Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

The Worship Jesus Loves

Tom Pennington • Mark 14:3-9

  • 2022-04-10 AM
  • Sermons


For the Passion week, I want to step away from our study of 1 John and I want to turn to one of my favorite New Testament passages. Turn with me to Mark chapter 14. Mark chapter 14. It'll become evident in a moment as to why I've chosen this passage, but let me first read it for us. Mark 14 and I'll begin reading in verse three:

While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper, He was reclining at the table, and a woman came with an alabaster vial of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the vial and poured the perfume over His head. But there were some indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume could have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, "Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done a good deed for Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the entire world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her."

This remarkable event is recorded in three of the four Gospels. It's in our text here in Mark 14, it's in Matthew 26, and it's also in John chapter 12. In fact, if you want, keep Mark 14 open, but you can keep a finger in John 12 because I'll refer to it several times. Now, none of those three gospels mentioned the specific timing of this event clearly. There's some question about when it occurred. Matthew and Mark place it between the Olivette discourse and the betrayal of Judas. If that's when it happened, then this would have taken place on Tuesday night of the passion week. And that's certainly possible. But both Matthew and Mark have a sort of tendency to rearrange events chronologically and take them out of the chronology in which they occurred in order to make a particular thematic point. John's gospel, on the other hand, tends to be far more chronological, and John places this incident right after Jesus arrived in Bethany for the feast of Passover. That means that this event happened on Saturday night before the triumphal entry on Sunday. In other words, in our time frame, last night, Saturday night before Palm Sunday.

Here's how the gospel record unfolds. Jesus traveled with his disciples down through the Jordan river valley, along with a lot of the pilgrims that were coming for the feast of Passover. And from Jericho, they traveled up on a single day to Jerusalem. Arriving in Bethany just over the hill from Jerusalem on late Friday afternoon or early evening, certainly it was before sunset and the beginning of the Sabbath on Friday night. Then He spent the Sabbath (Friday night and Saturday) resting and worshiping in the synagogue, as was His custom. But at sunset on Saturday, the Sabbath was officially over, and it still happens in Israel today. If you visited there, you've seen this. When dark comes and the Sabbath ends, the cities come to life. And that would have been true in Jesus' day as well. Then the next morning on Sunday, Jesus would enter the city of Jerusalem hailed as Israel's king. But on that Saturday night this fascinating event transpires and I want us to look at it together, because what we're going to discover here is the worship that Jesus loves. The worship that Jesus loves. Now, this remarkable account begins with a profound example of the worship that he loves. A profound example.

Now verse three begins by giving us the setting of this example and this worship. Notice verse three. "While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper, He was reclining at the table." Mark here sets the backdrop for this incident with three descriptive phrases. First of all, you'll notice in verse three "while he was in Bethany." Bethany was a village that was just over the Mount of Olives from the city of Jerusalem, just a couple of miles. It's where the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus was, Jesus' good friends. The gospel record tells us that during the Passion week until Thursday night of the Passion week, Jesus and His disciples stayed in Bethany overnight, probably at the home of their good friends there. Every morning Jesus and His disciples would get up and walk the two miles to Jerusalem, where Jesus would engage in the Ministry of the week, and then each evening they would return to the comfort of their friends' home in Bethany. But on that Saturday night, before the triumphal entry on Sunday after the Sabbath was over, Jesus and His disciples were not at Mary and Martha and Lazarus' home, instead they were guests at another home, notice verse three again, it was "at the home of Simon the leper."

Now, if you were a reader in the first century, that expression would shock you. Let's look at this person. First of all, Simon was obviously a wealthy man. We know that because he had a room in his home large enough to accommodate a dinner for at least 15 men, the number of men we know were attending. But at some point this wealthy, influential man had contracted the most dreaded disease of the first century, the disease of leprosy. You can only imagine what that would have been like on the day that he went and visited the doctor, and the doctor noticed that wound in his skin, that damage that had already been done, and said as he backed up in horror, "you have leprosy." It would have meant that on that day he would have been forced out of the city, he'd been forced away from his family, away from his home, away from his business, he would have been shunned and had to live in the leper's colony somewhere outside the city limits, with others who had the same dreaded disease. Because he is now hosting this party of friends in his home in Bethany, it's very likely that at some point Jesus had healed this man. Not only had he become a true follower of Jesus, but he had been miraculously healed from leprosy. And yet, even more miraculously, he had been healed from the spiritual leprosy of sin. He had come to know forgiveness and reconciliation with God. If you're here this morning and you don't know Jesus Christ, let me say that He's still the only one that can cure you from the cancer of sin that's eating at your soul. Simon the leper had now opened his home for this meal.

