Thunderstruck - John 12:1-8 - Levi Lusko
I just want to say, I just sense, even coming back, we sense just a newness to what's happening. This church is 36 years old. I only know that offhand because I am 36 years old. And Calvary and me were born the same year-- 1982. And so I literally have, my entire life, grown up along with this church.
My first volunteer ministry ever, here at the church, was in the tape room where I helped duplicate the tape messages of Pastor Skip's talks so that they could be listened to before there was such a thing as a podcast. Some of you are like, what's a tape? Google it. But I've, my whole life, grown up alongside this church.
And coming back each time, it just is marvelous to me to watch the newness of what God's doing. It's bursting out, springing forth. And I really believe there's the sense of something new in the air and like never before, coming back and just being around the staff and the culture, the heart, the team.
And I give God glory for Pastor Skip and Lenya and their vision to lead into new horizons. Are you with me on that? God has given you guys great leaders. And just seeing Nate and Janae really come into their own and take their place and the whole staff. And we had the chance to come out on Friday night and speak to the whole life team. Who here was at the Friday night gathering? Come on, it was fantastic.
What this is, these people that raised their hands up around you, they're on a team here. I don't know if you're aware, God isn't looking to build a huge audience. He's looking to build an army. And that's made up of all sorts of different people with different responsibilities, different passions. Every one of you has been given, from the Holy Spirit-- hi, Corine-- everyone of you has been given gifts and talents and abilities. And those things are tucked inside of you that are unique to you. And the way that God wants to use you is different than the way He wants to use me. And that's not better or worse, it's just different. And we're all meant to do what we're called to do.
And so all these people who serve from kids' teams to guest services to facilities, in whatever way they serve-- worship teams-- it's all making this better. And so the beauty of that is just to watch people come into their callings. And if you're not on one of those teams, just take it from a guy coming in from out of town, from Montana, encouraging you just to keep showing up and keep serving and watch what God will do through you.
We enjoyed so much being out on Friday night. So all you life team people, shoutout, you guys are crushing it. And I encourage more of you to take that step of faith.
All right, so Generosity Weekend, that was what I said yes to. And I did so with joy in my heart when they asked me, would you come out and talk around the idea of generosity? And when they explained to me what that meant, I said, well, is there an offering coming up that you wanted me to encourage them to give towards? 'Cause I would be happy to do that. They said, no, no, no, the heart of this weekend is to celebrate past generosity.
And that's awesome, because the truth is, every one of you right now are sitting in someone else's sacrifice. The only reason there is a building is 'cause someone at some point sacrificed to buy it. And I guarantee you, there was a step of faith to buy a building and to fix it up. And it took scraping together. It took fear. And it took overcoming obstacles, to get to where you are now.
My question is, are you content, though, allowing that to be the end of the story? 'Cause even though they asked me to come in and celebrate, yay, it's not for an offering for the future, it's celebrating the past, I have the mic. I can do whatever I want. I actually have two-- there's another one that's not working.
I'm not just going to celebrate past generosity. I'm also going to encourage some of you to step it up so that there might be future blessing, future ministry, future opportunity, future salvation, something brand new, because if we don't-- listen, if we don't reinvest our miracles, we will soon reach the end of them. And every harvest brings us to a crossroad. And there's always the temptation to stop there, where it's comfortable. And to stop there, where we-- man, we stepped out in faith, wasn't that great? And now here we are-- and just take it easy.
The truth is, every church, every ministry, no matter how dynamic, in the world, is in one of three phases-- risk taking, caretaking, or undertaking. Always one of those three things. The risk taking is that initial, scrappy-- and this is true of businesses, too, by the way. It's true of leaders, it's true of businesses, right? We started out full of fire, full of excitement, full of zeal, we're going to take the hill, right?
This is the entrepreneur phase. This is the garage phase. And you start out that way, but what's easy is to shift into the caretaking phase, where now it's the status quo. Now we have something to protect. Now we can't afford to take that big risk. And so what you can do-- and this is true of churches-- you can get to a place where you want to keep the bait tasting like it tasted the day you got caught.
