By Verónica Rodríguez Navarro
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Due to the Holy Week observances, during this month we have heard much about the women who were around Jesus. Talking about them gives us the opportunity to identify ourselves with them, and also to find useful practical knowledge for our lives.
In Mark 14 we find one of these women. This story tells us about the woman from Bethany who anointed Jesus’ head before his death. It also provides a space to reflect more deeply on worship.
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head… Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:3 and 9
Worshiping without conceit: “…a woman came…”
The human tendency is to obtain personal exaltation; make yourself noticed for your abilities, talents or great virtues so that people may see that you are a person worthy of exaltation and admiration. It seems that they seek with eagerness and desperation to occupy the stage of “worship”.
The woman from Bethany knew that Jesus was in Simon’s house. So, as she came to that place, she was only interested in getting to where the Teacher was. She entered that house with a firm purpose: to worship Jesus. She did not care about the people who were there. Her gaze, from the moment she entered, was focused on Jesus, and everything she would do was to please him, showing him that her worship, devotion, intention, time, and action were only to demonstrate that he and nothing else than him, moved her heart at that moment.
Our worship must be without conceit before other people, but perceived and accepted by God.
A detached worship: “…with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard…”
To detach, remove, separate, give away something valuable, luxurious, of great cost to someone else, are the words that can describe the action of surrender of the woman from Bethany.
What is the most valuable possession we have in our life? Would we sincerely be willing to give up that possession to honor God? It implies resignation, humility, submission, loss. What are you willing to lose to make your worship acceptable to God?
The essence of pure nard is very valuable, since it is obtained from a plant that grows in the Himalayas between 3,300 and 5,100 meters above sea level, and is used as a medicinal or perfumery item.
The perfume of pure nard in the life of a woman, and the fruit that it entails, are only obtained in the presence of God, in the heights to which daily prayer and communion with God transport us. These experiences could become the greatest possession of a human being, due to the place where they have taken us. However, presenting this perfume before God takes us even further: to detach ourselves from our will in order to do God’s perfect will.
A fragmented worship: “…She broke the jar…”
Brokenness is the state in which a human being hurts, suffers, is weakened and tried, and can die.
An alabaster was a container made of very fine calcareous stone, yellowish or cream in color with a great variety of designs. In these containers, expensive ointments or perfumes were better preserved. To open an alabaster and get the benefit of its contents, it was necessary to break the top of the jar, and thus dump the contents.
Fragmented worship is that which on many occasions breaks the heart of a worshiper as he is molded by the hands of the Loving Potter of the soul. The worship that the woman of Bethany fragmented in her hands was a reflection of her humble heart before her Lord.
The woman who is fragmented in the hands of God and who allows the pure perfume that she possesses in her being to be poured into God, is the fragrance that rises to God’s presence and releases its aroma to impregnate those around her.
A worship with understanding: “…she poured the perfume on his head…”.
The woman from Bethany was fulfilling one of the last public acts in which Jesus announces his death. She was anointing him for the grave, and unknowingly she was God’s instrument for the fulfillment of the Scriptures.
We must be knowledgeable of the Word, and understanding of God’s movement in the midst of his people. We must be ready to anoint Jesus with our worship, and not lose the privilege that God has given us to be his instruments.
An acceptable worship: “…what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Worship is a conscious and voluntary act in which the one who worships has recognized that God is the only Redeemer and Savior of her life. The grace of Christ on the sinner creates in the believer a “Cycle of Worship,” where God approaches the human being to bless her with His Presence and forgiveness, and the human being responds by adoring God consciously and voluntarily, without expecting anything for herself, just thanking God for the favor she has received. God blesses the human being again in response to her adoration and the human being worships her Lord with surrender. This cycle is repeated over and over again, as long as the human being has memory and the goodness of God does not run out.
The woman from Bethany found forgiveness and salvation in Jesus. Jesus found in the woman real worship and gratitude. The results of this worship were the peace of God in the life of this woman and that her adoration transcended to this day, being remembered as an acceptable worship to God.
More important than highlighting the act of worship of the woman from Bethany, is highlighting the person of Jesus, who moved her to worship in this way. Therefore, the best example of a worshiping person is Christ himself, who came to this world without conceit, detached of himself, was fragmented or broken, understood the fulfillment of his purpose, and was received as the perfect worship before God.
The very thought of offering worship to God in a similar way to what Jesus offered can be overwhelming. However, I invite you to think: What are the challenges that Jesus and this woman bring to your life of worship? What small, conscious steps can you take today to move closer to this kind of worship?
Verónica Rodríguez Navarro is Director of Hudbe School of Music and Ministerial Training. She has an Associate of Arts degree in Music Ministry and Ministerial Training from the Mexican Baptist Theological Seminary in Mexico City, and a certificate in Leadership Studies from the Christian Latina Leadership Institute. She serves as Minister of Worship at Bethel Baptist Church and as Coordinator of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute site in Mexico City.