordinary worker!  We might have been angry at the “waste”ourselves.

But Jesus replies in v6, “Leave her alone.  Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

How do you view Jesus?   Are you like the woman who recognises Jesus worth and responds in extravagant service, extravagant worship and extravagant generosity?  Or are you more like the religious leaders, and even some of the disciples, who think Jesus in not worthy of such worship or extravagance? 

 

Here is an extended quote worth reading:

“The deeds and titles of many a king and emperor and general are as completely forgotten as if written in the sand.  But the grateful act of one humble Christian woman is recorded in over 440 different languages and is known all over the globe. 

 

The praise of man is but for a few days, but the praise of Christ lasts forever. 

 

On the Day of Judgment no honour done to Christ shall be found to have been forgotten.  The Speeches of Parliamentary orators, the exploits of warriors, the works of poets and painters shall not be mentioned on that day.  But the least work that the weakest Christian person has done for Christ or his members shall be found written in a book of everlasting remembrance.  Not a single kind word or deed, not a cup of cold water or a jar of ointment shall be omitted from the record.   Silver and gold they may have had none, rank, power and influence she may not have possessed, but if they loved Christ and confessed Christ and worked for Christ, their memorial shall be found on high…

 

We may be laughed at and ridiculed by the world.  Our motives may be misunderstood.  Our conduct may be misrepresented.  Our sacrifices for Christ’s sake may be called “waste” – waste of time, waste of money, waste of strength.  Let none of these things move us.  The eye of him who sat in Simon’s house in Bethany is upon us.  He notes all we do and is well pleased.”