By Mike Chauncey
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. John 12:3
As I began to study this passage of scripture, I nearly over looked this little word at the beginning of the verse. But I believe the Holy Spirit put it in my heart to look deeper into the significance of the word “then”. The word “then” leads you to ask the question, “What was going on at this particular moment in Mary’s life that provoked her to rise to this new level of extravagant worship?”
Perhaps this is a pivotal season in your life. Perhaps God is calling you to a deeper place in Him. Let’s consider what was going on just prior to this event and see if we can discover what brought Mary to where she was at this critical moment.
Mary’s “Then” was only a few days after she had witnessed the resurrection of her brother Lazarus. Mary had a revelation of Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life. When He resurrects something that was dead in your life it will propel you into a new level of worship. When you get a revelation of who Jesus is in your situation it will change the way you see Him and when you change the way you see Him it will change the way you respond to His presence. John the beloved had walked with Jesus in his earthly form. He leaned upon His breast at the last supper. But when John caught a glimpse of Him in His Heavenly Glory, he fell at His feet like a dead man. You see, he saw Jesus in a clearer revelation of who he really is. When you get a clearer revelation of who He is you will respond to His presence in a whole new way.
Jesus had just healed Mary’s brother. She'd seen Jesus do miracles for other people, but this one was for her own family. You may have seen the hand of God at work, but when Jesus does it in your house, for your family, now it's personal! Like the old song says, “You don't know like I know what he's done for me.”
A few days before, Mary had a different “Then”.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. John 11:32
She had told the Lord, “If you had come when we first called for you, Lazarus would not have died.” In her mind Jesus was four days late. Her faith had been at the level that she could have easily believed for a healing for her brother. But now that he was dead, she had given up hope. Jesus, however, had a plan to bring her to a higher level of faith. It takes a certain level of faith to believe for a healing, but it takes a much higher level to believe God to raise the dead. God is always calling us to new levels and putting higher demands on our faith. He knows that that’s the only way our faith will ever grow. Faith is like the brightest star; the darker the night the brighter it shines. If you’re going through a difficult season, and it seems like God has forgotten you, remember Mary. God is bringing you to a new level of faith in His word so hold on.
Mary’s “then” was six days before the Passover. While everyone else around the table was caught up in the ancient celebration commemorating Israel’s miraculous deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, Mary was caught up in Jesus. The Passover lamb was a type and shadow of Christ, whose blood would cover our sins so that we will be “passed over” when God judges the sin’s of all mankind. While others were celebrating the shadow she was celebrating the substance. She was celebrating the Passover at the feet of the Lamb of God himself.
Now that we’ve seen how the word “then” points out whole background of the story for us; lets move on to seek out other treasures in this verse of scripture.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly…
The expensive, sweet smelling ointment that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with represents her worship. The Biblical concept of worship is inseparably connected to sacrifice. Let’s look at an Old Testament example of sacrificial worship. Notice that David understood that acceptable worship comes at a high price. David would not offer anything to the Lord that didn’t cost him something.
And Araunah said, wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, to buy the threshing floor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people. And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood. All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee. And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel. 2 Samuel 24:21-25
What will extravagant worship cost you? Are you willing to make sacrifices? Of course, Jesus made the final atoning sacrifice for our redemption. I’m talking about counting the cost of true worship. Let’s take a look at some example of people who understood the fact that extravagant worship is very costly.
Extravagant worship will cost you your reputation...
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. Luke 7:37 -39
The Pharisee judged this woman as unworthy to touch Jesus. He knew her reputation, but he couldn’t see the change in her heart. Our reputation is not our character. Our reputation is who we are through the eyes of the world. Our character is who we are through God’s eyes. The world will be quick to remind you of who you used to be. The enemy may even try to remind you of a family squabble in the car on the way to church, or something deep in your past that might make you feel unworthy to worship. The enemy may whisper in your ear, “Who are you to try to touch Jesus; people know what kind of a sinner you are… You’re just a hypocrite.” Mary pressed through. That’s what you must do. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who… made himself of no reputation. Philippians 2:5-7
Extravagant worship will cost you Energy... All that is within me.... Bless His Holy Name! Psalm 103:1
And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 2 Samuel 6:14.
