THE ALABASTER JAR OF PERFUME
Mark 14: 3-9
3 While Jesus was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as 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.
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
WHAT’S THE MOST PRECIOUS THING THAT YOU POSSESS?
- The thing you would be horrified to lose and relieved to find
- The thing that means more than the world to you?
If you’re a mother or father you might say “my child(ren)”
If you’re a grandparent you might say “my grandchildren”
You might say it’s my Bible… or your car… or your job… or your home… or my friends…
~ You might say it’s a special memory… or your memory, full stop!
~ You might say it’s my health and strength
- When I was a child, it was my toy soldiers and marbles and my scooter
- When I was a teen, it was my football programmes and record collection
THIS STORY IS ABOUT A WOMAN WHO GAVE AWAY SOMETHING VERY PRECIOUS… and she gave it all to Jesus the Saviour
- This lady has a lot to teach all of us
- There is another, similar incident described in Luke 7 … but here the woman was someone of doubtful character, who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair
NOTICE THAT JESUS WAS IN THE HOME OF SOMEONE WHO HAD BEEN HEALED OF LEPROSY… you just didn’t do that sort of thing!
- But Jesus came to give His life for the sins of the world… not just the goodies!
- He said: “I haven’t come to call the righteous… people who think they’re righteous… but sinners… people who know they are not righteous… to repentance”
- So Jesus died for you because there are parts of your life and conduct that don’t come up to the standard God expects… and never will!
AND JESUS WAS THERE IN THE HOUSE BY INVITATION
- He never forces His way in… He waits to be invited
- Have you invited Him?
- The Bible says that today is the day of salvation… not tomorrow or when you get old or retire or die!
- Are you a disciple of Jesus today? It’s not the same as just coming to church…
There was nothing glamorous about being in a house where someone has had (very contagious) leprosy…
- Various others were there, too, as we shall see in a moment
- The chance of a free lunch was too tempting!
- And no doubt being seen with Jesus…
- But the attitude of some people was critical and judgemental…
AND WHAT OF THIS WOMAN?
In John 12 we are told the woman was Mary, sister of Martha
- Neglecting her domestic duties!
- Letting her hair down in the presence of men… a sign of being a ‘loose’ woman
But people and relationships come first!
- Women generally understand this truth better than most men, who often struggle more with socialising.
THEN MARY DOES SOMETHING AMAZING…
She breaks the top off a jar of expensive perfume, pure nard…
- NARD (or ‘spikenard’) grows in the foothills of the Himalayas
- It would have come to Israel via Persia (‘Iran”) and was usually in a sealed container because every drop was precious
- And Mary pours the perfume over Jesus’ head… I’d feel embarrassed if someone did that to me!
- It would have trickled down his face and neck… the room would have burst alive with the scent
- I imagine everyone would have jumped up and there would have been quite a bit of fuss…
But the use of this perfume wasn’t a random choice…
In the Old Testament, nard is referred to in the Song of Songs as a symbol of the intimate relationship between two people.
- This is the point at which Mary recognises Jesus as the one she loves and chooses
Mary wasn’t just being nice or thoughtful… she was expressing her total devotion to Jesus Christ…
- She recognised that Jesus was more than a marvellous man… more than a miracle-worker… more than a spiritual friend
- Mary was telling the world that He was the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour
And notice what else Jesus said: She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial:
- Because perfume was used in connection with death
MARY GAVE JESUS THE BEST SHE HAD
- It was an expensive and extravagant gesture!
- Not unreasonably, some of those present complained that the money had been ill-used
- From a practical point of view, they were correct… but they overlooked an important spiritual principle, namely, you can never give God too much of your best
- We don’t look for reward… but God always repays more than we give Him
AND NOTICE THAT THE JAR HAD TO BE BROKEN BEFORE THE FRAGRANCE WAS RELEASED…
- Those who say that being a disciple of Jesus is the easy option have never been disciples of Jesus!
- No one wants to be broken because it can be miserable and difficult… but it’s far easier to bear the heartache when we know that it is God who is doing or allowing the breaking!
The Apostle Paul wrote to say that he delighted in weakness and hardship because God’s strength was then able to work through him and make him strong!
SOME PEOPLE WERE INDIGNANT at Mary’s actions
- Wholehearted commitment to Jesus will always bring out the sceptics and doubters
- If you stay lukewarm, you won’t have too much trouble from people… but God is not impressed!
- When you face criticism for doing what you believe is right, it is probably a sign that you are doing what is right!
Commitment is important… but we need to be committed to the right thing… the right person!
- Our commitment is first and foremost to Christ and not to a church or a meeting or people or an ideal
AND MARY RECEIVED THE GREATEST OF ALL REWARDS… she was praised by Jesus Himself…
- Jesus told her critics to leave her alone for she had done a wonderful (beautiful) thing
- And then Jesus says something that should reassure each one of us: “She did what she could”
AND THAT’S TRUE FOR EVERYONE…
- God doesn’t ask us to do more than we are able… but He expects us willing to use fully the gifts, time and abilities we’ve got and to allow Him to work through us by His Spirit
- Christian discipleship is not a competition between us, though it sometimes feels that way!
- For we are partners with God in Kingdom work…
- God could do it all himself but He chooses to involve you and me
- A jigsaw needs every part, large and small, before it’s complete
- So with Kingdom work… God longs that you should be involved, as much as the next person
Mary wasn’t perfect… she made mistakes, of course…
- God isn’t looking for the perfect woman (or man)
- Though when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross on our behalf and believe that He rose from the dead and is coming again to create a new heaven and earth, we are ‘made perfect’ in God’s sight through Christ
God is looking for women and men who are fully committed to Him through the person of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Spirit… and makes us a wonderful promise:
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be yours as well…”
ONE FINAL POINT…
Mary didn’t do what she did to make an impression… but Jesus said that what she has done will also be told, in memory of her
People (and God) won’t remember the few amazing things we do (if any!)… it will be the thousands of small acts of love and devotion that we show day by day
TOGETHER THEY CREATE THE FRAGRANCE OF OUR LIVES