Monthly Archives: July 2012

WHAT’S IN YOUR ALABASTER JAR?

In John 12:1-8, Matthew 26:6-13, and Mark 14:3-9, the story of Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) pouring the perfume on Jesus’ head and feet and wiping His feet with her hair is incredibly profound. A little background helps us understand the situation. The plants used to make perfumes were not native to Israel, so perfume was imported and was very expensive. We are told in the text that the perfume was nard, which comes from a plant grown in India, and that it was worth a year’s wages. The alabaster jar was sealed, making it necessary to break the jar in order to pour the perfume out. 

Now imagine, for a moment, that you were one of the invited guests at that dinner. As you are eating and enjoying the conversation with those around the table, you see someone walking toward Jesus. As you squint through the dim candlelight you notice that it’s Mary. When she gets to where Jesus is reclining (when people ate a meal in ancient times they usually reclined with their feet away from the table) she sits at Jesus’ feet and breaks open the alabaster jar. Immediately, the whole room is filled with the fragrance of the nard, and you are taken aback at how strong the scent is. With your eyes riveted on her, Mary pours the nard on Jesus’ head and feet, lets down her hair, and proceeds to wipe His feet with her hair. Your first thought as she loosens her hair is one of shock as you think: “No, Mary! Don’t do that! Only “loose” women let their hair down in public”. But Mary isn’t concerned about what others may think or say. She is only focused on honoring her Lord in this tangible way. Her actions must have amazed those present at the meal. And they amaze us today.

Where did Mary get such an expensive commodity as nard? Perhaps it was handed down as a family treasure. Maybe it was given to her as a special gift. We’re not told how she obtained it, but we do know that it was extremely valuable. And yet she poured all of it out on Jesus as an extravagant act of devotion. She loved Jesus so much that nothing was to valuable, and nothing to precious, compared to Him.

Another point that is forgotten when reading this story is that the scent of the nard was probably still noticeable on Jesus for quite a while after this event took place. People didn’t bathe very often in ancient times, and since Jesus was crucified about a week and a half after this incident, He, in all likelihood, was able to smell the nard as He hung on the cross. Every time He got a whiff of the perfume during His horrible ordeal, Mary’s love and devotion came to His mind, and this must have meant so much to Him!

What a remarkable testimony for us. As I read this story, a question keeps popping up in my mind – what is my, and your, alabaster jar? What is valuable and precious in our lives? Our careers? Our portfolios? Our hobbies and “toys”? Our families? May I suggest to you that the most valuable thing in our alabaster jars is…ourselves!

Romans 12:1 says: “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”. You see, my friends, the greatest thing we can give God is ourselves. Are you willing to pour out your life at His feet in total devotion to Him? Are you willing to give yourself to Him in total surrender?

What does this mean, and what does this look like?  Think of it as Jesus handing you a contract that details every aspect of your life, but it is blank. He asks you to sign this blank contract  saying that He will fill out the details later. Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? We want to know what we are getting into before we sign any contract. However, breaking your alabaster jar and pouring yourself at His feet means that you sign this blank contract, coming to Him on His terms without conditions or reservations. And you do this freely because you love Him so much.

Does that mean you have to quit your job, sell your possessions, and go to a mission field that is in the middle of nowhere? It could, but probably not. It is a matter of the heart. It is a day to day surrender that purposely, intentionally, and freely yields to His will.

And just as Mary’s alabaster jar had to be broken before the nard was able to be poured out, so, too, do we need to come to Him in spiritual brokenness (that is, totally dependent on Him, knowing that without Him we are spiritually bankrupt and helpless) in order to give ourselves totally to Him.

You know, it is easy to give God bits of our money or our time. But to give Him all of us…well, that’s quite another story! It doesn’t come naturally, automatically, or easily for any of us. But it is the most valuable thing we have, and the one thing that He desires.  

Pouring out the contents of “self” from our alabaster jars is a lifelong journey that must be done daily. However, it is the greatest act of devotion and worship we can ever bestow on our loving, wonderful Savior, and the only way to have the intimate relationship with Him that He wants us to enjoy. Will you break open your alabaster jar right now and start the journey of giving yourself totally to Him?