sweet mess | John 12.3
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:3 | ESV
There she is. Mary shows holding a 12oz. vial of ointment – not cheap, this! Pure spikenard. Hard to come by. A personal treasure she’s hoarded for who knows how long. Intending, no doubt to anoint Jesus’ head with it, she doesn’t make it past his feet stretching away from the table as he reclines there. She pours it out all over his feet, making quite the sweet mess which she then tries to clean up using her hair as a towel for his feet, the fragrance of the ointment meanwhile filling the entire house – an aroma that’s going to be sticking with Jesus for the foreseeable future. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Heaven meets earth with a sloppy wet kiss.
Some object to that line in one of our current popular worship songs. Perhaps it just sounds too sensual, too unseemly for what is received as a refined divine act of love that is the Gospel. I suppose we’re not alone in our objections if we’re the ones objecting – for in this story we have earth meeting heaven with a sloppy wet kiss in return in what struck several present no doubt as a sensual, unseemly, and definitely wasteful public display of affection.
Actually, PDA (public display of affection) isn’t a bad way of viewing the essence of all true worship.Not a mere performance, not merely a planned production or the fulfillment of a duty – God being so obsessed with himself that he commands us to likewise be so obsessed with him, at least at certain appointed times and places that we punctually observe lest we offend.
Want a definition of “worship”?
You don’t need to do exhaustive Hebrew and Greek word studies (as entertaining as those are) or delve into the Old Testament Levitical system of sacrifices and feast days (as enlightening as that can be).
Just watch Mary.
A simple public display of affection that appears to be unplanned using the highest quality ointment that she had been saving for who knows how long, and for God knows what.
But now Jesus is here, at the table. The last time she had seen him her brother lay dead in the tomb and she had collapsed at Jesus’ feet in consuming grief. Now she bows at those same feet from behind, and pours out pure love. Perhaps she intended the ointment for Jesus’ head; perhaps she anointed both head and feet. John just focuses on the feet in what ends up being a “sloppy wet kiss” sweet, messy expression of her adoration and affection.
No one told her to.
It wasn’t on the agenda for the evening.
It was spontaneous, interrupting, and – let’s face it – rather awkward.
How many of us would have joined the chorus, muttering “how inappropriate”?
Yes, this is worship.
A personal treasure poured out in a spontaneous, sweet and messy public display of affection judged as inappropriate and wasteful by onlookers.
Yeah, that’s worship.
How would you personally define “worship”? How does this story of Mary’s anointing impact your definition?
Abba, free my heart and hands to worship freely, without pretense, without being driven by mere duty or obligation, but rather compelled by love that gushes forth in spontaneous displays whether in public or when there’s not a soul present to see. Yes. Teach me the rhythms of true worship. Through Christ.