Truth Seekers Ministries Presents…
The Alabaster Box
“Wherever this Gospel is preached on earth, you also tell of what She has done unto me, as a memorial to her.” Matt. 26:13
This particular event, in the final days of Jesus life just before the crucifixion, is spoken of in Churches, but, just what, was so important, about what this woman did, that warranted Jesus command to tell her story, alongside the Gospel of Christ, proclaiming them co-equal with each other? The sad fact is that all too often, myself included, this act of faith by this woman is not proclaimed as loudly or often as is the Good News of the Gospel. Since I have taught on most every aspect of the Gospel, plus much more, I need to devote a study just for this subject. In order to get an accurate, complete story of just what actually occurred during this “Anointing”, lets look at each section of scripture in the Gospels that allude to the event in question. Then I’ll start my commentary.
MATTHEW 26:6-13 KJV;
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat, But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
When Jesus understood it, He said unto them. “Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”
MARK 14:3-9 KJV;
And being in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious, and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence and have been given to the poor, and they murmured against her.
And Jesus said. “Let her alone, why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good, but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could, she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”
LUKE 7:36-50 KJV;
And one of the Pharisees, desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
And Jesus answering said unto him, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him. “Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss, but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins which are many, are forgiven. For she loved much, but to whom little is given, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said unto the woman, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper, and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary, a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simons son, which should betray him. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
The most obvious things that are noticeable when comparing the four accounts, at least to me, is the fact that they were dining at Simon the Pharisee’s house, who was a leper. His son is Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. Although, John’s Gospel seems to imply that they were at Lazarus’ Home, for even Mary and Martha were present at the dinner. However taking all of the gospel accounts as true, John never actually states who’s home they were eating at. He does however give us the name of the person to whom the first three gospels just refer to as the woman, the sinner, etc. Mary, the Sister of Martha is the woman with the “Alabaster Box”. These are the sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. This family was a favorite of, and very close friends with, our Lord, and Mary loved to listen to Jesus. In fact another time at Lazarus’ home, Mary was listening to Jesus, and Martha was cleaning. Martha became frustrated and tried to get Jesus to admonish Mary, to make her clean up also. Jesus, however states that Mary had chosen the better way. For although the needs of cleaning up have their value, an eternal value is placed on learning from our Lord that far exceeds our physical needs.
No doubt this Mary, had learned much from Jesus during His ministry. She was “in tune” to the fact that Jesus was going to be put to death soon. She probably knew for some time, for she had been saving this perfume for this occasion. Jesus had already proven himself to her as truly, the Messiah, and the sadness of losing her Lord, overwhelmed her to the point that she sobs while embracing Him, cleaning His very feet with her tears. She then breaks open this box, or opens it’s seal, pours the ointment on Jesus’ head, then on His feet.
This “Alabaster Box”, may not look like what you are expecting, it was probably like this ancient Israeli Amphorae. Called an Alabastron, this vessel is similar to what Mary would have used.
Apparently, in the town of Bethany at least, Mary had a reputation. She is not Mary Magdalene, but she was known as a “sinner”. (Luke starts talking about Mary Magdalene just after this text, in chapter eight). Jesus however knew her and her heart, and He loved her. They were close friends. Others at the table, however, at least Simon and Judas, didn’t appreciate her efforts. They became irritated, not at the loss of the “gift for the poor”, but because Judas kept the money bag, and often skimmed off the top. Simon is just as bad, judging this woman. Jesus put him in his place though, even showing us, that in Judging others we bring Judgment on ourselves. Jesus knew her heart, we can’t know anyone’s “Heart of Hearts”, for the most part, and have no right even snubbing our nose at anyone who we see and think of a “lower class”, or “worse sinner than me”, or “just different”, none of that matters, God looks upon men’s hearts, and judgment alone belongs to Him. The only Judgment we are to examine in ourselves, and in humbly helping another believer, is whether or not we are walking in Faith daily. We are to examine our “Faith Walk”, our daily action in response to God’s Word and the Promises we have “In Christ”. Faith is a verb, not a noun. “Pistis” is the Greek Word, and action is required. Simple “Belief”, just don’t get it. It is Faith, “Towards God”. “Apistis” or what we call “no faith”, is actually “faith” in any direction but God. We need to hang our body on a promise of God, live as if the promise is already fulfilled, leaving everything else to God, and if we die without having obtained the promise, then we die in Faith, and our Rewards soon follow.