So at one point, there was music, there was a certain style of ministry, something was done this way, this was how the programming elements went, this is how the vibe felt-- the whole thing, it was this way. And you got caught. Jesus said, go fish for men. You got caught, but the temptation is to think the bait should always taste like it tasted of the day that you got caught, instead of realizing the bait isn't for you anymore. It's for the fish still in the sea. It's not for the ones in the boat who are now called to be fishermen also.
And most of the dysfunction I see in churches exists because people are getting huffy and irritated because the bait doesn't taste good to them anymore. Well, I don't think it should be this way. Whatever happened to the potlucks? Those were the good old days. Right? And I remember when it was this way. That's how the bait tasted at a season.
In the Bible there's this epic miracle where the sun stood still and time froze. And people are like, that's a great miracle. I'm going to tell you, that miracle is being repeated in churches all over the country, where time stands still.
Stuck in a moment, and the vibe, the architecture, the whole feel of the service, the set list, the whole thing all is how it was at one point. And everyone wants it to stay there, because no one likes change. No one likes things to no longer be how they are comfortable, but when we have the posture that says, we will not sacrifice a generation at the altar of our preference, we're going to be willing to see things we don't even like, to reach people that no one's reaching.
And that should be the mentality and posture that keeps us perpetually in the risk-taking phase. And I sense that in Calvary. I sense in this church there's this desire to not get stuck in how it once was and the blessing of God was once there, but to risk again, to step out again, to dream again, to believe again, and to keep fighting and keep going and keep reaching until either hell is empty or heaven is full or we're dead-- one of those three, right? And I just applaud that and celebrate that. It's a joy to speak into that this Generosity Weekend.
The title of my message is "Thunderstruck." "Thunderstruck--" You could open your Bibles to John chapter 12, we'll get there in just a moment, but "Thunderstruck" is the title. I'm kind of on this thunder kick. I think lightning's amazing. It's not just 'cause of Thor, though, you know, that's part of it.
The thing about lightning that's so crazy to me is how powerful it is. A lightning bolt contains 100 million volts of electricity. That's crazy. And it's enough to send a DeLorean back to the future. One bolt of lightning, they say, is 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is roughly five times hotter than the surface of the sun. So it's crazy hot, crazy powerful, and completely uncontrollable. Not one of us can command and control lightning.
And so it's appropriate to me that thunder, in scripture, is sort of a picture of God's power. You have, from Genesis all the way to Revelation, this kind of idea of God is the God of glory, who thunders. His voice sounds like thunder, thunder at Mt. Sinai, lightnings and peals of thunder surrounding God's throne in the Book of Revelation. And I love so much that there's kind of this idea that there's a bigness to God that's like thunder.
And I don't believe that any of us can command thunder and command revival and God, you will move in this way, but I do believe that the God who is always thundering out power and glory, He can and will work in our lives if we're willing to accommodate the power that is there, ready to flow. And generosity is one of those things that sort of helps you get your inner Ben Franklin on, puts a kite on the key of your soul, because you and I can't command thunder, but we can make our lives conductive to the thunder that God wants to bring.
And the God who looks to and fro in the earth, seeking to show Himself strong, if our hearts are upright towards Him, He is willing to bring His power into our lives, if we're willing to put a lightning rod inside of our soul. And one of the ways to do that, that makes our lives irresistible for God to bless is this thing called generosity. I want to show it to you in a message that, like I said, I called "Thunderstruck."
Defining our terms would be helpful. The dictionary defines being thunderstruck as being so astonished-- that's a good word, astonished-- that you are rendered silent, you're just so amazed. It's to be astonished to the point that you can't even speak. You're speechless, that's how amazed you are, thunderstruck. Say it with me.
Thank you, AC/DC, for providing my sermon title.
The other day, I got thunderstruck. I did. I was shaving. And I don't shave with a razor, I use one of those machines that gives you a perfect five o'clock shadow every time. It takes a lot of work to look this good, you guys. Joking. So I'm shaving, but the power dies-- womp, womp. My razor dies. And what's so frustrating about this-- can I get an amen from the fellas?-- is these shavers, you can't use them while they're charging. What is it with that? So you have to like, wait for it to charge, then you can shave again.
