Summary: Mary, the sister of Lazarus, points us to reckless worship that is costly, active, personal, and sometimes judged.
Every time you see Mary, the sister of Lazarus, in scripture, you find her sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39; John 11:32; 12:3). This lady knew how to worship. She knew—when many others did not—that Jesus was the long-awaited Christ. After all, he raised her brother from certain death just a month before! Her act in today’s story is so significant that, in the parallel account in Matthew, Jesus told the crowd, “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached in all the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13). Wow! How would you like Jesus saying that about YOU?”
What can we learn from Mary? She shows us that ...
True worship is:
Mary’s perfume came from India and cost 300 denarii in her time. A denarius is about one day’s worth of work. So 300 would be nearly a year’s worth of income. Even if Mary and Martha and Lazarus were from a wealthy family, this was still a very pricey gift! It cost something for Mary to worship Jesus.
Mary’s sacrifice reminds me of a story of King David in the Old Testament. He and the people of Israel were being punished by God for David’s arrogance in taking a census, relying on his own strength instead of God’s. To regain God’s favor, David wanted to make an offering, but he needed a certain threshing floor upon which to give it. The owner, Araunah, tried to donate it to the King. But David would have none of it. He said to Araunah, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24, 1 Chronicles 21:24).
True worship costs you. It may cost you your time, getting up a little earlier to be with God, or staying up a little later to read his word. It may cost you some money, as God leads you to give to various causes. That’s what it cost Mary, a sizable amount of money. Yet, the cost is always worth it, for Mary, for David, and for you and me. After all, Jesus paid a great cost for us. Nothing is too good for him! True worship is costly, and it’s also...
By this I mean it’s going to involve your whole being. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. The normal custom was to anoint the head of the guest of honor. In fact, the other three gospels record a woman anointing Jesus’ head. Perhaps that was this same Mary; we don’t know for sure. Maybe she anointed both head and feet. Anointing someone’s head showed great honor. Taking the role of a servant and cleaning and then even anointing someone’s feet – well, that showed great love, great devotion, great worship! Mary took action. She put feet to her faith. Her worship was active.
There are times when God will call you to active worship. It may be a prayer walk around the campus here. It may be sitting with someone, or making a dessert, or sending a card, or assisting as an usher at the Mission service, all for the glory of God. You say, “Pastor, I thought that was ministry, not worship.” There’s a fine line between the two, when you do ministry with the right motivation, to honor God. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” We don’t have to make sacrifices to God as they did in David’s day, because we are the sacrifice!
True worship is costly; it’s active; and it’s ...
It’s between you and God. This was Mary’s way of showing love to Jesus. Martha’s was serving, as she always was. She worshiped through her service. Mary gave through her devotion. Each worshiped in her own personal way.
Your worship may not be someone else’s worship. God may speak to your heart in a whole different way than your neighbor or your spouse. You have to find your own connection to God, your own way of honoring him for what he has done for you.
One person in this story was very close to Jesus in a physical sense, but very far in a relational sense. Judas looked good on the outside, but was corrupt on the inside, opening himself up to be used as a tool of the devil’s. And that brings us to our last quality of true worship. Unfortunately, sometimes it will be...
Judas judged Mary, stating she could have spent that money on the poor. John notes that Judas was a thief, and didn’t care one iota about the poor. The sad part is, Judas could have been closer to Jesus than anyone. He saw all the miracles. He heard all the sermons. He was in church every time the doors were open. Yet, he missed out on true worship. Instead, he concentrated on judging others’ worship. And yet, Jesus refused to allow anyone to steal Mary’s worship, commenting that perhaps without knowing it, Mary was helping prepare his body for death. Unbeknownst to this dinner party, in less than a week, Jesus would go to the cross!