“Friends, do not assume that because men are disciples, priests, pastors, or elders they are servant-hearted and Christ-centered. There have always been manipulative ministers in the religious circles of Jesus Christ. In addition, do not let these manipulative ministers discourage you from giving worship to God as you feel led. Go to the scriptures to learn how Christ would have you worship.”
In recent days, Jesus has shown his compassion, power, and glory. Lazarus has been healed of his disease and publicly raised from the grave. As a result, Mary and Martha have been healed of their doubt and unbelief; their faith has been improved. Meanwhile, the disciples who have been watching, they have grown in their amazement of the Son of God who brings men from death to life.
Jesus is back in Bethany, and it is time for men and women to glorify and enjoy the Lord. Jesus is in town; he is in the house; it is time to worship, fellowship, and celebrate. Mary and Martha are hosting a dinner for their beloved friend. They are thrilled to serve Jesus and then sit at his feet to hear his words of grace and wisdom. Lazarus and several other men are privileged to sit with Jesus and commune at the table. There is an air of reverential excitement and happiness in the room. There he is, the promised Messiah. There he is, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Mary then explodes in an act of personal, intimate worship:
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)
Jesus is not taken back by her audacious affection. He loves and appreciates the stewardship and worship of Mary. He delights in the generous affection shown to him by his spiritual sister.
Following dinner, the worship continues. Lazarus gives glory and honor to Jesus in his own way — he cannot stop talking about his savior:
When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead … on account of him (Lazarus) many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11)
Jesus loves and appreciates the heralding and evangelism of Lazarus. He is pleased when men do good works, shine their light, scatter seed, share their testimony, fish for men, and seek to make more disciples. Like Mary, Lazarus is a beloved, appreciated, and accepted worshiper in Jesus’ eyes. The Savior loves the doxological affection being shown to him by his non-ordained disciples.
However, ordained religious leaders are not so pleased with the worship of Jesus’ friends.
Judas leads the other disciples in condemning Mary’s manner of stewardship and worship. She is given a tongue-lashing as Judas and the disciples seek to put her in her place. Perhaps the thoughts of the manipulative power-hungry treasurer and his cronies are:
We just can’t have people stewarding and giving their resources in any manner they feel led. We can’t allow people to give how much they want, how they want, when they want, and to whom they want. If we don’t control tithing and giving, we will not have enough resources for this ministry or that ministry. We could not do what we desire with God’s money. This would lead to chaos and institutional decay as we would have less financial power and control. Who cares if Jesus is pleased; give us the money.
Likewise, the priests abhor Lazarus manner of heralding and evangelizing. Consequently, these “godly fellows” begin developing a plot to take Lazarus out. Perhaps the thoughts of the manipulative power-hungry ministers are:
We must silence this unordained, unrobed, charismatic worshiper who is making too much of Jesus. Look, too many people are impressed with his story. Too many people are listening to his teaching. He has not been to school. He has not been approved. If we do not do something fast, we will have less power and control over our congregants. If we sit back and do nothing, too many people will follow Jesus and not attend worship in our synagogues and temples. We can’t have that!
Friends, do not assume that because men are disciples, priests, pastors, or elders they are servant-hearted and Christ-centered. There have always been manipulative ministers in the religious circles of Jesus Christ.
In addition, do not let these manipulative ministers discourage you from giving worship to God as you feel led. Go to the scriptures to learn how Christ would have you worship. Spend time in personal communion with the Holy Spirit. Then, as long as you are worshiping in accordance with God’s directives, ignore the judgmental legislation forced upon you by manipulative ministers.
Finally, priests, pastors, and elders, if we find ourselves to be manipulative ministers who are overly interested in power, control, and institutional advancement, let us repent and leave Jesus’ people alone. Let us not be a Judas. Let us no longer be influenced by a Judas in our midst. Let us allow God through Scripture to regulate his own worship. Then, let us practice Christian charity and liberty and allow the Spirit to lead Christians in worship, even when their manner of worship does not seem to make sense to us.
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.