In John chapter 12 verse 2 we read this: "they made him a supper there." The Greek word for supper refers to the evening meal, and in that culture it was the main meal of the day. But there's more here in that word, because in the New Testament, the word translated supper in John refers most often to more formal events. In fact, it's often translated as "banquet", and I think that's the idea here. This was a special occasion. This wasn't just any evening meal, this was a banquet, a dinner party, a feast at which Jesus and His disciples were the special guests. John 12:2 says "they made a supper." They made a supper. "They" has to refer to his disciples in Bethany. You see, in addition to Jesus and the twelve who were the guests that night, there were at least four other true disciples at this party, and those four true disciples were the hosts of this dinner. The first of them is Simon. We already met him. John tells us about a second, in John 12:2 says "Martha was serving." Martha was undoubtedly directing all of the work in the kitchen in preparation for this feast. That was Martha's familiar role. It's the familiar role for many, it's how they express their love and gratitude for Christ even as she did and, many in our church, this is how they show their love for their family, this is how they show their love to Christ in practical service, even in the kitchen. John adds in John 12:2 "Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him." Lazarus, along with his sisters Mary and Martha, was a true disciple of Jesus Christ. But what makes this shocking is just two months before this Lazarus was dead. You remember Jesus waited to come when he heard Lazarus was sick, and by the time he got there, Lazarus' body had had been gone for four days and in the tomb. And Jesus stood at the mouth of that tomb and said "Lazarus, come forth." And Lazarus was raised from the dead. And now he's sitting at this banquet. Just think about that for a moment. Just put on your sanctified imagination for a moment and picture this home and this dinner party in which one person used to be a leper and it's throwing the party, and another used to be dead. But thanks to Jesus Christ, they're there for dinner.

Back in Mark 14, verse 3, it says "they were reclining at the table." Now that tells us something else about the nature of this meal, because in the first century, normal casual meals were usually eaten sitting up, just as we do today. But on special occasions, or for special banquets or feasts like this one, they reclined. In a wealthy home like Simon's, there would have been a special room, just as there is in our homes, many of them, devoted to eating. Now when you think about the Last Supper, you have to get Davinci's Last Supper out of your mind. It didn't unfold like that. Alright, that's an easy way to paint, but it wasn't how they ate. Typically in the first century, for a banquet like this, the tables were arranged in a U-shape and they stood about eight to twelve inches off the floor. So the guests reclined to eat. Around the tables there were pads or cushions or even couches long enough for the entire body of each diner. The pads were placed at an angle to the table and each guest laid on his side, leaning on his left elbow and eating with his right hand. That was the setting for this profound example of worship. Next we learn the form that this worship took.

Verse 3 goes on to say "there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard." Mark doesn't identify this woman. Now you remember Mark wrote his gospel in conjunction and at the direction, under the auspices of the apostle Peter. Peter obviously knew who this woman was, he was there. But she's not identified. Matthew doesn't identify her either. Only John the Apostle identifies her by name. It's Mary. It's Lazarus and Martha's sister. Now why? Why does the two other gospels, why do they not record her name? Well, it's likely that when Matthew and Mark wrote in the middle of the first century, Mary was still alive, and they chose not to name her. When John wrote his gospel near the end of the first century, it's likely that Mary had died, and her identity no longer needed to be protected. You say, why would her identity need to be protected? Because in the first century, what Mary did was completely inappropriate. It was inappropriate for her to join them in at the table. It was inappropriate for her to do what she did. Now we don't know what her role was that night. It's possible that she was helping in the kitchen with Martha. It's possible she was serving the meal, and maybe more likely, she might have just been an observer. But according to both Matthew and Mark, Mary slipped in to the dinner, the supper, the feast with a small jar. It was an expensive vial made of alabaster, and inside the jar was a very expensive perfume. Nard is the fragrant ointment that comes from a plant, a plant that only grows in the Himalayan mountains between India and Tibet. The fragrance actually comes from the roots of the plant. And it was very, very expensive. It had to be imported from India in hermetically sealed alabaster jars. Because it was so expensive, sometimes it would be mixed with other substances in order to reduce the cost, but not Mary's. Notice Mary's was pure nard. According to the apostle John, she had a large amount, a Roman pound or about 12 ounces. So this alabaster jar held about the volume of a soft drink can. The special perfume was very expensive.

