Note: “Sermon Notes” entries exist to help us as a church body gather around the faithful teaching and preaching of the Word of God. I pray they enhance our study and appreciation for the teaching we receive on a weekly basis.
The Scripture text from the sermon two weeks ago came from Mark 14:1-11. Pastor Aaron noted that within this text is a “sandwich story.” That is to say, one story sandwiched between two stories that are more closely related to each other than they are to the story in the middle. The “bread” of this passage includes stories of individuals who esteemed Jesus of very little (if any) worth. The chapter opens with the chief priests and scribes plotting how they might kill Jesus, and the passage ends with their opportunity realized when Judas Iscariot goes to them in order to betray his Teacher.
Aaron did an excellent job exposing the reality that there are many who esteem Jesus of very little worth both inside and outside of the church, so I’ll speak of it briefly here. One thought that came to mind was the depraved nature of the hearts of man. The religious establishment in being so zealous to maintain their codes and creeds were plotting to destroy the one who is the culmination of those very things (Matthew 5:17). And we see Judas, who even though he was in such close physical proximity to Christ, had a hard and bitter heart. If nothing else, this passage illuminates the vanity and perversity of religion which is entirely divorced from the truth and glory of Christ in the gospel.
What we have between these two passages, though, is the beautiful picture of a woman who understands the surpassing worth of Christ.
We learn from John’s gospel account that this woman was actually Mary, the sister of the very recently resurrected Lazarus (John 12:1-7). One can only imagine what was going through her head in everything that lead up to this event. Jesus had a peculiar and fond affection for Mary and her family (John 11:5), and we can assume the fondness was mutual. Mary had probably known the Man for years, and perhaps only recently came to discover that Jesus really was the Christ.
I like to think that Martha had told Mary about her interaction with the Lord when He came to see their (at the time) deceased brother. Perhaps Martha had shared those mysterious words of His, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
And now here He is, sitting in her house; sitting with her beloved brother in the house of a leper that we can likely assume Jesus had healed. He’s just sitting there, in the presence of those who were dead and had been made alive, and those who were unclean and have now been made clean. A house full of restored and redeemed people.
The relentless thoughts running through Mary’s head as she contemplated who it was that was sitting in her presence would have been astounding. The sheer amount of appreciation she had for what Jesus had done moved her to respond. And respond she did, perhaps somewhat brashly. She grabs the alabaster flask containing the most valuable thing she owned, and smashes it. Right there. In front of everyone. And she begins to rub it on His head (Mark 14:3) and wipe it on His feet with her hair (John 12:3).
This is a portrait of a person who understands that Christ is worth everything. He’s worth the embarrassment and scorn we might receive from friends, family, and outsiders. He’s worth the awkwardness that oftentimes accompanies genuine expressions of worship. And He’s certainly more than worth all of our material good.
The worth of Christ is a subject worthy of our contemplation.
We as believers must understand that Jesus is worthy of our worship. It may sound obvious to state it like that, but it’s a point that must be established repeatedly.
It is far too easy to give way to the thought that Jesus is worthy of worship because He has given us much in the way of material blessing, or because of the health of our bodies and our families, or because things in life have been going well, or even because we recognize the stunning amount of grace that accompanies the forgiveness of our sins. And He is worthy of worship for all of these things!
What I want to establish in our thinking, though, is that Christ is worthy of worship not primarily because of what He gives, but because of who He is.
This must be the posture of the church at all times, and there are many examples outside of Mary’s story demonstrating this.
It can be seen in the lives of His apostles. Paul stated, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ,” (Philippians 3:8).
The psalmist boldly states, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” (Psalm 73:25).
And in referring to the suffering, testing, and loss that come through faith in Christ, Peter said in 1 Peter 1:6-7 that our faith, which unites us to Christ, is of more value than any earthly good, and its result will be to the praise and glory of Jesus.
In contemplating the sheer worth of Christ, it taxes the mind and the imagination of man beyond its physical limits. But, as Aaron would say, it’s a beautiful thing.
However, even in Mary’s expressions of worship, there was still something lacking. And Jesus made sure they knew it when He said, “she has anointed my body beforehand for burial,” (Mark 14:8).
There was still something lacking in what needed to be accomplished through the suffering that He was soon to endure (Hebrews 2:10). And indeed, it is because of His sufferings that the entire host of heaven will cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12). And it is His sufferings that have made it possible for us to enjoy Him.
Finally, as Pastor Aaron helped us to understand, we will fall short when it comes to our worship. And so I want to leave us with a thought from the pen of the great hymn writer John Newton:
Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.
The gospel makes up for all of our shortcomings. Mary understood that. At the heart of every genuine believer is the desire to live and give oneself in such a way that reflects the true worth of Christ. We will fail in attempting to do this on our own, so let us first seek to see Christ for who He is (2 Corinthians 4:6). Because then, and only then, will the response of genuine worship be possible.