pleasing worship to the lord
The Bible is filled with examples of different types of worship. Some are pleasing to God and some are not. There are burnt offerings that gave off an aroma of worship to the Lord. Prayers are mentioned as another pleasing type of incense toward God, in worship. Our testimony of Jesus Christ, to others that are not yet saved, is also a sweet aroma to God. Repentance is also a form or worship to God because it involves a humbling of the heart. Finally, how we love others is a beautiful aroma to God.
Worship is how we show reverence and adoration to God. It also helps keep things in perspective. We, as the creation, are paying our respect and honor to God, whom we acknowledge as Creator. Perhaps one of the most notable examples of beautiful worship, is that of Mary, the Sister of Lazarus. Let’s review the story, so we can understand just how everything took place.
Lazarus was from the town of Bethany and had two sisters, Mary and Martha. They were friends of Jesus and followed His ministry. In John 11:5, it tells us that “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Jesus’ ministry was becoming very popular and it was no secret, when He was in town. It just so happened that Lazarus was on his death bed and Jesus was called to help heal him. Jesus waited to appear until Lazarus had been dead for four days.
In Israel, there is a tradition that is called the Shemira. It is the tradition of “guarding” the body for 3 days, after death. The idea is to “to prevent the desecration of the body prior to burial (Wikipedia, 2021). It is believed that “the soul hovers over the body for either three days (Genesis Rabbah 100:7 and Leviticus Rabbah 18:1) or seven days (Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 34) after death (Simcha, pg. 140). So by the time Jesus arrived to the grave, the hope that Lazarus would be healed was gone. It would take faith for anything to come from this tragedy. Martha is shown to believe and confess to Jesus that she knew who He was and what He would do at the resurrection of the dead. Jesus helped Martha to have the faith He wanted to see in order to perform a miracle. Jesus made a miracle happen, that only God could do, in order that many would believe, which they did!
In John 11:21-27, it reads: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God,who is to come into the world.”
This miracle was huge! Many believed in Jesus afterwards. This miracle happened, most scholars believe, around 4 months prior to the crucifixion. That takes us to the scene of Jesus and Mary, the Sister of Lazarus. Jesus had gone to visit Simon, a former Leper that had been healed by Him. He lived in Bethany, which was the same town as Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Mary must have heard that Jesus was in town and she went to spend the final moments that she could get with him, regardless of what anyone would say.
After the resurrection of Lazarus, the Bible tells us that Jesus had a meal with Lazarus, Mary and Martha. In John 12:2-3 it reads, “Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.Then Mary took about a pint of expensive perfume, made of pure nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” I love to think about what the conversation might have been like. Perhaps, Lazarus recounted the moment that Jesus called him back. It’s possible that Jesus shared with them all that His ministry was coming to an end and that He would be killed in Jerusalem. I tend to think, this was the case.
When Mary arrived, she broke this alabaster jar before Jesus. This account tells us that Judas got angry about it, not because he cared about the “waste” of the oil, but because he was the one that would keep the money for Jesus’ ministry and would often steal from it, for himself. It was out of selfish reasons, as we can find in John 12:4-6. Knowing all things, Jesus defended her. This was a huge act in itself! Not only was Jesus (who was a Man and also highly respected and an honored guest) defending a woman, but He also rebuked the comments of one of His own disciples. He honored her worship because it was an act of mourning for Jesus.
In Biblical times, the Passover Lamb was brought to the home six days prior and had it’s feet anointed with oil. Two days before the Passover, the Lamb would be anointed on the head, which was declaring that it had been found clean and spotless, which was the requirement for the Passover Lamb to be slaughtered. Mary anointed the feet and ankles of Jesus, as an act of worship and preparation for burial. It was a humble and loving act to do and never had any indication of any kind of sexual notion, as some have incorrectly taught.
In John 12:3, John identifies Mary, the Sister of Lazarus as anointing the feet of Jesus prior to the crucifixion. “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” This act, is so important! Mary was showing her love for Jesus and it indicates she already knew that He would be dying soon. She was saying farewell by her actions.
In Old Testament times, pure nard was used to anoint a dead body for burial. The fact that some present, believed it to be a waste, comes from value that it had. In today’s time, it would equal $30,000. This was her life savings because she was not married, so to the on-lookers, it appeared as a waste. It was also frowned upon because it was believed that it was breaking the Law of Moses. In fact, Jesus responds to this and assures the people that it is not waste, according to the Law. How so? Because Mary was anointing Jesus for burial.
Then in Luke 7:37 we read about an unnamed woman, that came to Jesus while He was visiting Simon, the Pharisee. This woman anointed the feet of Jesus. It reads, “When a sinful woman from that town learned that Jesus was dining there, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair. Then she kissed His feet and anointed them with the perfume.”
In Mark 14:3-4, it reads, “While Jesus was eating, a woman came in with an alabaster jar full of a very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. Some of the people there became angry and said to one another, “What was the use of wasting the perfume? It could have been sold for more than 300 silver coins and the money given to the poor!” And they criticized her harshly.” This occurred at the house of Simon, the Leper. It it believed that this occurrence was 2 days prior to His crucifixion. This particular woman will remain un-named, but what she did is forever relevant to the confirmation of Jesus fulfilling and being the Passover Lamb.
The previous two scriptures have a little bit of confusion because they almost seem to tell of two different accounts of women that did the same thing. Both were at the house of someone named Simon, but one was a Leper and the other was a Pharisee. One believed in Jesus and the other one had his doubts. Perhaps, this occurred twice and only one of them was considered an anointing act. The important thing to note was that Jesus was anointed at least twice, which is what the Passover Lamb was required to. Jesus had both His head and feet anointed prior to crucifixion.
The aroma of Jesus’ sacrifice
These alabaster perfumes were filled with an aroma that would cover the person, as well as fill the room. It was long lasting and it would’ve remained on Jesus’ body up until His crucifixion. In Ephesians 5:2 it reads, “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” I had always read this verse, not realizing that Jesus was literally a fragrant aroma to God! It struck me like a ton of bricks and was so precious to my heart. The Old Testament is filled with different types of sacrifices that were made to the Lord and how their aromas were pleasing to Him. Imagine, this one! The aroma of Jesus hanging on the cross. It reminds me of the verse found in Isaiah 53:9-12:
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.et it was the LORD’s will to crush Him and to cause Him to suffer; and when His soul is made a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.After the anguish of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.Therefore I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He has poured out His life unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors. Yet He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.”
As Christians, it is so important to dig deep. I had heard this story about Mary so many times at church, but was never told about the significance of it through the Passover Lamb. Jesus is that Passover Lamb that sufficed and met the requirements by God, to be the eternal sacrifice for sin, once and for all. His first anointing was to show that He was the chosen Lamb. The second anointing was to prove that He was spotless and free from sin, and found worthy. I hope the next time you read this, you can see it through Mary’s eyes. She was anointing the Lord for burial, it was an act of mourning and her worship, was found beautiful in Jesus’ eyes. The same is the case with God. God found Jesus as a beautiful sacrifice. He was worthy and met all of His requirements. Jesus was a beautiful aroma to God.
Raphael, Simcha Paull (2009). Jewish Views of the Afterlife (second edition). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., p. 140.