So I have to find the charger, which is in itself an ordeal, 'cause I lose things all the time and leave them in hotel rooms. So I find the plug and I'm about to plug it in, but I realize the outlet by my sink is full, because there's an electric toothbrush there, and the blow dryer's there. My wife, on her side of the bathroom, has an outlet as well that has a flat iron plugged in and I spot that there's a free place to plug in.
So instead of unplugging my toothbrush, which would just be so hard-- ain't nobody got time for that, right? I'm like I'll just go plug it in over here. And then I think, deviously, I'll also shave on her side, because who doesn't love having their husband's hair in their sink? Pray for us, we're on a journey, you guys.
So I go plug in over there, or I go to-- but a little bit about our bathroom, since you're wondering-- my wife also has this mirror on her side of the sink that is, well, I actually really don't enjoy it at all. It's a mirror that shows you what you really look like, as opposed to what you think you look like.
Which is, by the way, why you need to keep coming to church on the regular, right? Because, you know, the distance from scripture and a distance from God, you start to think you're doing maybe better than you think you are. It's like being in a dark movie. The lights come on, you're like, what am I even doing? There's chili cheese, like, streaked down your shirt. You're like, get me out of here, but when you're in darkness, you start to think you look good. And so we need the light of God's word to look down, and go, OK, I've got work. I've got work I need to do.
So this mirror shows you what you really look like, but I actually don't want to know that, because I thought I had pretty good skin, but this mirror told me that my face looks like the surface of the moon. There's a Sea of Tranquility on my nose. And so I try to cross my eyes and look hazily at it whenever I'm near it. I don't want to see that again, it will haunt my dreams.
But what she had done was, she had hung a necklace up on top of the mirror. It was dangling down, right in front of the outlet. Some of you see where this is going. When I went to plug in my shaver, I caught the necklace just between the two prongs, just as it went into the outlet. Which, if I would have paid attention in science class, we completed some sort of circuit that shouldn't have been completed and caused electricity to shoot through the necklace.
At the exact same moment, my wife approached and walked into the doorway, as I got it in there, as blue flame shot out from the outlet, across the room, the necklace exploded. Just pieces of metal shrapnel shooting at my face, making me even more like the moon. And I'm just standing there. Y'all, I was thunderstruck. I don't know if it was AC or DC, but it scared the heck out of me. And my wife's standing there and I just look at her and didn't say a word, for about a minute. Then I had a lot to say about where she hung her necklace. At which point, she said, why don't you unplug your toothbrush?
John chapter 12 says, "then, six days before the Passover--" how many days before the Passover?
"--Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, 'why was this fragrant oil not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?' This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, 'let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.'"
Father, we pray that, as we think on and examine and let these words run through our hearts, that you would speak to us. That you'd open our eyes to see something new. We pray that we would see You in it, that our hearts would burn, that we would understand something new. And that seeing what we hadn't seen before, we would be able to do what we couldn't have done before.
Pray for this church and thank You, celebrate the generosity, celebrate the past faithfulness and we anticipate all that's in Your heart to see take place. We pray that we would not see New Mexico as it is, but as You see it and that that would continue to reverberate and resound and impact all the way to the ends of the earth.
And we ask that if anyone, even now, listening to this message doesn't know You, whether in the Osuna campus or in Nob Hill or in Santa Fe or watching on the internet or radio, has the broadcast on, we pray that You would draw them to Yourself, if they are without You, without hope in this world. And we ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
The context of this story is so important, because as we read in the opening part of the passage, it involves two sisters and their brother-- Mary, Martha, Lazarus. We know they were successful financially. They were prospering and with their resources, they chose to build God's kingdom, which, all at once, confronts a popular and common misconception. And that is, somehow, it's spiritual to be poor and somehow unholy to be rich. Which is completely in opposition with what scripture teaches, that how much you have really has nothing to do with whether you're pleasing God or not, but rather it's what you choose to do with what you have.
