Passion Week - The Fragrance of Worship
“Now Jesus was in Bethany, in the home of Simon, a man Jesus had healed of leprosy. And as He was reclining at the table, a woman came into the house, with an alabaster flask filled with the highest quality of fragrant and expensive oil. She came to Jesus, and with a gesture of extreme devotion, she broke the flask and poured out the precious oil over His head. But some were highly indignant when they saw this, and they complained to one another, saying, ‘What a total waste! It could have been sold for a great sum, and the money could have benefited the poor.’ So they scolded her harshly. Jesus said to them, ‘Leave her alone! Why are you so critical of this woman? She has honored me with this beautiful act of kindness. You will always have the poor, whom you can help whenever you want, but you will not always have Me. When she poured the fragrant oil over Me, she was preparing My body in advance of My burial. She has done all that she could to honor Me. I promise you that as this wonderful gospel spreads all over the world, the story of her lavish devotion to Me will be mentioned in memory of her.’” (Mark 14:3-9 TPT)
We are looking at events in the life of Christ during His final week on earth, often referred to as the Passion Week. In the above verses, Mark 14:3-9, we are told the story of a woman anointing Christ’s head and feet with perfume. It was very expensive, worth a year’s wages based on the average income of the day. What is your annual income? That’s the equivalent for you of this extravagant gift. We know from John’s account (John 12:1-8) that this was done by the same Mary who sat at Christ’s feet, mesmerized by His words, in Luke 10:38-42. She was the sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead.
The timing of Mary’s offering was just days before His death, and Jesus said she was anointing Him for His burial. Whether Mary had grasped the reality of His words about His imminent death and resurrection, or whether Jesus was simply accepting the offering in that light is unclear. Two things we do know: It was a very costly offering from Mary, and it was precious to the Lord. “Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall be spoken of in memory of her,” He stated (Matthew 26:13).
Some speculate that the scent of this powerful perfume would have lingered in Christ’s hair for several days. Did the fragrance help sustain Him as He agonized in Gethsemane? Perhaps the sweet aroma comforted Him through the tortuous six hours on the Cross.
Never underestimate the fragrance of worship.
Others in the room thought Mary’s offering was a waste. Some actually scolded her (Mark 14:5). I know the feeling. When I canceled all other activities for three months in our church in Colorado Springs, lavishing ninety days of 24/7 worship on the Lord, I, too, was criticized. One well-known Christian leader severely scolded and rebuked me, calling the ninety days of worship “a complete waste of time.”
It’s fascinating how much perspectives can differ. For me, those three months remain the best three months of my life. They were my alabaster box of costly perfume, the greatest offering I’ve had the pleasure of giving Christ. For the man who rebuked me, it was a complete waste of time. But never let the lack of revelation in others cheapen your offering. Don’t water down your perfume, either, just to save a little money, or substitute your best “myrrh” with some cheap off-brand. Like Mary, give Christ your best.
Others may mock your sacrifice of time, but go ahead and “waste” it on Him. Some will scold you, calling your passionate praise too radical, but pour out your offering in spite of their ridicule. Still others will label your extravagant worship as excessive, religious zeal. Don’t let their misguided criticism deter you - pour out your costly perfume!
The list of Christ’s followers in the room that day as Mary anointed Jesus is mind-boggling. The twelve disciples were there. You’d think they would have understood that He was more than worth this offering, but they were too practical: “It should have been given to the poor,” was their protest. Christ’s thoughts? “Go ahead and anoint Me; there will be ample time to care for the poor after I’m gone.”
Simon the leper (or should we say, “former leper”?) was present. They were actually in his home. You might think his new skin, replaced appendages, and restored life would merit the “wasting” of some costly perfume on Jesus. Evidently not - he didn’t come to Mary’s defense. And then there was Lazarus, Mary’s brother, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Surely he would see the validity of his sister’s sacrifice. But no, he didn’t come to her defense, either.
Could it be that the others’ familiarity with Christ had lessened their wonder of Him, their awe? We don’t know. They certainly didn’t come to Mary’s defense. And we know that only one worshiper that day had the fullness of revelation necessary to anoint the Savior. How sadly typical. So many miss opportunities to do so. It is not uncommon for me to see worshipers waste opportunities to break their alabaster box of love and pour it onto the Master. They’ve been around Him so much, sang so many songs, and prayed so many prayers that the experience isn’t worth quite what it used to be. So they give Him token praise and watered-down worship. Cheap perfume. I doubt if the fragrance makes it past Sunday lunch.
But while the others that day wasted an opportunity to comfort God, Mary poured out her perfume. Its fragrance sustained Him through the beatings, mocking, spittle, spikes, and thorns.
Don’t allow another day to go by without becoming one of the “fragrance creators.” Let nothing deter you. Your alabaster box is your heart; your love and worship are the perfume. Break it open and pour it out. At the scent of your offering, He’ll meet with you. And He’ll cherish your worship, just as He did Mary’s.
The Last Supper
We cannot cover every teaching and event of Christ’s last week, but this is a fitting place to mention The Last Supper. It was during this meal that Christ washed the disciples’ feet and initiated the common practice of Communion, the partaking of the symbolic bread and wine.
At the portion of the Passover meal during which the head of the house would ceremonially wash everyone’s hands, Jesus parted from tradition and washed their feet (John 13: 3-11). The word describing the “towel” Christ used while doing this denotes the towel used by slaves during the washing of people’s feet. He had come to earth to serve, and even at the end, Yeshua demonstrated His serving heart.
In that day, people traveled by foot, wearing only sandals, on dusty roads and paths. Their feet became sweaty and caked with dirt. It was the task of the lowest servant to wash the feet of arriving guests. But on this night, the unthinkable occurred. Jesus took this servant’s towel, and angels probably gasped as they watched the Creator wash the sweat, dirt, and stench from His disciples’ feet. It boggles the mind!
Truly, there is no one like Him!!!
Just before relating this, the passage begins by saying, “…having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Most people interpret the phrase “to the end,” as meaning “until His death.” However, this is not the case. The word in Greek means “the fulfillment or completion of anything, not its cessation.” It denotes, not the ending of the old, but the arrival of that which is complete or perfect. The verse is telling us Christ loved them fully, completely, to the uttermost or the highest possible degree. What a fitting statement as Christ prepares to visit Gethsemane, which we will discuss tomorrow.
Pray with me:
Father, thank You for including Mary‘s story in Your Holy Book. We are impressed and motivated by her example, yes. But just as importantly, we are awed by Christ’s moving acceptance and appreciation of it. May we today always give Him our best. May the fragrance of worship ascend to Him daily from our hearts and lives. And may You, Abba, always find a sweet fragrance of worship ascending before Your throne. We love You very much.
Jesus, thank You for Your amazing, unfathomable humility. We will never know just how much You humbled Yourself to serve us as You did. You became human, touchable, breakable. Your love is unmatched. We worship You today with our hearts and our words. And we gratefully partake of Your life, righteousness, strength, healing, and wholeness.
And honoring the 40-day call to prayer we spoke of yesterday, we partner with You in the ministry of intercession as we pray for the turning of our nation and for our government to be transformed. Change those who can be changed, replace the others. We ask for a turning of our nation, just as Nineveh turned, and an awakening unlike any seen before. You are the God of salvation, bring it to this land. And we wholeheartedly include other nations in this prayer - send revival throughout the earth. We pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We declare that we are passionate worshipers of our great God, and will follow His example of serving our fellow humans.
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