Sunday, September 29, 2013

Extravagant Acts of Worship

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on His head as He was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant, "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done for me will also be told, in remembrance of her."  (Matthew 26:6-13)

How often I have read this account quickly and missed what is contained in it. It's slipped in in the midst of the accounts of the plans to kill Jesus. Just a few verses, but they challenged me when I read them a few days ago.

A woman comes to where Jesus and His disciples are. She comes with an extravagant gift of worship for Jesus. She is so focussed on her worship of Jesus that she not only gives Jesus an expensive gift, she also breaks social norms to do it. Her heart is set on worshipping Jesus.

The disciples are watching this all unfold. But they are missing the worship of her act. They are seeing only the cost of the perfume. Money they decide could have been better used to help the poor.

As I read this I began to ponder who I would have been if I had been in the room that day? Would I have been the woman bringing my extravagant gift of worship to Jesus despite what others might think? Or would I have been one of the disciples who missed the heart behind it and judged the act a misuse of money? Challenging questions to ponder.

I think we all have moments of being the woman and moments of being one of the disciples. Although we don't really want to admit to being one of the disciples in this instance.

The person who we should want to be in this account is made clear in Jesus' response to this. He commends the woman for her act of worship. And He challenges His disciples on how they were thinking. Jesus doesn't condemn His disciples for their thoughts, but He encourages and challenges them to think differently.

Who would you have been if you had been there that day?
Would you have been the woman offering Jesus your extravagant worship - not for others to see, but because you felt compelled to do so in your heart?
Or would you have been one of the disciples, judging the acts of worship of another?

If we would have been one of the disciples that day and maybe we are now, the good news is that we don't have to stay that way. God can change our hearts and He offers us a second chance (and many more) to get it right with His help.

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