For you can be greedy and you can be stingy and money can be a God to you, even when you don't have any of it. On the other hand, you can have a lot of resource, but with that blessing, be a blessing to lots of people and build God's kingdom. So money is like a brick. Is a brick good or bad? I would say, what did you do with it? I built a children's hospital. Well, that's good. I hit someone in the head with it. That's bad.
Is money good or bad? Do you worship it as God? Or do you worship God with it? Money is a tool or it's something that is in your heart, keeping you from what God has for you. I think the secret is to let money be in your hand, but never let it get into your heart, to be in a place where you can have money, but not let it have control of you.
And that seems to be where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were. We know they had a large house, because they allowed Jesus and His whole crew to crash with them. Jesus rolled deep, y'all. And so should you. You almost never hear of Jesus going anywhere solo, unless he was going out to pray or in kind of a one-on-one conversation with someone like Nicodemus, but even then, he had Peter, James, and John close-- his wing men, who, even when he ditched the rest of the 12, he would hang with these crew.
And you're like, oh, did He like them more? No, I think they just needed more supervision, honestly. The nine could be like, yeah, go get a Slurpee. The three, like, you're coming with me, you knuckleheads. You'd end up stealing something or lighting something on fire. Peter biting somebody. You just can't be trusted. It's like, when I was in elementary school, the teachers always put my desk close to theirs. That wasn't a compliment.
But Jesus had a crew. And that's why Calvary of Albuquerque puts such an emphasis on these Connect Groups and being on a team, so you have people around you to encourage you, to hold you accountable, to love you and serve you, and at times, speak the truth to you, even when it's hard to hear. It's so very important. Even Jesus modeled that.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, when he was sweating great drops of blood and terribly afraid about what he was facing, he had three people right there he could wake up. My question to you is, if your life is a living nightmare at times, why do you have no one who you can text in the night to pray for you, to encourage you? There's no reason, no need to live alienated. Or to put it street level, you're loco if you're rolling solo. You need to live and do life in cooperation, not in isolation. And so Jesus models that.
But Mary, Martha, Lazarus would be like, hey, all 13 of you, come crash at our place. Now, if they thought money was wrong and having it was bad and having a nice house was it was icky somehow, then how would they have been able to stand out in generosity and bless Jesus like they did?
Well, one day, Lazarus got sick and died. Jesus, who Mary and Martha asked specifically to heal their brother, did nothing. Why? Well, Charles Spurgeon put it this way-- if God doesn't give you silver, it's because He intends to answer you with gold. And if God doesn't answer you with gold, it's because He intends to answer you with diamonds. If He doesn't give you what you ask for, perhaps it's because He intends to give you what you wouldn't even have faith to believe for.
And that's exactly what was happening on this day. Some of you right now, you feel like you're at a place where God's not answering your prayers. Or He's not answering them like you asked Him to. It's because He intends to glorify His name and build up your life in ways you can't even imagine.
One of those weird questions you get in interviews a lot, that I get asked a lot, is, what would you tell younger Levi? What would you-- if you could go back to talk to younger Levi? I always talk about flossing and stuff like that. That's my fun answer, but then I always say this, this is my answer, and I want to speak it to some of you. I always say, Levi, I would tell you, God wants to do more through you than you think He can, but it's going to hurt more than you think it will. And I really believe that at times, we just don't understand that there's going to be pain to get to the places that we ourselves want to be.
So Lazarus dies and Jesus shows up after the funeral, you know the story, it's spoiled in the first verse of John 12. Lazarus rises from the dead. It's like an episode of Brendan Fraser's movie, The Mummy. Lazarus comes out, all wrapped up, nemotab, y'all. It's the Bible-- we're just talking about the Bible here, guys, settle down.
John 11, read it on your own time, it's amazing, this whole story. And Mary and Martha are excited. Lazarus would be the least impressed of anybody. He's just settling into his room in heaven. He's all excited. And God's like, I got good news and I got bad news. Good news is, you're going to be back shortly. Bad news is, I need you to go back to Earth. He's like, no, no, no, that arthritic knee again? That's the worst. He goes back to Earth, he's, OK, God's got work for me here, but he had to die again. You realize that, right? He did die again.
