Have you ever had a terrible experience of worship? Why do you think is was terrible? I have! I have had awful experiences. I have felt disconnected, I have felt lackluster, I have felt many times like the songs were not my style. I have felt depressed, sad, proud, sinful, and otherwise disengaged. Many of these times in worship were definitely when I should have humbled myself even though I was feeling something else and taken the opportunity to worship with abandon. That is why the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume is so refreshing and inspiring to a worship-less person like me. It makes me believe a person as disengaged, judgmental, and harsh as I am might be capable of authentic worship. Worship is for the needy. Please take a moment and read or re-read the passage in Matthew 26:6-13 that describes the story where this woman anointed Jesus with her costly perfume.
"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”"
Here's what I observed in the passage.
1. Worship is costly (or at least should be).
Notice this woman brings two things into the dinner meeting at Simon's house. First, she brings an alabaster jar. This item in that culture would surely have been very expensive. The Mark account says the woman broke the jar! It's as if the perfume meant for Jesus could not be contained in any vessel, and it must be let out so it can perform the worship and fulfill its purpose. Mark and Matthew also noticed the vial/jar contained "very costly perfume." I have noticed in my own life when I was really giving Jesus everything in worship, those were the moments when giving worth to God usually cost me something. It cost me something in money, time, position, plaudits, social standing, reputation, or something even more valuable. But true worship is finding value in the one who is only supremely valuable. The woman here gave a beautiful gift in the alabaster which was very costly by human standards, but pales in comparison the how costly our master is in His majesty. He alone is supremely valuable, and no gift no matter how valuable could begin to show His supreme worth, but we can and should try. Nothing is ever wasted which is bestowed on Jesus, but the disciples cry "Foul." They say "what a waste!" And Jesus rebukes them.
2. Worshiplessness is often disguised in religiosity.
Notice as the disciples cry "Foul," they say this perfume could have been sold and "the money given to the poor." These guys are thinking along great religious lines, but they are just probably mad they didn't have the idea to anoint Jesus, so they make a super religious comment. They firstly call this act of worship a "waste"; again nothing is ever wasted that is bestowed on Jesus. Jesus hears our faintest cry, and receives our greatest gifts. Whatever those gifts may be, none are wasted that are given in a true heart of gratitude. The disciples cry against the waste of worship, and in the same breath give a religious antithesis to worship: works. This woman finds it easy to worship, and the men find it difficult. I have found that women many times are more capable of high praise. Please do not get me wrong; men can be found also to praise God with great affection, but that is what we as men have to tap into. We need to tap into our affectionate side. This woman tapped into a deep affection for the Lord and unashamedly, unabashedly, and publicly showed her affection. Sometimes I have found liturgy within religion masks an affection the original authors of that liturgy experienced as they wrote those words. How can you strip down the trappings of religion through dead works to authentically, affectionately, and passionately worship the living Christ?
3. Worship is the point of the Gospel.
Since Jesus is greater than all things in the universe (Colossians 1:15-29; 2:2-3) and His death is the greatest thing that has happened in human history, then it makes sense that such a great act of worship by preparing Jesus for burial would be mentioned "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world." I asked myself what was so special about this one act that it would be mentioned in all the world hand in hand with the gospel? The answer is that worship is the point of the Gospel. Proclamation of the Gospel exists because worship does not exist yet in every place in the world. Where worship does not exist, then Gospel proclamation must happen, and what is the message of the Gospel? Receive Christ and worship Him! He is Lord and he's worthy of your alabaster jar, and much, much more than you could ever give Him. Jesus' rebuke of the disciples was this: "She has done a good thing." Christ has done a good thing to us on the cross by receiving us as brothers and making God our Father. So what good thing can we do to Him in response? You cannot clap loud enough, shout loud enough, sing beautifully enough, dance hard enough, or play skillfully enough. As David said, "I could become even more undignified than this." My deepest and most undying affection should only and always be reserved for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So clap, shout, sing, dance, play, weep, kneel, lay prostrate, raise hands, bow, meditate, smile, laugh, rejoice, and break your alabaster jar on the feet of our Lord. Know that nothing is ever wasted which is bestowed on Jesus out of love. This song "Alabaster" by Rend Collective might assist you in pouring your perfume on Jesus. If I worshiped this way every time I had opportunity, then I would never have a bad experience in worship because it's more about Jesus than me!