Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Alabaster Jar


When I read stories in the Bible, I try to put myself in that character’s place, to try to really understand what they are thinking and feeling.  Honestly, I have to do that because there are just so many details left out.  What exactly did they say?  And how did they say it?  And what were they wearing when they said it? This lack of pertinent details drives me crazy.

In Biblical times, perfumed oil was a big deal.  Sometimes women would wear these small bottles of oil around their necks, right there next to their hearts.  And they were quite expensive, worth even a year’s wages.  Twice in the new testament, women washed Jesus’ feet with their perfumed oil and then dried them with their hair.  Really? To just pour a year’s wages out on someone’s feet?  Now that’s crazy!  

And don’t even get me started on Bible feet.  These people had no socks, no proper shoes, no $30 pedicure at Nail Star over by the Walmart.  Bible feet are scary feet.  I’m just sayin’...


In Luke 7: 36-50, a ‘sinful’ woman, probably a prostitute, followed Jesus into the home of a wealthy Pharisee and anointed his feet while he ate.  She cried openly, letting her tears wash the road dust from his feet and then dried them with her hair.  Then she poured her expensive, precious perfume on them.  That very jar of oil she kept right by her heart.  

In John 12: 1-8, Lazarus‘ sister Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume while he dined in her home just a week before his crucifixion.  She prepared him for his burial before it was time, despite admonitions of extravagance and waste.  “You will always have the poor, but you will not always have me,” Jesus said.  Maybe Mary knew that somehow her gift would be magnified if poured out at Jesus’ feet.  Maybe she knew that without him, we are the poor.  

These stories are fascinating to me.  How much these women must have loved their savior to bow at his feet and serve him with such humility!  How willing they were to sacrifice all that they had, even expensive perfume worth a year’s wages, to give honor to the son of God.

I think if I had an alabaster jar of perfume worth a year’s wages, I would do the exact same thing.  Break it open and pour it right out on Jesus’ feet, right then, right there.  Simply for his glory and because he has done so much for me.  I would do it.  I would.

Of course that’s easy to say since I don’t actually have one of those.

And if I did, what would it really be worth to me?  Most days, I’m just happy to have time for a shower.  Forget about perfume!  It makes me sneeze anyway.  I guess I could put my fancy jar on a shelf, but I’m not really a chotzky kind of girl - too much to dust.  I could sell it and use the money, but where in the world do you sell something like that?  That’d take a lot of effort and research- might not be worth it.

Nope.  I’d pour it out for sure.  Just like Mary and that sinful woman.  After all Jesus did say give all you have, sell all you have, and leave all you have and follow him.  I could pour out my treasure.  And then my sacrifice would be just as big as the sacrifice made by these two women whom Jesus himself praised.  

Right?  

Wrong.


Because the truth is that I do have one.  And it’s full of things that I like to keep right there next to my heart.  Some are good and pure, and some are...not.  I keep my family in there, my husband and my son.  I keep my home in there and my friends.  I even keep my church and all the ministry that we do there tucked inside my jar.


But deep, deep in the bottom, I keep the secret things that I hold on to the tightest - my sense of worth in the world, my reputation among my peers, other people’s perceptions of me.  Respect.  Admiration.  Prestige.  What’s all that worth to me?  More than a year’s wages, to be sure.  And yet worth absolutely nothing unless I’m willing to pour it out at the foot of the cross.

Unless I’m willing to give Jesus everything I’ve got. 

Everything.


So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.   Luke 14:33 

We all have an alabaster jar tucked next to our hearts.  Let’s break them open.  Pour out the contents at Jesus’ feet.  Let our gifts be scented with Jesus and released.  Let His grace  cover the fetor of our sin.  Let our homes and our lives carry the fragrance of our Savior and pray that it will linger long after we depart, drawing others into the sweetness of His presence.