A Centuries' Old Issue
Whether we are grappling with cultural worship differences or simply the worship preferences of individuals, we should understand that we are not the only generation that has faced this challenge. The issue of flexibility in worship and the acceptance of various worship styles has been around for centuries. An incident recorded in three of the gospels reveals that worship styles were misunderstood even by the earliest followers of Jesus.
In Mark 14:3-9, a dinner was hosted in the town of Bethany by Simon the leper, someone Bible scholars think Jesus may have previously healed. Jesus was the guest of honor. His dear friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were among the other guests, as were the disciples. The book of John mentions that Martha was serving, as was her habit.
At one point, Mary approached Jesus. She carried a polished, long-necked bottle of perfumed oil. She broke open the bottle releasing an exotic fragrance. She poured the precious liquid on Jesus' head and feet, then used her hair to wipe away the dampness.
The other guests, including the disciples, were indignant. A woman had disrupted the meal and wasted expensive oil! This was oil that could have been sold and the proceeds used to aid the poor! They were so offended by Mary's act of worship and they scolded her aloud.
But Jesus saw into Mary's heart. Mary realized that God in the flesh reclined at the table. And that His time on earth was short. She had listened to Jesus' predictions of His death and believed them. The oil Mary offered was customarily one of the spices used to anoint a body at burial. Ultimately, this was the only anointing Jesus' body would receive, and Jesus acknowledged this. Mary's devotion to her Savior compelled her to an extravagant act of worship.
Although the other dinner guests did not understand or approve of Mary's actions, Jesus fully accepted her sacrifice of praise. “She has done a good deed to Me ... wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
May we see the heart behind honest expressions of worship, just as Jesus did! And may we have freedom to worship Jesus from our hearts, regardless of how others might respond!