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Prepared for Burial

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“When Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.’” [1]

It was only hours until the Master would be crucified. He had told His disciples repeatedly that His life would be taken from Him, and they still did not understand. Perhaps they could be forgiven for failing to understand the first references—they were somewhat vague. Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” [MATTHEW 12:40]. However, Jesus became increasingly specific as the time of His passion drew near.

Nevertheless, the Master had attempted to instruct the disciples from earliest days. Peter had just made his great confession concerning Jesus [MATTHEW 16:13-20]. It was assuredly a powerful insight concerning Jesus that Peter revealed through his confession. In fact, the Master commended him for his sensitivity to the Spirit of God. However, take careful note of the verses that follow. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man’” [MATTHEW 16:21-23; see also MARK 8:31-33]. When it became apparent that the disciples were convinced of Jesus’ Person, He began immediately to teach them of His sacrifice. Just as precipitously, Peter and the other disciples attempted to dissuade Him from offering Himself as a sacrifice, only to earn His stern rebuke.

Shortly after this first clear statement of His sacrifice, Jesus again spoke of His pending death. Again, the disciples could not comprehend what He was saying. “As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to [His disciples], ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day’” [MATTHEW 17:22, 23]. The text continues by noting that, “they were greatly distressed.” They didn’t understand, but the very fact that He spoke of His death disturbed them greatly.

As He approached Jerusalem for the last time during the days of His flesh, Jesus once again spoke of His sacrifice. “As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day”” [MATTHEW 20:17-19].

This brings us to the text before us today. The Passion of the Master was but days away. He had gone with His disciples to the house of a man identified as Simon the Leper. Simon was a common name in Judah at this time; therefore, we cannot say with certainty who Simon might have been; however, it seems reasonable to conclude that the man had been healed by Jesus. Were this not the case, Jesus and the disciples would have been rendered ritually unclean by entering the house of someone with leprosy, and thus excluded from observing the Passover. Moreover, if Simon’s leprosy was still evident, he would not have been allowed to live near others. Therefore, it seems best to conclude that Jesus had cleansed Simon at some earlier date.

The information provided leads me to conclude that this dinner was hosted by a man whom Jesus had healed; the meal was his way of expressing gratitude for what Jesus had done. He likely knew Lazarus and his sisters, and he must surely have known that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead; therefore, he asked that they join in presenting the dinner. The fact that John specifically says that Lazarus “gave a dinner” and that Martha was serving [see JOHN 12:1, 2] would indicate that the four had united to present this meal in honour of Jesus.

The dinner was arranged for the conclusion of the Sabbath, sometime after sundown. Present were Jesus, the twelve disciples, Simon, and Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. This dinner is mentioned in John’s Gospel [see JOHN 12:2-8].

While they were eating, a woman came up to Jesus with an alabaster flask of expensive ointment. John informs us that it was Mary who anointed the Master [JOHN 12:3]. Moreover, she anointed not only His head, but also his whole body down to His feet.

WORSHIPPING THE MASTER — “When Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.”

Let’s be clear, Mary worshipped through pouring out the expensive perfume. As the fragrance wafted throughout the room, it would be obvious that she had presented a precious gift to Jesus for His exclusive use. Worship is the act of ascribing worth to an individual. To worship the Christ is to ascribe to Him the glory that is due His Name. This becomes clear as we consider worship the saints will offer in heaven.

The Apocalypse presents several beautiful scenes of worship as the Revelator is permitted to peer into Heaven itself. Looking on the throne of God, seeing the cherubs around the throne who are constantly ascribing holiness to the Lord, John writes, “Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they existed and were created.’”


As an aside, a significant aside that must not be dismissed, the eternal occupation of the people of God will be worship. If such occupation sounds dull, tedious or even lugubrious to you, is it because you do not know the Master? Those who know the Master are energised as they worship; His presence is scintillating, vibrant, exciting.

Soon after John described that initial scene as the veil separating time from eternity was lifted, he saw another marvellous scene which he described. John wrote, “Between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

‘Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.’”


Worship is ascribing worth; and in Heaven the saints of God ascribe worth to the Son of God. Frankly, the only legitimate worship is that which is offered to the Son of God because He is worthy. And He is worthy because He presented His life as a sacrifice that He might ransom fallen sinners for God. Those whom He ransomed have been made into a kingdom—the Kingdom of God; and now they serve as priests of God, representing man to God and God to man. For this, He is worthy of our praise, and He is worthy to receive power and glory. Amen.

And when the ascended saints in glory worship, the angels also worship as seen in the verses following. John writes, “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!’”

[REVELATION 5:11, 12]

Perhaps you will recall these words from the 96th PSALM.

“Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

bring an offering, and come into his courts!

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

tremble before him, all the earth!”

[PSALM 96:7-9]

To worship the LORD is to ascribe to Him the glory due His Name. To worship the LORD is to come into His presence, bringing an offering. To worship the LORD is to hold Him in awe, to realise His majesty and power and might.

For many of us, worship is defined by our emotions. While we sway to a hypnotic rhythm, or as we dance ecstatically or perhaps dreamily repeat the words of a chorus, we say we are worshipping. Others speak of the serenity they feel in mouthing well-rehearsed words while performing familiar rituals as worship. However, in the Word of God, worship is the spontaneous act of the creature when found in the presence of the Creator. We recognise that He is God, and we are not. Without thinking of how we should react, He appears and we find ourselves marvelling at His grace, awed by His majesty, wondering at His mercy, delighted by His goodness. The surest evidence that modern church services fail to prepare people to worship is that we are seldom awed by the knowledge of the Holy One. So, we substitute cheap tricks to fool the mind into thinking we are worshipping because we stimulate the emotions.

So, how did Mary worship? She was extravagant in offering a possession exclusively for the use of the Master. In doing this, she honoured Him. The flask she brought was filled with pure nard and the neck sealed by drawing it out. Nard is the oil extracted from the root of a somewhat rare plant that grows only in the Himalaya Mountains in India. Because it is difficult to find and difficult to harvest, and because it was imported from a distant land, the oil was extremely expensive. The flask of oil that Mary brought to the dinner was said to be “pure nard” [Pistikòs nàrdos JOHN 12:2]; it was valued at more than a year’s wages. The small flask represented no less than $45,000 and perhaps as much as $75,000 in today’s money; it was extremely valuable. To preserve the precious oil, it was sealed in a soft, fine-grained gypsum flask.

It was common in Jewish custom to offer scented oils to guests who came under one’s roof. There were a variety of scented oils that were commonly offered to guests—aloe, balsam, calamus, cassia and cinnamon—many still used today. However, for royalty or for those who were thought special, one would offer a few drops of nard. Doing this would communicate that the individual anointed was not a common or run-of-the-mill guest; it bespoke of special stature in the eyes of the host. What shall we say, then, when Mary not only broke the neck, but broke the flask to ensure that all the nard was available to be poured out and over the Master’s body?

The fragrance must have filled the house. I can imagine that even six days later as the soldiers were beating Jesus, they could smell the royal perfume wafting through the fetid air of the Praetorium, lending an air of unreality to the dark scene. One can only wonder what must have been in Mary’s mind as she broke the flask and poured out the oil. Though the text tells us nothing of Mary’s thought process, her actions indicate that she recognised Jesus as the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, the Prince of Peace. Mary was not simply trying to pour a few drops on Jesus’ head to enhance the aroma of the dinner—she is performing the highest imaginable act of consecration. She poured the expensive oil onto His entire body [see MATTHEW 26:12].

In this act, Mary worshipped the Son of God as God! She gave what must have been the most expensive item in her possession, offering it up to Jesus to honour Him. Moreover, she did this without expecting anything in return. The disciples had been looking for an earthly kingdom in which they would have possessions of power. They had jockeyed for position, thinking to shove their way to the top. Mary offered her wealth to Jesus for one purpose—to honour Him.

Before receiving an offering in this church, I endeavour to remind those giving that the giving is an act of worship. I have listened to the appeals of many religious people over the years; a common theme is that we must give in order to receive. The meme is that if we give, our gift serves as “seed money” which obligates God to enrich us, returning our gift many-fold. That seems a particularly despicable way of viewing this act of worship. What is vital for believers to recognise in Mary’s action is that there is not a hint of expectation—she is focused on the One she anoints! She epitomises the worship of one who seeks to honour the Christ.

Let me speak very pointedly, because the issue is vital to us as followers of the Master. When we worship in song, we are not merely singing words that rhyme and which are set to pleasant music; we are offering to God praise and honour as we sing of His glories and of His mercies. When we worship through meditating on the Word, we are not simply receiving religious platitudes; we are listening to hear the voice of the ascended Lord speaking through His Word. When we bring our gifts, we are not simply giving money to support the congregation; we are endeavouring to extend the Kingdom of God because Christ is worthy of our richest gifts.