So that means then, that if God gives us the physical miracle that we all long for, that we think is like, the showstopper, the biggest deal ever, it's only a delaying of the inevitable. And Jesus only ever did physical miracles so that he might accomplish eternal, lasting miracles which are invisible and supernatural. And so Lazarus had to die again, and yet God used it to glorify himself in a unique way in that day.
Mary and Martha's reaction? Let's throw a party, let's get a disco ball. You call Sadie's, get the catering thing going. Odale, invite everybody over, we got to celebrate my brother who was dead is alive again. And that should always be our posture in church. That should always be the mentality. Strike up the music, let's raise up our hands, let's shout out with a voice of triumph and praise, because those who were dead are alive again. We were dead in sins, we were headed to hell, we had no future, we were no people, but God-- hello, product placement, back next week-- who is rich in mercy, loved us while we were yet sinners, gave Himself for us.
Church is always a celebration of someone who was dead and is alive again. And as such, it should be full of life. It should be full of celebration. The noise and the shouts and the cheers should be heard in Bernalillo. Or like I told my girls, it should be spelled, Bernalillo, 'cause that's how it looks to me on the-- It should be an excitement to us.
And you say, that's not how I feel. Let me tell you something, then your feelings are wrong. God is alive and so should you be too.
So Mary and Martha, we're reading a party. They threw a party to celebrate someone who they loved coming back to life. And somehow at the party, we get the sense that Mary was like, no, this is not enough. This is not enough. I know we threw the party to celebrate Jesus, but she's looking at her brother who had been dead and is sitting right there.
She gets up from the table, she goes to her room, she opens up a chest, and she pulls out a velvet bag. And inside it is a bottle with a cordial on the inside. And clutching it to her breast, she comes back into the room, and without a word-- without a word, this girl was so astonished by God's goodness-- you could say she was thunderstruck.
She falls down at Jesus's feet-- oh, sidebar, Mary shows up three times in the scriptures. And every single time, she's at the feet of Jesus. When Jesus was teaching, she fell at His feet to learn. When her life was falling apart, she fell at His feet to be healed. And here on this day, when God had moved marvelously in her family, she fell at His feet to say, thank you, but she didn't just say thank you. She had something in her hands to show that she was thankful, that she intended to give to Jesus.
Why? Because, listen to me, Calvary, love always gives-- always, always, always. You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving. Whatever you love, you give towards. Any passion in your heart, there will be a financial trail that leads to that thing. You can post all the little inspiring memes to your Facebook page that you found on Pinterest and say that's how you show that God is in your heart. Show me your Amazon account, I'll find out what you're really passionate about.
Oh, it's getting quiet now. I'm preaching better than you're responding.
Listen, when you care about something-- golf, clothes, shoes-- money flows towards your passion, agreed? So if we say we're passionate about God, love always gives. Jesus put it this way, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Anything you care about, money flows towards.
And so on this day, she didn't just say thank you, she did what God did. God so loved the world-- He said, I love you. No, He gave His only begotten son. Love always gives. So she comes with a gift to give, falls at His feet, and shows her appreciation.
Three things about her generosity as we begin to wind this towards a conclusion. Jot them down if you take notes in church. Mary gave what she could. What could she give? Well, the text tells us, one pound of spikenard. That's what she could give. Now luckily, Judas criticized her gift. Luckily, Judas criticized her worship and told her how her ministry should be conducted. Luckily, Judas interjected and said, this shouldn't be happening. This whole thing is wrong. This is how it should be. Luckily, he did that.
Now, normally that's not my mentality towards the critics and the Twitter trolls. However, we are grateful that he did this, because now we find out what this bottle of perfume was worth. For out of Judas's mouth, this was worse worth 300 denarius. Isn't that crazy? You're like, you didn't help me. OK, a denarius, one singular, was one day's wages for a day laborer.
Consider it minimum wage, which, today, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. 300 denarius would be about a year, because if you take away sick days, vacation, and Sabbath days, you're left with about 300. So consider this $15,080, which is one year, today, at minimum wage.
