The Saturday before the Sunday traditionally called “Palm Sunday” included a beautiful event which gives a valuable worship pattern. Listen to the beautiful story.
“So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?’ Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, ‘Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me'” (John 12:2-8).
This is the setting. Jesus’ closest of friends are all meeting to enjoy some fellowship during a festive Passover occasion. They are happy, upbeat and probably feel a bit like we do during Easter or Christmas season. I guess perhaps the kids had off school too. But as we stoop down to look in the window of the home of Lazarus (whom Jesus rose from the dead) we would see a beautiful example of worship. One from which we could all learn – the example of Mary.
Mary is always being picked on for her worship. Do you remember when we met these two ladies (Luke 10:38-42)? Martha chastised Mary for worship. Mary was listening to Jesus while Martha was serving others. At that time Jesus stood up for Mary stating that she had chosen the essential thing – worship. We turn to the final scene with this friendly crew. And things have not changed much. Character changes slowly. This time Martha does not chide Mary; Judas does (How deceitful human nature; as if he could speak about morality!).
Let’s examine Mary’s worship pattern, eight days before Jesus’ Resurrection.
Mary’s worship was extraordinary because it was extravagant. And that is why Judas was in such a tizzy. “How could you spend so much on Jesus!?” If you do the Math we are talking about an annual salary, so let’s take today’s average salary in America – $50,000. When you put it in those terms, this is not just a bottle of Old Spice here. This is a huge expense.
Can you say that your worship is costly? I want to go beyond finances here to an even deeper issue. What Mary is showing is that her all was given to Jesus. We can’t hold back anything. Worship is life. If we love Jesus wholly, we will give Him are all. Our life becomes His, and His desires become ours. This is Christian worship. Christianity is living life for Jesus. The some of our days could be considered one pound of spikenard being poured out at Jesus’ feet.
Mary’s worship signified deeper things. First of all, Mary was signifying this as an event that happened a while ago – perhaps where she first met Jesus. I believe that a very similar event occurred in Luke 7 earlier in Jesus ministry. At this time, however, the woman who brought the perfume to Jesus was a woman who was notorious throughout the whole village as a sinner. And yet she came to Jesus and worshiped Him in this way. Of course that made the religious leaders in the room castigate Jesus for allowing the “notorious sinner” to wash His feet with her hair. After all, if a woman allowed her hair to be unloosed in public it was a sign of loose morals. But Jesus reads her mind and her heart and acknowledges that she is coming for forgiveness. And He forgave her!
I believe that Mary is mirroring that event, and is identifying with her own need to be forgiven by Jesus. She states publicly that she does not care about the opinion of man. She indeed knows that she is a sinner and desires forgiveness. I wonder if you have thought of yourself in that way. Do you realize that you are not a righteous person? No man living is righteous before God. Only Jesus can forgive sins and make us right before God. Only Jesus saves.
A second significance to Mary’s worship on this occasion is that she is preparing for Jesus’ burial. Although the disciples were clueless to what was coming, Mary knew. She is worshiping Jesus ahead of time while He is living as if He were dead. And this action Jesus stated should always be remembered wherever the Gospel goes forth (Judas shrinks away in embarrassment, no doubt). And so here we are thousands of years later remembering Mary’s act of worship eight days before Jesus’ resurrection as an act of faith and worship. Just as He said.
“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).