WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ABOUT TRUE WORSHIP?
Have you ever tried to locate the definition of the word worship in the Scriptures? You would not, if you did. As important as worship is, one would think that there would be a neat, little, and quotable definition for us to describe such a meaningful word. Perhaps God chose not to give a concise definition because the very concept of worship is too large for that.
If one would look at the different verbs pertaining to worship, he would recognize that worship is not confined to praise; “broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgment to God of His nature, attributes, ways, and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgment.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)
The verb latrenó means: “to serve, to render religious service or homage,” is translated “to worship” in Philippians 3:3 “(who) worship (by the Spirit of God),” “(which) worship (God in the Spirit).” This verbal form of worship is the form that I would like to apply to our study of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
The resurrection of Lazarus has taken place and he is returned to his familiars. He quietly sits as Martha serves, and Mary sacrifices. Jesus is their guest. The three, besides Jesus, form a composite. Many emphasize the three distinct personalities, or at least emphasize the activities of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It would be profitable to bring the three personalities into a study of one. By that, in a worshipping situation, how do they complement each other?
Using the verbal form latrenó, for worship, will require the characteristics of all three that we have mentioned. With that being the requirement may we notice three things, I. The Expression of Worship (vv. 1-3); II. The Enemy of Worship (vv. 4-8); III. The Events after Worship (vv. 9-11).
I. THE EXPRESSION OF WORSHIP vv. 1-3
The twelfth chapter is a transitional chapter. During the last few days before His trial, He is found with those dear to Him. He begins this period with a visit to Bethany. It is there that we see Jesus sharing His time with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He will soon make His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Beginning there, He will signify by what death He should die (12:33). Then He will give instructions concerning the Holy Spirit (14:15-26); concerning peace (14:27-31); concerning fruitfulness (15:1-17); concerning the world (15:18-16:6); again concerning the Holy Spirit (16:7-15); and concerning His return (16:16-33).
The serving of Martha (vv. 1-2). The first person of the composite of worship is Martha. Martha is busy serving, “There they made him a supper; and Martha served” (v. 2a). Many expositors in their comparison of Mary and Martha, degrade Martha when comparing her to Mary simply because she is “only serving.” Serving when properly administered is a major part of worship. Admittedly, people can be busy serving and in that service not worshipping. Serving is a work and that work involves time. Anything in the material realm is a by-product of time. Money when earned is a representative of a service rendered. Mary will be seen sacrificing the spikenard, a “very costly” ointment. Someone had to pay for it. To make the purchase someone had to invest time. That time was service. Service however, alone does not constitute worship. Neither does sacrifice alone constitute the kind of worship Philippians 3:3 speaks of.
The word worship that is generally or most frequently used means, “to make obeisance, do reverence to” (from pros, “towards,” and kuneó, “to kiss”), is the most frequent word rendered “to worship.”
Martha served the supper that “they made him”. Martha could have told Mary and Lazarus that she would serve the supper while Mary brought out the spikenard. The serving was and still is a very important ingredient of worship. Yet it is certainly true that one can become so busy in his service and neglect greatly his worship. Many times I find myself getting started, before I “get cranked.” The cranking aspect should be the worship that precedes the service. I need to be “cranked up” by the Word of God and energized by the Spirit in an attitude of prayer. Everyday should begin with a period of devotion to be better equipped for service. So much of what we do becomes fleshy and carnal because the flesh rather than the Spirit energize us. We fail to begin our activities with a preparation period of adoration and worship of the Lord. We should as Hebrews 10:19 admonishes us to come boldly into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.
The sitting of Lazarus (v. 2). Martha is serving and Lazarus is sitting. A casual reading may not yield much, “but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him” (v. 2). What is so significant and worthy of consideration when considering a man just sitting? Lazarus is not just any man; He has just been raised from the dead. Considering the magnitude of the miracle of being raised from the dead, one would think that upon having been raised, Lazarus would have been positioned in a more prominent role than of one just sitting. Yet the posture of sitting does nothing to take away from the miracle. His life, alone, witnesses the fact of the resurrection.
Lazarus, while in his sitting position, very calmly displays the change that had taken place in his life. The change was so obviously great that it was not necessary to attach a sign announcing the fact of his resurrection. His “breath” was enough to announce the fact. Likewise, when one is birthed into the Kingdom of God, the Spirit, or “Breath of God” so marks the new convert.
The sacrificing of Mary (v. 3). The sacrifice made by Mary may not have been Mary’s alone. The sacrifice may have been spikenard that was to be used for some other purpose. It may have originally been set aside for embalming purposes. The Scriptures do not tell us. Yet Mary as she began to anoint the feet of Jesus did so “against the day of my burying,” said Jesus (v. 7). She also was assuming the position of a slave. She was surrendering herself completely to the will and the purpose of Christ. The ingredients used in the anointing were a sacrifice. The value was nearly equivalent to the wages for one year of labor.
Sacrifice makes up the third ingredient in the composite of worship. The three as they are fused together more clearly identify the kind of worship that we have under consideration. Again, this kind of worship requires that there be a service (working), a sitting (witness), and sacrificing (worship). When these three are intact, certainly Satan will oppose it. That brings us to our next consideration.