This amphorae of perfume was worth over three hundred pence, over fifty dollars in Dake’s day, or probably three hundred dollars today, adjusting for inflation. This was very expensive, and I can imagine that Judas’ mouth was just watering before she broke the vessel. Simon, remember is a Pharisee, and probably would have supported the “Money Changers” within the temple that Jesus had to drive out with whips. Judas personality would have rubbed off from his dad, which is why he valued money greatly. Simon himself, probably under God’s judgment for at least “self-righteousness” which may be why he was a leper, then showed off more of his stupidity, by judging this woman, and then his son’s remarks about the “money for the poor”, Jesus, had had, enough. He then proceeded to rip them both a “new one”. I can just see old Lazarus, sitting over there, knowing the relationship Jesus had with Mary his sister, he was probably giggling under his breath, listening to Simon and Judas’ remarks, and knowing Jesus was just about to “let ‘em have it”, while Martha, over in the corner, about to “bust a gut”, holding back her laughter, for they all knew how Jesus felt about the Pharisees and Sadducees, and He wouldn’t stand for Mary being degraded by anyone.
Now, on top of Jesus letting them know that Mary will be remembered for her “Good thing”, her anointing of our Lord, he drove that nail in deeper by stating that her sins are forgiven, that her faith has saved her. Simon couldn’t believe that this man was so bold as to forgive someone their sins. Here, Jesus is exclaiming His Deity, boldly, for no one can forgive sins, save God alone.
So, you say, I understand Jesus judging Simon, and Judas. I understand that this woman “anointed” Jesus for his burial. That is very important, for Jesus was laid in the tomb before anyone was able to add the spices and things needed to cover up the smell of death. Also, His being “Anointed”, as a type and shadow of Jesus as the “Anointed One” of God, is very important to establish as well. However, these are not the real reasons, that Jesus charges us, to tell her story, alongside the Gospel of Christ.
This woman, giving her best, poured out on the altar of the sacrificial body of Christ. Mary had saved and saved, for that perfume. She gave to the Lord, her everything, her best of her best, and her life to boot. Just as God received the offering of Abel, for it was his best, and he refused Cain’s, not because Cain didn’t offer up a lamb, but because it was of the inferior stock of Cain’s crops, God blessed and received this woman’s offering, and we are taught by it’s importance, that we too, are to give Jesus our best, our all, yea, even our very lives.
When you give, are you giving your best? When you work, are you working as unto the Lord? When you pray, read, meditate and study God’s Word, are you giving Him your all, or are you just scraping by?
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not judging. I fail at these things daily, and most everyone that is truthful with themselves will agree with me, not only that I do, but that they do as well. We all need to get off the fence of littleness and sloth, and hop on the train of greatness and zeal. Time is so short before the culmination of all things. Lets show Jesus that He will find “faith” when He returns. Lets show Jesus a Church full of people giving their all for the kingdom.
So, what Jesus is saying, is that along with the Good News of the Gospel, which is the promise of eternal life, reunited with God, through the atoning work of Jesus the Christ, we are to also show what the “perfect response” is, to that “Good News”. We are to, in turn, give to Jesus our all, our best our everything, period. There is no other response needed, he takes just as we are, sin and all. We are to love the “True Church” with our entire being, always ready to aid it, clean it, anoint it. I am speaking metaphorically, although a clean building to gather in is necessary. When we give, charity is one thing, but not as important as when we “Give unto Christ”, of our best. Invest everything you are, into the True Church of Jesus Christ. I am not talking about a particular church, denomination or building either, although if the Holy Spirit is working out of that church, evidenced by the “Gifts of the Spirit”, then you may be called to be a blessing to that church. Jesus gave to His Church, His all, to the point of death, all that He asks is that we give Him our all. As a response to our giving Him our all, we then can claim that statement, “all the promises of God, in Him (Christ), are yea and amen” or “So be it unto you”. When we are “In Christ”, then all the promises of God are ours to claim. There may be conditions involved, for there are conditional promises, but there are also unconditional promises, these are ours too. Claim them all as you walk in faith daily, and until Jesus return, which will be soon, lets show this world the true Light of the Spirit of Christ, hung from the heights, something we are proud of. And the Power of the Holy Spirit in full swing. Jesus would be proud, lets seek that.
With Love in Christ,
Patrick Robinson, Minister