Extravagance is a mighty word. It is used to describe something that is of great value or worth. It denotes something opulent. The Random House College Dictionary defines extravagance as: “spending much more than is necessary or prudent; wasteful” and “excessively high; exceeding the bounds of reason; going beyond what is justifiable; unrestrained.” American culture is founded on reaching these heights – a mark we’ve arrived and a way to leave our mark on the world. We have to look no farther than the seven wonders of the ancient world to see the evidence of this in history.
We can always count on Jesus to redefine our thinking. His definition of extravagance is, as usual, topsy-turvy – a 180 degree turn from what we think of as normal. He defines opulence as not something to chase after, but as something you do for others. One example is found in Luke 7:37-39 and John 12:2-4. It is Mary, pouring nard on Jesus’ feet and wiping it off with her hair and tears. It’s hard not to be moved by her act of devotion, I imagine Jesus was; especially given He was hours from the Cross.
But, if you dig deeper – certain facts present themselves to reveal this act, not only as remarkable, but indeed extravagant. In Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, author Joanna Weaver reveals that nard was the most expensive perfume in the world – equal to approximately thirty thousand dollars a bottle today. She extrapolates that it was probably Mary’s dowry. Mary was giving every cent she was worth to massaging Jesus’s feet. More than that, some commentators have speculated, that on another level, she was preparing Christ for burial.
There is a final piece that puts this in the realm of extreme lavishness. It was also probably a major reason why Judas was so offended. You see, a Jewish woman’s unbound hair was for her husband’s eyes only. The unbridled love Mary showed really upset the cultural apple cart.
It is Jesus, however, Who goes on to give us the greatest example of obscene love – when He took our places on that first Good Friday. He poured Himself out as an offering to His Father, just as Mary did with the nard. His blood flowed for us. He went beyond the bounds of reason – for one reason – to save us for Himself, for eternity.
Mary made this choice – she made Jesus all she had. So too we must have hearts that cling to His extravagant affection; hearts that yearn to show that love to others. Weaver’s adaptation of Hebrews 13:21 is a mantra for all who want to express their faith in Christ: “I am all the Lord’s and He is working in me now to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
During Lent, we ponder His sacrifice. But in your meditation, remember the tremendous luxury afforded to us as Children of God. I guarantee thinking like that will upset the apple cart in your own life. It also paves the way for extravagant joy on Easter Morning!