Many years back came the story of a New York City man who had been kidnapped. The kidnappers had contacted the man's wife with the demand for a $100,000 ransom.
The wife, however, was able to talk the kidnappers down to $30,000. Side question: Who knew that such ransom demands are negotiable? (Side note: Eventually the kidnappers were apprehended, the husband returned unharmed, and in general it was a happy ending.)
The columnist who reported the story, Calvin Trillin, went on to imagine what the negotiations must have been like between the wife and the kidnappers: "You want $100,000 for that old guy? He's practically worn out - you ought to be paying me to take him back! So, $30,000 is my top offer." The kidnappers must have thought she had a point, since they agreed to the discount bargain ransom.
In the gospels we read of a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in lavish fashion with an expensive perfume. But nowhere are we told that she calculated the cost. She wasn't looking for a 70% discount bargain. And she wasn’t wondering if maybe she had a smaller jar of perfume lying around somewhere. Instead, she pours it all out.
She gives it all and holds nothing back. And in so doing, she gives us a prophetic picture of what Jesus would do on the cross: hold nothing back. A few days after this hold-nothing-back anointing, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior would go to the cross, holding nothing back and pouring out everything for us and for this world.
Madeleine L’Engle, author of Wrinkle in Time, put it this way: “To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason” (source: Plough Publishing).
It certainly defies reason, but it cannot defy love, and most certainly not the love of our God. Your salvation and mine and that of the world has never been a sale item. It has never come out of a bargain bin. It has never been offered at 70% off. Instead our salvation has always been and always will be nothing short of the full, immeasurable, fathomless love of God for the world, for you, and for me. Amen.
May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And together with all God’s people, may you have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (from Ephesians 3:17-19).
United Methodist Pastor, Child of God, Follower of Jesus Christ.