Not surprisingly, Judas knew, he knew exactly how much it was worth: over 300 denarii. Now a denarius was what an average day laborer was paid for a day's work. So 300 denarii was the equivalent of almost a year's wages for a common worker. Mary and her family, in light of this, were probably a wealthy family. That's also shown by the fact that they hosted Jesus and His disciples for an entire week. It's even possible that this alabaster jar with nard was a valuable family heirloom passed down by inheritance, adding sentimental value to its obvious financial value. So that's the form that this profound example of worship comes from. But let's move on to consider the display of this example, the display of worship.

Verse 3 goes on to say "and she broke the vial and poured it over his head." So Mark here tells us that she broke, it would have been built, so made, manufactured so that it would break cleanly and reveal the contents and she broke the vial, poured it over Jesus' head. Now this was not too much of a surprise because it was common at real feasts and major events and banquets, to anoint honored guests, whether they were rabbis or kings or just the one for whom everyone has gathered. So Mary anointed Jesus' head. Why did Mary anoint Jesus? Well, there are a couple of obvious, transparent reasons. I mean, one of them is to express her gratitude for Jesus raising her brother from the dead less than two months before. Certainly it's to honor Jesus as her Lord. But John tells us that Mary did something else. Something that was not common, something that was highly uncommon, that just never happened. John tells us that Mary also anointed Jesus' feet. In that culture, for a wealthy woman like Mary to do this was unthinkable. In fact, doing anything related to someone else's feet was always reserved in that culture for a slave. So this act by Mary was an act of great humility. But it was more than that. John 12 verse 3 tells us that having poured this on Jesus' feet, she wiped his feet with her hair. After she poured out the rest of the 12 ounces of perfume on Jesus' feet and the liquid ran across his seat and down onto the couch on which He laid, she began to wipe up the excess with her hair. Now that was simply never done. If you think that would be strange today, it was even stranger in the first century because a Jewish woman, certainly a Jewish woman of the stature of Mary, would never have let her hair down in public because to do so was the sign of an immoral woman. It was a sign of being a prostitute. So what's going on here? Well, it's very interesting that Matthew, Mark and John all record this very same incident. But Luke records a similar incident that had happened as much as a year, year and a half before in Luke 7 verse 36 and following. And you remember in that story it wasn't Mary, instead it was another woman. It was a woman described as an immoral woman. It was a prostitute who wipes her tears from Jesus' feet as an expression of her repentance and her desire for Jesus' forgiveness. Undoubtedly Mary had heard that story, perhaps had seen it firsthand, and it clearly appears here that she is imitating that event. So part of what Mary was trying to do here was to humble herself before Christ and to acknowledge her own sinfulness. This would be very similar to the tax collector in Jesus' story, beating his chest and refusing to look up into heaven because of a sense of his own unworthiness, his own sinfulness.

Jesus praises what Mary did. So what kind of worship does Jesus love? Well, he loves extravagant worship. Lavish, over the top, sacrificial, costly. Our Lord wants to be more important to us than anything else. I mean, after all, if you're a Christian, that's how you got into the Kingdom. Remember what Jesus said "if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." In fact, he said, if you really want to follow me, you have to love me so much that your love for the people around you looks like hate in comparison. Jesus loves extravagant worship, where He is the One who is worshipped not because He's egotistical, but because it's right. It's the way the universe comes into alignment because it's who He is. And it shows us who we are.