Therefore, when we sing the hymns of Zion, I encourage God’s people to sing heartily, as to the Lord. When we listen as the Word is preached, I encourage those attending the service to weigh what is said, looking into the Word to see if the message resonates as the Spirit of God testifies to our own spirit. When we prepare to come into the presence of the Lord, I encourage the people to prepare to meet the Living Son of God; we prepare through prayerful anticipation, through reading the text beforehand while meditating on what is written in the Word and through asking that God be honoured through sound declaration of the Word and through a spirit of unity in the flock. When we present our gifts before the Lord, I urge the people of God to be munificent, giving generously to the praise and glory of the Lord as did Mary.

These encouragements are nothing less than practical application of the admonition of the Apostle, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” [COLOSSIANS 3:17]. In such worship, we bring to bear his admonition, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” [COLOSSIANS 3:23].

OBJECTING TO WORSHIP — “When the disciples saw [what Mary had done], they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’”

There is always someone prepared to tell you what you should have done in worship. This is especially true when you seek to honour God through giving generously for His glory. Those complaining seem often to be leaders within the congregation. Our text makes it obvious that all the disciples complained about Mary’s extravagance. However, the parallel passage in John’s Gospel informs us that Judas Iscariot was the most vocal in dissent. That passage also informs us of the reason for his dissent. “Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ 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” [JOHN 12:4-6].

It is amazing how easily godly people can be swayed when they take their eyes off the Master. The disciples were still not thinking of Jesus as the Perfect Sacrifice who had to be offered because of their sin; they were still thinking of an earthly kingdom in which they would have, if not authority and power, then certainly stature. Whether they realised it or not, they were focused on their own situation rather than seeking the glory of God. Because Mary was extravagant in worship of the Master, the disciples were offended and easily led astray.

I encountered precisely such an individual in one of my early pastorates here in British Columbia. I had been called to a church with five people in it. The church had died under the expert leadership of the former pastor, who had remained in membership to serve as treasurer. God blessed my service before Him, and the congregation began to grow. However, there were never enough funds to provide support for my service. Each week the treasurer would throw his hands into the air and with the wry smile he would exclaim, “We’re broke! We can’t pay you!” The situation continued for almost two years as I laboured to build the congregation.

The building was dilapidated; the disrepair was so serious that it was rapidly becoming a health hazard. A group of godly men and women from Texas had volunteered to come in order to repair the building at their own expense. After their gracious labours to restore that building, one would have thought that the five long-time members would rejoice. However, the treasurer began to complain. The colour of the panelling was wrong. The windows were the wrong hues. The door was put on wrong. His grumbling was leading others to complain as well.

Because of his grumbling, the situation was growing dire. Thus, one day I drove to his home to confront him. I pointed out that since he refused to cease grumbling and complaining, and since North Vancouver was closer to Burnaby than was Dallas, it was time for him to leave the congregation. When he dissented from my assessment, I reached into my jacket, pulled out a letter of dismissal and explained that he had just resigned from the congregation.

“You can’t do that,” he exclaimed.

“We will have a vote on Sunday next,” I responded. “We’ll find out whether you are welcome to continue complaining and destroying God’s flock or not.”

Dissent in the church ceased immediately. Here is the fascinating thing about my stern action; a fine and godly man became the treasurer, and the offerings trebled in one week. Moreover, they continued strong throughout the duration of my service! I’m not suggesting there was malfeasance or misconduct on the part of this complaining individual, but the giving did surge abruptly; and never again did the congregation lack funds to advance the cause of Christ in that neighbourhood during the remainder of my tenure.

At first blush, Judas’ complaint appears reasonable. The aromatic oil could have been sold for a sizable sum and the moneys used to start a soup kitchen or a clothing ministry. Without thinking, all the disciples piled on, lending voice to the complaint. What is dismaying is the realisation that poor Mary was still there—perhaps standing behind Jesus and undoubtedly abashed at the ferocity of the attack against her devotion because she had sought to honour the Master. The voices raised against her must have seemed terribly intimidating.

It is an axiom of the Faith that money spent on worship—money spent to honour the Son of God—is not wasted. To be certain, we want to be wise in administering the moneys of God’s people. We want to ensure that the Kingdom of God is advanced and that His Name is made known throughout the earth. However, we do well to remember that God is at work among us fulfilling His purpose, and we should first glorify Him. Therefore, the indignant complaint, “Why this waste?” was unwarranted, arising as it did from personal ambition rather than from a desire to honour the Master.

When David had sinned so grievously because he conducted a census of God’s people, God commanded him to build an altar where he would present burnt offerings and peace offerings. When Araunah deeded to the King the property on which the altar was to be build, he offered it at no cost. David’s response states an axiom of the Faith. “‘No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver” [2 SAMUEL 24:24].

