Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Sime, a man who had suffered from a dreaded skin disease. While Jesus was eating, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar filled with an expensive perfume, which she poured on his head.
The apostles saw this and became angry. "Why all this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold for a large amount and the money given to the poor!"
Jesus knew what they were saying and so he said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? It is a fine and beautiful things that she has done for me. You will always have the poor people with you, but you will not always have me. What she did was to pour this perfume on my body to get me ready for burial. Now, I assure you that where ever this gospel is preached all over the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
Several years ago, I heard a message on this passage. I don't remember who, where, when. But I remember one thing that the speaker said that Jesus approved of extravagant love. An extravagant love doesn't always make sense, it can seem wasteful or even useless. But that doesn't mean it's not valuable.
This passage reminds me of a woman in Rome, Ga who started a ministry of washing the feet of the homeless. She said she wanted to do it because they were constantly on their feet, with no money to buy decent shoes. Like the woman with the alabaster jar, critics said she could do something different, something profitable.
But, like the woman with the alabaster jar, the woman who washed feet was showing extravagant love. Jesus, when he rebuked the disciples, was saying extravagant, reckless love is good on occasion. It's valuable. Yes, we have to be about His business and follow His teaching, but every now and then, it's good to love Him in a senseless, reckless way. When I say senseless and reckless, I'm saying that's how its perceived by those on the outside of that moment.
She was called to show extravagant love, a senseless, but beautiful love, a humbling love, not unlike the woman with the alabaster jar. Jesus showed his approval to the woman with the alabaster jar by promising her story would be told forever. The woman in Rome, Ga was rewarded with a small feature in the newspaper (by me). Her story may not last forever, but in my mind, it will. And I believe Jesus will remember it, too.
Extravagant love isn't suppose to make sense. It has a bit of planning, but yet a bit of reckless abandonment that can only come from overwhelming passion. As fiction writers, our novels and stories have that same reckless abandonment -- we don't care what the knowledgeable, well trained disciples say. We're offering what we have.
Our talents could be used on helpful and very necessary tools like Bible studies and commentaries. Our skills could be used to research and validate disputed parts of the Bible, which would be far more profitable, at least monetarily. But, just as the woman with the alabaster jar and just as the woman with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water, we aren't called there. We've been called to love extravagantly, a love that is senseless in the way that only Jesus truly understands.
I look at "Fair Balance" and all the stories in "Light at the Edge of Darkness" and "Higher Honor" and I pray that my words, and the words of my fellow scribes will be a rare, beautiful oil flowing over my Savior and we'll be humbled when He accepts our offering of an extravagant love. For me, it's a humbling love, for Him, I hope it's a beautiful, extravagant love filled with a passion He understands.