Today we are finishing up our Chosen series. Throughout this series we’ve been talking
about being loved and chosen by God. We’ve talked about how when we radically
encounter who God really is, in the greatest way possible, nothing is ever the same.
We’ve been exploring stories from the Bible about real people whose encounters with the
love of God transformed them into people of extravagant love and worship.
Today we will conclude this series by looking at the story of Mary, a woman whose
costly sacrifice and worship will inspire, challenge, and encourage us in the best of ways.
Through Mary we will see that When we REALLY encounter who God is, we have a
choice to go ALL-IN.
As I was preparing to speak today I was thinking about that statement and what it looks
like to go ALL-IN. The first memory that popped into my mind was a funny one. I call it
my kick ball story. Mainly because I don’t play kickball so this is my only kickball story.
While I was working on staff here at Gateway they would host staff activities that were
meant to be team building opportunities. They usually revolved around some sort of
friendly competition. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t like these events. And to be even
more transparent I tried often to get out of them.
The year before we had a kickball event I’d been sick so I didn’t have to go. But this
year, I had no excuse. I was dreading it. I kept trying to come up with some sort of
conflict but nothing was working out in my favor. I even asked my husband to go play in
my place, because he’s good at that kind of stuff, but he said that would defeat the
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend quality time with my coworkers, it was just that I
wasn’t good at kickball and I was scared of making a fool out of myself in front of
everyone. So, I’d convinced myself it just wasn’t my thing.
As the event was approaching I had a come to Jesus moment. I felt like God helped me to
see that my fear was holding me back from trying new things. Whether I was good at
kickball or not, maybe if I went out and tried, I’d have fun. So I decided to go ALL-IN. I
was going to show up with a good attitude and give it everything I had.
On the day of, I ended up getting to the field late so the game had already started. As I
walked up and found my team they immediately told me it was my turn to kick. Ok, I
thought, here we go. I went up to the plate and with a little bit of forethought tried to kick
the ball away from first base. Then I was off and before I knew it…I had made it! I was
on base! I was so excited but there wasn’t much time to celebrate because the next person
was kicking the ball and it was time for me to make a run for second. As I started to
sprint my way to second base one of my legs started to feel funny, kind of like jello.
Before I knew it my leg was giving out and it was clear I wasn’t going to make it to
second base, so I dove for it! I made it to the plate but, I was out.
You might think I was embarrassed by what just happened, but I’m happy to report to
you, it was quite the opposite. I had tried, I had fallen, AND I was having fun! I had gone
ALL- IN with this game and I had a blast! I didn’t care if I won or lost or even made a
fool of myself because I had overcome my fear by confronting it and that felt like a win
Going ALL IN with anything can be scary because there is usually some sort of risk or
potential cost involved.
Fear is one of my biggest obstacles to stepping out in faith and trusting God with my life.
It’s so tempting to play it safe and to isolate myself in my comfort zone. I wonder if some
of you can relate with that?
What are some of the things that hold you back or get in the way of you going ALL-IN
with God in your life? Is there an area of your life that you are struggling to trust God
with right now?
As we get ready to explore Mary’s story and to reflect on our own lives, let’s pray and ask
God for his help and guidance right now.
Mary’s Extravagant Worship
One of the overarching themes of Scripture is God going “All In!” By lavishing His Love
onto humanity through Jesus, who willingly reciprocates the Father’s love, by going All
In, through his sacrificial life and death…This has been seen by many as reckless and
even unfathomable….but it speaks to the lengths that God will go to demonstrate His
love for us…Because He’s ALL IN!”
But we also hear a story in Scripture of a woman who, in her own right, is All-In for
We are going to be exploring Mary’s story in John 12:1-11 in the NIV which is the new
international version of the Bible. You can also find two other accounts of this story in
Matthew 26 & Mark 14. Each account includes different bits of information that helps to
fill in more completely what happened. But for today’s purposes we will be focusing on
John 12 and will just reference the others.