Throughout the Scriptures we see people that are animated and demonstrative in worship. The Bible talks about singing, shouting, dancing, leaping, clapping, lifting hands, as well as many other physical manifestations of praise. Praise is an action word. David’s dance was a literal fulfillment of the Sh’ma.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
This verse of scripture is the hallmark of both Old and New Testament worship. Notice what Jesus said,
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 27:37
Extravagant worship will cost you your dignity
And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!” And David said unto Michal, “It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.” Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. 2Sa 6:15-23
Notice that the inspired writer calls Michal, Saul’s daughter rather than Michal, David’s wife. She was joined to Saul and his kingdom rather than David and his kingdom. Michal rejected the anointing on David but God himself had rejected Saul. As a result of her criticism of David she never had a child. As we consider the cost of extravagant worship we must also consider the devastating consequences of the alternative. Her failure to be united with David in his worship resulted in her barrenness. Jesus taught us that abiding in Him was the only way to bear fruit and that in bearing much fruit our lives would bring Glory to the Father. (See John 15:5-8)
Saul's Daughter represented the old kingdom and the old ways of worship. That’s not the way my daddy used to do it. God is a God who is constantly revealing himself from glory to glory to those who diligently seek Him. When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, they would camp for a while when the glory cloud stood still, but when the glory cloud moved, the whole camp moved with it. God was leading them somewhere. God is taking us somewhere as well. God may have us camp a while under the cloud of His glory, but when the cloud moves, God’s people have got to move or get left behind.
Jesus likened a fresh move of God’s anointing to new wine.
No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, “The old is better.” Luke 5:39.
People are naturally resistant to change. They think the old wine is better, the old songs are better, they way we used to do it is better. But God is a God of new things.
At the wedding at Cana, Jesus saved the best wine for last. God always has better in store for us as we follow Him.
And saith unto him, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” John 2:10
We’ve seen that worship will cost us our dignity, but the reward is intimacy with Him and a life that bears fruit for His glory.
Abraham knew that pure worship was very costly
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. Gen 22:2-5
Mary’s ointment was very costly. David would not offer anything that cost him nothing. But Abraham was willing to pay the ultimate price. Isaac represented the long awaited promise of God. Sometimes God calls us to lay down the very thing that we prize above everything else in our lives. For Abraham it was his beloved Isaac. Peter, Andrew, James and John left their nets and fishing boats. Many other found that a life of extravagant worship was indeed very costly.
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mocking and scourging, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Heb 11:32-40
The extravagant worshiper often worships alone.
The house was filled with dinner guests. Martha was busy serving. Some were engrossed in conversation. Many were there just to see Lazarus, after all it’s not every day you get a chance to meet some one who was just raised from the dead. (See John 12:9) Mary didn’t wait for Jesus to call a special foot anointing service; she stepped out on her own. Genuine, spontaneous worship comes from the heart. Many times in modern worship services we wait until we are moved by just the right song or sermon. The temperature, sound system, and lighting have to be finely tuned to provide just the right atmosphere. By contrast, Mary worshiped in harmony to the clamorous noise of curiosity seekers and clanging dishes. Mary poured out the contents of her alabaster box as well as the contents her soul without regard to the disapproving stares of onlookers who just didn’t get it.
Moses knew what it was to experience God’s presence alone.
And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. The LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. Exodus 33:8-11
As Moses walked alone into the glory of God the people watched from a distance. Most people are willing spectators few will be willing participators but there is a new generation rising up with the spirit of Joshua who enter in to His presence and refuse to depart.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus… John 12:3
She anointed His feet
The word translated as ointment here is myrrh, a valuable fragrant ointment often used in scripture. Seven times myrrh is mentioned in the Song of Solomon. Myrrh was one of the fragrant oils used to prepare Esther to meet the King as well as one of the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus.
Spikenard in the original text means trustworthy, genuine, and unadulterated. Mary’s worship was as genuine and pure as the myrrh she lavished on Jesus feet. Jesus said that those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. Only genuine worship from the heart is acceptable, like Abel, who offered of the firstlings of his flock. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” Hebrews 11:4
The word translated pound is litra. While the exact amount is unclear we are certain of one fact; she used all that she had. She didn’t spare one drop. Are you willing to pour out all you have at His feet?
Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed to serve in their respective offices in Old Testament times. Jesus sent the disciples out to anoint the sick with oil (Mark 6:13), and in the book of James we’re told that the anointing with oil combined with the prayer of faith “will save the sick and the Lord will raise Him up.” (James 5:14)
We often pray for Jesus to anoint us. Here the tables are turned and we see Mary anointing The Christ which means The Anointed One.
In Acts 10 38 we read, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Jesus was anointed by God the father himself.
In Luke 4:18-19 we read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Matthew 3:11.
Is it possible that The Anointed One still desires this kind of adoration from His worshipers today? Could it be that as we pour out the fragrant ointment of worship and praise He reciprocates by pouring out a fresh anointing of power and healing in our lives? The heart of a worshiper longs to pour out the sweet and costly ointment of adoration upon the object of our affection and not His head but on His feet ... the part of His body that had the most contact with the earth. The true worshiper has the spirit of Abigail.
And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife. And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.
Abigail was chosen to be a bride to the King but she chose for herself the lowest place, a servant of servants.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair.
