“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (John 12:3 NKJV).
While the Lord Jesus was reclining on a dining couch at the table, having being served a supper by Martha, Mary came to Jesus with an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard which she broke and then lavishly poured out on Jesus’ head and feet, wiping His feet with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the oil (Mk. 14:3, Jn. 12:3).
This is pure worship!
The disciples of Jesus, especially Judas Iscariot, were indignant or angered at Mary’s extravagant act of pure worship to the Lord Jesus, referring to it as “a waste.”
However, the Lord Jesus rebuked them but commended Mary, saying, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Mt. 26:10, 12 NKJV).
It is wisdom for us to examine and learn from Mary’s outrageous act of pure worship which unfortunately the disciples of Jesus regarded as “a waste” but which the Lord recognized, approved and commended as “a good work.”
Mary’s gesture of love towards the Lord Jesus undoubtedly offers us an opportunity to study and understand the nature of true worship or what true worship entails.
Let us carefully consider this!
First, Pure worship is an expression of love, appreciation or gratitude to the Lord for His love, faithfulness and goodness:
Mary’s pure act of worship undoubtedly emanated from a heart of love, appreciation and gratitude to the Lord for the great love and kindness the Lord had demonstrated towards her and her entire family.
There was a time when Mary’s brother, Lazarus, was sick to the point of death. Then, Mary and her sister, Martha, sent a distress message to the Lord, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” (Jn. 11:3 NKJV).
Although the Lord didn’t show up immediately at Bethany to heal Lazarus, yet the Lord demonstrated His deep love for Mary and her family by raising Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead four days and buried and his body had started to decompose and stink.
Mary’s outrageous pure act of worship was simply her peculiar way of saying, thank you to the Lord Jesus. The Scripture clearly states that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (Jn. 11:5 NKJV).
Apparently, Mary knew and believed that Jesus loved her deeply. Her worship was simply her warm and loving response to Jesus’ love. Her outrageous act of pure worship was motivated by pure love and gratitude to Jesus for His deep love and kindness towards her and her family.
You will not be able to offer pure worship to the Lord just as Mary did without you knowing, receiving, and experiencing the Lord’s deep love for you.
Like Mary, it is only the believers who know and believe that God loves them deeply, unconditionally and infinitely that can offer true and pure worship to God at all times, for true worship only emanates from a heart saturated with God’s love.
Pure worship is your loving response to God’s love, kindness and goodness towards you and your family.
Second, Pure worship involves sacrifices:
Pure or true worship is not convenient for the flesh. The flesh is opposed to pure worship of God (Ro. 8:5-8). Therefore, you cannot offer pure worship to God without displeasing, disregarding, ignoring, or denying yourself.
True worship involves reckoning yourself to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Ro. 6:11). Therefore, those who love to indulge, please, or gratify the passions or lusts of the flesh cannot offer pure worship to God. It is impossible to worship God and yourself at the same time. You will always have to choose between worshipping, serving or pleasing God and worshipping, serving or pleasing yourself.
The disciples of Jesus, particularly Judas Iscariot, were angered at Mary’s extravagant act of pure worship to the Lord because the fragrant oil of spikenard she lavishly poured on the Lord’s head and feet was very costly, rare and difficult to obtain, and also very much in quantity.
The Scripture testifies, “But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? “For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” (Mt. 26:8-9 NKJV).
The value of this fragrant oil was said to be 300 denarri (Jn. 12:5). It would take a typical labourer about a year to make that much money in those days. But, in a moment of worship, Mary broke the alabaster flask of this very costly oil of spikenard and lavishly poured out all of it on Jesus’ head and feet, wiping His feet with her hair. Only a heart overflowing with the love of Jesus could do that!
Pouring ointment on a guest’s head was a common custom at Jewish festive meals (Ps. 23:5, Lk. 7:46). But, to pour a very costly oil of spikenard on someone’s feet was uncommon and outrageous. It clearly reveals Mary’s humility and affection towards the Lord Jesus.