We will have John 12 up on the screen but you are welcome to pull it up in your own
Bible. If you don’t have a Bible app on your phone the one I use is called YouVersion
and it’s free. It has many features and resources to help you with reading the Bible. I
highly recommend it.
I’m going to read through the whole passage first and then we will go back through it and
reflect on Mary’s story together. As I read it, I encourage you to try to soak it in and
notice any places that particularly stick out to you. You may want to highlight or make
note of those places so that you can go back and reflect on them again later.
Now to set the scene, let’s clarify which Mary we are talking about. Mary is a popular
name in the Bible. This particular Mary is the sister of Martha and Lazarus. You may
recognize both of those names.
This is the same Mary we find sitting at Jesus’ feet, in Luke 10, listening intently to Jesus
while her sister Martha expresses her frustration to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping her with
the hostess duties. In this account we see Mary already prioritizing Jesus above what
others, including the culture of that time, expected of her. Usually the women weren’t
allowed to learn with the men because to sit at the feet of a teacher was for the purpose of
becoming a teacher. Jesus affirms her for making that choice.
Then, Mary shows up again in John 11 where it is recorded her brother Lazarus was very
sick and died, but in a truly miraculous turn of events Jesus comes to them and raises
Lazarus from the dead with many witnesses left in awe, including Mary.
Mary saw with her own eyes something that she would have previously thought was
impossible. She was in full grief over her brother’s death when Jesus called him back to
life! Her brother Lazarus who had been lost to her was once again alive!
For just a moment try to put yourself in Mary’s shoes.
In the days since her brother’s resurrection, can you imagine what Mary must have been
thinking? How she might have been feeling? Can you imagine how amazed and grateful
she must have been? How does one respond to such a thing? How would you respond?
It’s here we pick up with the story…
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus
had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while
Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’
feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why
wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”
He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper
of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for
the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always
“Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only
because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief
priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were
going over to Jesus and believing in him.”
Notice the passage starts by letting us know it’s six days to Passover. The very next event
recorded in John after this one is Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the
praise of many waving palm branches and crying out “Hosanna” meaning “save us now”.
They had the right praise but the wrong expectations of Jesus- they were hoping for the
arrival of a political kingdom, that Jesus would overthrow their Roman oppressors. But
Jesus weeps at the end of the parade we call “Palm Sunday”, this very day over 2000
years ago, because they don’t get it. And maybe there’s something we’ve missed too.
As Jesus prepared to enter Jerusalem he knew what he was walking into. He knew what
was to come. He knew how the mob would turn on him, many would betray him, he
would be beaten, humiliated, mocked, tortured and he would die.
Yet, here in Bethany as all of that looms ahead, Jesus is sitting at a dinner with his friends
being honored and loved by their hospitality. Then, in comes Mary. Picture this scene-
mainly men gathered around this table dining, laughing. Her heart’s beating faster with
every moment that’s passed. She’s been thinking about this moment all day. She takes the
position furthest from the table her back pressed up against that adobe wall. Her hands
clutching the thing that means most to her, and she thinks to herself, “This is it.”
During this time it was common to honor a special guest with a few drops of fragrant oil
on their head but Mary goes far beyond what was customary.
Between Matthew, Mark and John’s accounts we discover that Mary not only pours oil on
Jesus’s head but also his feet and wipes it with her hair. Now usually a servant would
wash the feet of the guests as their feet would be dirty from walking along the dirt paths
with sandals, but what Mary did was far more than usual.
John identifies the type of oil Mary used as a pint of nard oil. Nard oil was made from a
plant mostly found in India which means it was imported and that made it expensive. At
the time a pint of nard oil was the equivalent of a year’s wages. To put this in even further
perspective, it was equivalent to a Roman pound that would feed bread to around 800
people…This oil that Mary anoints Jesus with symbolizes the Gospel message…It’s
costly…and it’s worth it! The other passages about this moment tells the perfume was in
an alabaster jar which she broke in order to anoint Him. She didn’t just pour out a little
bit, she gave it all. She couldn’t put that perfume back in the bottle now! She went all in!
