True Worship

True Worship

Text:John 12:1-8 — Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”


Introduction: A role model is a person who serves as an example of a particular behavior for others to follow. In one sense, we could say that almost all of us are role models in that we have others watching and learning from us. Few would argue that children imitate their parents when it comes to most things in life. Athletes, actors and actresses, successful business people and other shakers and movers are also held up as examples of what young people ought to be, though they often seem to reject that responsibility. Hall of Fame basketball player, Charles Barkley, noted for sharing his opinion on many issues once said, “I’m not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” Popular singer Katy Perrysaid something similar, “If people want a role model they can have Miley Cyrus.” I don’t know if you’ve heard much about Miley Cyrus lately, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to follow Katy Perry’s suggestion and hold her up as an example for your kids.  So where are all the good examples to follow? Believe it or not, they’re out there. Ray Ortlund, my Hebrew professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, shares this story about the most important role model in his life: Fifty years ago, my dad and mom gave me a new Bible. It was my senior year in high school, the first week of two-a-day football practices, and I crawled home that day, bone tired. Mom made a special dinner for me, since it was my birthday, and dad gave me a Bible with the following inscription: Bud, nothing could be greater than to have a son—a son who loves the Lord and walks with him. Your mother and I have found this Book our dearest treasure. We give it to you and doing so can give nothing greater. Be a student of the Bible and your life will be full of blessing. We love you. Dad (9/7/66 — Phil. 1:6)As I read these wonderful words from fifty years ago, it never occurred to me to think, “Dad doesn’t really believe that. It’s just religious talk.” I knew he meant it, because I watched him live it. He was a student of the Bible, and his life was full of blessing, and I wanted what he had. It took me a few more years to get clarity in some ways, not surprisingly. But on this day so long ago my dad said something to me that left a deep impression. It moved me then, and it moves me now. There’s a pretty good role model, don’t you think?


So obviously, there are still some examples to follow. And this morning we’re going to look at one who demonstrates perhaps as well as anyone what it means to be a worshipper of Godas we continue in our preaching series, “Seven Habits of a Healthy and Holy Christian.” The first four messages on prayer, faith, delighting in God’s Wordand depending on the Holy Spiritare available for you to listen to just in case you weren’t able to join us. Just go to our website at www.riverridgewi.com, click on the heading “sermons” and you’re good to go.


Now the person I want to hold up as a good role model is Mary of Bethany. She was the sister of Lazarus, whom Christ raised from the dead and Martha, a woman who worked hard for the Lord. What we know about her is found in four different passages in the New Testament (Luke 10:38-42; Mark 14:3-9; John 11:1-2 and John 12:1-8). She was a woman who clearly understood the special place that Christ should occupy in our lives. She was and remains for us today a great role model of what it means to be a WORSHIPPER of God. Let’s see what we can observe from her example here in John 12:1-8. Here are four ways she modeled worship for each of us.

