A Mary Heart
by Ray Hughes
Worship Leader, conference speaker, evangelist and Pastor, Ray Hughes, founder of Selah Ministries, is also a ministry team member of Morning Star Ministries based in Charlotte, NC and serves as pastor of Morning Star Fellowship in Wilkesboro, NC. His teaching, “A Mary Heart”, was the prophetic tape-of-the month for October 2000. This article is used by permission “The Morning Star Journal” Vol. 10 No. 3, article by Ray Hughes.
When doing a study on biblical worship, most people typically start by looking at the word “worship” in Scripture. By looking in Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, they can determine the definition for a particular use of the word “worship” for any verse in question. By expanding the study, the word “praise” and it’s many actions of singing, dancing, clapping, kneeling, and shouting are studied. Next will come a discovery of the myriad of biblical subjects that reveal an endless journey of revelation such as music, instruments, sound, skill, spontaneity, emotions, meditation, songs of the Lord, spiritual songs, and the list goes on.
With an increasing desire to be a student of biblical worship, all of these subjects and more are going to be important. Any one of them could be a wonderful journey. However, I want to take a look at a passage that holds a tremendous wealth of revelation on prophetic worship. The words “worship, praise, music, dance, or instruments” are not found in this passage. It is an account of one of the most bizarre, yet profound, expressions of worship in all of Scripture.
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 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. 4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” 9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus. John 12:1-11
The Time and The Place
First, we see the time and place. The time was six days before the Passover. The place was in Bethany at a “home-group meeting” at Mary’s house. Her sister Martha was serving, and Lazarus her brother was sitting at the table with the honored guest. The room was full of disciples (verse 4), and a “great many of the Jews”(verse 9). In verse 10, we see that there were even some chief priests standing around plotting to kill Lazarus. A pretty diverse “home-group,” wouldn’t you say? It sounds like quite an evening of activity. However, all the activity suddenly gave way to one simple yet strange occurrence.
“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” (John 12:3).
Let’s take a look at this scene from a negative approach. By doing this, we learn many positive characteristics of true prophetic worship.
Mary did not come to hear a sermon
Preaching is important—the New Testament makes great provision for preaching. It declares God’s Word, and it is also a testimony of faith. Preaching enlightens, informs, and inspires people to respond to God. Anointed, Bible-centered preaching should be a part of the worship of the church, but not a substitute for it. Preaching that exalts Jesus, that exposes sin, and explains redemption can certainly lead believers to worship. However, in many churches the proclamations of the preachers have taken priority. I am a preacher, and I realize the importance of the Word being preached. However, when it appears to be more important for me to function in my public calling than it is for the entire congregation to express their acts of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and dedication corporately, I fear that an expensive and subtle heresy may well be robbing the church of its greatest asset. If people only go to church to hear good preaching, then we could be caught in the same spectator trap that had captured much of the crowd at Mary’s house. For as we will see, most of the crowd had come to hear what Jesus and Lazarus had to say. There were far more spectators than worshipers at Mary’s house that night. It was said of Jesus that
“never a man spoke like this man” (John 7:46).
Though Mary was in the presence of the greatest preacher that had ever lived, she obviously was not there to hear a sermon. She did not bow at His feet to receive His Word she bowed and ministered to Him.
She didn’t come to make a request.
Though she was in the presence of the One who had omnipotence at His command, she did not pour out her heart in supplication as she had before. She asked nothing of Him. That is not to say that we are never to ask of the Lord, for the Word clearly instructs us to bring our needs to Him individually as well as corporately. But this act was a heart responding, not a soul requesting. This was an unto Him not an unto her moment. For the sake of balance let me say this: I challenge anyone to truly minister unto the Lord and not receive something—it-s impossible. As noble as it sounds to say that “we ask not,” it is an impossibility to be in His presence where there is fullness of joy and not be impacted. You cannot be in the presence of His glory and go away unchanged. You will receive even if you do not ask or seek. At times, more will be received when you ask less. There are also those times that we are to come to Him for the specific purpose of asking. In Luke 11:9-10, Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock. Don’t be robbed of that wonderful privilege, for with it comes the receiving, the finding, and the opened doors of His blessings. But as you can see, Mary didn’t ask for anything —she said nothing.
