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Mary's Alabaster Box

“There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment and poured it on his head.”  Matthew 26:6-11 

Mary was not a wealthy woman.  This box containing such expensive perfume very possibly represented her life’s savings.  Alabaster is a beautiful semi-transparent gemstone. It was used to make containers which would hold only the most expensive and precious contents. When the contents were so costly, the makers would work the stone in such a way that the only way to empty it would be to break the container.  This perfume was a precious import, possibly a family heirloom passed down through generations. Perfume stored in an alabaster jar could only be used once. Once the seal was broken, it had to be applied immediately, or it would lose its fragrance. Mary knew that this would be a onetime offering. She was willing to give all or nothing. The point is that Mary’s resources were limited.  She did not have the means to do what she did.  She had probably secreted this away for a long time, saving it for a rainy day. 

It’s not so much what you give to God that counts in his eyes.  It is how much what you give means to you that matters.  We tend to measure our gifts horizontally.  We first figure out how much is expected or reasonable, and then we give accordingly. 

Mary’s act was rash.  Sacrifice never seems reasonable.  This is not just financial, but any time you contemplate making a step for God, it will seem to you and to others around you as rash, unreasonable, even stupid.  What?  Give up your career?  Status?  Good looks? Freedom and independence?  Give up your friends?  Serving God never works out on paper, especially when the devil is telling you what numbers to write down.  But God has a calculus to use that the devil can’t touch.  Things that don’t make sense to you always make sense to God. 

Mary acted for a reason.  Jesus had been teaching his disciples that he was going to die, and Mary had listened to His word.  She knew that soon Jesus would die and be buried. She may have also known that His body would not need the traditional care given to the dead because His body would not see corruption (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:22–28). Too many people wait until they see their way clear before they act.  Not so with Mary.  Instead of anointing His body after His death, she did so before His death. It was an act of faith and love. 

Mary’s act did something else.  It revealed the carnality and true motive of Judas.  Take note of this. Every sermon, every service, every act of sacrifice triggers both a positive and negative response.  Some people are moved; others are resistant.  Some surrender themselves; others steel themselves.  It brings out the best in some; it brings out the worst in others.  Judas criticized Mary’s gift.  The disciples, however, did not know the true character of Judas. The real reason Judas wanted the ointment sold had nothing to do with the poor.  He wanted the money to go into the treasury, so he would be able to use it (John 12:6). 

What are your resources? What rash act will you do for God? What ultimate purpose will be served by your sacrifice? What response will be triggered deep within your soul? Whether we win or lose, we sacrifice.  If we win here, wonderful.  If we lose here, the reward will be on the other side.  “He who comes to God must believe that he is; and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6

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