Recently, Ashley, our youngest daughter, relayed a new bedtime-stall tactic created by our three-year-old granddaughter, Lucy. On this particular night, Lucy was weeping bitterly over everything and everyone trying not to go to bed. The routine is that she snuggles with one of her parents (or when we are around at bedtime she asks for one of us) who then read her a story, pray with her, and then snuggle for a few minutes before she goes to sleep. On this particular night, we weren’t there, and Mommy and Daddy had done everything they could to get her to sleep, her last resort was to cry out, “I just want to snuggle with God, but I can’t see Him.” This story has pushed me (Sonya) to ponder a recent Sunday School lesson. My thoughts were like this: If all of the different people with which we have relationships were gathered around a table, what perceptions about relationships would we discover?
We have all, no doubt, had the privilege of having some amazing relationships with friends, co-workers, and family members. I have a love relationship with my spouse that is one of the true treasures of my heart. When we had children, they brought a whole new meaning to the concept of relationships. And if you are a grandparent — well that is a relationship that is inexplicable. But of all these relationships, the one I value most is my relationship with my Savior.
Many people never realize this, but relationships are costly. As I thought about those who would be gathered around the table, I realized that our perceptions about the connections we have with others varies greatly. Some invest extravagantly in their relationships while others seek only to benefit from those to whom they are connected. Some see limited value in either the process of building a relationship or in the results. If you read the gospels, you discover that Jesus experienced both extremes. Many times, He gave extravagantly to those around Him and received very little in return. For example, do you remember the story of the ten lepers that He healed, but only one returned to worship and say thank you? Or the story of Judas – the one in whom He invested three years of His life mentoring and discipling only to be betrayed by a friend’s kiss?
But the story that provoked my thoughts about relationships and how we see (or do not see) them is the account of Jesus when He was anointed at a dinner party. You find this particular story in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and John 12:1-8. This was so important that we have the same even described from three different men who had three different perspectives and very different perceptions. Yet, they tell a very similar story. We see in these verses once again the extremes of what was invested in the relationship and how different people perceived our Savior, Jesus differently. For Mary, the woman who anointed Jesus, the cost of either the alabaster box or the expensive oil was never a consideration. Both were hers to hold onto or to give away. Her only desire was to give her best to the one who had given her the most. She saw her Savior, and she used a perfume that was normally used to anoint kings at their ascension to the throne or to prepare a body for burial. How appropriate that she unwittingly did both for Jesus giving no thought to her sacrifice — a sacrifice of worship.
The other extreme that we see in this story, sadly, is the reaction of the disciples to Mary’s action. Those who sat at the table became indignant over the extravagance. They called it a waste, proclaiming that there were better uses of these sacrificed resources. They thought the worship of her Savior was extreme. Too extreme. They saw a way to make ministry easier for themselves. These things should have been sold because everyone knows that a heavy money bag would certainly make feeding the hungry and clothing the naked — the very things Jesus had told them to do – easier, requiring less faith or self-sacrifice. Or in the case of Judas, John’s gospel tells us that the heavy purse would provide him with resources he could use for himself.
Immediately following this story, we see Judas negotiating with the enemy the cost of betrayal. Some say that the betrayer saw a way to use Jesus’ claims to force Him to be the kind of Messiah the Jews had always looked for: a conquering king come to throw off they shackles of the oppressive Romans. But that was never meant to be, at least not this time around. Most, however, believe that he saw this simply as a way to personally benefit his own bank account. Either way, how sad that this man’s perception of his relationship with the Savior was so superficial and self-serving. Judas had witnessed the same miracles as all of the other disciples. The Savior had washed his feet just as He had done with the other eleven. But for Judas, his investment in the relationship with Jesus was minimal at best. All he could think about is, “What’s in it for me?”
Could that be the same problem affecting countless numbers of church-goers and church-members who are looking for some type of deliverance? Week after week they attend a worship service looking for some sort of benefit for themselves never realizing that worship is about sacrifice – self-sacrifice. Worship is costly. It is expensive. True worship requires extravagance. In fact, Paul tells us in Romans 12 that true worship is presenting our entire beings on the altar as living sacrifices in service to a Holy God, and that is only our reasonable service. What are you holding back in your precious alabaster box? Would you be willing to give it all to worship the Savior? I hope so because that is the only way to truly worship and experience the kind of relationship that He longs to have with you.
Ben and Sonya Hayes