Today I have been on a retreat for the day. In the morning we were invited to divest ourselves of all the things that trouble us and the buzz that goes on in our heads, and to meet with God in the silence, which was a powerful experience. In the afternoon we were each designated a passage of Scripture and invited to engage imaginatively with the text. Again, it was a powerful and very emotive experience. I found myself afterwards just wanting to go and find somewhere to fall on my face and worship God.
The passage I was given was Matthew 26. 1-14: “When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.’ Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. But they were saying, ‘Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.’ Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.’ Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests.”
I found myself living this story through Jesus’ eyes. And it made me realise how much our worship ministers to Him. Here’s what I wrote:
Of course I knew.
I had known, not quite all along;
it had been a dawning realisation.
But by the time I took up the mantle of ministry
that my Father had prepared for me,
I knew how it was going to end.
I had learned to trust it to my Father
and not let it play on my mind.
But now here we were, the end almost upon us.
I tried to share with them the burden of my heart.
“Two days – only two days more.
By the time we reach Passover
I will have been handed over for crucifixion.”
“Two days, guys! Only two more days!”
Their eyes glazed over,
blind to my anguish, so that in time to come
they could truthfully say
they didn’t know what was coming.
And so I hugged my secret to myself,
the loneliest man since the dawn of creation,
and I walked those streets all by myself,
surrounded by the twelve of them
and yet utterly alone.
And when we entered Simon’s house
to sit down at his banqueting table,
I scarcely noticed the insult,
the failure to wash my feet as for an honoured guest.
I felt rather than observed it,
another pound or two added to the weight
of desolation that pressed down on my shoulders.
But then, like a ray of light from God’s throne,
She crept shyly in, hugging the shadows,
shuffling round the walls to where I sat.
She broke open her soul in the form of an alabaster jar
and poured liquid worship over me.
And in that moment I remembered,
I was not alone; I had a Father who would never leave me.
I was not alone.
The sovereign Ruler of the Universe had seen
the shattered fragments of my spirit
and, through this lowliest of women,
had bathed me in His love.
The others were mumbling, something about the poor.
I wasn’t listening.
I was like a man rescued from the wreck
Of a fishing vessel in the nick of time,
Just before the waters closed over his head.
I reached out, took her hand in mine,
smiled a smile of relief and gratitude,
and told them, “Wherever the Gospel is preached,
this woman will be remembered
for the beautiful gift she has given me.”
And looking round, I could see they still didn’t get it.
But it didn’t matter any more.