The Heart of Worship

John 12:1-8   A Paraphrase and Deduction

Mary had washed Jesus’ feet; all they required was a dab of perfume. It had been an opportune moment. She and Martha were so grateful for what Jesus had done for Lazarus and the dinner was a big ‘thank you’. Mary told the servants to take a break as it would be an honour for her to cleanse Jesus’ feet, and it would give her the perfect opportunity to sit where the men normally did and ask a few questions.
Lazarus, Nathanael and James were engaged in a hearty conversation with James occasionally thumping the table to make his point, when their senses were arrested by the overpowering fragrance of pure nard. A silence fell over the room as they all glanced to where their noses led them. It was the feet of Jesus; they were glistening with the stuff, the empty flask still rolling side to side on the floor. They immediately looked to Mary, her face was shattered, her eyes filled with tears. What had Jesus said? Martha scurried around looking for something to scoop the precious liquid, but Mary was quicker. Perfumed hair was the custom for ladies, and she caught the running drops with her unravelled locks, spreading the excess all over Jesus’ shins and carves. He seemed quite content, even pleased.
Good perfume was reserved for special guests, but to pour a whole pint of nard – a year’s wages worth – on someone’s feet was unheard of. What was Mary thinking? Well it’s not hard to work out. She thought he was worth it. She was seeing more than an honoured guest. If others got a dab, Jesus should get the whole flask! But her actions weren’t premeditated; she had suddenly seen something she hadn’t seen before. Later Jesus explained that Mary had anointed him for his burial (7). Had he told Mary he would die? Did Mary suddenly see that he was the Lamb of God and in his death was life for all; including her precious brother? I speculate, but something in her snapped, because she was completely undone! Her response was nothing less than unbridled worship.
But Judas wasn’t seeing it. He couldn’t believe Mary could be so wasteful. A year’s wages on feet! He had a better idea; the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. But John, our author and onsite eyewitness, provides some inside info here; Judas kept the group money bag and sometimes helped himself to the cash; that was the real reason he wanted the money.
John says “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. BUT one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot … objected”. The fragrance filling the house is interrupted with BUT. It’s like Judas and the fragrance were on opposite sides. In scripture fragrance is associated with worship and God’s presence. The altar of incense in the Jewish temple emitted a sweet fragrance before the curtain leading into the most holy place. It is good that the presence or fragrance of God fill the house. With this association in mind the hearts of Mary and Judas are revealed. Mary was prepared to sacrificed worldly things to have God’s presence, and Judas wanted to sacrifice God’s presence to have worldly things. Mary was a real worshipper while Judas was a pretend one. There is a lot to learn from these two attitudes because while we may want to praise Mary and boo Judas, the truth is that there is a bit of both in each of us.
Real worship is simple; like with Mary it’s seeing God and responding. Pretend worship is complicated; like with Judas it’s about hidden agendas. If you have been part of a worship team you will know what I mean. Musicians and singers have to work hard to make sure they are not in it for themselves as Judas was. Worship is always for God and never for us. May we get back to simplicity and cut out the distractions. Fancy song intros may sound good but they have a habit of swinging the worshipper’s focus from God to the musicians, overpowering voices and solo bits usually do the same thing, they draw attention to the ‘performing artist’. Don’t you love Mary’s attitude. She gave all she had gained. It was all for Jesus and none for her. Jesus’ feet were soaked and her flask was empty. Jesus was anointed and she was left looking a fool. But she didn’t care, worship was not for her it was for him. I would like to appeal to our song writers to return to simple worship. We don’t need to compete with the world; we are offering something different. Hear me please; may our albums model worship and not concert. As the next generation of worship leaders arise let’s encourage true worshippers and silence those who want to gain. Worship is for God, not us.

The following video was played: Wimber on Worship

Illustrations: Wimber Video – Worship, it’s for him, A Compass near metal is like a heart near idols, Mombasa Musicians & Money, We worship best when the power is off, A Significant Dream, A worshipper who came to give.

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