Mary didn’t come to fellowship with other believers.
We see in verse 12, a “great many” were there. I am sure she loved and enjoyed being with the people that were there. Certainly being in fellowship with other believers is biblically valid and vitally important, but Mary did not allow fellowship with believers to take priority over being in fellowship with the Believed.
Mary was not distracted by the activities of the room.
She was not distracted by the activities of the room. She was not even moved by the agenda of the chief priests to kill her brother. How wonderful it would be if we could corporately maintain that kind of focus in our gatherings. It is easy for us to justify our distractions and call them necessary. What you are about to read may sound ridiculous to some, but it’s food for thought. Imagine Mary kneeling on the floor at the feet of Jesus, she is silently crying from the depths of her soul as she pours the oil on His feet. The room is eerily quiet and all eyes turn to the face of Jesus to see His expression.
Mary didn’t come to be refreshed.
She came to refresh the Lord. She anticipated the cross and it’s sufferings by the Spirit. She was refreshing the very feet that had carried the Savior over many rocky roads, the same feet that would soon carry the burden of a cross, the same feet that were about to be driven through with spikes. Worship does not reach its full purpose when it produces only self-satisfaction, but when it gives satisfaction to the selfless Savior. Though worship can be extremely exhilarating to our spirit, soul, and body, and refresh us in many ways, the highest purpose of worship is for Him, not us.
Mary didn’t come because it was popular thing to do.
This was at a time when Jesus’ popularity was waning fast. The entire religious and political system was about to aggressively rise against Him more than ever. He was about to experience their hate and rejection on a whole new level. He was about to fulfill Isaiah 53:3 and be despised and rejected of men, and suffer the ultimate sacrifice. To a degree, Mary was sharing in His rejection. Not only was her act of worship offensive to the political spirits in the room, she also offended the pride and religious spirit in Judas. Rejection can cause us to turn inward, to focus on self and shut down the ability to express our worship to God. This only happens when our focus is the rejection. In other words, we fellowship our sufferings instead of His. Mary was identifying with His suffering and rejection, not hers. She was not doing it because it was the latest trend in worship. She was not doing it to receive a new position in the kingdom. She had already found the position that she desired the most—it was at the feet of Jesus. Jesus interpreted what she did as an act of prophetic worship, but she did not jump up and declare herself a prophetess. She did not desire a raise in her social standing. Her raise would be in the spirit, when He was raised.
Mary did not come to withhold her best.
The path to wholehearted worship has never been crowded or cheap. She simply abandoned herself in worship to the one she loved with all her heart. She poured out the most costly gift she could come up with and jolted every political and religious spirit in the place. Notice that she is not the one who brought attention to the cost of this act, Judas was. She never pointed out that her sacrifice had cost her an entire year’s salary. When we begin to count the cost of our worship, we cease to worship. She did not succumb to the “how much is too much?” There is no “too much.” David said,
“I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob (Psalms 132:4-5).
We have to satisfy that question in our hearts as she did.
Mary didn’t set out to impress anyone.
Her act was one of humility. The fragrance of her gift alone brought everyone’s attention to Jesus. I am sure some temporarily focused on what Mary was doing, but Jesus was undoubtedly the central figure in the room. Remember it was Jesus’ supper, His friends, His disciples, His feet, His words, and His presence that caused this event. More than that, it was His destiny that was prophetically being declared in that room. What Mary had done through her worship had set the stage for everyone to hear the words of the Anointed. Nothing could have kept her from worshiping the way that she did. It would have been futile for her, or anyone, to clamor for attention in that crowd. Had she looked around the room, she would have seen brilliant intellect, physical strength, capable leadership, persuasive eloquence, magnetic personality, artistic genius, nobility of birth, vast wealth, political promise, profound learning, and prolific pride. When she found herself in His presence, her heart was fixed and bound to worship at His feet—nothing was able to stop the aroma of Mary’s heart. Only true humility releases pure worship, and only pure worship releases that depth of anointing. She was not some insecure basket case, artistically displaying her personal issues, while looking for attention. She was not even a biblical educated worshiper. She was worshiping. She was not impressing—she was expressing and releasing the true fragrance of her heart.
