As Jesus sat at the table with Lazarus and His disciples, Mary (the sister of Lazarus) entered the room carrying a small container of expensive perfume. This was a precious ointment called spikenard. Matthew and Mark tell us the perfume was held in a sealed alabaster box (jar). Alabaster is a stone commonly found in Israel that resembles white marble. It was one of the precious stones used in decorating Solomon's Temple. Not only was the alabaster box expensive, so was the perfume it contained. It was worth one year's wages.
Everyone watched in silence as Mary knelt before Jesus. Breaking the seal of the alabaster box, Mary began anointing Jesus' head (Mark 14:3) and feet (John 12:3) with the precious ointment. She then wiped Jesus' feet with her hair. So powerful was the fragrance that the aroma filled the room.
What a beautiful picture! What an illustration of extravagant worship! And yet, someone found fault. It was Judas who filed the complaint, "“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages" (John 12:5). John was quick to point out that this was a sanctimonious statement, "He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it" (John 12:6).
Jesus was quick to defend Mary. Looking at Judas He said, "Leave her alone...It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial" (John 12:7). Some believe that as Jesus endured the sufferings that would come later in the week, the aroma of the precious perfume lingered as He offered Himself as sacrifice for sin.
What is your response to extravagant worship? Are you drawn to it, or turned off by it? Judas was turned off by it because his heart was not right with the Lord. He was disgusted by Mary's display of extravagant worship. On the other hand, Jesus was impressed! He even said, “wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).
We can learn from Mary - the woman who worshiped extravagantly and was commended by Jesus for it. We learn that extravagant worship is costly. Mary held nothing back. She didn't pour out just a little perfume; only a few drops. She emptied the container. When you come to worship, give it your all. Hold nothing back.
We also learn that extravagant worship involves humility. Mary knelt before Jesus. She even wiped his feet with her hair. When you worship extravagantly, there will always be those who misunderstand. There will be critics. But Mary never responded to Judas' criticism. She was completely focused on Jesus. In worship, keep your eyes on Jesus and leave the critics to Him.
And then we see that extravagant worship involves a person's entire being. Mary's act of worship was spiritual. It was emotional. It was physical. It was even financial. Like the psalm writer, Mary blessed the Lord with all that was within her (Psalm 103:1).
And finally, extravagant worship creates an atmosphere. When Mary opened the alabaster box, the aroma of worship filled the house (John 12:3). Psalm 96:9 talks about worshipping God in the beauty of holiness. Extravagant worship is a beautiful thing in God's sight. Let's not spoil it by holding back (Hebrews 10:38), or by assuming the role of a critic.
I pray that River of Life Assembly of God will be filled with the beautiful aroma of worship, and that we will carry the fragrance with us all week long. When it's time to worship, hold nothing back. The saying in sports is to leave it all on the field. Let's leave it all on the altar. Let's be a church of extravagant worship.
Pastor Todd Weston