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SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON FOR FEB. 28, 2010

LESSON XIII

EXTRAVAGANT LOVE

DEVOTIONAL READING : Deuteronomy 15:7-11

BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: Matthew 26:6-13

PRINT PASSAGE: Matthew 26:6-13

KEY VERSE:
Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her... Matthew 26:13

OBJECTIVES:
Upon completion of this lesson, the student should have learned that:
1. Jesus was the only one who was completely ready for His death, burial and resurrection...

2. People too often “count the cost” of serving God...

SESSION OVERVIEW:
The event that we study today has been the subject of much debate over the years. Was the incident recorded by John in his Gospel (John 12:1-8) the same as the one recorded here by Matthew, by Mark (Mark 14:3-9) and by Luke (7:36-50)? This writer says “no”. Look at the evidence. John points to the day as Saturday (six days before the Passover and one day before the Triumphal Entry). Moreover, John records Mary, the sister of Martha as anointing Jesus’ feet. The accounts in both Matthew and Mark say it was two days before Passover (Making it Wednesday), and the woman anointed Jesus’ head. Luke agrees with John (Luke 7:37, 38) in the anointing of Jesus’ feet...

There should be no doubt that a woman on one occasion anointed Jesus’ head, and on one or two other occasions, a woman anointed Jesus’ feet. We know that the woman mentioned by John as anointing Jesus feet was in fact Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Moreover John specifies the place as Lazarus’ house. Our lesson text today specifies the home of one Simon the Leper. This leads one to assume that Simon was technically a former leper whom Jesus had healed, and Jesus was there for a visit...

After all, during Passion Week Jesus travelled daily from Jerusalem to Bethany to stay the night (cf. Matthew 21:17)...

INTRODUCTION:
There is no record of who this woman was that is the focal point of today’s lesson. Like others in Scripture (e.g. the man born blind in John 9, and the widow with her pennies), this woman is known for her deed rather than by her name. It was two days before Passover – two days before Jesus would be crucified. Jesus would be dragged to a Roman cross and left there to die. Nightfall would threaten, and Jews NEVER permitted a dead man to remain unburied after nightfall (or before the end of the day). This would cause Jesus’ loved ones to forego His burial “anointing” because of the shortage of time. But that was no surprise to Jesus. He knew exactly how, when, and what would take place...

It is entirely possible that God had prepared this woman to come and do what would not be done at Jesus’ burial. Jesus understood, but His disciples didn’t...

COMMENTARY ON THE TEXT:

I. The Anointing
(Matthew 26:6, 7)

Not much is known of Jesus’ activities on Wednesday of Passion Week. This one incident stands out as possibly the only public act by our Savior that day. We don’t know just what the occasion might have been, other than that it was a meal. More importantly, we don’t know just why this unnamed woman would undertake to anoint Jesus. Could it be that she saw Jesus as king? After all, kings were anointed at their coronation. Could she have been attempting to force Jesus’ hand and compel Him to act? To forcibly establish His kingdom NOW?

Whatever the intention, the woman spared no expense. According to Mark’s account (14:5) the ointment in question could have been sold for “...more than three hundred pence”. That is, about a year’s wages for the average worker of that day. It is also noteworthy that, used in a normal manner, that ointment may have lasted for several years. But this woman didn’t “dab” the ointment on Jesus, she poured it on Him. And it is interesting that she left none for herself or her friends. She gave ALL to Jesus...

II The Complaining
(Matthew 26:8, 9)

It is impossible to know just what was going through the heads of Jesus’ disciples at this point. It is unlikely they thought that had the woman not poured the ointment on Jesus she would have handed it over to them to sell for profit. So just what was the problem? Could they have been jealous of the recognition Jesus was getting? What is sad is that Jesus’ disciples, after witnessing all the wonders and hearing Jesus’ sermons, would dare think it a “waste” to give anything to Jesus...

Just how much would the disciples have given Jesus? How committed were they to Jesus’ cause? Was this the kind of mentality that would – before week’s end – cause them to run for their lives upon Jesus’ arrest?

And what of the argument in “favor” of the poor? There is no record to this point of the disciples ever before expressing an urgent need to give to the poor. And if the poor were in such desperate straits, why not donate from the treasury they did have?

III. Jesus’ Response
(Matthew 26:10-13)

Jesus addressed two issues: (1) the true purpose of the woman’s act, and (2) why the “concern” for the poor is not at this time relevant...

Many times God causes men (and women) to take certain measures, and they have no idea as to just what the acts mean. That’s because God already knows the future, and He is the one who laid out the Ultimate Plan. He chooses whoever He will to carry out portions of that Plan. This is what Jesus in essence told His disciples. This woman, whatever the motive in her head, had anointed Jesus for His burial. Jesus didn’t complain when the woman approached Him to carry out the act, so the disciples should have been equally silent...

Concerning the question of the poor, Jesus explained that time was of the essence. They would, in fact, deal with the poor not many years in the future through the Jerusalem church. But Jesus had four days left on this side of His earthly ministry, and another 40 days in concluding His ministry. So Jesus was correct in warning the disciples that they would not have Him always. This was important, because the disciples were still unprepared for the death, burial and resurrection of their Leader, and felt no urgency to do anything special for Him...

APPLICATION OF THE SCRIPTURE:
Every believer has his or her own way of serving God. It is not unusual for any of us to be surprised, puzzled, or in disagreement with another person’s method of service. What is important is that we remember that the way in which one worships is not something for us to evaluate. In fact, we don’t have sufficient information to evaluate anyone’s method of paying homage to God...

Positively, we should not make the mistake of thinking we have the right to determine “how much” of ours we should give to God. It is, in fact, all His to begin with (Psalm 24:1), and nothing is “too much”. But a word of caution: even giving all of one’s material belongings to God will do little good unless one can truly give God his heart...

REFLECTIONS ON THE LESSON:
1. Name some occasions on which you have inwardly (or outwardly) criticized someone over a gift to someone else...

2. How do you determine how much to give to God, whether in church treasury or other venues?

ASSIGNMENT, PROJECT, OR ACTIVITY:
1. Explore the modern tension between things or ministries that some think are “extravagant” but others consider “necessary”...

2. Suggest a way to serve Jesus in an extravagant way...

Closing Prayer -
Father, help me to keep focused on the assignment You have given me, and to be understanding of the directives you have given others. Amen.

A
 
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