Read Mark 14:3-9
At the time of writing this, Pastor Scott recently preached from chapter 14 of the Gospel of Mark. Towards the beginning of the chapter is the widely known account of Mary, as identified by John (John 12:3), anointing Jesus while he was at Simon’s house in Bethany. There is numerous teaching available about the significance of this anointing, about the extravagance of it, and how it is an outward showing of worship. If you have time, I would encourage you to seek some out.
I would like to take a moment and point out just a few things in this account and draw correlations to our work in the worship ministries.
True worship is costly
We see that this ointment of pure nard was very costly. So much so that some of the disciples felt it was wasteful to dump 300 denarii (the equivalent of 300 days wages for a laborer) onto Jesus. However, true worship is costly. It will always cost us something. We see this in the account of David at Araunah’s threshing floor (2 Samuel 24:18-25). Araunah offered to give David freely what he needed to offer worship to God. However, David would not have it. He refused to offer worship that cost him nothing. I’m not speaking as though we somehow make our worship acceptable to God by how much it costs us. Our worship is made acceptable to God the Father only by Jesus Christ. His perfect blood sprinkled on us is what makes our worship pleasing to the Father (Hebrews 9). What I am saying is that we give and devote ourselves to what we value most. When we value God the most, the “cost” will not deter us from worshiping Him.
True worship affects
We see that Mary is affected by who Jesus is. She is worshiping the Messiah, the God-man. The reality of who he is has changed her. Now, in humility and submission with great love and devotion, she is openly willing to be identified as a devoted follower. She is moved to extravagant worship.
We also see that as Mary broke the flask, the fragrance filled the room. Even those who may not have been paying attention to the scene before would surely now be investigating. In a tangible way, the fragrance of Mary’s worship filled the room. The “tone” or “feel” of the room was changed. No one present could ignore what was happening. No one present could have casually overlooked what was taking place. It was common practice to anoint those being prepared for burial. I also find in reminiscent of the “pleasing aroma” spoken of under the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. True and acceptable worship that is a pleasing aroma to God, whose scent can not be overlooked by those in the vicinity.
Not ashamed to proclaim
No one could mistake the extravagance, the devotion, and the adoration being shown. It was a worship moment on display for all to see. The opinions of those present did not stop Mary. Even the fact that scripture records she wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair is a telling detail. In that culture at that time it was very unusual and rare for a Jewish woman to have her hair unbound in public. This detail speaks to the great level of devotion to Christ. So much so that Mary did not allow culture’s accepted practices to hinder her deep expression of worship. I find it reminiscent of how Michal despised David’s actions while bringing the Ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:29).
We see no indication that Mary’s actions were in anyway intended for anyone else but Jesus. It appears she was not concerned for the opinions of anyone else there. Simply put, her expression wasn’t for everyone else, it was for Jesus. That reminds me of a joke about a Pastor who was approached by a congregant immediately following the close of service one Sunday morning. The man commented, “I didn’t care for that new song…I don’t like that new stuff!” The Pastor, smiling replied, “That’s ok, it wasn’t meant for you.”
Mary’s physical expression was given as worship to Jesus and wasn’t intended to be for anyone else. Many times, I feel like we worry about being too physically expressive during our times of corporate worship. Whether it’s because we feel vulnerable or we are worried someone will be offended, we let the opinions of others dictate our actions of worship. But how would Mary’s account have been different had she been timid? What if she waited for everyone to leave so as to not offend anyone or look like she lost her mind? What we see here is that her unhindered expression, while not intended for anyone else, is the very thing that we all benefit from. Jesus pronounced in verse 9 of Mark chapter 14, her great act of worship will be used and recounted from that day forth as memory of her and example for all the rest of us. All people since that day have the benefit of learning from Mary’s extravagant display of worship.
Some questions to ponder and pray on:
- Do you feel that worship that costs you nothing is acceptable worship?
- Have you ever considered your worship could be a “pleasing aroma” to God? If not, how may thing effect your times of worship?
- We know that scripture also speaks of not letting church services be disorderly, but within that framework, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 on the physical expressiveness of your worship in the gathered church?
- Would it be possible that, while intended only for God, your physical expressiveness in worship could be a benefit to other believers?