An Alabaster Jar

January 3, 2011

While He 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 expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. ~Mark 14

In an earlier post, I wrote about this same Mary of Bethany who was willing to show her love to Jesus even when she was rebuked by others. Her sacrifice was greatly rewarded by Jesus’ praise.

But recently I learned something new about that jar of perfume. In the days Jesus was on earth, when a young woman reached the age of availability for marriage, her family would purchase an alabaster box for her and fill it with precious ointment. The size of the box and the value of the ointment would parallel her family’s wealth. This alabaster box would be part of her dowry. When a young man came to ask for her in marriage, she would respond by taking the alabaster box and breaking it at his feet. The gesture of anointing his feet showed him honor.

Perhaps this story takes on a new meaning. Mary’s perfume was very valuable, worth a year’s wages. But what stands out to me is that Mary didn’t save this special gift for her earthly bridegroom. She chose to use it on Jesus.

Today, I think women are so addicted to the hope that there is a husband for them out there, that they save up all the love they have for that special man. But that is not what God wants, and that is not what Mary did.

I think the word of Mary’s actions spread rapidly. First, Mary was a woman. In that day, that fact alone held expectations. 2nd, the Bible says, 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. In this part of Jesus’ story, everyone knew of Him, and although there were no phones, I am sure they had a way of spreading any news of Jesus quickly. He was the biggest celebrity. 3rd, what Mary did could have totally killed her chances for every marrying. I think that is very noteworthy. You can find plenty of women out there who never marry, but I think there are few out there who willingly say: “I choose Jesus over a man.” or “I don’t want to marry. I just want Jesus.”

We sometimes call those women crazy, or that they are giving up on something that they are going to regret. I say: “Way to choose Jesus first!” and I think Mary of Bethany would say the same thing. She realized that no man would be better then her Jesus. When she broke that alabaster jar and poured her expensive perfume over Jesus in front of a room of men, she was giving up a portion of her dowry, her reputation, and most importantly her heart.

The question is, could we do that today? In Jesus day, it was a big deal for a woman to turn down marriage, because that was how she was provided for. Still today we put so much stress on marriage and romance. But what if God didn’t provide that kind of life for you? Would you choose to love Him instead? What if God called you to love Him as your first love whether He has a husband/wife out there for you or not? What if you were willing to give up your chances for being married to be married to Jesus?

Would you be worried of what others would think? Would you be worried that you would be missing out on something else?

Can we learn a lesson from Mary who didn’t care what anyone thought? She didn’t care if she would be married, she wanted to give Jesus her all.

Mary of Bethany was the same Mary who’s brother Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus. This makes me think of the song ‘Blessed be Your Name.’ Because that song says that we will bless His name when things are tough (when I’m found in the desert place, when I walk through the wilderness) and when things are good (when the sun’s shining down on me, when the world’s all as it should be). Mary learned to worship God in the wilderness and when she has seen His blessings.

Mary could have kept her alabaster jar for an earthly husband, but because of her passion, love, and sacrifice, her story is still told today of her dedication to her Jesus.

Do you have an alabaster jars that need to be broken at the feet of Jesus?

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5 Responses to “An Alabaster Jar”

  1. Nice, I didn’t know that…alabaster jar as dowry.

  2. Caitlyn said

    I’m writing a story about Mary of Bethany and trying to explore this idea of the alabaster jar as a dowry, and all the cultural implications of that. Where did you find this delicious tidbit about the alabaster jar being used to anoint the feet of her betrothed? Please email me with sources, if you can! lutzc@ihopu.org

    • melijoy said

      Oh, my I can’t remember. I remember it was online and seemed like a reputable source, but that was a several years ago. I was also researching this topic at the time, and came across it. I would try just a Google search on the history of the alabaster jar and see what biblical facts you can find on it. Sorry I can’t help more!!

  3. melijoy said

    I did read that a few years ago. That is probably where I found my inspiration. So glad you found it!

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