Extravagant Worship: Jesus is Anointed
[Inside: Extravagant Worship: Jesus is Anointed / Week 2 of “A Journey to the Cross: 40 Days in the Footsteps of Jesus”]
What, in your life would you describe as extravagant? What item or activity or behavior? Go ahead… I’ll give you a minute. Having trouble thinking of something? Nothing coming to mind? Me, either.
Extravagant is a word that many of us don’t use very often. It’s a word that doesn’t describe very many things in my everyday life. We tend to reserve the word extravagant for only the very extra special. The things that are out of the ordinary, beyond the normal. Extravagant is defined as exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate or excessive (implying an amount or degree too great to be reasonable or acceptable). That why we chose to use it in the title of our blog, Extravagant Hope. Because extravagant is exactly a word that fits our God and His ways. He is exceedingly extravagant in every way. Our worship to him should be equally extravagant.
Jesus is Anointed with Oil
The scene opens in Simon the Leper’s home in Bethany, which is about 2 miles outside of Jerusalem. It is Holy Week, the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus is the honored dinner guest. In attendance are several men and women, including the twelve Disciples.
As the guests are reclining at the dinner table, one of the women breaks an expensive bottle of perfumed oil she has brought along with her. The fragrance of the oil fills the room and she begins to anoint Jesus’ head with the oil in worship to him.
Everyone in the house was aware of her act of worship. The oil was so expensive that it likely came in a marble jar and the fragrance of it would have permeated through the home. The disciples objected to the extravagance of the oil being “wasted” in this way because it was so expensive.
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.” Matthew 26:8-9
What Will Others Think?
The disciples didn’t worship Jesus this way. They were much more practical and reserved in their worship style. The Disciples spent time studying at his feet and serving alongside him through their travels. They didn’t understand this type of extravagant worship. The woman’s worship seemed wasteful and frivolous. If they had their way, the expensive perfumed oil would have been sold and the money used to help the sick or poor.
I find it a bit surprising that the Disciples had no problem voicing their criticism of the woman’s type of worship. They didn’t hold back one bit. Instead of allowing her to worship Jesus her own personal way, at her own expense, the Disciples let it be known to her and to everyone in the room that they didn’t feel that her type of worship was acceptable. They told her exactly what they thought she should do instead.
While the disciples are quick to mention the cost and “wastefulness” of this act… Jesus uses the extravagant worship as an opportunity to draw their attention back to the matter at hand… his impending death and resurrection, and ultimately the forgiveness of all sin.
The Symbolism of the Oil
Pay attention to the symbolism of the oil for just a minute. It’s interesting to note that in these times, oil was used to anoint the head of kings and also to prepare a dead body for burial. When this woman anoints Jesus’ head with the oil, she is symbolically anointing him as King, which he was, even though not all recognized him as such. Jesus was God’s Messiah, from the Hebrew word “Mashiach” which means “Anointed One.” She worshiped him like the King that he is. Her personal King, whom she knew she would only have for a short time before his death.
She was also preparing Jesus for his impending death and burial, which he confirms in Matthew 26:12 “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”
Jesus taught that he would be crucified on the cross. He has been clear with the Disciples at least three times before that he will soon die and not be with them on the earth (Mark 8:31-33, Mark 9:30-32, Mark 10:32-34). Even if the Disciples didn’t understand, or didn’t want to believe it, this woman seemed to take him at his word and doesn’t waste the time she has left in Jesus’ presence. Jesus explains to the Disciples that her worship of him is appropriate because he won’t be in their presence very much longer. Worshiping Jesus is what she should be doing – while she still has the opportunity.
An Example for All
The woman in Matthew’s worship is recorded as an example for all of us, even all these years later. It is that extravagant and appropriate.
Truly I tell you, this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. Matthew 26:13
This woman held nothing back from Jesus – despite what the others thought of her. She is remembered throughout the world as an example of how to worship extravagantly. Through her example, those around her learned how to worship Jesus well, and thousands of years later, we are reading about her and are being challenged to worship as she did.
How Do You Worship Extravagantly?
This woman’s example begs the question, “How is your worship extravagant?” Or, a better question may be, “What do you hold back when you worship?” What are you afraid to give God in worship because of who is watching? How would you be judged by others if you did that? What will people think if you raise your hands in worship? What will they think if you raise your voice in praise either in song or a shout of “hallelujah!”? How will your coworkers react if you mention your faith in God, or how God has seen you through difficult times? What will your neighbors think if you ask them to join you for church one weekend or to attend a small group in your home? What would people think if they knew you were giving away that much time or money to the church?
That’s my new goal – Extravagant Worship. How about you? If anything in our lives should be extravagant… it should be our worship. Let’s believe that we will only be on this earth for a little while, and take the opportunity to worship Jesus extravagantly.
No matter who’s watching.
Or maybe, because of who is watching.
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