Now let’s look at the scene from a positive approach of what Mary did.
Mary transformed her home into a temple of worship.
There is some controversy among the scholars as to whether it was Martha and Mary’s house, or Simon the leper. But popular belief is that Martha, being a lady of means, would not have been hosting and serving the Lord in someone else’s house.
I also think it’s important to note that Martha appeared to be giving her attention to cooking and serving again, which is the very thing in which the Lord had once rebuked her. He said that Mary had chosen the best part, sitting at His feet and hearing His words. In fairness to Martha, I think this showed her true character. For when she was reproved for choosing to give the priority of her heart to extreme busyness, she did not peevishly run to another petty extreme and quit serving. She simply received her correction and continued to do what she was called and gifted to do. Then she served the table of the Lord with a different attitude. Her function did not change, she simply chose to function with the right heart. So, in effect, not only was the house transformed into a temple of worship, the table was transformed into a table of worship as well.
We get out of order sometimes and there’s rebuke or correction. It shows your immaturity when you bounce off to some other peevish extreme and miss what God really created you to do. He wanted to align some things. The Lord just wanted to get rid of that extreme “busy-ness” out of her and get her down to “business”. Her function didn’t change. She transformed that home into a place of worship and served Him as an act of worship as well.
Mary did host many, but worshiped only One
In verse 2, it says “they made him a supper.” Though many had the opportunity to enjoy the supper, there was no question as to whom it was for. We see that Martha served the Lord, Lazarus sat with the Lord, but Mary touched the Lord.
Let’s talk about Lazarus for a moment. Keep in mind that this entire evening was profoundly prophetic and it appeared that Mary was the only one spiritually sensitive enough to pick up on what was happening. What was Lazarus doing? Sitting—that’s all. That is what resurrected people do. They sit at the table in an atmosphere filled with the aroma of worship in the presence of the Lord. Lazarus was seated in a heavenly place. Though many had come to see him, and no doubt, hear what he had to say about life after death, he simply sat. Some had come to plot to kill him. What did he do? He sat. Sometimes the highest honor we can give to the Lord in worship is to sit in His presence without pretense. No serving. No singing. No clapping or shouting, or prophesying— just sitting. The entire evening could have been taken up with Lazarus’ testimony. Or, what if Mary had been ministering at the Lord’s feet when Lazarus suddenly jumps to his feet and begins to lead a frenzied version of “We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise” while admonishing everyone to shake hands with five people before they sit down. Thank God he sat! He sat as a prophetic picture of what resurrected people do. Mary was a host to many there that night, but a worshiper of One.
Mary not only exposed her heart in worship, but she exposed everybody’s heart in the room.
As she worshiped the Lord, the depth of her love and adoration exposed her heart. Once she anointed His feet with her costly gift, which was not common though it was a tradition, she then did something that was unheard of—she began to wipe His feet with her hair. A woman’s hair is her glory. It was true then and it is true today. There is something at the very core of every female on earth that tells them their hairstyle determines who they are. In Mary’s day, this would have been an extremely bizarre act. In her heart though, she knew that no flesh could glory in His presence. It shocked everyone in the room. She had blatantly defied cultural and religious tradition in one swoop.
It was like David dancing his clothes off before all of Israel as he worshiped God with all his might. Throughout Scripture, when someone exposes their heart through extreme and demonstrative acts of worship, typically found is someone in the scene exposing his or her resistant and sometimes evil heart as well. With David, it was his wife Michal who looked out through a window and saw him leaping and dancing before the Lord. Her response in II Samuel 6:16 was that she “despised him in her heart.”Notice in verse 3, as Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair, the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. In other words, the very aroma of the gift that she used to demonstrate her love and worship to the Lord had filled the room. Immediately, Judas’ heart was exposed. Though he thought he could camouflage his true motives with noble sounding words, his hypocrisy was evident in verse 5 when he began to make a big deal about the cost of Mary’s gift. The disgust in his voice for Mary’s costly and selfless act was heard. Later he made a deal with the chief priests. He betrayed Jesus for less than one third of the price that Mary spent on the spikenard.