Now you're like, whoa, Mary, hey. There's something about Mary, right? Yeah. She gave. Listen to me, don't miss it though, a $15,000 gift, but that was what she could. She could do that. Why? That was where she was at. So above and beyond what she was already doing, regularly supporting Jesus's ministry in an ongoing way, this now was an above and beyond way to demonstrate her heart of gratitude for what Jesus was doing and to believe forward for what he would do in a significant way.
But that's what she could. So here's the question, what can you do? If I were to say to you-- and I'm going to-- would you consider a $15,000 gift above and beyond your normal tithes, your normal offering, to expand the vision of this house? To say, I believe so much in what this has meant for me, my kids. I believe in what it's going to mean for my grandkids' grandkids, that's my heart, that's my mentality. Would you consider a $15,000 gift above and beyond your normal giving?
Some of you would say, absolutely, sign me up, which kidney do you want me to sell to accomplish that? Or you would say, you know, the only way I could possibly do that is to sell two of my kids into indentured servitude, which, actually, I have been praying about, so that works out nicely. The point is, some of you would say, that's ridiculous, Levi, there's no way I could give at that level. Well, then that doesn't matter, because you're called to give what you can, not what Mary could.
'Cause others of you, quite frankly, if I were to say to you, would you give a $15,000 gift above and beyond your normal tithing? And it would be a joke for you, could say absolutely, but not ever even feel it leaving your account, because that, quite frankly, is what you spent on landscaping last year. So the point is, the number is not the amount, the proportion is. Proportion? Yeah. God never looks at the portion of a gift, He only considers the proportion of it. He measures your contribution against your capacity.
So what might be an impressive gift to you, wow, look what they give, that's great. God might go, yawn, because they'll never feel it. The key isn't equal giving, the key is equal sacrifice. She gave what you could. The danger for any of us isn't that we won't do what someone else could do, but it's that we won't do what we can do, because we think, well, I'm struggling here. I'm barely making ends meet. So I can't-- here we go-- afford to give.
The truth is, everyone who I've ever met who argues against tithing almost always says, I can't afford to. And yet almost everyone I've ever met who talks about tithing tells me they feel financially blessed. They feel blessed by God. So let me ask you a question, which group would you rather be in, people who can't afford to tithe or people say, I'm blessed by God? I think I'd rather be in that second category.
The truth is, if you would say to me, I can't afford to tithe, I would say to you, you can't afford not to. Now you look at your little amount and you go, well, the church doesn't need my money. They got fancy lights and fancy screens and this should be sold and given to the poor. Be careful! I found that the loudest boos usually come from the cheapest seats. And it's those who complain the most that usually do the least.
And Jesus said to Judas, really, you think the poor should be given to? Then go ahead and do it, because the poor are with you always. Go do something for them. I'm not going to have you micromanaging what I've touched her heart to do.
We're all called to do what? What we can. Jesus specifically said, look at it in the text again-- "she has done what she could." She's done what she could. Are you doing what you can do?
Second thing, jot it down-- she gave while she could. She gave while she could. How many days before the Passover was this gift given? Six days. What happened on the Passover where Jesus hit the Last Supper? Answer, he was arrested. And the next day, he hangs on this cross. He has the Last Supper, His Passover meal, and then He dies.
So question, what if Mary would have thought, I'm so touched. My brother was given back to me, I want to do something great for Jesus. He always comes through at this time of the year, let's do a party for Him next year. Let's give a gift of this perfume at His feet next year. The answer, of course, is that she never would have gotten the opportunity to do it, because Jesus would die, resurrect, and then eventually ascend, so this literally was the only moment she ever would get to do it.
And that, to me, I think speaks of an important idea. And that is the idea that the right time to do the right thing is right now. For, according to Jesus, you have to do "the works of Him who sent you while it is day;" for "the night is coming when no one can work." The opportunity of a lifetime is only good for the lifetime of the opportunity. And if you don't seize these moments to be generous as they pass by, sometimes they pass you by.
She would not have ever gotten-- and listen to me, if she wouldn't have done that, then Jesus's body would have gone into the tomb unanointed, for Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus didn't get to do it. They only hastily wrapped Him in these strips and basically put Him into the tomb before the Sabbath began. The actual anointing was going to happen on Easter Sunday when the women came to the tomb with spices to anoint His body, but He went ahead and rose from the dead, so they never got to do that.