Maybe it was her inheritance or hope chest. She didn’t hold back any for a rainy day or
her retirement. It is fair to say this was the most valuable thing Mary owned and it was
not something that could be easily replaced, if ever.
Mary was also risking her reputation by letting down her hair and using it as a towel to
wipe his feet. Custom required Jewish women to keep their hair bound in public. But
Mary’s act was an intentional one. This was an act of humility and devotion to Jesus. She
could have just given him the lavish gift of oil and it would have been a shocking
expression of gratitude and honor, but she goes further. She not only gives her greatest
possession to Jesus, but risks her very reputation and honor.
Mary put a lot on the line here but her actions were expressing the type of worship she
believed Jesus was worth. Her gift wasn’t an ordinary one, it was an extraordinary one
because Mary believed Jesus was worth her very best, so she held nothing back.
When you realize what He’s done, you hold nothing back.
Extravagant love invites extravagance. Jesus’ extravagant love for us invites an
For Mary, her costly worship emits a beautiful aroma of extravagant love and honor that
deeply moves Jesus.
However, not everyone sees it that way.
As beautiful as this moment is, Judas is appalled. His words are sharp and they sting with
self righteousness, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It
was worth a year’s wages.”
Now we might be tempted to empathize with Judas at first, after all it appears his concern
is for the good that money could have done for the poor. But John cues us into
information that they found out after the fact.
Judas’s motives were self-serving. Judas had been the keeper of the money bag and had
been helping himself to their money and stealing from them. Behind his pious facade
Judas was actually a thief. (If you missed week one in this series, go back and listen to it
as we looked more closely at Judas in that message).
While Mary believed Jesus was worth her very best, Judas’s response implied Jesus was
not worth this gesture.
When you follow JESUS and go ALL-IN, your lifestyle and choices won’t make
sense to a lot of people.
Mary’s worship was true even if others misjudged her. She willingly risked being
criticized by others in order to give her best to Jesus. Going ALL-IN was costly, but to
Mary, Jesus was worth it.
Jesus sees through Judas and offers a compassionate defense of Mary.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for
the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always
Jesus affirms Mary’s actions and reveals that she achieved a greater purpose than even
she may have realized. These types of fragrant perfumes we often used during burial to
combat the stench of death. While Jesus had been sharing with his followers of his
coming death many of them were still unclear of what would happen. Yet we know Jesus
was nearing his death and this oil was symbolic of what was to come.
While the poor would be with them always, Jesus came only once in history to die for all
of humanity and he would be going away soon.
Mary and Judas had conflicting responses to Jesus. Mary’s response to being chosen and
loved by Jesus was to choose him back and to go ALL-IN by devoting her life and giving
him her all.
But both Matthew and Mark’s accounts reveal that it was after this encounter with Jesus
that Judas decided to go to the Chief Priest and to betray Jesus.
According to John, similar conflicting responses to Jesus were also occurring outside.
There were those who were responding in faith and choosing to believe in Jesus and
those who were rejecting him and plotting against him.
Like Mary, each of us is living out our story. And like Mary each of us has a choice to
make. The question I want us all to consider is how will we respond to Jesus? How will I
respond to Jesus? How will you respond to Jesus?
When we recognize that Jesus CHOSE us, we have a CHOICE.
We can choose to pour out our everything, because of WHO He is and what he has
Or like Judas we can walk away.
God’s love draws us in to find a life to the full through Christ. There is an irresistible pull
toward God’s Grace and Mercy…because we know we cannot, on our own, reconcile our
lives back to God….and Yet…wrapped in God’s Grace…is choice….we still have to
choose. And even more challenging to understand…is that God lets us “implode our
lives” if that is our choice. He will not force us.
