In our churches, we have a good deal of songs about surrender and giving everything to God. But do these ideas really permeate our lives? Do we really put what we sing into action? Or are they mainly good intentions that rarely influence our deepest hearts, our check books, and the way we make our decisions?
There’s a woman in the Bible who challenges me to live out an extravagant kind of worship, the sort that offers everything—unashamed and unselfish—in its outpouring. Her story appears in each of the Gospels, but here I’ll focus on Mark 14:1-9. It’s clear that her tale is pretty crucial to Jesus, as he said that everywhere the gospel is preached, her act of love would be remembered. That’s a powerful recommendation—I want to learn from her!
Her story is familiar to many of us—she is the woman with the expensive perfume. It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. These festivals were huge in Jewish culture, so although the Chief Priests wanted to murder Jesus, they decided to wait until after all the holiday festivities were over in case people rioted. So Jesus was left alone for a few days, and went for dinner at the home of “Simon the Leper.” It was a small gathering, and it was at that dinner that a woman showed up, uninvited.
I’m sure all of us have experienced what it’s like to be looking from the outside in—wishing we were part of a certain group or gathering, but finding ourselves to be only onlookers. It can be pretty intimidating to walk into a gathering without an invitation, and even more so if you are trying to gain access to the guest of honor. It’s harder still if the room full of guests know about your terrible past and reputation, and look down on you like you’re dirt. Bearing all this in mind, the woman in this story was a very gutsy chick. She walked in, uninvited, past the sneers and distain of the guests, and poured herself out in one of the most vulnerable and intimate acts of worship contained in Scripture.
Display of Affection
I’m naturally pretty shy and reserved, so the thought of walking into that room makes me blush. Even when I am invited to a party, I’m usually a bit of a wallflower! I can’t imagine stepping, uninvited, into the center of a gathering and opening a vastly expensive bottle of perfume, pouring it on the guest of honor’s feet, then sobbing and wiping his feet with my tears and my hair. It all sounds very emotional, public, and awkward. But that’s exactly what she did.
It challenges me, because I know the reason she was able to do this: she was consumed by Jesus and all he had done for her. Her eyes were stolen away from the fear and embarrassment of the situation. She was blind to the sneers of the other guests and deaf to the loaded comments of Judas, who said the perfume should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. She had one focus and it was Jesus and her love for him.
Are we that consumed with him? Are we that grateful—that aware of how forgiven we are—that our fears, our selfishness, our concern about others’ opinions, all fade away in comparison to the beauty of Jesus?
The perfume was worth a year’s wages. Imagine your annual wages in one check handed to you. Would you or I be able to cash that check for a bottle of perfume and just pour it on Jesus’ feet? Would we struggle to give it all away, and to trust that he would still provide for us? For this woman, the money was probably her marriage dowry—saved away and ready to give to her future husband. To spend this meant she was risking her future, because in her era, a woman needed to get married in order to be provided for and kept safe.
This woman challenges me to go the extra mile in my devotion to Jesus. She could have given him the same perfume in private, and I’m sure he would have been moved and delighted by her offering. But she decided that she wanted to go further than that, and interrupt a private dinner to really make the statement of how much he meant to her.
Let’s ask Jesus to make us worshipers who are that aware of his forgiveness that we become extravagant in the way we love him in private and public.
At your next team meeting, remind everyone of the story of the extravagant worship.
Extravagant worship is bold.
Extravagant worship is consumed with Christ.
Extravagant worship is costly.
Extravagant worship trusts God with the future.
Extravagant worship is both a public and private expression.
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