Holy Week Day 3: The Alabaster Jar

Today’s Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:6-13

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

What was the significance of the woman’s act of of pouring her expensive perfume over the head of Jesus? Upon reading this passage, we can feel two different emotions: First, was that of love and honour lavishly expressed through the woman in her gift to Jesus; The second is outrage from the disciples – a dispute about how it could have been sold and given to the poor. Although the disciples’ point was not entirely wrong, we somehow  leave this passage with a sense that the woman had done no wrong either.

Whether from the perspective of the woman, or from the disciples, the implicit questions that ought to come to mind for us are – what was the purpose of either? What was the reason one should have sold such a precious item and distribute it to the poor? What was the reason to pour it over the head of Jesus?

Jesus’ perspective shines light on the act of giving with generosity and compassion to the poor as something that needed to continue to happen, even beyond the cost of the alabaster jar that was broken in front of them. They were consumed with the religious duty, doing good and and “being righteous” portion, but they could not see what Jesus desired from them. They did not recognize the spiritual reality of who they were walking with and dining with that evening. What the disciples could not see was something the woman certainly knew before they did – that Jesus was the Son of God.

The woman’s act of sacrifice was an act of love. It acknowledged who Jesus was. She may have known no other way to worship her Lord in the spur of that moment – a chance that may not come around again, especially in her own home! What was the greatest gift she could give to Jesus but her most valued possession? Would Jesus have been pleased still if the woman had sold her alabaster jar and helped the poor? absolutely. In that moment this was all the woman could do before the chance was gone. Jesus saw the intent of her heart – that she loved him and desired to honour him and spared nothing to do so.

In the same way for us, Jesus knows and desires the intent of our hearts in our actions. Are we compelled by knowing who Jesus is? Are we compelled in our love for him enough to give to the Lord even what is most prized to us? Just as the woman broke the neck of the alabaster jar to pour on the head of Jesus as a sacrifice to worship Him, it must also remind us of the greatest gift of all. Jesus’ body was broken for you and I, so that we may live – simply because he loved us more than we could ever imagine.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

– Isaiah 53:5

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