What did David pay for this land, which would later be known as the Temple Mount? The threshing floor, oxen and implements were purchased by David for fifty shekels of silver. Fifty shekels of silver would be valued at roughly $16,000. He bought the land surrounding the threshing floor for six hundred shekels of gold [see 1 CHRONICLES 21:25], worth about $2,880,000 in today’s prices. [2] David honoured God by paying lavishly for the land and oxen.

The Chronicler of Israel provides an account of David’s largesse when glorifying God. The aged king determined to transfer the Kingdom of Judah to his son, Solomon. Throughout the years of his service, David amassed a large fortune that he dedicated for building the Temple. Here is the biblical account of David’s own words as recorded in the Chronicles. “Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the LORD God. So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones and marble. Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God: 3,000 talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and 7,000 talents of refined silver, for overlaying the walls of the house, and for all the work to be done by craftsmen, gold for the things of gold and silver for the things of silver” [1 CHRONICLES 29:1-5].

The materials furnished represented extreme wealth; and they were dedicated for the singular purpose of glorifying God through building a stunning, elegant Temple to the glory of God! The Temple David envisioned was to be beautiful beyond imagination, and it was to be dedicated solely to God’s honour. Later, when Solomon began to build the Temple, he spoke of his desire to honour God when seeking materials from Hiram, King of Tyre. “Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the LORD my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the LORD our God, as ordained forever for Israel. The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods” [2 CHRONICLES 2:4, 5]. Clearly, the son of David had absorbed the attitude of His father toward honouring the LORD God.

A negative example of advancing one’s own interests is provided through the actions of an infamous couple. You will undoubtedly recall the account that is provided by Doctor Luke. “A man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God’” [ACTS 5:1-4]. Tragically, Sapphira corroborated her husband’s dreadful lie, bringing upon herself the same fate [see ACTS 5:7-11]. Their desire to appear to be something they were not led them into the grave sin of lying to the Holy Spirit.

The sin for which the couple was struck dead was their overweening desire to inflate their own reputation within the assembly. They appear to have imagined that by appearing to emulate Barnabas in generosity, they also would be praised before the church for supposed generosity [see ACTS 4:36, 37]. They had not counted on the fact that God does not take lightly the sin of lying. This was not worship; it was theft of God’s glory!

A good guide for honouring God through our gifts is to determine if the project or the ministry we wish to support will “adorn the doctrine of God,” we can provide our gift with a clear conscience. However, if it seems obvious that the project or the ministry enhances the reputation of a mere mortal, we should proceed with caution. Perhaps we would benefit from providing a check list to guide our giving. Here are some guidelines for giving support.

• Does the project which I intend to support honour God?

• Will it advance the work of God’s Kingdom?

• Are the funds administered wisely after they are given?

• Am I advancing my own interests?

There is a presumption that after I have given money, I am no longer responsible. That isn’t quite correct. The principle which John states in his second letter applies in this instance. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” [2 JOHN 10, 11]. If merely encouraging a heretic means that I share in his wicked work, how much greater is my culpability if I underwrite error? Therefore, I need to expect doctrinal integrity and ethical administration of the moneys donated for a given project. I should have the reasonable expectation that the Kingdom of God will be advanced through the work I am underwriting. Above all else, I must ensure that I am not promoting my own interests or seeking to enhance my own reputation in the eyes of mere mortals. My worship should reveal love for the Master, gratitude for His mercy and joy in being freed from condemnation.

EXPLAINING WORSHIP — “Jesus, aware of [their displeasure], said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.’”

Jesus knows the heart. Consequently, he knew what was motivating the disciples to complain, just as He understood Mary’s motivation. Therefore, He commended her and censured them. There is an insightful verse found early in John’s Gospel. “When [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” [JOHN 2:23-25]. Take note of the twenty-fifth verse. Jesus knew what was in man. We sometimes fall into the trap of going through the motions without worshipping; we recite the liturgy and fail to worship.

To illustrate this truth, consider an incident that occurred near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus, together with His disciples was at the Temple one day. According to the text, “He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on’” [MARK 12:41-44].

Jesus commended the poor widow because her gift was extravagant—her worship was great! The world would not have valued her gift; but Jesus saw what the world cannot see—He saw her motive. It was not the size of the gift, but the size of her heart that impressed Him. Similarly, Jesus commended Mary because her heart was great, whereas the hearts of the disciples were contracted, small and shrunken. I’m not recommending that you must impoverish yourself to advance the Kingdom of God; however, some among us perhaps may be moved to do precisely that were we to heed the Spirit of God!

Worship is permitting oneself to be so enamoured of the Master that she surrenders all to Him. Worship is not merely acknowledging His sacrifice and conquest of death, but it is allowing ourselves to become focused on this One who tasted death for every individual. Worship is seeing the sacrifice and resurrection of the Master as more than a mere historical event; it is recognising that His sacrifice is love personified. Worship is identification with the Master in His death and resurrection. With the Apostle, the worshipper now exclaims, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” [GALATIANS 2:20].