She let her hair down… Her hair was her glory...
But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. 1Corinthians 11:15
In this passage when it says a woman’s hair is her glory, the word “Glory” comes from the Greek word “Doxa” meaning dignity, glory, honour, praise, worship.
Oswald Chamber’s famous devotional book is entitled, “My Utmost for His Highest”. Mary took her highest and used it to wipe the lowest part of His anatomy; His feet. Humility is critical in worship. Unlike earthly kings and dignitaries who only want to associate with their own social level, God has no equal so He seeks out the humble.
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
The story of the woman who anointed Jesus at Simon the Pharisees house adds some details that we don’t see written in John’s gospel.
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Luke 7:37
She washed His feet with tears. She broke the alabaster box, but her heart was already broken. Her tears signified the release of deep emotion. Perhaps they were tears of repentance for she had led a sinful life. Maybe they were tears of shame because of rejection. Most likely, they were tears of joy for what Jesus had already done for her. As she poured out the ointment she poured out her pain. Jesus told Simon that she was forgiven much and that she loved much. Her deep emotional release was a demonstration of intense love.
In the final verse in the chapter Jesus tells her, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” Justification by faith was the battle cry of the Protestant Reformation. But long before these words brought the church out of the hopelessness of trying to earn salvation through dead religious rituals, we see them bring peace and comfort to a broken hearted woman whose life had been ravaged by sin. Finally, Jesus told her to go in peace. The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom; it means health, prosperity, welfare, rest and safety. Truly, to speak Shalom over a person is to bless them with Heavens richest blessings. As we worship Him, He will speak peace, Shalom, over the storms in your life.
The house was filled with the odor of the ointment
I remember a Pastor friend of mine holding up a picture drawn by his five year old son. The picture was not too unusual; just a house and green grass, blue sky, a man, a woman, and a little boy represented by stick figures. The words Mommy, Daddy, and Me were scrawled above the appropriate figures with a line pointing out who was who. What the pastor pointed out was the fact that the young artist had colored the entire page. Not one little bit of white paper was left out. The whole page was filled with color. That is how our worship should be… extravagant! As Mary knelt at Jesus feet everyone in the room was affected by the aroma of her worship. As Paul and Silas Sang praises at midnight in that dark Philippian jail, the prisoners heard them singing and everyone’s bands were loosed!
The lingering Fragrance of Heaven
God commanded Moses to make a holy anointing oil with a strong sweet aroma. Wherever the preist went he left the fragrance of heaven behind him. So we who are anointed of the Holy Spirit leave a sweet lingering fragrance.
And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be a holy anointing oil. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, this shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations. Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people. Exodus 30:25 -33
This anointing oil was merely a type and shadow of the Holy Spirit that God poured out on Pentecost, and continues to pour out in these last days. In this passage, I would like to point out a few things that we dare not overlook.
First, the anointing is Holy. Those who walk in the anointing are to be separated from the world, and set apart for God. Things that were regarded as Holy in the Tabernacle were not for common use. Moses and Aaron couldn’t play checkers on the table of showbread or have a church Barbeque at the brazen altar. We are not for common use either. We are His alone.
Second, God will not anoint flesh. The Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is anointed. He heals through our hands. He speaks through our lips. But our flesh, our carnal nature, is left entirely out of the equation. It is to be crucified.
Third, the anointing is not to be counterfeited. Phony signs, wonders and prophecies are tactics that dishonor God and make intelligent people skeptical of the real manifestation of God’s presence. Solomon said, “Dead flies in the ointment make it stink.” Fakes and phonies stink!
There’s nothing as sweet as the real thing
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee. Song of Solomon 1:3
This verse tells us His name is like ointment. When we pour out His name in praise we’re pouring out the anointing oil and the fragrance fills the whole house. The anointing for miracles and deliverance is poured out when we speak His name. The verse goes on the say, “Therefore do the virgins love thee.” Not everyone is comfortable with extravagant worship, but the pure in heart will be drawn to love him more deeply. When we soak ourselves in an atmosphere of worship and praise we will fall in love with him more and more.
Judas had his own agenda...
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. John 12:4 -6
Those who would criticize your pure worship have usually some other self-serving agenda. They may try to make you look bad. They may question your motives or falsely accuse you; but God will reveal who had the right spirit in the end. Judas not only criticized Mary but also Jesus. Simon the Pharisee not only judged Mary but also doubted whether Jesus was a true prophet. When Jesus entered Jerusalem to the sound of Hosanna’s ringing out, the Pharisees wanted Jesus to rebuke his disciples. They certainly had their own agenda. They feared the Roman government that occupied the land. Greed, doubt, fears; any of these could be the motivation behind those who would hinder the flow of your extravagant worship. But once the ointment is released it can never be bottled up again. Break the box and set it free!
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