Written By Lydia Tan, Singapore
Any moment now.
Her heart leapt with joy as she caught a glimpse of Him. There He was, reclining at the table with Simon the Leper. Oh, how different it felt whenever He was in the room! Things were always different with Him. Lives were changed and miracles happened wherever He went.
Carrying her most beloved possession carefully, she quickened her footsteps towards Him. It had taken her many months to save up to purchase the costly perfume she had in her precious alabaster jar. It was made of pure nard, an exquisite spice that was highly sought after. But it was worth it.
He is worth my all, she silently mumbled to herself. So much more than this simple gift I’m presenting to Him—surely this is the least I can do. With renewed conviction, she moved forward.
At this point, people in the room started to notice the woman easing her way through. Conversations gradually ceased and now, every eye was on the woman with the alabaster jar.
But she was oblivious to all the attention. Her eyes were fixed solely on the object of her devotion and affection. Upon reaching Him, she broke the jar in one swift act and gently poured the perfume on His head. The sweet scent filled the entire room, occupying every nook and cranny.
A commotion broke out in the room as His followers protested immediately. What is the meaning of this audacious act! Why is she wasting that precious perfume? Does she not know how much it is worth? A year’s wages, to say the least! Couldn’t the poor have benefited from selling it? Now it’s all gone—spent and wasted!
Amid the uproar, Jesus spoke. Shush now. Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have Me. She did this to prepare Me for burial. I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
His words pierced their hearts and a silence came over everyone in the room. The woman, her heart filled with gratitude and awe, fell down before her Lord in adoration and worship.
We’ve read the account of the woman with the alabaster jar umpteen times. Yet, this story still stands out with its riveting account of the extravagance (or absurdity, as some of us might say) of the woman’s act. After all, we’re talking about one year’s worth of wages, poured out and spent in seconds.
But what about looking beyond the use of the expensive fragrance, and focusing instead on the bigger issue—how people respond to Jesus? To me, the story of the woman with the alabaster jar portrays two distinct responses made by followers of Christ. The first response is that of the woman, who spared nothing in her act of devotion to Jesus; and then there’s the reaction of the disciples, who saw her act as preposterous, wasteful, and foolish.
Which response do we identify with?
Allow me to draw some modern-day examples. When it comes to money, time and relationships, are we willing to forego these things for our relationship with God? Perhaps it means giving up a well-paying job or internship so that we can serve God in full-time ministry? Or foregoing a favorite activity so that we can serve Him better at home, in our workplace or church? Or maybe even putting an end to an unhealthy relationship that is drawing us away from God?
Some of us may have already gone down these paths as expressions of our devotion to Jesus. Of course, this is not the only means. However, there are some who view these choices as radical and question the need to give up things that are dear to us. Could it be because, like the disciples, we’re focusing on the worth of what is given up instead of the immense worth of whom it is given up for?
Jesus’ disciples could not see past the perfume that was being “wasted”, but the woman with the alabaster jar had her eyes focused fully on whom she was anointing, believing that He deserved the very best. Jesus had not spared anything for us—including His life—when He went to the cross for our sake. Jesus, the Son of God, is infinitely worthy of all our worship and praise.
As we take time to meditate on Jesus and all that He has done for us this Good Friday, may we be reminded of His ultimate sacrifice and His greatness. Let us not spare our best as we continue to express our devotion to Him in thankfulness and love.
How precious is Jesus to you? Jesus gave up His all for us—would you give up your all for Him?