I. Mary Worshipped Christ Normatively. It was her standard operating procedure whenever the Lord was near. He always had her full attention. That’s what we see in John 12:1-3. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he remained in Bethany and at the invitation of Simon the Leper attended a banquet – probably in His honor becausehe had healed Simon of leprosy and called Lazarus forth from the tomb (See Matthew 26:6). Not only was Lazarus in attendance but so were his two sisters, Mary and Martha. While the men were reclining with Jesus at the table and Martha was being playing the role of hostess, Mary took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. As a result, the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.This was an act or worship — the word means to regard something with awe and devotion. It reveals to us the deep devotion that Mary had to Christ. While there were a lot of people present at the banquet, she was the only one recognized for worshipping the Lord. And if you know anything about her, this should not surprise you. This was Mary’s pattern. In John 11:20-34, we’re told that Jesus came to the home of Mary and Martha because Lazarus their brother had died. What did Mary do when she saw Him? She fell at his feet.Worship was as much a part of who she was as video games are today to the average teenager. It defined her as a person and in these verses we see once again that she was not going to miss an opportunity to express her love for Christ. Application: Perhaps you’re sitting here this morning and thinking to yourself, “I don’t’ know if I have what it takes to be a worshipper in the same way that Mary was.”  If this is a thought you’re wrestling with, may I suggest that the thing that may be keeping you from becoming more like her is your failure to be awed by our Lord. Perhaps you haven’t stood close enough to Him yet to see just how great and awesome He really is. Illustration: I know this is the case for at least some Christians. They’re grateful to Jesus for the gift of their salvation, but rarely feel compelled to fall at His feet and worship Him.  One person compares them to some children in a Sunday Class who became very excited when their teacher explained that when Solomon’s temple was completed and the people dedicated it to the glory of God, the presence of the Lord filled the temple. The children’s jaws dropped with excitement. The teacher quickly discovered, however, that they were not impressed with how God had come to dwell in the temple, but mistakenly thought that it was full of “presents” from Him. That’s the problem with many Christians today. We’re more excited about the presents that we get from God than being in the presence of God. If you want to be a true worshipper…get a little closer to Jesus just like Mary did. It was her standard procedure.

II. Mary Worshipped Christ Sacrificially(John 12:3 — Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume). While the guests reclined at the table with Jesus and Martha busied herself taking care of them, Mary sought a way to express just how much she loved her Lord. So, she took a considerable quantity of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. How valuable was it? The cost of the nard was equal to a year’s wages for a day laborer. To put it in perspective, in today’s economy you’re looking at twenty-five thousand dollars! Of course, with this kind of extravagance, the entire house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. One might wonder why she would do a thing like that. The answer is simple. It was Mary’s way of demonstrating that Jesus meant more to her than anything else in her life. She was not about to worship Him without sacrificing something of value in the process. King David, by the way, did the same thing. When he attempted to purchase some land that had a threshing floor already on it in order to build an altar to worship the Lord, the man who owned it offered to give it to him, yet David turned him down saying, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” He then bought the land for six hundred shekels of gold (1 Chronicles 21:25) and the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver (2 Samuel 24:24). He spent a small fortune just so that he could worship the Lord! Application: If you want to grow as a worshipper, you have to come to the place where you see your relationship with Christ as preeminent over everything else in your life. When He occupies the first place in your life, then what you do with your family, friends, careers, houses, cars, money etc, becomes a way to express your love for Jesus. Illustration: When I first went on staff with CCC, I dedicated my life to serving the Lord. That, of course, had a huge impact on the way I looked at my money and possessions. I determined that I could either view it all as mine and give to the Lord a small portion for kingdom work. Or I could view it all as God’s and then keep only enough to live on and allow the rest to do kingdom work. That’s what I chose to do. I began giving sacrificially of my finances and I started seeing my possessions in a new light. This included my first car which I was really proud of. It was a ‘vette’ … ‘Chevette” … that is. I used to joke that it was capable of going from zero to sixty at least two out of three times. Still, I didn’t want anyone to mess it up. Unfortunately, that is an inevitability when you minister to youth or start a family. That is how I came to realize that as a worshipper of Christ, I was to use everything, my money and even my car for His glory. Certainly, Mary understood this as well, so she worshipped Jesus with expensive perfume. (Normatively, Sacrificially…)