What kind of worship does Christ love? Extravagant worship, but also humble worship. Mary wiped Jesus' feet with her hair, an act of humble submission, assuming the role of the lowest slave, acknowledging her own sinfulness, acknowledging her own unworthiness. And it's unashamed worship. I mean, think about it. Mary seizes the one moment that she had. It didn't bother her what others might think, she was not afraid for others to know that she was devoted to Jesus Christ. What a profound example of the worship that Jesus loves. But I want you to notice secondly, in verses four and five, the typical responses to the worship Jesus loves. The typical responses. Verse four: "But there were some indignantly remarking to one another, 'Why has this perfume been wasted?'" They were indignant with Mary. That's an interesting word. Mark uses that same Greek word translated indignant here to describe the disciple's angry response when James and John's mother asked for them to have a place on the left and right of Jesus and His Kingdom. This is a strong word. They're mad. They're angry that this has happened. And noticed they were talking about her actions among themselves. They were indignantly remarking to one another. Matthew tells us that the "some" that Mark mentions here were actually Jesus' disciples. We don't know which disciples. I mean, let's face it, we can all guess right? There were always a couple of them that were invariably speaking up and sticking their foot in their mouth. But we do know who instigated and who led this attack on Mary. It was Judas Iscariot, because John tells us in John 12:4, "But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, the one who intended to betray Him, said, 'Why was this perfume not sold?'" Judas essentially called what Mary did a waste of resources. Judas is such a tragic figure. He knew the value of perfume but he had no idea of the value of worship. Verse five, here's why it was a waste: "because this perfume might have been sold for over 300 denarii and the money given to the poor. And they were scolding her." Mark tells us that Judas wanted the rest of the people there to think that he was interested in the poor. And you can understand that some might have thought that because on other occasions Jesus instructed Judas to give to the poor from their resources, and it was customary to do so, especially at the time of the feast, like Passover. In fact, you remember when Judas left the Last Supper on Thursday night of the Passion week, John 13:29 says some were supposing because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him "buy the things we have need of for the feast", or else that he should give something to the poor. But Judas' response that night was just a facade. Because John 12:6 says "Now he said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he kept the money box, he used to steal from what was put into it." As John writes his gospel almost 60 years after this event, John gives us the real story of what was going on in Judas' heart. Judas was a first-class hypocrite. He wasn't concerned about the poor at all. It was about him and how he could benefit personally. He was the treasurer for the group, kept the money box and he had a thief's heart and he was always taking, embezzling from the money others had given for their support for his own benefit. And Judas influenced the other disciples. Notice verse five: "and they were scolding her." Judas corrupted the other disciples so that they're all now openly directing hostility toward Mary. In fact, the word for scolding there, the Greek word implies they were mad enough that their nostrils flared in anger, and they confronted her.

Now the bad responses here in verses four and five are from two different sources. First of all, there was the response of the true disciples of Jesus Christ. These were people who really did love Jesus, and who really worshiped Jesus. But their temptation was to put charity and service before worship. Now, before you're too hard on these disciples, just think for a moment of what Mary had just done. In a moment's time, she had spent the equivalent of a year's salary on a single act of worship. Or let's put it in more practical terms. In one moment she had used up enough financial resources to fully provide for 300 first-century families for an entire day, or to completely care for an entire family for a whole year. And so the true disciples of Jesus, led by Judas who wasn't, are incensed. It's a waste. What about helping others? What about caring for people? How insensitive, how politically incorrect can you be? The other group represented here are the false disciples of Jesus Christ. And they are represented and reflected in the character of Judas Iscariot. We've met false disciples in first John. These are people who say they are followers of Jesus, who attach to Jesus but aren't really His followers, they've never been changed, they don't have a new heart. Their temptation is to be involved with religion and to maintain some connection to Jesus, but all in self-interest. They attach themselves to Jesus while at the same time they keep worshipping their idols, just like Judas. These are people who are happy to be religious, but when they look at a true disciple's devotion to Jesus, they see it as just too over the top, too extravagant. A little religion is a good thing, as long as you keep it in its place. When a true Christian's worship it's too much, it's too extravagant, when they love Christ's word too much, when they want to follow Christ, and obey Him in their daily lives, when they make changes to honor Christ, false disciples of Jesus Christ cry foul. They say: "you must be part of a cult or something, why do you spend so much time studying the Bible?" When the true Christian extravagantly worships Christ, unbelievers, and sometimes even other true believers, will often misunderstand, misconstrue their motives, and attack them.

