Okay, I am going to be completely honest. The first time I heard this phrase, I had NO idea what it meant. What in the world is an ‘alabaster’? Well, never free dearest reader! Google definitions has come to the rescue! It is stated that alabaster is “a fine-grained, translucent form of gypsum, typically white, often carved into ornaments.”
Alright, now that we have that all cleared up, please grab your Bible and turn to Matthew 26 (or you can read below, but you can’t underline, highlight, and journal on this like you can in your OWN personal Bible!).
I want to look at one little section in this chapter: Matthew 26.6-13
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
To give this section some context, this little get together is taking place right before the Passover. Jesus decides He wants to visit with some old pals and his faithful servant Mary joins in on this little hoo-rah. She even brings Jesus a little gift. Consider the same passage in John 12.1-8:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 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. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
And Mark 14.3-9:
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
They all sound pretty similar don’t they?
So let’s talk about this little gift that Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, chooses to give Jesus. It’s an alabaster flask of oil (or nard, whichever is best for you to picture). She takes it and she shatters it at the feet of Jesus and blesses Him. Jesus says “this is a beautiful thing she has done for me”. So cool, this lady whose brother was raised from the dead by this Amazing, Miracle working Jesus makes this effort to anoint Jesus. We will talk more about the anointing part in a minute, but first, let’s hit pause on the scene of Mary and Jesus and discuss this alabaster flask…
So, a little bit of cultural history here… in these times, most people stored their expensive oils in these little flasks to protect them. However, if anyone wants to access the oils inside, the best way is to just break the flask. First, the flasks are super breakable as it is. Second, the flasks were sealed very tightly in order to keep the expensive oils from evaporating. This just proves how important and expensive these oils are!
It is also known and reported by many Biblical and theological scholars that these flasks of oils sometimes serve as a woman’s dowry or an inheritance from her father, or husband. They are typically saved for anointing deceased loved ones at funerals.
Okay, back to this scene of Mary and Jesus. Picture it in the moment. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus lavishing this expensive oil on Him. And of course, these disciples decide to pipe up and show how compassionate they really are in that Mary could have sold the oil and given the money to the poor, not “waste” the oil on Jesus.
WOAH WOAH WOAH there disciples, do you really think she is “wasting” this oil on Jesus?
Obviously, because they made such a big deal over this, this alabaster flask of oil had some meaning to it. Clearly, it was expensive. It must have been a possession of Mary’s that was of great value. In fact, it could have been Mary’s only chance at getting married. It could have been saved for her dear brother’s funeral, but when Jesus performed the healing miracle and raised him from the dead, she didn’t need it anymore. Heck, she could have just been saving it in case she needed the finances from it later in life. But instead, she breaks it open and anoints Jesus with it. She gives up this “inheritance” or this “dowry”. She sacrifices this greatly valued treasure, all to show Jesus how much she truly loved Him. And, let’s be honest here, it showed how much she trusts Him too.
The Greek word for “anoint” is Chrio. It means to consecrate by anointing; especially to present someone as divinely-authorized. This meant that Mary got it. She understood who Jesus was/is. She found Him to be worthy enough of the most valuable thing she owned. Wow. That is just incredible.
And Jesus, He defended her. He loved every minute of it. He saw her true, genuine heart of adoration towards Him. Unlike the disciples, who let’s be honest, didn’t really care for the poor. They just wanted Jesus to be impressed.
What is also very interesting about this scene throughout the Gospels is that normally these oils are used for anointing loved ones at funerals. Well, Jesus, Himself, even states, “she has prepared me for my burial”.
Another crazy thing, a little blessing that Jesus gave her because of her large sacrifice and recognition of the worthiness of Jesus, is that Jesus said that “wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the whole world what she has done will also be told in memory of her”. Wow. Jesus wants the whole world to know of her actions in preparing Him for burial. Personally, I believe that Jesus wanted her to be an example of how we should respond in rendering our hearts to Him, completely.
I mean, this oil in this flask might have been everything to her. It may have been her future, her marriage, etc. But she didn’t care. She recognized that Jesus is so worthy He deserves her very best, even if it meant she would be without financial security or a spouse. Those things were nothing to her compared to what Christ meant to her.
Now here is where it gets personal. Here is where I am just praying that the Holy Spirit will pull a few cords in your own heart. What do you value the most? Is it your career? Your education? Family? Car? Relationship? Dreams, hopes, goals, and desires? What is it that you place so high on your list of importance that when it is messed with you feel like your life is spiraling downward?
Let me give you a personal example. Mine is education. I have always been told to get the college degree to make the big bucks and get a nice job with a rich husband to support my family and be happily ever after. So, I started my college career while I was still a junior in high school. I graduated with my associates degree before I got my high school diploma. Then, I completed a double major bachelors degree in just three years. Now, of course, I am taking the next step of higher education and pursuing a masters degree.
I love learning. I love writing papers. But in a sense, it is my security. It i my excuse to avoid being an “adult” and truly figuring out what I want to do with my life. But you know what? I never really handed this over to the Lord to allow Him to do with it as He pleases. I always planned it out. I always said “okay Lord, I will agree to be a missionary one day, but just after I finish my education”. Yet, the passion and desire to go to the nations burns within me like no other.
Now, is when Jesus is summoning me to sit at the bottom of His throne. He is inviting me to allow Him to have complete control over this area of my life. He is asking me to render my heart in a position of trust and assurance that He will bring my education to be when He desires and it will be good.
Friends, these things that you value the most, are you letting Jesus hold them completely? Are you allowing the Lord to direct your steps? Are you ready to trust Him with this area of your life? What are you willing to “waste” for the Lord?
Take a step forward and shatter the alabaster flask at His feet. Anoint Him in recognizing that He is worthy. He is worthy to have control over it all. He is worth breaking it for! He is worth the sacrifice. Just as Mary gave up this very valuable and expensive oil to worship Jesus, we can give up the things we place at high value and worship Him as well.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be called to drop out of college and go to the nations as a full-time missionary. You will never know until you break that flask for Jesus.
What is your alabaster flask that you are willing to break at Jesus’ feet?