While Matthew and Mark only record that Mary poured the costly fragrant oil on Jesus’ head (Mt. 26:7, Mk. 14:3), John however records in his gospel that she poured the costly oil on Jesus’ feet (Jn. 12:3). There is no contradiction. Apparently, she did both.
As far as Mary was concerned, nothing was too much to give or do for the Lord Jesus. While worshipping the Lord, Mary completely lost sight of herself and others present at the table; her focus was only on Jesus.
She was not even bothered by the unpleasant reaction and remark of the disciples of Jesus. All that matters to Mary was expressing her love, affection, appreciation or gratitude to the Lord whom she deeply loved.
This is pure worship!
In pure worship, all affection and attention are towards the Lord; nothing else matters. It is not pure worship when you are still mindful of yourself and your situation. It is not pure worship to the Lord when your focus is partly on others and partly on the Lord. In pure worship, the preeminence of Jesus above all things is acknowledged, celebrated and proclaimed.
Like Mary, when your heart is overflowing with the love of Jesus, you will regard nothing as too much, costly or valuable to sacrifice to the Lord Jesus in worship, and you will not be bothered about what anybody has to say about your service or act of worship to the Lord.
A heart that is saturated with God’s love is only concerned about God’s approval and commendation, and not that of men. Pure worship only emanates from such a heart.
Like David, when you are deeply in love with the Lord, you will never want to offer Him anything which costs you nothing (2 Sa. 24:24). If you are still struggling with offering anything to the Lord in worship, your heart is obviously not yet saturated with pure love of the Lord Jesus.
When you truly have revelation knowledge of God’s love, you will deem all things as insufficient to offer to the Lord in worship, and you will gladly offer your best to the Lord.
Third, Pure worship is often provocative or offensive to the carnal minds:
The disciples’ unpleasant reaction and remark to Mary’s act of pure worship to the Lord is typical of the reaction of carnal people towards the act of pure worship of the believers today (Mt. 26:8-9, Mk. 14:4-5).
The Scripture says that the disciples were very angry at Mary’s pure expression of love to the Lord, saying, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? “For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.” (Mk. 14:4-5 NKJV).
Apparently, the disciples didn’t value Jesus as highly as Mary did. Judas Iscariot, who was the leader of the criticism of Mary’s extravagant display of love and worship, betrayed Jesus for only thirty pieces of silver.
Similarly, those who don’t love and value Jesus as much as you do will be provoked, angered, or offended at your display of pure love and worship to the Lord Jesus. They will regard your sacrifices or good works as a waste, just as the disciples called Mary’s sacrifice and good work a waste. But just as Mary did, you must learn to ignore or disregard them and their remarks or reactions, and focus on the Lord Jesus alone.
Lastly, God will never fail to recognize, commend, and reward an act of pure worship:
Although the carnal disciples sharply criticized and reprimanded Mary for her display of pure love and worship to the Lord Jesus, regarding her worship as a waste (Mt. 26:8). However, the Lord Jesus recognized, acknowledged, and appreciated Mary’s sacrifice.
The Lord promptly defended and commended her for the good work she has done for Him (Mt. 26:10). Moreover, not only did the Lord Jesus defend Mary, reprove her critics and commend her for her good work, the Lord also rewarded her act of pure worship.
The Lord honoured Mary, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Mt. 26:13 NKJV).
What a great honour bestowed on Mary!
Beloved, while the carnal people who don’t love and value the Lord Jesus as you do may be angry, upset or offended seeing your huge sacrifices for the sake of the Lord and His gospel, you must not become bitter or discouraged.
The Lord sees, recognizes, acknowledges, and appreciates every act of your pure worship to Him and He will not fail to shut the mouth of your critics, honour and reward you, just as He did for Mary.
The Scripture assures in Hebrews 6:
10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,
12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (NKJV).
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for helping me to understand today the nature of pure worship. Help me Lord to focus only on You in my worship, in Jesus’ name. Amen.