Our text is that period of time between the end of Jesus’ public ministry and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. When we see Jesus in Bethany, he has already been to Jericho where he healed Bartimaeus and saved Zacchaeus. Now we are at the home of the one they call Simon the Leper. Lazarus is one of the ones at the meal. What we are about to see is a thing of beauty. We are about to see two acts of worship, both done in very different ways; but both are perfectly appropriate according to God’s work in the hearts of each worshipper.
V1, 2 – Martha serves. I am not sure I would have seen this if I had not been in Rom. 12 today, preparing a devotional guide for our mission team to Peru. And on the drive over I heard a Bible teacher speaking of Romans 12 in his lesson. So my mind has been guided through some great words today. Look at them: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
So Martha showed her gratitude and worship the best way she knew how. Did she understand everything that was about to happen? We don’t know. But we know she served. Why is this significant? I mean, I am speaking to a group of people who have served up many a meal. It’s common for us. So what’s the big deal? There is a strong likelihood that Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were of sufficient means as to have servants to do this. After all, they had one who could work as a messenger in John 11.
But they aren’t the ones we see dishing out the food. It’s Martha. She is serving. Service is a good form of worship when it is done with joy and without complaining. The last time we saw Martha serving she complained about Mary not serving. The only thing her complaint got her was a rebuke from Jesus. So now here she is. Serving. With no words of complaint. No fussing that she is doing this alone. No fussing over being recognized. She is just serving.
V3 – Mary sacrificed. She poured out onto the Lord Jesus in one minute what it would take most people one year to earn. I don’t know how much that would be, maybe $20,000 in today’s average wages; maybe as much as $40,000. But I do know that even at that the low end of that, by the world’s standards, the sacrifice would be astounding for any of us. It begs the question, ladies and gents: how much is Jesus worth to you? Is He worth 10%? Is He worth more, or less? Is He worth your service? Remember, Martha served.
How much is the kingdom of God worth? What about the gospel?
There’s Jesus, reclining in the Middle-Eastern fashion around the dinner table. There is Mary, on her knees before Jesus, wiping his feet with her hair. Once more, this speaks volumes to me—more than I can possibly put into words. Slaves washed feet, not sisters of honored guests. Slaves touched nasty feet that had plodded across dusty trails. Mary takes her hair, which is her crown of glory, according to Scripture, and she uses it like a rag on the feet of Jesus. All the glory you have is only good enough to wash the feet of Jesus.
The fragrance of her sacrifice and worship filled the room. Let me ask you, when you worship each week, what fragrance fills the room? Is it the fragrance of presenting yourselves a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God? Or is it the fragrance of the “let’s get on with it” mentality of today’s society? I’m ashamed to say I have been guilty of uncorking a bottle of hurry-this-up anointing oil and stinking up the room with it.
V4-6 – The fragrance filled the room and the disciples smelled it. Especially Judas. And Judas wasn’t happy. Where others smelled the fragrance of devotion, Judas smelled the fragrance of denarii. Others saw and act of worship. Judas called it a waste. Some people feel that way about making any sacrifice to the Lord. To them, it is a total waste. It costs too much. It’s a waste to give one’s life to share the gospel across the seas. It costs too much to be involved in the things of God. It’s a waste to give tithes to a local church. It’s a waste to invest in the kingdom of God. Judas’ claim was without foundation; he was a lying, selfish thief. His pious words were really carefully disguised poison, meant to profit himself.
V7, 8 – Jesus gave a well-placed rebuke and a well-stated reminder to us. The rebuke serves to keep the focus on Jesus. The reminder is to teach us to take every advantage of the opportunity before us to worship Christ with all our mind, soul, heart, and strength.