II. THE ENEMY OF WORSHIP vv. 4-8
True worship has Satan as its enemy. He will not bother a counterfeit worship. The more sterling the worship, the more Satanic that attack. Judas is not only a tool of Satan, but he also is a type of Satan. A rage sweeps over Judas as he witnesses what he considers to be a great waste. Judas, like Satan, is very deceptive. There is not evidence from the Scriptures that indicates that any of the disciples every suspected or questioned Judas’ loyalty or fidelity; yet he was a devil. In his smooth subtleness he was able to conceal the rage that was in his very being. Everyone, that is, except for the Lord; He knew the heart of Judas.
The suggestion, on the surface, seems to be a reasonable request, but again the Lord knows the heart. May we consider more carefully the reaction of Judas to the sacrificing of the spikenard.
The reaction of Judas (vv. 4-5). Judas asked “why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” The subtleness of Judas in asking this question, reminds us of his father, the devil (John 8:44). Satan does not have to pour out the dregs every time he performs a malicious act. He would gladly substitute the cloak of culture in preference to the shroud of vulgarity. Judas’ reaction was a very cultivated reaction, yet exceedingly sinful.
Much of the wickedness of sinful man should not be attributed to Satan; instead the blame should rest on both the world and its influence, or the flesh so prone to sinning. Most of those who perch on their barstools and drape the counters with their elbows did not need Satan to get them there. They were quite capable of getting there on their own. We blame Satan for more than he is guilty of. It is not always as Flip Wilson the comedian of the 1960’s would say, “The devil made me do it.”
Satan would prefer a more sophisticated way of enticing or influencing the sinner. The reaction of Judas gives a classic example of the preferred way that Satan works. Yet, Christ knew the reason for Judas responding as he did.
The reason of Judas (v. 6). Verse six, like a piercing arrow goes straight to the target. “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.” The arrow of truth gives the exact reason for Judas reacting as he did. He would have preferred exacting from Mary the expensive spikenard to use for his own purposes. He certainly did not want Jesus to be honored in such a way; he thought that to be a great waste. Such is the attitude of people today. They can not comprehend any service or kindness being offered towards the things of God. As they generously offer their endowments to help a philanthropic cause, they pinch their pennies rather than help a Christian cause.
The rebuke of Judas (vv. 7-8). In the composite of worship, we notice the one serving, the one sitting (as a witness), and the one sacrificing. With these three operating, we observe the opposition to be in the person of Judas. He represents the enemy of worship. There is another character that identifies with the concept of worship. That person is Jesus Christ. He intercedes on our behalf.
In every worshipping experience there is an enemy, but there is also a defender. Christ Jesus defends and encourages our right to worship. In our study here, He strongly rebukes Judas, knowing his heart. Verse 7 and 8 gives the rebuke. “Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."
Certainly it is wonderful knowing that we have a defender and an intercessor. Not only is Christ able to defend us against the forces of Satan, but He is interceding on our behalf as He does. If Satan accuses us as we attempt to worship, by declaring that our worship is either lacking or in vain, the Lord can say, as the defender, “Leave him alone.” Then He will declare to the Father as the Intercessor, that all is well.
In our study, attention has been called to The Expression of Worship, The Enemy of Worship, and now we will consider, The Events after Worship.
III. THE EVENTS AFTER WORSHIP vv. 9-11
A natural curiosity of the people prevails as they press to see not only Jesus but Lazarus also, whom He had raised from the dead. The interest was so great that Lazarus was added to the list of who should be put to death. Now both Jesus and Lazarus are enemies of the psendo-religious system. Verse 10 says, “But the chief priest consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death.”
The curiosity of the people (v. 9). When something dynamic happens there is an equivalent reaction. A dead man made alive was the dynamic. It was this that caused the reaction on the part of the people. The group would not have gathered had Lazarus stayed in the tomb. Yet as it turns out there are those now who want to put him back to death. Anytime a person is made alive spiritually, there will be a natural curiosity to see if that person has really been changed (II Corinthians 5:17). There may be a period of amazement, often to be followed by anger.
When a person is converted to Christianity, he will find a curiosity on the part of his “old friends.” With the passing of time, these friends began to drop by the wayside. Some even turn against the one who has been converted. I recall after my parent’s conversion that almost all of their friends forsook them, but God so graciously gave them many more in return. Evidence of this was seen at my parent’s funeral, when the church was packed with those people whom they had gained as friends because of Jesus.
The consultation of the Priest (v. 10-11) “But the chief priest consulted that thy might put Lazarus also to death;” so reads verse 10. Caiaphas again shows his animosity towards Jesus and that which Jesus does. The true worshippers of God will not only have their natural enemies in the world, but the religious system will be their enemy, as well. It was the religious crowd that had Paul and Silas jailed at Philippi; it was the religious crowd that had Jeremiah placed in the stocks. Organized religion has never been a friend of Jesus.
As we worship, in the spirit of worship as defined in Philippians 3:3, may we use this composite of worship involving Lazarus, Mary, and Martha to challenge us to worship as they did.
Sermon From Dr. Max Alderman