Breaking Our Alabaster Jar

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While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Mark 14:3

It was nearing Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. He had told his disciples numerous times about his impending suffering, death and resurrection (Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). But they somehow didn’t get it. They still thought that Jesus was going to be King of the Jews by conquering the Roman government. They still argued about seats in the future kingdom (10:35-44) and who was the greatest (9:33-37).

But this woman got it. She understood that Jesus was going to die soon. Knowing that Jesus was going to leave them, she sacrificed her expensive alabaster jar filled with pure nard. If you have a friend who was migrating overseas, wouldn’t you give him a good treat before he leaves? She broke her jar and poured it all on Jesus’ head.

While some said it was a waste of perfume, Jesus defended her actions and called it “a beautiful thing” (14:6). Jesus explained that “she poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial” (14:8). She was the only one in the room that believed Jesus’ words – he was going to be killed and buried. As a result, her actions have been immortalised in the gospel for all to remember.

Jesus also sacrificed an alabaster jar: Himself.

Immediately after this passage, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in the upper room. During the meal, he broke the bread (14:22) and poured the wine (14:24). Do you notice the words used? Broke and poured. Exactly the same two words were used earlier to describe the woman who broke and poured the perfume on Jesus (14:3). Jesus’ body was broken and his blood poured out for us on the cross. His alabaster jar was himself. He suffered for you and me. The most expensive gift, more than the pure nard, was sacrificed to reconcile God and man. That’s love.

Just as some people rebuked the woman for wasting the perfume, some have said that Jesus’ death was a waste too. He had a ministry of three years, not a long time. He had so much potential to preach, teach and do miracles. Why did he not serve for 40 years and then die at 70? What a waste to die so young at 33 years old! But Jesus’ death was not a waste. It was “a beautiful thing”.

I’ve frequently met friends and church members who say, “Why are you giving up a career and joining bible school at such a young age? What a waste of your prior education!” It seems like a waste in the eyes of the world, but to Jesus, when we give our lives, it is “a beautiful thing”.

The woman broke and poured her alabaster jar for Jesus.

Jesus broke and poured his alabaster jar when he died for you and me.

Are you willing to break and pour out your alabaster jar for Jesus?

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Breaking Our Alabaster Jar

  1. Thanks for this piece. It’s great you also pointed out the symbolism behind some of the acts, particularly that of sacrifice and Jesus breaking himself for us.

    I’m also glad you didn’t mention the sinful woman who anointed Jesus from Luke 7:36-50 in the same breath, as people often confuse her with the passages in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:1-8. I don’t know what you think of that – whether you believe they are one and the same story. I only see the latter three I mentioned as one story and the passage from Luke 7:36-50 as an entirely separate incident, especially since the theological points are completely different. I wrote a whole article explaining all the differences.

    1. Hi Robert, thank you for your comments. I’m encouraged. I’ve not really looked at the separate passages before! It seems some accounts are two days, others are six days before the passover. So it is possible Mary anointed Jesus first, then another woman followed her example. I would like to see your blog post too! You have an interesting post on drawing the Bible.

      1. Hi Seth. The blog post about Jesus being anointed is here: https://drawingontheword.com/mary-of-bethany-sinful-woman-anointed/ – it’s actually part of a two-part series but still makes sense on its own. I go into detail on the theology behind it and a comparison of the passages, because I know that some people do think all 4 are all one and the same account, which I disagree with. Only 3 are the same account and one (Luke) is separate. Hope you enjoy.

  2. What a beautiful post! Love how you related the woman’s alabaster jar to the last supper. Great insight!

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