To Worship Like Mary.

We learn from the woman at the well that true worshippers of God must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), while those who are forgiven much, love much, as demonstrated by the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50). In John 12:1-11, we learn from Mary how to worship.

Mary is an extravagant worshipper, worshipping without restraint at the feet of Jesus. Any authentic, true understanding of the passion of Christ (the agony, cross, burial, and resurrection) must come face to face with Mary. She understood what others did not see.

Mary Listens and Observes

Though Mary saw Martha serving, she knew service was not response enough. It could not satisfy what she saw in Jesus. Though Mary was surrounded by loved ones celebrating, they could not distract her from Jesus who was more compelling than a beloved family member come back from the dead.

Mary knew Jesus had said the sickness of Lazarus was not meant to end in death but for the glory of God. Mary understood that she was loved by Jesus (John 11:2, 4, 5). Whatever negative competing thought Mary might have entertained during her life with respect to Jesus and His sovereignty in her life, it was lost in the truth that Jesus loved her. She believed this.

From the feet of Jesus, Mary cries out the cry of every church saint awaiting Jesus’s return (John 11:30-37). Our Jesus is like Boaz, and we, like Ruth, find exclusive rest and security at His feet. Mary understood this. At the feet of Jesus is where true worshippers belong.

Mary said in the previous chapter, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Death is all around us. From morality to creation, including our loved ones, the agony of our hearts is that everything is dying. Our task, like Mary’s, is to persevere until He returns. We need to find our way to Jesus’s feet and worship Him.

Mary witnessed Jesus being deeply moved and weeping while hearing the Jews comment on Jesus’s love for Lazarus (John 11:33-36). She heard Jesus pray to His Father and then command Lazarus to come forth (John 11:41-43). Mary observed and listened closely to Jesus.

Mary Loses Self

Mary lost herself in Jesus. Self was no longer relevant to Mary. New birth in Christ gave Mary genuine affection for the lover of her soul. Before her very eyes was Jesus, the divine and living Word of God, fully man and fully God. Mary realized no glory was worth retaining; her only recourse was humility and surrender. Nothing was to be grasped.

By her extravagant, unrestrained worship, we know that Mary estimated accurately the value of the object of her worship. Mary, a woman after God’s own heart, must not and could not give to the Lord that which cost her nothing. David established this truth in 2 Samuel 24:24-25 when insisting on paying for a threshing floor that would be used to build an altar to the Lord.

To be an extravagant worshipper is costly, wholly personal, and truly intimate. Genuine reflection upon the person and love of Jesus inspires a humbling of self in ways that realign normal sensibilities which would seek to retain some level of self-dignity or self-glory.

Mary gave Jesus the glory of her extrinsic world, a cost not part of her essential nature. The nard she joyfully used to anoint Jesus was likely worth more than year’s wages. We need to consider what extrinsic glory we have to give Jesus. This would include those areas in our lives that others value and respect. Jesus wants it all; He is worthy of it all.

Mary also gave Jesus her intrinsic world, that which is part of her essential nature, including her personhood, dignity, sensibilities, motives, and fears. All the glory of who she was in her feminine nature was surrendered as she let down her hair and washed Jesus’s feet. This worship is very personal. Mary is simply lost in her worship of Jesus.

Mary indicates that the glory of self exists only as a tool to glorify Jesus. No personal glory can be retained in the brilliant light of Him.

Those Around Mary: Judas

As noted in the full accounts of Matthew, Mark, and John, Judas was not the only disciple who objected to what seemed to be an extravagant waste by Mary. In John 12, Judas was representative of the other disciples who were present. Jesus scolded all for their shortsighted inability to see His infinite and eternal value as Mary had seen.

However, Judas is singled out in this passage. Unlike the other disciples, his cry for frugality was feigned. Not only did he miss the inestimable value of Jesus’s divine person, but the Holy Spirit through John has revealed additional knowledge of Judas’s poor character. He was a betrayer and a thief.

A distractor to true worship, Judas was an apostate, a betrayer, and a liar. His example should motivate us to examine ourselves. May we not be opportunists with self-centered motives. True worshippers like Mary expose false worshippers like Judas while setting an example of hope for future worshippers.

Those Around Mary: The Crowds and Chief Priests

Both the curious crowds and the power-seeking priests were tragically incompetent and unacceptable in the face of the divine Jesus. Their error was to delay, making self the central project of their thinking, being merely curious about Jesus or merely interested in their own power.

Mary teaches us that Jesus’s divinity and humanity are infinitely and eternally more valuable than anything else in the universe. As fully God, Jesus’s value is infinite and eternal; as fully man, His value is intimate and personal. Because Jesus has no equal, He has no rivals. It is the true worshipper’s task to clearly demonstrate this. Jesus alone is worthy of the personal and extravagant worship of each believer.

We must strive to understand what Mary understood and grasped even while others around her missed it. If Jesus is who He says He is, the only worthy response is extravagant, unrestrained worship. Any correct understanding of the passion of Christ insists that Jesus has no equal in glory. All who would follow Jesus must joyfully surrender any fragment of glory, whether extrinsically or intrinsically, in worship.

Application Points

  • Are you like Mary in wanting to deposit at the feet of Jesus what you have both intrinsically and extrinsically? Jesus is worthy of it all.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, 1 Corinthians 11:6-15
A Hymn to Encourage: "At the Feet of Jesus"

At the feet of Jesus, Pouring perfume rare,
Mary did her Savior for the grave prepare;
And, from love the “good work” done,
She her Lord’s approval won.
At the feet of Jesus is the place for me,
There, in sweetest service would I ever be.

At the feet of Jesus, In that morning hour,
Loving hearts, receiving Resurrection pow’r,
Haste with joy to preach the word:
“Christ is risen, praise the Lord!”
At the feet of Jesus, Risen now for me,
I shall sing His praises Through eternity.