And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.
But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”
But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
We all know this story. Raise your hand if you’ve heard it at least twice! Um…actually nevermind. 🙂
Most of us have probably heard this story many times in Sunday School, and in sermons at church. But as I read about the “alabaster flask” story this morning, I saw it from a new angle, or with new eyes (to put it that way). It was after I prayed that the Lord would “speak” to me through His Word as I read my morning chapter.
When I say “speak” I am not referring to hearing voices in my head or audibly hearing God speak or something, like the charismatics do, but simply that God would make me better understand the chapter or passage that I’m reading; to give me something special from that passage that will apply to my life, and make His Word feed me spiritually. Nothing mystical or weird. Just that it will be a meaningful reading.
I also looked at the notes in my Bible that explained what the verses said. Did you know there were two different ladies who came at different times to anoint Jesus with perfume? One woman is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (that we read about in this story). And the other story is in Luke 7:36-38.
Whenever I read this story, I imagined a delicate beautiful blue or turquoise bottle of perfume that Mary had. Something like the picture I put above, or similar to that. But I looked it up online…
And guess what?
“Alabaster” looks totally different than I imagined. In those days, the alabaster flask (or bottle) probably looked more like this:
Surprising isn’t it? It was neat to make this little discovery. Alabaster is a special marble that was imported from Egypt. That is a paraphrase from my Bible notes, just so you know how special even the bottle was, not to mention the perfume.
Also, in my Bible notes, it says that the perfume cost practically as much money as a person would make in one WHOLE year! So it was very costly. We see that Mary did quite a big sacrifice to break that alabaster flask and pour out all the perfume for Jesus.
And then I read these verses:
For she has done a good work for me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
I realized that Mary expressed her deepest worship to the Lord in her own way. A silent, reverent, and beautiful way. She found a way to honor the Lord with what she had best. Something that was very precious to her.
And God used Mary to do a good work for Jesus before His Crucifixion and burial. (Usually the Jews would anoint the dead with special oils). Then she was given a very high honor of having her story told to millions of Christians throughout the ages who read the Bible…over, and over, and over again.
So I thought, God wants us to serve Him like Mary. Serving Christ doesn’t always mean giving money at church, or doing other charity works (although these are very important too). But what was special about this story is that Mary listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and did what God wanted her to do at the right time. We are all called to do “a good work for the Lord“.
So I want to ask you. What “good work” do you think God called you to do?
Will you pray and ask Him about it?
It doesn’t have to be some BIG act like traveling the world, doing conferences, or working for some big church. God wants you to be a light in your own little corner of the world. Right where He placed you. In your family. Your town. Your church. Among your friends. Your school. That is where you will have the biggest impact.
In fact, that “good work” can be as small as:
-reading the Bible daily (lately God put on my heart to try to make time to read the Bible three times a day, like Daniel)
-praying more often
-being kinder to your siblings or offering a helping hand
-praying for your parents, your church, your family
-praying that God will show you how to study His Word and understand it
These little things count a lot. And when we get to heaven, God will tell us “Well done good and faithful servant” if we are faithful in the little things.