Hello, and welcome to a new week of the STC Daily Podcast! My name’s Abby, I’m part of the staff team at STC and it’s a real privilege to be reading the Bible with you and sharing some of my thoughts this week. You’ve got me today, tomorrow and Thursday and then I’m delighted to have snuck in two guests as well – Clarissa Finnemore will be on the podcast on Wednesday and then one of our students, Sarah Carroll will be finishing off the week on Friday, so do listen out for them, I’m really excited to hear what they are going to share!
It’s been quite a journey through the book of Matthew! It started off with a bang with Jesus’s teaching through the sermon on the mount, we’ve followed Jesus’s practical ministry of many miracles, healings and training the disciples up, we’ve worked our way through the parables and now we’ve reached chapter 26 and are into the last weeks before Jesus’ death and resurrection. The verses that I’m going to focus on today describe a beautiful moment where a woman offers everything she has, to worship Jesus. The passage is Matthew chapter 26, verses 6-13 which I’ll read for us now.
“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Now firstly, just on a very practical note, when I stopped and thought about this scene I did wonder whether having a bottle of perfume poured on your head would be quite as pleasant as it’s made to sound, but I think refreshing ointment is probably a more accurate description, if that just helps you to set the scene in your head!
I don’t know about you, but I really resonate with how indignant the disciples felt here, about what they perceived to be a real waste of precious resources that could maybe have been better used elsewhere, particularly as they suggest in this case, in helping the poor. I imagine they must have been wondering why Jesus wasn’t reacting like they were. But from what we’ve already seen in Matthew and do see in the rest of the gospels, there’s no doubt that Jesus has a heart for the poor and also teaches a lot about using our money and resources wisely – the very fact that he’s in the house of Simon the Leper while he’s being anointed demonstrates how Jesus reaches out to the oppressed and the marginalised and I would love to talk more about that another day, but that just isn’t the main point that I think Jesus wants to make here in this moment. Jesus isn’t saying at all that we shouldn’t be concerned for the poor, that’s kind of a given, instead what we are challenged about here is what is first in our heart.
I think this moment is about worship. In pouring an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, the woman is offering her ultimate worship – she recognises Jesus for who he is and the devotion that he deserves. She knows that Jesus deserves extravagant, sacrificial worship – in fact scholars think that the woman could have used all of her wealth to buy the perfume – there’s a challenge and a half!
The woman saw the opportunity here to be in the presence of Jesus and fully embraced it. As I’ve been thinking about this passage, I’ve been struck again that we have the opportunity to be in the presence of Jesus, all the time, through the Holy Spirit. We’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about what it means to worship, particularly while there was the opportunity to be back in the building on Sundays and we couldn’t sing and it’s, rightly I think, forced us to think again about what is at the heart of worship.
Something that I started finding helpful in the first lockdown and have found I’ve continued doing since is just taking time to stop and be with God, in his presence, no agenda, maybe with a worship song on in the background. Now I really enjoying singing in worship, especially where there’s a juicy harmony involved, but I’ve found myself more and more just stopping and hearing God’s invitation to be still with him. It took a while to settle into that – maybe it’s just me, but I think we can often have a reaction like the disciples when we come into God’s presence, and feel that just stopping and enjoying being with God is a waste of time, or too extravagant, when there are so many things to be praying for in the world right now, shouldn’t we be bringing those to God, or shouldn’t we be seeking God and asking him to speak about a particular thing. And I’m not saying that isn’t part of spending time with God, it’s definitely an important aspect, but I think that needs to come out of recognising who God is first, and that he simply invites us into his presence, like the woman in these verses recognises – in that moment we’re to bring a sacrifice of worship to him. I’ve begun to realise that I so often miss out on the opportunity to just be with God as I can get so distracted feeling like my time would be better spent elsewhere. In verse 10 Jesus says, ‘she has done a beautiful thing to me’ – I would love to worship in a way that Jesus would call it beautiful.
So my question for us to ponder: How can you wholeheartedly worship Jesus today, and give him the worth that he deserves? Where do you need to switch off or shut away the distractions, and say yes to Jesus’s invitation to be with him?
Jesus, thank you that you invite us to spend time with you, in your presence. Help us not to miss that opportunity and may this day be an offering of our worship to you, Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 26:1-16
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, ‘As you know, the Passover is two days away – and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or there may be a riot among the people.’
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.’
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’
Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.