Series 47


by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Mark 14:1-9

In coming to this study it will help us to read through Mark 14:1-9 several times. By doing so we shall not only be informed but we shall be captivated by this beautiful incident and impressed with the lessons it teaches. The words we should particularly notice are in verse 8, “She did what she could”; or, as they really mean, ‘She has done what lay in her power’. Our Lord’s word of commendation seems to be the pivot around which all the teaching of this incident centres. Two great elements are contained here: first, the element of worship, and then that of service. Through worship we give something to the Lord, and through service we do something for the Lord. Both these privileges blend together in Mary’s loving act. Her worship is seen in verse 3, where she expresses her love to the Lord in a wonderful way; her service is seen and commended by Him in verses 6 and 8. Think now of the privilege of Christian service and of its permanent value in God’s estimation.


1. The Meaning of Christian service

What do we mean when we, as believers, talk about serving the Lord? Sometimes we get a very limited conception of what really constitutes Christian service. We think it means being a minister, a Sunday school teacher, a preacher, and so on; but does Christian service only consist of these? No! We are all saved to serve (Ephesians 2:10). So our definition of Christian service, against the background of this incident, is that it is doing things for Jesus – compare again verses 6 and 8, and notice in verse 6 the words “to me” and in verse 8 the word “did”. There are boundless opportunities open to us all to serve the Lord, and even if we give a cup of cold water in His Name we are doing this for His glory (Matthew 10:42). Notice, however, the qualifying word in our definition of Christian service. It is doing things for Jesus – that is, out of love for Him and in order to bring glory to Him. So all of us can serve.


2. The Measure of Christian service

How much are we to do for Him? All our Lord expects is that we do what lies in our power. This is the meaning of His word in verse 8 – “She did what she could” – no more, no less. If we really love the Lord, in the most unconscious way we shall do what we can for Him; we shall do it for others, but in doing it for others we shall be ministering to Him. So an evangelist will preach – this is what he can do for Jesus; a mother brings her children up for the Lord – this is what she can do for Jesus…What are you doing for Jesus? What is the measure of your service? Are you doing what you can and serving Him to the limit of your power? The scope for service is unlimited! – for example:

  1. 1. Why not open your home to your friends and neighbours for an informal meeting of testimony or prayer?
  2. 2. Why not start a regular ministry of letter-writing to people who are in need?
  3. 3. Why not collect together booklets for distribution to people with needs?


3. The Motive of Christian service

What was Mary’s motive? Why did she worship the Lord like this and express her appreciation of Him in such loving service? Did she do it to get prominence, to be seen by other people, to gain the Lord’s praise? No, she did it simply out of love for Him. Notice again in verse 6 the words “to me”: that is the true motive for Christian service. What is our motive for preaching, for holding office in the church, for taking a Sunday school class…?

    A man named JANIUS once had a dream, and the question was asked, ‘How much zeal have you?’ His answer was, ‘I have one hundred pounds weight of zeal’. As he dreamed on, an analysis was presented to him of his zeal, headed:

Analysis of the zeal of JANIUS, a candidate for a crown of glory
(Weight in mass – 100 lbs).; of this, on analysis, there proves to be:

Bigotry 10 parts
Personal ambition 23 parts
Love of praise 19 parts
Pride of denomination 15 parts
Pride of talents 14 parts
Love of authority 12 parts
Love to God PURE ZEAL } 4 parts
Love to man PURE ZEAL } 3 parts

Ask the Lord to search your own heart, and look up Psalm 139:23-24.


4. The Memorial of Christian service

In verse 9 we are told a very wonderful thing. Our Lord declared that Mary’s loving act would never be forgotten; it would remain (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Mary’s simple act of service, done for Jesus’ sake, would never be lost. Heaven and earth would pass away, but the record of what Mary had done, the pleasure it brought to the Lord, and the blessing that it would bring to millions of others, would never pass away. This tells us that every little act done out of love for the Lord Jesus abides for ever.

If you go to London you can stand in Trafalgar Square and look up at Nelson’s Column. You will be looking at a memorial of Lord Nelson, who was killed in 1805 and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral. But if you go to the Heavenly City you will see many other monuments there. What are these? They are memorials of the loving service rendered by the saints during their pilgrimage here on earth – look up Daniel 12:3.