What is worship? What does it look like?
Probably the image that comes into most Christian minds is people singing. Some might visualize people singing in a church building, others might imagine the saints singing around the throne; but often when we picture what worship looks like, we picture people singing.
Recently, through my devotions in John’s Gospel, the Lord has been taking me through a picture of worship that is revolutionizing my thinking, and suprisingly the scene is void of singing.
The scene is found in just a few verses of John 12 and one verse in particular has really captured my attention:
“Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (v. 3)
How about that for a picture of worship? Probably not the first thing you thought of; until last week, me neither.
But what do we see in this picture?
Well, first: no singing. I know I’m being a bit repetitious regarding this point, but in our modern Christian culture, it probably isn’t a bad point to camp on for a moment or two. It is possible to worship Jesus, and to do so extravagantly, without a note being played. You don’t need a “worship leader” to worship. (I happen to oversee the music ministry in our church and lead the congregation in worshiping through song each week, so I’m not picking on “worship leaders.”)
So, if she doesn’t follow the band or open the hymn book, how does she worship?
It begins with sacrifice- uninhibited, overwhelming, almost ridiculous sacrifice. Look again at what Mary does. She takes this vial of perfume- an entire pound- and breaks it (Mark 14:3) over Jesus. She holds nothing back. She gives it all. She breaks it open, never to seal it up again. She breaks it open to spend it all!
And the cost is almost unbelievable.
Judas (the antithesis to Mary in this scene) complains that this perfume Mary just “wasted” (again, Mark 14) could have been sold for “a year’s wages” (NIV) and given to the poor. Think about the cost of this vial; how much do you make in a year?
And in a few moments this lavish, costly item is broken and spent on Jesus.
How did May come to have such a costly item? Some scholars suggest she was wealthy, others suggest that the item might have been a family heirloom: a treasure kept by Mary, an object of precious attachment. Either way, Mary has given for Jesus that which she will never have back. She has sacrificed that which was costly in order to declare to Jesus (and all around) that she understood His tremendous worth.
This is worship and here is a powerful picture of what it looks like.
(There is more to see in this picture: the humiliation of her worship and the revelation produced as a fruit of her worship, but we’ll leave those for later.)
For today, join with me in reflecting upon the last time you sacrificed greatly for our Savior.
What costly sacrifice have you made for your Savior? What have you surrendered to declare His tremendous worth? When was the last time you were so overwhelmed by His glorious worth that you broke your costly vial over your Savior? What might those vials be?
What about your child? We desire to guard our children and protect them from anything and everything; do you think that we can ever get in the way of what God is doing? Maybe we should let them fall and learn so that they can discover that God, not us, is really the One they should be looking to.
What about your dreams, your desires for your life? What if they aren’t part of His sovereign plan? Are we willing to surrender them at His feet and echo His words “not my will but yours be done”?
For me, my vial that must be broken is my proud fear that often puts how others percieve me above everything else. I need to surrender that (daily) and say to my Lord, “You are my all consuming desire; whatever You want I will do, no matter how it makes me look.”
Breaking the vial isn’t easy; sacrifice never is. But if we want to live a life of worship, that is a primary part of what the picture entails.
What is Worship?6 12 2007
What is worship? What does it look like?