Passion Week: The Alabaster Box
It is unfortunate for us to try and focus on something as important and holy as Christ’s Passion week, while also needing to watch and comment on the chaos occurring in our nation. What is happening with President Trump is unprecedented, literally, and one more example of the corruption and polarization in America.
As I’m sure you know by now, there were no surprises in Trump’s indictment, and the expert legal analysts I’m hearing believe the charges are motivated by politics, and have no chance of succeeding (unless it is from a stacked jury). The likely motivation for this is to plant negative thoughts about Trump in the minds of voters and be a distraction to him and his campaign.
I will certainly say more about this in the future, and we will continue to pray for America, our government, and the work Holy Spirit needs to do to heal our land. Today, however, let’s move on to Christ’s final week on earth, leading up to the Cross.
During the week of Christ’s Passion, we are told the story of a woman anointing Christ’s head and feet with very expensive ointment.
“Now Jesus was in Bethany, in the home of Simon, a man Jesus had healed of leprosy. And as He was reclining at the table, a woman came into the house, with an alabaster flask filled with the highest quality of fragrant and expensive oil. She came to Jesus, and with a gesture of extreme devotion, she broke the flask and poured out the precious oil over His head. But some were highly indignant when they saw this, and they complained to one another, saying, ‘What a total waste! It could have been sold for a great sum, and the money could have benefited the poor.’ So they scolded her harshly. Jesus said to them, ‘Leave her alone! Why are you so critical of this woman? She has honored me with this beautiful act of kindness. You will always have the poor, whom you can help whenever you want, but you will not always have Me. When she poured the fragrant oil over Me, she was preparing My body in advance of My burial. She has done all that she could to honor Me. I promise you that as this wonderful gospel spreads all over the world, the story of her lavish devotion to Me will be mentioned in memory of her.’”
(Mark 14:3-9 TPT)
This oil was very expensive, worth a year’s wages based on the average income of the day. We know from John’s account (John 12:1-8) that this was done by the same Mary who sat at Christ’s feet, mesmerized by His words, in Luke 10:38-42. She was the sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead.
The timing of Mary’s offering was just days before His death, and Jesus said she was anointing Him for His burial. Whether Mary had grasped the reality of His words about His imminent death and resurrection, or whether Jesus was simply applying the offering in that light is unclear. Two things we do know: It was a very costly offering from Mary, and it was precious to the Lord. “Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall be spoken of in memory of her,” He stated (Matthew 26:13).
Some speculate that the scent of this powerful perfume would have lingered in Christ’s hair for several days. Did the fragrance help sustain Him as He agonized in Gethsemane? Perhaps the sweet aroma comforted Him through the tortuous six hours on the Cross.
Never underestimate the fragrance of worship.
Others in the room thought Mary’s offering to be a waste. Some actually scolded her (Mark 14:5). I know the feeling. When I canceled all other activities for three months in our church in Colorado Springs, lavishing ninety days of 24/7 worship on the Lord, I, too, was criticized. One influential Christian leader rebuked me, calling the ninety days of worship “a complete waste of time.”
It’s fascinating just how much perspectives can differ. For me, those three months remain the best three months of my life. They were my alabaster box of costly perfume, the greatest offering I’ve had the honor of giving Christ. For the person who rebuked me, they were a complete waste of time. Never allow the lack of revelation in others to cheapen your offering. Like Mary, give Christ your best.
Others may mock your sacrifice of time, but go ahead and “waste” it on Him. Some will scold you, as they did Mary, calling your passionate praise too radical, but pour out your offering in spite of their ridicule. Still others will label your extravagant worship as excessive. Religious zeal. Don’t let their misguided criticism deter you - pour out your costly perfume!
The list of Christ’s followers in the room as Mary anointed Jesus is quite the who’s who. The twelve disciples were present. You’d think they would have understood that Jesus was more than worth this offering, but they were too practical: “It should have been given to the poor,” was their protest. Christ’s thoughts? “Go ahead and anoint Me; there will be ample time to care for the poor after I’m gone.”
Simon, the former leper, was present. This was actually his home. One might think his new skin, replaced appendages, and restored life would merit the “wasting” of some costly perfume on Jesus. Evidently not - he didn’t come to Mary’s defense. And then there was Lazarus, Mary’s brother, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. He had been dead so long that he stank. Surely he would see the validity of his sister’s costly perfume sacrifice. But no, Lazarus didn’t come to her defense, either.
Could it be that the others’ familiarity with Christ had lessened their wonder of Him, their awe? We don’t know. They certainly didn’t come to Mary’s defense. We do know that only one worshiper that day had the fullness of love and revelation necessary to anoint the Savior. How sadly typical. So many miss opportunities to lavish affection on Him. It is not uncommon for me to see church attendees waste opportunities to break their alabaster box of love and pour it on the Master. They’ve been in His presence so often, sang so many songs and prayed so many prayers that, well, the experience just isn’t quite worth what it used to be. So, they give Him token praise and watered-down worship. Cheap perfume. I doubt if the fragrance makes it past Sunday lunch.
But while the others that day wasted an opportunity to comfort God, Mary poured out her costly perfume. Its fragrance sustained Him through Gethsemane, the beatings, mocking, lashing, spittle, spikes, dislocations, and thorns.
Don’t allow another day to go by without becoming one of the “fragrance creators.” Let nothing deter you. Your alabaster box is your heart; your love and worship are the perfume. Break it open and pour it out. At the scent of your offering, He’ll meet with you. And He’ll cherish your worship, just as He did Mary’s.
Pray with me:
Father, thank You for including Mary‘s story in Your Holy Book. We are impressed and motivated by her example, yes. But just as importantly, we are awed by Christ’s moving acceptance and appreciation of it. May we today always give Him our best. May the fragrance of worship ascend to Him daily from our hearts and lives. May You, Abba, always find a sweet fragrance of worship ascending before Your throne. We love You very much.
Jesus, thank You for Your amazing, unfathomable humility. We will never know just how much You humbled Yourself to serve us as You did. You became human, touchable, breakable. Your love is unmatched. We worship You today with our hearts and our words. And we gratefully partake of Your life, righteousness, strength, healing, and wholeness.
We continue to pray for the turning of our nation and for our government to be transformed. Change those who can be changed; replace the others. You are the God of salvation; bring it to this land. And we wholeheartedly include other nations in this prayer - send revival throughout the earth. We pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We declare that we are passionate worshipers of our great God, and will break our alabaster box, giving Him all of our love and honor.
Click here to watch/hear Cece Winans perform the song, The Alabaster Box. This is one of our favorites.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.