So what does Jesus say about all of this? We've seen the typical responses to the kind of worship Jesus loves. But thirdly, I want you to see Jesus' explanation of the worship he loves. Jesus is now going to give us some commentary on what's going on here. In verses 6 to 9, in four brief verses, Jesus both explains and defends Mary's true worship of him. First of all He explains, and this is so important to understand, worship itself is a good work. Worship itself is a good work. Notice verse 6: "But Jesus said: Leave her alone", stop harassing her. Jesus tells Judas along with the other disciples who've been infected by his attitude, "Let her alone. Why do you bother her?" Literally "why have you become a trouble to her?" And then he says this: "She has done a good work to me." In fact, we could even translate this expression "she has done a beautiful work to me." Have you ever thought about the fact that worship itself is a good work? Ephesians 2, verse 10 its says that we've been regenerated, we've been changed, we've been saved by God unto good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them. Do you realize worship is a good work, and it's one of the good works you were saved to? Verse 7, "here's why I'm not criticizing her, she has done a beautiful work to me, for you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me." Now in this remarkable verse that really calls for an entire sermon on its own. Jesus actually makes three separate points. Let me just call them to your attention. Point number one in verse 7 is that as long as we live in a fallen world, poverty will never be fully eliminated. As long as we live in a fallen world, poverty will never be fully eliminated. Several years ago China decided that it was going to eradicate poverty. I had a dear friend who lived and ministered there and he said the only way they can do that or give the facade of that is that they kicked out all the foreigners and they moved all the real poverty away from the clear and obvious places because you can never eradicate poverty, it's a reality, and no politician can change that reality. On the other hand, secondly and this is a great balance for the first, and that is just the fact that it can't be eliminated doesn't mean we shouldn't have compassion for those who are caught in it. Believers should be concerned about the poor and needy among them and should do good to them, especially other believers. Notice how Jesus puts it: "You always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them" and the implication is you will wish and you will do that. Of course the Scriptures are a record of that. In Galatians it says that our first priority when it comes to that kind of care for the physical needs of people, is to the believers. It says do good to all men, and especially those of the household of faith. So those are important points, but the third point, the real point that Jesus is making in verse 7 is this: there is a priority higher than helping our fellow men, and it's the worship of Jesus. There is a priority higher than helping the people around us, and it's the worship of Jesus. Notice how he says "Whenever you wish, you can do good to them, but you do not always have me." And what He's saying is "I am praising what Mary did, she just spent an entire year salary on worshiping me, and it's worth it."

Now let's just say that if Jesus was merely a man this statement is completely inexcusable. It only makes sense if His claims to be the eternal Son of God true as they are. So this sink into your soul. Worship is a good work. It is the chief good work for which you were redeemed. I mean, think about it. Was is the first question in the shorter Catechism, what is the chief end of man? What's the answer? To glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Your chief reason being is to glorify God, it's to worship. So worship itself is a good work. But Jesus explains the second place that worship must be built on right theology. Worship must be built on right theology. Look at verse 8: She has done what she was personally able to do in this expression of her worship, and then Jesus explains the reason that Mary didn't sell the perfume and didn't give away the proceeds. Jesus here explains Mary's reasons, He explains Mary's heart: "She has anointed my body beforehand for the burial." You see, her greatest act of worship wasn't merely the sacrifice of something costly to her. In fact, you can do that and it may not be real love or worship at all. First Corinthians 13:3 says you can give away everything you own and give it to the poor and you can give your body to be burned and not have genuine love for them. What Mary did to Jesus that night, and don't miss this, this is the key, what Mary did to Jesus that night was the expression of her love and adoration to the One who was about to die. She anointed Him for His burial and the One who was about to die for her, and the One who was about to die to make it possible for a holy God to forgive her sins.