III. Mary Worshipped Christ Shamelessly(John 12:4-6 — 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. ). According to the account of this same story in Matthew 26:6-10, after pouring the perfume out on Jesus’ body, Mary undid her hair, something that no respectable Jewish woman would do in public (it was a mark of loose morals), and began to wipe His feet with it. For her it was simply a way to express her humility before Jesus and lay her glory at His feet. While He later commended her for her action (Matthew 26:20), Judas and the disciples were very troubled by what she’d done. As the treasurer for the group, Judas spoke up and said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” Of course, Matthew’s gospel lets us know that Judas cared nothing for the poor, but was hoping to get something for himself. Still, no matter his motives in saying what he did, the interesting thing about Mary is that she didn’t care enough to alter her actions or apologize for them, even if some important people judged her extravagant worship as wasteful and shameful. Mary was not about to be diverted from worshipping Christ. Application: To worship the Lord, you have to deny yourself. You cannot be guided in your thinking by what others are going to say about you for expressing your love and devotion to Jesus. You simply have to come to the place where you recognize that there is only one opinion that matters when it comes to worship…and it is Christ’s. If anyone else thinks less of you for expressing your allegiance to Him, so be it. The Bible says, “If you suffer for doing good and endure it, this is commendable before God(1 Peter 2:2).” (Normatively, Sacrificially, Shamelessly …)

IV. Mary Worshipped Christ Opportunistically(John 12:7-8 — 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me). In doing what she did, Mary was demonstrating that there was no better time than the present to worship the Lord. Just like the disciples had a difficult time wrapping their minds around Jesus’ eventual death, there is nothing to indicate that Mary understood it either. Though Jesus mentioned that it was for that purpose, it’s pretty likely that Mary just saw this as a way to express her deep love for Jesus. In our day, we often give gifts to people to let them know how much we care. That’s what she was doing.  Looking again at Matthew 26:10Jesus called what she did a “good work” and praised her for it. As a matter of fact, Jesus was so touched by her public display of affection He declared that her loving act would become a blessing to believers for generations to come wherever the Gospel story is shared(See Matthew 26:13). Application: The Bible says you cannot have two lords…you will love one and hate the other. The decision that every one of us has to make daily is who we will give our hearts over to as the Lord of our lives.


Applications: What can we learn from Mary’s example?

  • If you want to be a better worshipper, give more of yourself to it. While it is good to attend church services so that we can worship Christ together, I encourage you to take every opportunity to worship Christ. The Bible says that we are to redeem our time inEphesians 5:16. This is a way of exhorting us to use it allup for God’s glory. Let’s be more like the great 16thcentury reformer, Philipp Melanchthon, who kept a record of every wasted moment and took his list to God in confession at the end of each day. Now there was a man who was completely devoted to His Lord!
  • If you want to be a better worshipper, give more of your treasures to it. When we release our grip on the things in life that have for so long been our idols, we relax and trust the Lord with each and every one of them. Let me encourage you to mentally pour each one out to Jesus as an expression of His place in your lives.
  • If you want to be a better worshipper, give more of your heart to it. You’d be surprised what can become for you an opportunity for worship when you start thinking that way.


Conclusion: Everybody worships! It’s just a matter of who or what we’ll choose to adore. As Christians, the best life possible is found when we choose to live for Jesus and attempt to order our lives, as Mary did, to worship Him in everything we do. The Bible warns us that if we worship something other than Christ, that thing will fail to fill the deep emptiness of our souls (it is after all passing awaySee 1 John 2:17). Few seem to have recognized this truth better than the American writer and intellectual David Foster Wallace. For much of his adult life, Wallace was at the top of his profession. He was an award-winning, best-selling novelist who sadly and tragically committed suicide in 2008. Before his death he gave a famous commencement address in which he said this to the graduating class: “… here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism…. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is whatto worship. And … pretty much anything you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things—if they are where you tap real meaning in life—then you will never have enough…. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allureand you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you….Worship power—you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on. David Wallace was smart enough to realize that no part of God’s creation, not even human beings, deserves our worship. His fatal error, however, was that he did not consider God, Himself, as the One worthy of our complete and utter devotion. And it was this failure that made his life unbearable to the point where he extinguished it. What about you? What do you worship? You’ll know what it is because what we worship is that to which we giveour time, our treasuresand our hearts. May I suggest that Mary of Bethany had it right … only Jesus Christ is deserving of this kind of dedication and devotion. It turns out she’s a great role model for all of us to follow.