The Scent of Worship

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

– Luke 10:39

So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.

– John 11:20

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

– John 11:32

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

– John 12:3

These three Biblical scenes are filled with so much heartbreak and beauty. I read them again and again, and still there is more and more in them.

Just look at the posture of each of the siblings — Martha is serving, speaking to Jesus in her grief, then she serving again. Lazarus is with him, then dead and raised, then seated with him again. But Mary, Mary is at His feet in every scene. …With growing awkwardness.

And in each case, someone corrected her and notably, she didn’t listen unless it was to go back to his feet. She’s determined to be there. Martha telling the Lord to make her help serve, Martha telling her that He was calling for her, Judas (and possibility the other disciples too) criticizing her gift.

Criticism from everyone needs to be listened to, and carefully weighed. Does it drive me to His feet in prayer? Am I truly wrong — distancing myself from Him and need to return? If so, we need to listen and come back to the Lord. But if the criticism is calling me away from the Lord, we should not listen to it. Good and bad criticism/correction can come from the same source. I need the humility to listen in every case and the grace to forgive when it is needed.

The Lord does not have very much conversation with Mary in these scenes. In fact, he never says anything directly to her. He talks a lot to Martha, but with Mary he only talks around her. About her. And yet, her worship is the deepest. She listens, she sits, she weeps, she accepts, she saves, she pours. She is the shadow listening and watching and worshiping Jesus… like we are… the millions of Christians that are witnessing the Lord through the experience of the few that actually saw him. It’s like she is a placeholder in the narrative for the rest of us. It is after He was gone that the greatest acts of worship were and are made to the Lord. Most of the people that were present with him saw, but they didn’t understand — didn’t worship — until afterward.

But Mary did. Mary worships before everyone else. And He commends her for it.

We don’t need direct revelation to love Jesus. We want it… it would make us feel so special. But Mary accepted that she was loved and known without any direct revelation. She sat at his feet. She listened. She grieved. She worshiped. She accused. Notably, the only time she speaks directly to him is to accuse him, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” And the Lord doesn’t correct her for her boldness. He weeps with her. He meets her, joins her, comforts her, then turns her world upside-down with joy. Her relationship with the Lord is desperate, raw, and sometimes difficult and awkward. Just like mine is. Just like yours is.

Jesus is the Word, we are the hands and feet. He teaches, heals, commends. We listen, we worship, we obey. It is not what is said, but what is done that means more.

Photo by Marisa Harris on Unsplash

So listen. Sit at His feet today and drink it in. If you are in a peaceful place in life, then take the time to sit often. If you are in a busy phase of life, carve out time and abandon “good” things to treasure your time at His feet! And if you are in the raw, broken, painful places in life, then don’t sit alone in your house — go to Him and voice your pain. He can take it. After all, He is God.

And if, wherever you are in your walk of life, you have found Him precious, it is time for worship. Think about what you have to give back to Him, what would mean the most to Him. And friend, you know deeply what that gift is because He gave it to you in the first place. Take it to him. Break it open and shamelessly pour it out on his feet. Serve Him in this, serve his people. People will talk. People will point. Or people will marvel and put you on a pedestal. People will criticize and question. It will be awkward. Weigh the criticism — is it good or bad? Then set it aside and run back to the feet of the Lord. This is ultimately between you and Him.

And fill your house with the scent of worship.