You say, did Mary get all of that? I think she did. I think she understood it. I mean, after all, Jesus had made this clear many times before, let me just show you one. Turn back to Mark chapter 10. This was just a couple of days before, on the way to Jerusalem. Mark 10, and this is just one example of many. Mark 10:32: "They were on the road going up to Jerusalem and Jesus was walking on ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful." And they were amazed, by the way, because Jesus is trekking out to Jerusalem knowing that his life is at risk. Some of them are fearful for him, fearful for themselves. And again, verse 32 says: "He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death'." And notice this: "And they will hand him over to the Gentiles." To the Romans. "And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him; and three days later He will rise from the dead." Go over to verse 45. Jesus explains why He's going to die, "for even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve." And here's why I'm going to die He says, "to give his life a ransom," and the Greek expression for "for" is a unique expression, the word anti, which means "instead of." He's going to give his life instead of many. He's going to substitute for many. He's going to die in their place. That's why He was going to die. Jesus didn't make a secret of what was going to happen. This is this is one of many times He makes this clear. Even His enemies knew about His predictions. You remember after His death, they go to Pilate and say, "listen, this deceiver said that he was going to rise from the dead. We need to seal the tomb." So this was widely known, these were not secrets. And remember, Mary was the best listener Jesus ever had. In Luke chapter 10 verse 39. Unlike Martha, who was all upset with her, Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet listening to His word. But I think the clencher for the argument that I'm making here, is that Jesus in all three accounts never says that she did this unwittingly. In fact, the way He expresses it in all three cases clearly says that this was her purpose. This was her intention. She has anointed me for my burial.

You see, Mary's worship that night, was based on a very clear understanding of what we would call the theology of the atonement. Mary knew she was a sinner, in fact, she was no better than the immoral prostitute whose action she copied that night. She knew that. She knew that Jesus was about to die for her sins. She knew that He would die at the hands of His enemies, and that because He would be handed over to the Romans, His friends would be unable to prepare His body for burial. Oh, and by the way, she was right because they never got that chance. They came on Sunday morning and found the tomb empty. So, Mary seized this moment, this moment to worship her savior and her Lord. What an amazing account. I mean think about this. She poured 12 ounces of really expensive, really fragrant perfume on Jesus that night. A week later when these same clothes were stripped from Jesus for him to be crucified, undoubtedly He could still smell the fragrance of Mary's intelligent worship.

Jesus then explains thirdly that genuine worship is something He always values in His disciples. Genuine worship is something He always values in His disciples. Verse 9: "Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her." Now obviously this is in memory of her. This is a way to honor Mary. It's interesting, by the way, that the same reward will be part of our future reward. Christians often ask me: so you know the reward that Christians get, what is that? You know, the chief reward that you're going to get that I'll get? It's the praise in our God. I mean, isn't it what Jesus said, that we'll stand before our master and hear him say well done, good and faithful servant? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4 that at the judgment seat of Christ each one will receive his praise from God. Can you imagine what that will be like? The greatest reward imaginable. But verse 9 is not only about commending Mary, honoring Mary. It's instead intended to teach us that our true heart worship is what really matters most to Him. This lesson comes down through the centuries and says imitate Mary. Worship me as she did. You can see why this is one of my favorite passages.

But before we're done, let me just draw out several point s of application for us. Sitting here in 21st century, what do we learn from this story? Number 1: Worshipping Jesus from the heart is our highest priority. Worshipping Jesus from the heart is our highest priority. Jesus values the genuine heart worship of his disciples even more than their service or their acts of charity to others. Don't misunderstand. The point of this passage is not that we should do one and not the other. The point of this passage is that worship must be our chief priority, even over service and even over care for others. So my question to you this morning is very pointed. If you are sitting here this morning, you say, yes, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. My question is, do you regularly worship Jesus Christ? I'm not asking if you're busy serving, I'm not asking if you're busy with acts of charity and good works and doing things around the church. I'm asking do you regularly worship Jesus Christ? Do you understand that that love and worship of Jesus Christ is one of the defining criteria for a Christian? Look at Ephesians chapter 6. Ephesians chapter 6. Paul ends this letter to the Ephesians with these words, verse 24: "Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love." May God continue to show his grace to those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love. So my question to you this morning is, do you love Jesus Christ? Now, you might be tempted to look at this passage and say, well, maybe he's talking about those who are elite Christians. You know, I'm a Christian. I don't really love Christ, but he's talking about elite Christians. No, that's not true. Go back to the end of 1 Corinthians. First Corinthians 16 and look how he ends the letter to the Corinthians. Verse 21, he says: "the greeting is in my own hand" Paul said this really is from me, and then he writes these remarkable words: "If anyone does not love the Lord", that is the Lord Jesus Christ, "he is to be anathema." He's to be damned. You see, loving Jesus Christ is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. There are a lot of people who are gathered in Christian churches across the world today, who say in generic terms, yes, I believe in God, I love God. But for some reason they find it uncomfortable to talk about Jesus Christ, and they're followers of Jesus Christ, and they love Jesus Christ. And the reason is they're not followers of Jesus Christ at all. Loving Jesus Christ is the definition of a Christian. It's true, not only for individuals but as a church. Worship must be, as a church, our chief priority. You know, there's a prevailing trend in Christianity today to criticize churches who are too focused on corporate worship. Seeker-sensitive churches say "no, listen, Sunday should be about unbelievers, and anything else is just selfish." Others argue that the focus of the church should be primarily on good works on acts of charity. Compare that to the biblical priority of worship. Listen, when we gather, you realize the main thing about this time, is worship. It's worship. You see, we're deceived in our culture. When we gather in a crowd like this, and sit in seats, and we watch something that's going on in the stage or platform, we get the audience mindset. We're the audience. We're looking for great music, we're looking for a lesson that helps us, we're looking for whatever it is. Listen, you're gathered here this morning for worship of Jesus Christ. You're not the audience, we have an audience of one, all of us together, we are worshipping Jesus Christ. That's the priority. On two separate occasions, Jesus praised Mary because Mary got this, she understood that worshipping Jesus is our chief priority, individually and corporately. When I was in seminary, one of my professors said something that struck me then as profound and still does today. Michael Barrett was his name, and he said this: "there is no effective service until there is acceptable worship".