For those of us who choose Jesus we receive all that his sacrifice purchased for us. Like
Lazarus he calls us out of death and into a new life. As Mark Batterosn put it, “Jesus
doesn’t make bad people good, he brings dead people back to life.” A life where we no
longer live for selfish, self centered gain, with secret motives always at work in the dark.
But instead the life we live we live with Jesus in the light. We let go of former ways that
seemed good to us at the time but led to death, and instead we embrace the path of life
Jesus has set out for us going ALL-IN to live according to his will and his ways.
Christ transforms us by offering ourselves as a living sacrifice; this is our worship and
devotion, that is, pleasing to God. (Romans 12:1-2. paraphrase) We embody and extend
our transformation through Christ. In other words, “Our worship goes where our bodies
go!” it’s how God uses us to change the world around us.
And as we come together and unite around our love and devotion to Jesus the power of
God’s love bubbles up from within us and pours out to the world around us as a beautiful
fragrance inviting others, like you and me, to come to Jesus and live. And God’s love
empowers and compels us to be a community of love where we care for & serve one
another (we all need a place like that!) . This God’s design for the church! It is only
possible as each of us choose God back and let his love transform who we are. THEN ‘we
can be a people that pour out that love onto the world around us as a beautiful fragrance
inviting others, to come to Jesus and live. This room had a former dead guy in Lazarus
and a former leper in Simon, this room shouldve smelled like death! But because of her
sacrifice it smells like LIFE. The presence of a king.
“God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet
The question Mary’s story challenges each of us to consider is…
How will I respond to Jesus?
● We can respond like Judas and walk away disgruntled when God doesn’t do our
will our way
● We can respond like the crowd on Palm Sunday wanting him to wave a magic
wand over the superficial issues in and around us “We HOPE you’re the one. Fix
our country, fix our lives!”
● OR, we can respond like Mary who by her actions said, “I KNOW you’re the One.
You’ve transformed my life. You deserve it ALL”….. We can say, “God if you
never did another thing, you did enough by your life, death, and resurrection.
Your love saved me!”
We want to create space for your response today.
For some of you, your response may be to reflect on what you’ve heard today. Maybe
you have questions and you’d like to talk to someone. Feel free to fill out a connect card
and go to the connect spot and let them know you are wanting to have a conversation
For others, you may be ready to go ALL-In with Jesus for the first time and you’d like
someone to pray with you and to guide you through that. If that’s you, our prayer team is
up here ready to talk & pray with you now.
For everyone who has chosen to go ALL-IN with Jesus we’d like to invite you into a time
of reflection and remembrance that we call Communion – which we take on the first
Sunday of every month and at our worship nights. Jesus called his followers to observe
communion together regularly as a way of reflecting on our lives and identifying any
areas where we may have fallen back into old patterns of selfish, self-centered living.
This serves as an opportunity for us to address our own hearts on a regular basis. Think of
it like yard maintenance but instead it is heart maintenance, taking the time to notice and
pull up any weeds that are starting to take root in our lives. We are especially encouraged
to work out differences or conflicts with each other when at all possible, being quick to
forgive each other as Jesus has forgiven us.
We take Communion together to remind us that we are now “one body in Jesus” so just
as all the parts of a body work together to care for the whole body, so should we. We are
reminded that how each part of the body treats the other parts of the body is important.
So, we should work out our differences so that we can remain in communion with one
another in Jesus, and so that fighting between us doesn’t distract us from loving the world
Communion also serves as a time to remember Jesus and to encounter his love for us
afresh by reflecting on his sacrifice. The sacrifice of His life poured out for us, His
everything laid down for us. Jesus is the ultimate example of life- changing love poured
out through his substitutionary sacrifice. He took the just consequences for our wrongs so
that our debt would be paid and justice would be served. And in return his gift to us was his life…resurrection life that has now and forever defeated and overcome sin and death.
So that those who choose Jesus may walk with him in freedom and victory forever. Take this time to reflect and to do some heart maintenance between you and God. Ask Him for forgiveness. Ask Him to show you who you need to forgive. Ask Him for what He wants you to confess and what to surrender.