We know and are convinced that a building, a ministry, a memorial are all built for time. Buildings crumble and ultimately must be repaired or replaced, memorials fade and those memorialised are forgotten in time, ministries must be renewed continually or they apostatise; with time, all that we have done and all that we have built must either be renewed or its falls into disrepair and disuse. The things of this life are not meant to last; Christ Jesus alone is eternal. I’ve reminded you of the saying that was current among the saints in a day now past:

Just one life, ‘twill soon be past;

What’s done for Christ, alone will last.

As believers we must be ruthless in assessing our worship and our service. We must always review what we are doing to ensure that our motive is to glorify the Saviour. Through the service we offer up as a congregation, we seek to win the lost to faith in the Living Son of God. We strive to point the lost to look to Him that they may have the life that He alone gives. Therefore, what we build, we build for the present generation, praying that in the building we are laying a solid foundation for those generations that will follow in our steps.

Mary likely did not realise the full implications of her action; but Jesus, knowing her heart, declared that she had acted in preparation for His burial. Though her actions did not meet with the approval of the disciples, the Master declared her act “a beautiful thing.” Moreover, this beautiful thing was done solely for Jesus. Because her motive was pure, her generous act serves as a memorial to her wherever and whenever the Gospel is proclaimed.

Christian worship is that which is done now and for the glory of the Master. Mary seems intuitively to have understood what the disciples had missed. Jesus was moving inexorably toward the cross. Soon—sooner than any of those about Him realised—He would be seized and haled before a Jewish Star Chamber where He would be sentenced to death. The outcome of His trial was predetermined; even the Roman overlords were mere actors in a strange play orchestrated by religious hatred. Ultimately, the Master would be nailed to a Roman cross; there, He would pour out His life on behalf of fallen sinners. Thus, Mary worshipped Jesus, not merely as though He was a prophet or as though He was a king; she worshipped Him through her extravagant offering as the Perfect Lamb of God presented for helpless sinners.

As Easter approaches, will you worship? As you participate in familiar rituals that lend a measure of comfort to jaded souls, will you worship? As you prepare in the weeks ahead to worship on that day, will it be set aside for feasting and fun? Or will you meet the Risen Son of God? Will your family recognise the day as significant because it speaks of the conquest of death? Or will your family see it as just another holiday in a growing list of days in which we do nothing of lasting significance? Will your friends witness you as one who is transformed by the knowledge of the Holy One? Or will you continue indistinguishable from the world about you?

Let me challenge each listener to consider how to worship during this Easter season. I’m not pretending to be able to tell you what you must do; rather, I want to challenge each of us prayerfully to consider doing one great thing. I cannot tell you what that great thing may be for you, but it must be something that will honour the Risen Son of God as no other action can do. Perhaps it will be to give yourself to witnessing to some family member, friend or colleague. Surely, there is no more appropriate time to speak of the Living Saviour than at this holy season. Perhaps you will determine to dedicate yourself to employ the gifts He has entrusted to you in a new and vibrant manner. The Body of Christ will benefit from each of us employing His gifts in a manner worthy of His Name. For some, it may be as simple as committing to renewed generosity with your time and with the goods you administer.

I do know that worship is the noblest endeavour of the redeemed child of God. I’m not convinced that we actually believe this. Nevertheless, we are destined to serve in joyous and exciting endeavours we cannot even begin to imagine. When our Master returns, it will not be a momentary excitement followed by an eternity of boring sameness. Just as the Master is infinite in grace and in mercy and in righteousness, so we will be engaged in delightful exploration of unending marvels that will delight the mind and excite the senses. When we give ourselves to worship Him who gave Himself for us now, we are preparing for unimaginable adventure.

Of course, this presupposes that you know Him. If you are merely a church goer, then worship cannot be overly exciting for you. If you do not know the Master, having only heard a rumour of Him, you cannot imagine what is to be. Those who know Him and who have walked with Him find their hearts strangely moved when they have been in His presence. After the two disciples encountered the Risen Saviour on the Road to Emmaus, they spoke to one another, saying, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures” [LUKE 24:32]? So it can be for you, if you know Him. Preparing for Easter, determine in your mind to do one great thing—determine that you will worship the Risen Lord. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version  2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Adapted from John MacArthur (ed.), MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible, Appendices – Monies, Weights, and Measures (Word, Nashville, TN 2006), Calculated on a daily wage of $80 for a labourer.

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