The Alabaster Box

“What, then, is the secret?” Watchman Nee asks about worship as seen by the woman who anointed Jesus with oil.

 Clearly it is this, that in approving Mary’s action at Bethany, the Lord Jesus was laying down one thing as a basis of all service: that you pour out all you have, your very self, unto Him; and if that should be all He allows you to do, that is enough. It is not first of all a question of whether ‘the poor’ have been helped or not. The first question is: Has the Lord been satisfied?

Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life, p.274

You may be familiar with the story from Luke about the sinful woman who came and anointed Jesus not only with perfume but with her tears. I want you to imagine the scene.

Here is an empty chair.

The rest of the room is filled with people. Sitting in a circle, gathered in two and threes. It is humming with multiple conversations. Jesus enters the scene. He is escorted by the homeowner to the empty seat. The conversational buzz is suspended for a moment as Jesus takes a seat and then all greet him. Conversations resume. Imagine the homeowner puffed and grinning at his renowned guest. Jesus is in his house no less.

But then another guest steals in quietly. Without invitation and without notice of anyone save Jesus.

Jesus is immediately aware of her. She is at His feet weeping silently. Her hot tears touch His feet like tender words of thanks and praise. She wipes them with her hair.

The homeowner seeing that he has lost the attention of Jesus, looks for the distraction. Seeing the harlot, he starts toward the woman to grab her up and pull her away… What is such filth doing in my home, he mentally protests. But Jesus waves him off before the homeowner gets to her.

Then the woman rises, eyes still down, she goes behind Jesus and pauses. The homeowner’s shoulders relax in relief. Is she leaving? he hopes, thinking that the little interruption is over. But then he draws in a breath. What was she doing now?

Tears still slide silently down her face. She raises her hands over Jesus’ head. In her shaking grasp is a small white jar. An alabaster flask. Before the homeowner could refuse, she uncorks the top and a pours a soft slow trickle of oil over Jesus’ head. It pools in His dark hair and then overflows down His neck. Over His brow, down His cheeks. Over His closed eyes. The oil slides down His neck, and soaks dark in His cloak. He lets out a soft slow sigh.

It is the aroma that silenced the room.

They stood speechless as the woman poured the entire flask on Jesus’ head. She held it upside down, so that every drop was emptied.

The whispers began. Most missed the smile of contentment that played on Jesus’ lips.

Immediately they tittered over the woman that had again taken her place at Jesus feet. They talked of her reputation. They all knew who she was and what she had done. They talked of the ridiculous cost. How on earth did she of all people get such fine perfume? They talked of her audacity. They talked of her inappropriate showiness. How dare her after all? Didn’t she know who He was?

Yes she did. Precisely.

Do you?

What does Jesus have to to say about all this? That she will be remembered. That she has done a beautiful thing. That her act of love — those who have been forgiven much, love much — her act of love blessed Jesus.

He noticed her heart. Her sacrifice, her abandon. But more than merely noticing, Jesus appreciated it, enjoyed it, loved it, was impacted by it. Her loving action affected God.

Jesus was satisfied.

Excerpt taken from Unhindered, Chapter 47

Let’s Get Real Here:

As you walk through this scene in your mind’s eye, where are you in the room? Are you the homeowner, just glad Jesus is in the house, but not really welcoming or enjoying Him? It’s all for show.

Are you one of the invited guests, there to see and be seen? Are you one that is evaluating, critiquing, scoffing at the open display from the sinful woman? Does her affection make you feel jealous? Do you feel like you are on the outside looking in? Perhaps indignant? Or are you confused at what it is going on here? Does this seem outrageous, uncalled for, even…wasteful?

Are you the woman? So utterly aware of who you are and so desperately wanting to be someone else? So utterly bankrupt— physically, emotionally, spiritually — that to be seen publicly weeping is of little matter compared to the hope of His healing?

Is your need so great that you would risk everything just to show Him, somehow, that you believe He is who He says He is?

Is your love so great that you will give all you have— dreams, hopes, money, talents, reputation, beauty, everything— in a frail container to be poured out on Him for His pleasure, His enjoyment?

One thought on “The Alabaster Box

  1. wow, this really makes me stop and think about where I am. I desperately want to be the woman. After all that seems like the correct answer but I can honestly say I live there all the time. I am definitely praying for less of me and more of him.

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