So as Jesus sat there at the table, looking down at his feet, watching this perfume poured on him, and the smell of roses from northern India that is spikenard, covering his legs and his feet, he was thinking about his dead body in that tomb, being anointed because this woman did not miss her opportunity.
Some of you, honestly, this message is going to encourage you. And you'll think to yourself or talk to your spouse and say, we're totally going to start being generous next year-- eventually. This is a great talk. Oh, let's circle back around when this happens and this stock appreciates. Work will pick up a little bit, we'll start tithing when-- will start giving then-- eventually, some day, one day.
But the truth is, the right time to do the right thing is right now, when it doesn't make sense on paper, when it's a step of faith, when it's something that you would have to trust God to walk in. And I'm just encouraging you to believe that that step of faithfulness will be met by your faithful God.
I was thinking this week about Derek Carr. In 2007, he became the highest paid quarterback per year in NFL history, $125 million contract. Quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, was interviewed and asked, they said, what are you going to do with this payday? Thinking he would say, dip my teeth in gold and diamonds. Buy a tiger. Go to Disneyland. He said this, "First thing I will do is pay my tithe like I have since I was in college, getting $700 on a scholarship check. That won't change. I'll do that."
Let me tell you something, though. You don't tithe on $125 million, one day. For those of you who say, if I ever make it big, I'm going to buy the church a brand new building. If I win the lottery, I'll do-- no, you won't. You'll be the same generous person with a million you were with $10,000. And you'll be the same stingy person with $100 million that you are with $15,000.
Generosity is like romance, it works on any budget. Jenny and I, we just celebrated our 14th-year wedding anniversary. And yeah, I love her to death. We did it in a big way. We went to New York and we saw Hamilton on Broadway, wined and dined, had the best time ever, but I got to thinking about, that's not where our romantic life began. It began in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with our very first date at Chili's that I could barely pay for. And date nights at Costco-- churros and hot dogs, honey, but I'm telling you, our date-night rhythm began small. Not, well, one day we'll date when we can afford lobster and steak.
Romance, generosity, they work on any budget. She did what she could, while she could. Right there, this is what she has, I'll give out of this. If God gives me more, I'll give out of that too. It starts here and now, where you are.
Third and finally, jot this down-- she received more than she gave. And isn't our God so good to always do that? Here's a truth in scripture, you always receive more than you give. Now, that's not why we give. We don't give to get. We do get whenever we give, but the proper motivation is, we give because we already got.
If we know the power of grace, if we know Jesus and the cross, if we understand that-- he already gave, so any giving you ever have done is responding, not initiating. It's responding, not initiating, but because of the laws of the universe, anything you sow, the same will you reap.
So when you give because you've already received, the end result is, you receive back even more. But you don't put seed into the ground and get seeds back out of the ground. You put seed into the ground and you get trees or plants that can produce fruit full of seeds. So you get back much more than you ever put it into the ground.
I need to see this in the text, there, pastor. Mary gave a gift. And Mary, I believe, received back even more than she gave. Three things I see that she received back-- first, she got to be a part of the story. Matthew's gospel, speaking on this-- you're like, Matthew? Weren't we in John? Uh-huh, but we could have gone to Mark or Luke or Matthew, because all four tell the story.
In Matthew's account, Jesus said, "Assuredly I say to you," he was speaking to Judas-- "I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." Hey, how does it feel to be 2,000 years removed, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, fulfilling biblical prophecy as we tell the story of Mary's generosity right now, attached to the gospel message?
So she got to be part of the story. And guess what? Every time you give, you're a part of the story. You're a part of the story of God. You could be a waitress, just tips and just kind of difficult right now, hand to mouth, maybe, even, but when you choose to live hand to heaven, instead of just hand to mouth, but hand to heaven, you're a part of the story of God. And everything God does in the kingdom, He's doing through you.
