Truly I say to you, Wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world…
The doing of works has been over-valued in one part of the Church's history, i.e., works as separate from the motives which led to them; and, as you know, for a long season language was held as if there was a merit in works, and as if they could make an atonement for sin, and wipe out a man's past misdeeds, and as if, if upon a death bed he made great sacrifices to Christ's church, that wiped out years of lust, covetousness, and cruelty. And so, by a revulsion of feeling, which always must beset the Church, it has come to pass, that amongst us men have been afraid of speaking of the great privilege, and of the great duty, of doing works of love for Christ's body, the Church; and there has come amongst us a mawkish, miserable sort of notion, that we are to cultivate inward feelings, affections, and the like, and that this is all of religion, and the whole of the reality of it, at which we are to aim. But this is not the whole of the truth of the thing; this is a very poor and miserable counterfeit of Christianity. Wherever Christianity truly takes hold of the deep of any man's heart, it will show itself, not only in guiding his feeling. but in guiding his actions, in leading him to a generous, devoted, and loyal-hearted service; it will make him bring his "alabaster box," and break it, and never count its price, and never reckon nicely whether he could lay out his money to better profit elsewhere; it will stop all such objections as — "Had it not better been sold and given to the poor?" for there is a munificence about love, and there is a grandeur in the giving of a loyal heart, which Christ loves to see, and which He will surely reward. In two ways this is set before us in the text.
1. In the readiness of our blessed Master to receive the offering; the way in which He at once stepped in between the woman and her reproof, the way in which He put down the objection, whether it was urged in hypocrisy, or whether in the darkness of a half-faith, that she had better have sold it and given it to the poor; the ready way in which He stepped in and at once acknowledged "She hath done what she could," "she hath done it against My burial." The woman, perhaps, knew not that Christ was near His end. But so it is, that love comes at the hidden truth of things, before the things themselves have been revealed. The man who is acting from love to Christ is a sort of prophet; he fore acts upon that which is yet hidden in the counsels of God.
2. By the remarkable promise added. See what enduring honour was this which Christ put upon this deed; see how far it goes beyond any worldly honour which we reckon the highest in order. Those who labour for God will reap an abiding honour, which is to be got in no path of earthly service. This little thing which seemed to err in the doing, this thing which seemed to be done so easily, so naturally, which cost this woman no thought beforehand, but which was just the impulse of a loving heart — this has lived on and been spoken of, though all the Roman empire has passed away. The great gulf of forgetfulness has swallowed it up, but the Lord our God endureth forever; and even the miserable works of man, when done for God, are gifted with endurance too. It is wove, as it were, into the web of God's greatness; and so it lasts on, and the blessing and the memory of it lives on in this world of change, long after the great world of things which surround it has sunk down beneath the distant horizon, and this comes up like some mighty mountain which was swallowed up by those that stood near it and seemed greater than it, but now in the far distance it stands out alone in the light of heaven and tells us that it is unlike all the rest. And so it has been often with things done for God, and for Christ, and for His Church.
I. ENCOURAGEMENT. The remembrance of this woman is a pledge that God will never forget His people. Worthless though their work is; mixed as it is in the motives from which it springs, even in the very best men; stained, therefore, as it is with sin; yet, for Christ's sake, it is accepted, and, being accepted, it shall be rewarded. Here, then, is a great motive to exertion in God's service. Sow largely this passing opportunity of time with the seeds of eternity. Put out your lives, and all you have, at interest, where God will pay again that which you lend Him. Make ventures for Him. Cast into the dark deep of His providence that which He will give you again with interest.
II. DUTY. The power of doing this comes from your being a Christian; therefore the necessity of your doing it is bound up in the fact of your being a Christian. You are not living as a Christian if you are not doing it. The power of working for God is the fruit of your redemption. It is because Christ has redeemed us that we can serve God with an acceptable sacrifice; that creation has received us back again into the place which sin had lost for us; that all things can be full of God to us; that we can in fact serve the Lord, knowing whom we serve, and sure of being accepted; that everything we have has become a talent — our station in life, our daily walk, our conduct in our family and in the world around us, that these are tasks set us by God, just as much allotted to us because we are Christians as the tasks of angels are allotted to them; so that it does not matter where or what I am in life; whether my life is mean as men judge, or great as men judge, it matters nothing; it is the aim of my life which makes the whole difference.
(Bishop S. Wilberforce.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.