Meandering - Alabaster Flasks

“She has done a beautiful thing to me… wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:6, 9  

In reading Mark chapter 14, I was struck with the setting of Jesus’ anointing at Bethany. He was “reclining” (laying back, enjoying the company) at the house of “Simone the leper.” It’s likely that Simone, having this terrible disfiguring disease, was not living in a palace. Jesus, the King of kings, however, seemed right at home. Then, in walks a woman “with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard.” It was worth about a year’s wages in those days. She broke open the flask and poured it over Jesus’ head. The average annual salary in Canada at the end of 2014 was $49,000.00. That sum of money was instantly massaged into Jesus’ hair. Gone forever. I’m sure some were thinking to themselves: “What just happened here?” Others, we’re told, were indignant. They started scolding her for what they deemed to be a colossal waste. An awful lot of the poor could have been helped. Yet, Jesus said to them, “leave her alone.… She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.” Jesus did not lessen the importance of benevolent ministry, but he also highlighted the great importance of loving and glorifying God first.

We have seen this principle from the serious weakness of the Ephesus Church in the Revelation series. Our first love for God, in delighting in him above all else, is the real fuel needed to shine the light of the gospel and love others in his name.   

Judas did not grasp this truth. We may wonder what made Judas snap? What was the last straw, so to speak, that caused him to turn against Jesus? Judas’ response to Jesus’ benediction on the woman’s actions may provide a hint as to why. Jesus declared, “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” It’s immediately, right after this, that Judas “went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.” It would seem that Judas adamantly disagreed with Jesus. He seems to have felt the woman’s actions, and Jesus’ condoning it, was a serious misuse of funds. Piously mumbling about the poor was simply a ruse he used to hide his own greedy, ambitious heart. Judas’ subsequent act of betrayal sadly revealed that he loved money more than Jesus.

All that we have comes from God. We have the privilege and task of wisely and joyfully managing his resources. How do we do this? Like this woman’s example, we are to delight in making much of Jesus with all we’ve been given. What we do with money, whether God has entrusted us with a little or a lot, reveals much about where our heart is (Matthew 6:21). It’s not easy. Like Judas, earthly treasure can pull us away from finding our greatest Treasure in Christ alone. The lethal grip of greed is broken when we remember the cross. Jesus said that this woman’s act of devotion was to anoint his body “beforehand for burial” (Mark 14:8). She believed what Jesus had been telling them about his death and resurrection. So she did all she could beforehand to worship and thank Jesus for being willing to give his life, at great cost to himself, so that we could be forgiven and set free from our sins. May we be led of the Spirit, as she was, to respond in like manner. Truly Jesus is worthy of all our “alabaster flasks” of generous thanksgiving and adoration being poured out on him!

Thanks for meandering along with me,

Pastor Daniel