“Nardos” was an extremely fragrant oil extracted from the stem of a rare plant in India. The Arabs called it the “Indian spike.” The adjective “pistikos” is attached to it in the New Testament. In Greek it means “genuine.” So, spikenard in its truest definition is genuine oil. The oil is the anointing. The anointing is an awesome and sacred gift. Judas was saying, “Why don’t we sell this rare and costly anointing of worship and give it to the poor?” He was suggesting that the genuine anointing should serve his selfish desires. The implication was that the anointing had been wasted on the feet of Jesus rather than poured into his pocket. As John pointed out, Judas didn’t care about the poor. It seems that today many, like Judas, have already set in motion a series of events that will surely lead to destruction if they do not repent. Judas was not the last guy to try marketing or selling the anointing for personal gain.
In verse 5, we find a profound revelation hidden in his question to Jesus. He breaks in with, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold?” I wonder if he had already sold his. His rejection of Mary’s demonstrative exposing of heart was the exposing of his heart as well. It set into motion a chain of events that ultimately caused him to betray Jesus, and eventually hang himself—he had some issues. Imagine, he was one of the twelve, and he was a part of the leadership. His true colors came bursting through when this lady worshiped. When true prophetic worship is taking place, it will stir the spirit of everyone present, whether they are pure or evil. Lazarus did not react to what Mary was doing—he just continued to sit. Martha did not react to her sister’s taking the attention of the Lord. No, her heart was worshiping through the whole thing.
Anointed, prophetic worship will bring out the best and the worst in us. That is why it is so vitally important that we are careful with what we call “prophetic worship” or “prophetic song.” I would encourage us all to consider this the next time we are tempted to debate over worship. The debaters are sometimes the betrayers who refuse to repent and become worshipers. Those tempted to think that their act of worship is to be the focus are in serious delusion in regard to their anointing, when it is simply not the “genuine oil.” That’s why we need to pray for better noses, or better discernment. We have become so accustomed to smelling perfumed flesh, it has become difficult to discern the “genuine fragrance.” We need to give careful attention to the issues that are in our hearts and minds, especially when we are in an atmosphere of worship. Sometimes the thieves are not as obvious as Judas. When the spirit of prophecy comes to liberate us, many times a critical and judgmental spirit comes as well. If we submit to it, it will bring death.
Let her alone.
After giving much attention and research to verses 7 and 8, I will paraphrase what Jesus said of the matter. I will do my best to capture the spirit of His words. Remember, He was responding to Judas and He used it as an opportunity to speak to everyone in the room, as well as the whole world. He said, “Let her alone, dismiss her from your critical and judgmental babbling. Your selfishness has blinded you from receiving the prophetic revelation of this night. Let her alone lest you contaminate the purity of the aroma that has filled the room. She may have expressed her worship in an unorthodox manner and offended your selfish mind and agenda, but in so doing she has prophetically set into action events that will lead to My death and yours. Because of the purity of her heart, she has become the only one in all of mankind to anoint Me for My burial. She has prophetically announced to you and to the world that My time to die is at hand. The feet that she has anointed are the feet that will use her enemies as a footstool. As for the poor that you seem so concerned about, they are not going away. I am the One that is going away. My Father sent Me from heaven thirty-three years ago to a manger. Wise men came and worshiped Me and anointed Me to live here. Tonight I have been worshiped and anointed to leave. This anointing is not to be bought or sold. Mary has guarded her heart and her gift for this time.”
I hope we can learn from what we have seen at this gathering. We have looked at the many actions and motivations of this diverse crowd. Today, in a corporate setting, if we had the spiritual sensitivities and prophetic insight, we could look around the room and see the “Martha’s,” the “Lazarus’,” the “Judas’,” the “chief priests,” and the “disciples.” Hopefully, somewhere in the crowd, we would be sure to see the “Mary’s.” The next time you know you are going to be at the feet of Jesus, I pray that you will have a Mary heart.