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The Magnificent Fool

She has done a beautiful thing to me.-Mark 14:6

Dr. Paul S. Rees told about a poster, popular during WWII.  It showed a soldier rushing across a battlefield in a jeep, bullets flying, shells bursting, heading for his wounded buddy. The caption read, “Magnificent Fool”

When Mary (John names the woman), pours a pint of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, the disciples are incensed.  That perfume was worth almost a year’s wages—it’s impractical, lavish, extravagant—foolish.  But Jesus saw something else.

There are two words for “good” in NT.  One means morally good—to do the right thing, the obedient thing.  The second word means not only good but beautiful, lovely, winsome.  The first word can be stern, hard, austere, unattractive.  But Jesus uses the second here—winsome, beautiful.  What the disciples called foolish, Jesus called beautiful.

Do you get it?  So many of those acts and deeds which give real meaning and zest to life have very little to commend them from a practical point of view.

Expressions of love are often spontaneous, not very practical or calculated.  Yet this is exactly what moves us and means so much to us.  A husband who really can’t afford it takes wife out to eat and spends more on one meal than on groceries for several days certainly isn’t practical and a little foolish.  But who calls him a fool?

True discipleship is more like being in love than using “commonsense” or arithmetic.  It often inspires deeds and actions that from a practical point of view seem foolish.

Many of us are so practical, rational and calculating.  We strive for a passable minimum.  How little is my duty?  What are the legal demands? We parcel out our time, resources, actions with  a “medicine dropper.”  And we never experienced the real joy of “stepping out on a limb” in a spontaneous expression of love or adoration.  We only give God what we have extra.  Someone has call it the “Blue rose melancholy”—i.e. “things I might do if roses were blue.”

It often can be a cover-up for selfish desires.  Remember Judas is here.  He later betrayed Jesus for less than this amount.  The only person Jesus ever called a fool was the completely practical man (Luke 12).

Please understand.  I am not saying God expects irresponsibility, or extravagance.  There is nothing wrong with prudence and practicality.  It would have been tragic if all the disciples had decided now this is what God requires and bought perfume worth a year’s wages and poured it on Jesus.  Had the woman asked Jesus about this he would have said, “No.” But Jesus is looking for love and devotion that sometimes get’s carried away.

Think of those men and women of heroic deeds, those who mean much to you and chances are, you will find that you do not remember them because they were completely rational, practical, and calculating but because they went beyond the expected—made fools of themselves!  There is something about those people who risk life, limb, property, and endure the head-shaking of those who consider them foolish to perform acts of love and devotion.

Bill Borden was raised in a mansion on Chicago’s “Gold Coast”, heir to Borden fortune (made in real estate not milk).  At Yale he was “merely one of the boys.”  He was an athlete—football, baseball, wrestling, crew—a leader.  He was president of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter his senior year.  In his graduating class of 800, he was among the elite in almost every area.

At age 25, he had everything any person could want–and more.  “He was good-looking, single, popular, well-educated, successful.”  And he was rich—by today’s standards, worth about $40 million. He astonished everyone when he gave away his fortune, set sail for the mission field and died five months later in Egypt.  “What a waste!”  “Foolish!”

A missionary who was martyred in South America, Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

What a joy to Jesus, soon to face death and betrayal, Mary’s act must have been.  This story would go with HIS story!—not useful, beneficial, profitable, or practical BUT BEAUTIFUL.  I think it was William Barclay who said: “We have not even begun to be Christian if we think of giving to Christ and his church in terms as little as we respectably can.” How Christians desperately need to be beautiful as well as good.

A village in India wanted to build a church but had no lot.  A man led them to his own house, told them to tear it down and build the church.

Impractical?  Certainly!  Foolish?  Probably!  BUT A MAGNIFICANT FOOL!

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