Summary: Don’t waste your life in secret, cheap acts designed to get the praise of people. Instead, give it all away in exposed, expensive, extravagant acts of devotion to our Lord, because that is what real worship is all about.
Did you ever have trouble staying awake at church? Mr. Bean did. Take a look (show Mr. Bean Falling Asleep at Church; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B1V1PFsyho).
The congregation stares blankly straight ahead, and the preaching drones on in a nonsensical blah blah blah monotone that is hilarious. As the sermon proceeds, Mr. Bean fidgets, dawdles, and distracts himself to the annoyance of those seated nearby, until he finally succumbs to the boredom. His eyes roll into his head, and he nearly collapses into slumber, only to jerk himself awake at the last moment. The sermon plods on, the people stare on, and Mr. Bean tries to fight off sleep again. This time he ends up on the floor.
Perhaps, this has been your experience at worship a few times in the past. For many in our culture, this is their only perception of worship. They see worship as a boring church service, which has no relevance to life whatsoever, but true worship is nothing like that at all!
Mark 14:3-9 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (ESV)
When everybody else criticized this woman, Jesus heaped on the praise, because of her lavish expressions of love. And as such, she shows us what real worship is all about. You see, if we truly love Jesus like this woman loved Jesus, then we will…
LOVE HIM EXTRAVAGANTLY.
We will go overboard in our expressions of love. We will go beyond the ordinary. We will overdo it to the point of “waste” in some people’s opinions.
That’s how this woman loved Jesus here. Now, John 12 tells us that this woman is actually Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, the one Jesus raised from the dead.
One time, they were having a dinner party with Jesus as the special guest. Martha was busy in the kitchen, taking care of all the details of the meal while Mary chose to sit in the living room listening to Jesus. Well, that bothered Martha. In fact, Martha got so upset that she ran into the living room and told Jesus to rebuke Mary for not helping out.
I suppose Martha thought Mary was wasting her time. Here, Jesus disciples are criticizing Mary for wasting her money. It seems that whenever we meet Mary in the Scriptures, she is wasting something – her time or her money – but Jesus praises such “waste” when it is lavished on Him.
To Martha, Jesus said, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). To His disciples, Jesus said (vs.6), “Leave her alone… She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
Mary loved Jesus extravagantly – some would say wastefully. The perfume she poured on Jesus’ head was not some cheap brand she picked up at the corner store. No. It was pure nard, verse 3 says, and pure nard was made from the dried leaves of a rare Himalayan plant. It was the Jean Patou Joy perfume of her day, advertised as the most expensive perfume in the world. Today, just one ounce retails for $450. This pure nard was probably a family heirloom, passed down from one generation to another, from mother to daughter. It’s the kind of perfume they would rarely, if ever, use. Yet Mary breaks the jar and pours it all over Jesus’ head.
It’s extravagance to the max! But that’s what Jesus loves in our worship. Jesus loves it when we love Him extravagantly.
I like what Chuck Swindoll says about Mary’s extravagance here. In his book, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, he writes, “I believe this event has been preserved to teach one major message: There are certain times when extravagance is appropriate… In our day of emphasis on high-tech calculations and finely tuned budgets with persistent reminders of cost, restraint, and propriety (that is, never being guilty of doing anything outside the bounds of the ordinary), anything beyond the basics can be misconstrued as excessive. If you buy into that ever present Spartan philosophy, then everything you build will be functional, ordinary, and basic. Everything you purchase will be at the lowest cost. Everything you do will be average.