Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, Senior Pastor
Palm Sunday, Sunday, April 01, 2012
Metropolitan AME Church
Scripture: Mark 14:1-9 – The Message Translation: 1-2 In only two days the eight-day Festival of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin. The high priests and religion scholars were looking for a way they could seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. They agreed that it should not be done during Passover Week. “We don’t want the crowds up in arms,” they said. 3-5Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. “That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.” They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her. 6-9But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me. She did what she could when she could—she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.”
Today is Palm Sunday, and this whole week, we will reflect on the Passion of Jesus: the sacrifice of his life; the betrayal of Judas; the denial of Peter; the mockery trial in the Sanhedrin — the same crowd who were crying their hosannas to be saved, but a few days later turned on him and cried their shouts to crucify him — and then the final steps towards crucifixion and death. As I reflected on Jesus’ last few days, I thought to myself: “What a costly gift on the part of Jesus for my salvation and the salvation of the world.” In every respect, on those last days, Jesus surrenders to God his best gift — obedience even unto death. This morning, I’d like to speak from the word: “When You Give Your Best Gift to God.”
If Michael Battle is correct and the Passion story of Jesus teaches us what divine love looks like, then let me suggest that in this scripture passage, the woman Mary, teaches us what human love for God ought to look like.
The Message Bible’s rendering of the scripture says: “While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head.” The text helps us to understand that this was not cheap perfume: “[It was] [a] bottle of very expensive perfume…could have been sold for over a year’s wages.”
The perfume reminds me that, when my sister and I were little poor children growing up in the projects, we thought that we were doing something great when we went to the local drug store and purchased a bottle of “toilet water” as a Christmas or Mother’s day gift for our mother. Mary’s perfume was not, by any stretch of the imagination, toilet water, it was not cheap perfume; it was not cologne.
Unknowingly, Mary’s gift comes at a crucial and pivotal moment in the life of Jesus. It was a gift of love. She had no idea what Jesus was about to experience, she just offers him the best gift she could possibly give.
Several aspects of this story ought to speak to us:
1. Out of sheer love for what Jesus meant to her, Mary offered to Jesus the best gift she had to give. The woman in the scripture has given much thought, reflection and prayer over the valuable perfume. Out of all of her possessions, it was the best gift she could give. Out of sheer love for Jesus, she offers her best. It wasn’t a “left-over gift”…it wasn’t a “re-gift”…it wasn’t a “closet gift” – you know when you forget get someone a gift and you just go in your closet to see what you can give them? It wasn’t a gift that she gave after all of her other obligations had been met. It was a gift “off the top”; there was nothing in her earthly possessions more valuable than this bottle of perfume.
And that’s how we ought to give – out of pure love for God, just because God is God; because God has been better than good to us; because God has given to us God’s best in Christ Jesus; because God saved me from my sins; because every morsel and crumb comes from God; because we are blessed with a reasonable portion of health and strength; because our worst days are not really the worst days…
As God moves in your life, opening doors for you, making ways for you, know that, whatever you have, whatever you are becoming, be clear that it is a gift from God. The house you live in, the car you drive, the clothes you wear, the job you have – or the job that’s on the way – it’s a gift from God. Out of sheer love for God, we ought never to offer anything less than our best.
2. In a spirit of sincere worship and praise, when we offer to God our best, it becomes a blessing to God. Certainly, Mary’s act along with the gift is a blessing to Jesus. In verse 6 of The Message Bible, Jesus says: “She has just done something wonderfully significant for me!”
What a thrill it must be to do something wonderfully significant for God! A ministry, a weekly tithe, giving your talents, gifts, sharing your expertise to advance the church, a good service to aid someone – what a thrill it is when, in your small way, you offer to God your best service, your best gift.
Here is a different frame of mind when you start giving and when you start doing: When you think about giving, when you think about serving, when you think about all you do or should do, say to yourself, “I am going to bless God. I’m going to bless GOD. I’m going to choir rehearsal – I’m going to bless God I’m going to the board meeting – I’m going to bless God.” And it will make a difference in your posture. If you say: I want to be a blessing to God, your attitude will change. It has nothing to do with your spouse, your church – it’s just you doing something for God
But for God’s sake, don’t think that everybody is going to be excited about your giving your best gift. As the children say: “Somebody is going to hate on you.” A whole lot of “some-bodies” are going to hate on you when you give your best. In one passage, we are told that Judas hates on Mary; we are told that Mary was scolded by some people in the crowd. “What a waste,” they said. “We could have done a whole lot more with that perfume.” Be clear, that, what was waste to them, in the eyes of Jesus, it was an act of worship and praise.
The same holds true of the Palm Sunday story. These poor people standing in the street shouting “hosanna save us,” taking their precious garments off of their backs and laying them on the ground must have appeared to the Pharisees, priests and Sadducees standing there “what a waste.” But in the eyes of Jesus, it was worship and praise.
O Brothers and Sisters, can you hear the haters: “Why do you keep going down to that church 2, 3, 4 days a week – what a waste!” You say – but it’s worship and praise – I’m serving God. “What a waste – men running up the street, feeding the hungry – we could take that money and pay on the mortgage or the carpet – what a waste!” But I’m worshipping, praising God. I’m broke – don’t have a dime, but I’m taking my tithe and I’m putting it in the offering plate. What a waste! …But I’m blessing, worshipping, and praising God. And I know I can’t beat what God has already done in my life; but every time I go to the Lord, I prayer he answers prayers, and I pray that my gift is a blessing to God.
3. God honors your best gift. The text says that Jesus said “Ya’ll leave that woman alone, because when my story is told, her name will be told as well. When they start talking about two days before the Passover, when they start talking about my march into Jerusalem, when they talk about my love at the table – someone will call the name ‘Mary.’”
But I got news for you – nobody may say thank you, but you just keep on giving God your best gift. Nobody may shake your hand and tell you how great a job you did – but I tell you don’t stop, keep on working/serving/giving God all you have. I’ve got a message for you: God will honor your gift, God will open a door, God will lift you up because of your gift. Let the work I’ve done speak for me. Let the life I live speak for me. When I’ve done the best that I can, when I’ve given the best I can; when I’ve sung my best/served my best, I got a word He’ll understand.
When you give God your best gift, God will honor that gift. And the first gift He wants is: Your Life. Because if He has your life, He knows you’ll give Him EVERYthing.
- Sermon Notes: Before You Give Up, Look Again
- Sermon Notes: Before You Give Up
- Give the Gift of Life to Rev. Marie
- Sermon Notes: God’s Gift to Metropolitan Church: A Promise of Greater Glory
- Sermon Notes: Living a Marked Life
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