Her fingers softly caressed the edges of the smooth white box. Long before her mother passed it down to her it, it belonged to her grandmother. It was the most precious possession she owned. She filled it with perfumed oil valued over a year’s worth of wages. She knew in her heart she had no better gift to give. If her mother had known this man or seen Him raise her son Lazarus from the grave, Mary felt sure she would do the same thing.
Laughter from the other room blew away her sweet thoughts. Lazarus was alive! It was a time of celebration! Simon had invited many of his friends over for dinner so they could see for themselves that Lazarus was indeed still alive and still well. Many of them simply wanted to rub elbows with Jesus, the man who brought their friend out of the grave.
As the wine lowered, the laughter rose. Mary knew it was the perfect time to enter this relaxed gathering of men. She lifted the box from the table and gently kissed the top of it. She couldn’t help but smile as she thought of the time she’d spent sitting at Jesus’ feet. She had listened intently as He explained His mission to her. She wanted to memorize every word. Perhaps more than anyone, she understood some of what was about to happen to this friend she’d grown to love with all her heart. Best of all, she knew Jesus loved her more than anyone else ever had. His love inspired her to not only love Him, but to also love the people He loved – and that was everyone!
Mary closed her eyes as she remembered sitting grief-stricken and heartbroken on her most horrible day. Grief-stricken because Lazarus died. Heartbroken because her friend Jesus didn’t come as quickly as she had hoped. She felt a bit embarrassed as she remembered how rejected she felt. That is, until Martha ran to tell her that Jesus had come and was asking for her. For her! She really did matter to Him after all! Yes, this Friend deserved the best she had to give because He was about to give His all so that everyone who believes in Him could live forever.
The small box sat cupped in her hands like a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest. As she entered the room, the laughter stopped. It wasn’t customary for a woman to enter a room full of men. Jesus, however, smiled. The other men stared. Jesus enjoyed being Mary’s friend, and He was glad to see her. She loved how He always accepted her.
Without saying a word, she knelt down in front of Him. Slowly, she reached into her apron and pulled out a small dull knife. The tremble in her hands surprised her. She so wanted Jesus to understand how special this moment was to her. Carefully, she used the knife to break the seal of wax securing the lid, lifted it off, and laid it aside. The aroma escaped, signifying the freedom Mary felt in the presence of her Messiah. The lilting fragrance became Mary’s sacrifice of praise. Jesus leaned His head back, closed His eyes, and smiled as the fragrance curled around His nostrils. She poured the fragrance onto His feet and then lifted her hands behind her head. With a slight beckoning, her long dark hair fell past her shoulders as she leaned forward. Ever so gently, she wiped up the perfume from His feet with her hair. That scent would linger in the air for months, but the memory etched itself into her heart forever.
The male bystanders felt indignant and spoke harshly to her for “wasting” her expensive perfume. Yet, she offered no lip service. She simply offered some valuable and fragrant praise. And Jesus came to her rescue once again.
How valuable is your praise? Do you express it bravely? Can you do it humbly?
In his commentary on this story in Mark 14, David Guzik says, “The disciples longed for fame and influence, but this woman found an enduring memorial. She found it not by longing for a position, but simply by loving Jesus and serving Him.”
We love Jesus best when we love the people He loves. They may not look, act, or believe like us, but if we love Him like we say we do, then we become the perfumed oil that fills their lives with the fragrance of Christ.
Many of you have poured the precious oil of praise into your own boxes. It’s cost you a great deal. You’ve had to throw out old habits and desires so that God could replace them with better ones. You’ve had to grab hold of some qualities you lacked so you could give off a more pleasant aroma. You’ve learned to offer your own unique sacrifice of praise.
I heard the song Alabaster Box yesterday, and I haven’t been able to get part of the lyrics out of my mind nor the tune out of my ears. I can relate to these words, and I believe you will too.
You weren’t there the night He found me.
You did not feel what I felt when He wrapped His love all around me,
and you don’t know the cost of the oil in my Alabaster box.
I can’t forget the way life used to be.
I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound, and I spent my days,
poured my life without measure, into a little treasure box I thought I found
until the day when Jesus came to me,
and healed my soul with the wonder of His touch.
So now I’m giving back to Him all the praise He’s worthy of.Alabaster Box by CeCe Winans
I’ve been forgiven, and that’s why I love Him so much.
You don’t know the cost of my oil, nor do I know the cost of yours. But, I do know the extravagant love, the infinite mercy, and the profound grace of the One who does. And I know He renews our reasons for praise by coming to our rescue over and over again.
Fill your box with the most magnificent praise you can muster. Lay it at the feet of Jesus. Crack it open, and fill the air with unforgettable fragrance.
“For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)