And there's a second lesson here for is. It is the worship Jesus loves is a focused worship. How do you demonstrate true heart worship of Jesus? It's important that you understand we're not talking about some syrupy sentimental interchange emotionally between you and Jesus. That's not what it means to truly worship Jesus. Mary knew how, and in the gospel record she shows us how. Mary understood that worshipping Jesus primarily, not entirely, but primarily consists in two activities. Number one listening to Christ's words and learn from him. Luke chapter 10, verse 39: "Martha had a sister called Mary who was seated at the Lord's feet listening to his word." You want to worship Jesus? Be a Mary, sit as His feet, listening to his word. And secondly, worship for Jesus, consists in contemplating and focusing on his death for us. That was the focus of her worship on that Saturday night. It was about his coming death, his burial, what he was going to do at the cross. In other words folks, true worship of Jesus is when we live Christ-centered lives, word-centered lives, cross-centered lives, gospel-centered lives. When we're focused on what Jesus is focused on, reaching out to others with the gospel and caring for his bride who has already embraced that gospel.

Mary's worship was admirable because it came from a redeemed center. It was motivated by genuine love for Jesus Christ. It was done solely for Christ Glory. It was informed by a rich theology of the cross, and it was all that she could do, and it was extravagant, humble and unashamed. That is the kind of worship Jesus wants from you Christian. It's the kind of worship that Jesus loves. And it's my prayer that it's the kind of love. And worship that you will extend to him even this week as we celebrate His death and resurrection. Let's pray together.

Our father we are overwhelmed with Mary's example, thank you for recording it for us. Thank you for letting us see what real worship of Jesus looks like. Father, help us not only to honor her for what she did, but more importantly to follow the example that she set by your grace. For she was a sinner just like us, and she recognized the one who deserved all of the credit, all of the honor, all of the glory, and she worshipped Him. Lord help us to be committed to do the same, help us to be committed to listening to our Lord's word in the scripture. Lord, help us to worship him by thinking about, meditating on, living in light of all that he accomplished in his life, death and resurrection. Father, I pray for those of us who truly are his followers, help us to embrace worship as the chief priority of our lives. Remind us that we exist for this, that you sought us to be worshippers. May we worship you through your son even this week. Father, I pray for others who are here who are false believers like Judas, who don't get it. Lord remove the blinders from their eyes, help them to see themselves as sinners in need of a savior. Help them to see that even their failure to worship Jesus is many respects the worst sin they've ever committed, and that alone will bring eternal punishment. Father, I pray that today you would call them to yourself through the gospel, that they would come to believe, and to repent. To put their confidence in Jesus Christ. In his life lived in their place, in his death died to satisfy God's justice against their sins, and in his resurrection which was your seal, oh God, on it all. We pray this. Amen.