Wondering About Worship
Text: Matthew 28:1-10
Proposition: Worship is the interaction of body, soul and spirit with Christ as we listen, speak and serve Him.
Introduction: We finished up the study on Acts last week and before we begin our next journey together I want to talk with you about something that is key to understanding where we are about to go. The response that people have when they encounter God, the experience they have in not only believing in the existence of God but in hearing from Him, the difference it makes in their lives when they obey His direction and see His providing hand… all this is part of what it means to worship God. Albert Mohler said that, “Nothing is more important than our understanding of worship, for our concept of worship is inescapably tied to our understanding of God and His sovereign authority to reveal the worship He desires, deserves, and demands.” What becomes clear to us is that the way we worship is secondary to the motive we bring to worship and that in turn is secondary to Who it is we worship. You can lift up your hands or not, you can pray out loud or not, that is secondary to your motive in worship and your motive is directly dependent upon Who you understand Jesus to be as He meets with you. Hang onto that thought as we look at a passage of Scripture that shows us what worship not only looks like but invokes out of us. Have a look at Matthew 28:1-10.
I. Worship Is Initiated By God, Not By Us.
That sounds like it’s wrong, isn’t it our act of will to come before Him that creates the moment of worship? I would say NO, it’s our act of will to be obedient to what we know to be true and it’s as we move forward in obedience that Jesus initiates worship. Look at the passage we just read. The women move in obedience to this amazing and somewhat terrifying encounter with the angels. So in obedience to the angels, but really in obedience to God’s revealed will though the angels, they go. In fact they run, they run with fear, the great fear of the Lord that gives us perspective in life. They run with joy because they believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. It’s the joy of an anticipated reunion, it’s the joy of being close to Jesus where His power and His authority shelter them. However you describe how they run, it’s as they run bringing good news that Jesus is suddenly there in front of them. The writer of this gospel, Matthew simply says, “…behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.”It’s Jesus who initiates the encounter, it’s Jesus who draws the women into worship. You might be thinking this was a very unusual event, how can we conclude a general principle about worship from such an extra ordinary moment? That’s a good question but when Peter worshipped Jesus in the fishing boat the day the net almost burst, who initiated that encounter? When Saul met Jesus outside Damascus who initiated that encounter? Every time we see people worshipping God in the Scripture it’s the result of an action that God initiated whether that be the actions of the priests in the Temple or the actions of Abraham on Mount Moriah with his son Isaac. Test that principle in Scripture and then test it in your own life. When you worship it is not an act of your duty towards God. If that is what you are doing then you are practicing religion. When God initiates a response in you to fall before Him, to see the reality of Who Jesus is as our risen Lord and Saviour, then you move from going forwards in obedience to entering into worship, a worship initiated by Jesus Christ. That sounds like an extreme thing to say, but let’s look at it more closely.
II. Worship Engages You, It Calls You, Body, Soul and Spirit.
This is what we see in the women’s response that day, “…behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.” What do you think was going through their minds, through their souls, if you will? If we regard the soul as the emotions, intellect and will of a person, what do you think was going on in their souls? I would think that it would be a tumbling turmoil full of re-joy, finding joy again. I don’t think they were worrying grass stains on their dresses or what to cook for lunch. Worship invites your soul to be joy full, to be all in. What of their body, what did worship require of their physical being? They held Him by the feet. I’d say that infers they were kneeling or more likely laying right out flat on the ground, faces down hands clinging to His feet. In the Old Testament the word that is continually translated ‘worship’ is the Hebrew word ‘shachah’, literally it means ‘to bow down, to lay at the feet of’. It’s the word that described the actions of Abraham and Moses. David used this word the most in his Psalms… “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” Psalm 95:6. When your soul and body ‘shachah’, your spirit also is called to bow before Jesus. Do you remember the words of Jesus to that Samaritan woman at the well, perhaps one of the greatest conversations Jesus had about what it means to worship, a conversation He initiated. Jesus says to her, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” Then Jesus says this, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The point that is made here is that when Jesus initiates worship in us He is calling all of who we are to move towards Him. The Greek word that Jesus used for worship here is ‘proskyneō’, in essence it means, ‘to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence’. Worship calls you to ‘kiss the hand towards Jesus’, in an expression of deep love and yet deep reverence. Would you say that is what worship looked like in those women who lay at the feet of Jesus that day? God intiates worship, calling all of who you are to bow before Him, to let your intellect, emotion and will instruct your spirit to demonstrate your profound reverence for Jesus.
III. The Purpose of Worship is to Declare the Glory of God.
The English word ‘worship’ is a combination of two words, ‘worth’ or value and ‘ship’ which means something like shape or quality. So worship in its simplest form is a word that describes the shape or quality of what you value. When we direct that word towards the Lord Jesus Christ we are saying that He is absolutely worthy of all glory and honor and power. We are saying that the shape or quality of Christ’s worthiness is incomparable, it’s higher than anything else in all creation. When you begin to declare that Jesus has that kind of worth ship you are beginning to describe the glory of God. You are beginning to describe God for Who He really is. You begin to glorify God exactly as you should, exactly as He designed us to do. What I’m saying is that God designed us to have the capability of worship, that He initiates that action of worship in us, calling us to declare His glory through worship. So push that thought just a bit further, why does God direct us in such an irresistible way to proclaim His glory? Is it that God in some sense needs our worship? No, that would take away from the very sovereign nature of Who God is, He needs nothing from us to be who He is. So then what could be the purpose of our giving glory to God? Consider how the NIV puts Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” In view of God’s mercy, what view would that be? It’s a view of the mercy of God that looks like Sonrise at Calvary, it looks like the view of God not giving us that which we do deserve, God’s forgiveness from sin restrains God’s wrath. When Jesus died on the cross for us He did so because of the Father’s will to pay for, to atone, to take away the sin of the world. That was what redemption did but the greater plan behind redemption was not just that we would gain a sinless state and thereby eternal life, it was so that Who God is would be clearly seen. In view of the mercy of God, present your body, soul and spirit as a living sacrifice, not just holy but also that which brings great pleasure to God. It’s why He designed you to be the way you are and it’s within your capability, it’s your reasonable service of worship. What will that look like in us? The next verse amplifies it, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” What is the purpose of worship, it’s that you may prove what the will of God is and in so doing prove Who God is to all creation. Jesus Christ is Good, Acceptable and Perfect. One last thought, look at what worship resulted in for those women at the feet of Jesus feet that day. Matthew 28:10, “Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Worship invites you to meet with Jesus, to listen to Jesus and then to go and speak about Jesus. It’s how He intends that others will meet Him too.