You can look around at that video, 4 million-- hey, how you like me now? I did that. I'm a part of that. I'm a part of the story. It doesn't matter if you run a jib or run the sound or run the kids' ministry or make coffee, however you're serving, you're a part of everything being done. You're a part of the story.
Second thing, jot it down-- she received back exactly what she gave. What did she give Jesus? Perfume. And then the text says, look at it, "She wiped it up with her hair." And then she walked away, thinking it was done. Thinking she said goodbye to her perfume, but if you wipe something up with your hair, what happens? It sucks it up into your hair. So Mary now, she walks away thinking, that's done. And then she's like, what's that weird smell of roses? The same gift she gave was now with her, anointing her as well.
And there's just something about the way that the world of the generous just gets larger and larger. And the Bible talks about the aroma of Christ off our life. And when you give, you find that you also receive back the same thing that you give, but only more, because it's a blessing to people all around you. So she received the story, she received what she gave.
She also thirdly, lastly, she received the memory of this moment. She would never be able to forget the memory of this moment. Why? Because smell and memory are connected. Science-wise, we know it's because your olfactory nerve runs right by your amygdala, the part of your brain that processes memory and emotion. And that's why smell can bring you back like few other things can.
Haven't you felt that? You could be standing and get the whiff of enchiladas you are in your grandma's kitchen. And just like, it's like Ratatouille, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa. You're just like, whoa. It takes you back. How do you think Mary felt for the rest of her life when she smelt spikenard? It took her back to the feet of Jesus. And there's a power to this, because it gives us permission to take areas of our life where we are at our darkest, but cause us to shine our brightest.
There's another woman who did the same thing Mary did. She was a prostitute. She used to use the perfume to attract customers. And she would associate the smell of the perfume with men using her and giving her body away. She took that bottle when she broke away with that old life and she brought it to the feet of Jesus and she broke it out at his feet. And for the rest of her life, where she would have ordinarily smelled that perfume and thought of her shame, she now smelled it and thought of her savior.
And I'm just encouraging you that, no matter where you've been, no matter what you've walked in, no matter what night you feel like you're living in, if you bring your life to the feet of Jesus, you don't have to walk around smelling reminders of your sin and your shame. You can, instead, remember the smell of victory, the smell of love, the smell of your great God who wants to embrace you. And His dawn is going to chase away the night of your sin.
This woman, Mary, she thought she was pouring out an ordinary old bottle of perfume. Turns out it was lightning in a bottle, because God's thunder always strikes where He sees a spirit that is thunderstruck. Would you pray with me?
Jesus, thank you for this time together. Thank you for every heart-- every single one. Thank you for this radical life of generosity you're calling us to. And as we're praying with heads bowed with eyes closed all across the church, maybe you're here and you've never given your heart to Jesus, you've never trusted Him.
Well, listen to me-- we don't want anything from you. We want something for you. And that is the forgiveness and hope that comes from relationship with Jesus. It's not about being religious. It's not about memorizing verses. It's about accepting a free gift that God gave at the cross. If you're here and you've never trusted Jesus, you can. You don't have to live afraid. You don't have to live alone. You can know Christ lives in your heart and is giving you strength.
If that's you I'm describing, if you would say, I want to receive that free gift of salvation, could I ask that you would just raise your hand up in the air, even now, while we're praying? Just raise your hand up in the air, saying, I want to accept Jesus. I want to give Him my heart. Raise your hand up. God sees you. God bless you. And you over here. Just raise your hands up, anywhere you can hear this message, put your hand in the air, if you would like to trust Jesus, go to heaven, to live forgiven.
Anybody else? Put your hand up. Thank you, God. Right there. You can put your hands down. And I want to pray with you a simple prayer as you ask Jesus to come into your heart. I'm going to ask the church family to pray this prayer with you, out loud after you. This is your way of being surrounded, our way of surrounding you with friendship and saying we're with you in this decision.
Pray this prayer out after me. Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner. I can't fix myself, but I believe you can. Thank you for loving me and dying for me. Thank you for new life. I give you mine. In Jesus' name, I pray amen.
Come on, let's celebrate. What a wonderful thing.
We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Church. We'd love to know how this message impacted you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.