An alabaster flask
by Glenn Pettit
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6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,
7 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.
8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste?
9 "For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor."
10 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.
11 "For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.
12 "For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.
13 "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."
Why would we not want to honor our Savior? It seems second-nature to many of us, to simply lift up our hands and sing His praises, to honor all that He has done and will do, to exalt Him above all other gods in our lives. And yet there are still many who would rather see Jesus as the loving and humble Teacher, the wise Rabbi, the self-sacrificing friend, and so those people think it is honor enough to simply serve others in His name. But the service to which we are called is not to other men, it is to God. In preaching the gospel to the whole world, yes, we are serving the needs of men, but more than that, we are serving the kingdom of God. Why then would we not want to honor our King when He is among us?
Of course, there are some for whom the kingdom of God is such a nebulous abstraction that they cannot see how they can serve it except to bring that kingdom down to earth through good works. Certainly, we can say that good works are indeed PART of the kingdom of God, but good deeds do not themselves usher in the kingdom. They may reflect the doing of God's will on earth as it is in heaven, but in those heavenly realms, there is another aspect of the kingdom that we must remember.
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
God Himself has anointed His Son with oil, honoring Him above all other men, above all other of His companions, above all of those whom He came to serve. "Christ" and "Messiah" both mean "Anointed." And around the throne of heaven, angels, elders, created things and the saved themselves, all worship and praise the Lamb of God. The kingdom of God is first and foremost a KINGDOM, a place with a mighty Ruler, a wise King, a righteous Judge, an eternal, immortal, invisible Lord God. And we who serve the King cannot just go about our everyday duties and assume He is honored by our service. We must also take the time and the effort to honor and glorify our King directly, to anoint Him as His Father did, to praise His name as the angels and elders do, to lift Him up and exalt Him while we have the means to do so.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
This woman who anoints Jesus in today's verses is remembered not because she was a sinner, nor because she repented, nor because she was healed of demons or infirmities. She is remembered because she honored the Lord. She is remembered because she honored the service Jesus was to perform--dying on the Cross for our sins. She is remembered because, even as the disciples were focused on the poor and oppressed, SHE was focused on her Savior and Lord.
I am writing this on a Sunday morning, and in a couple of hours Christians across America will be in church buildings, singing praises to our Lord God. But where was this woman who anointed Jesus? She came to Jesus "at the house of Simon the leper." She didn't go to the temple, she didn't wait until a Sabbath day. She went to Him where He was doing His Father's work, and she honored Him even as He sat at the table of the "unclean." She didn't take her offering into the church building and drop it in the plate on a Sunday morning. She took her offering of service and honor and obedience and humility directly to Jesus Christ, and she poured out a treasure for her King.
In a way, the disciples half understood the value of her gift: expensive perfume is useless to the poor. The poor need money and food and clothing, and so the expensive jar and its contents were more valuable sold than simply handed to a beggar on the street. But the true value of that bottle of oil is not in how much food might have been bought with the same amount of money. The value of that alabaster bottle and fragrant perfume is in how they were used to glorify the Son of God, how their value to the poor became secondary to the honor they gave our Savior.
Yes, by all means, we must serve the least among us, and we must act in Jesus' name to bring glory to God through acts of service for His kingdom. Yes, we should help the poor, heal the sick, drive out demons, lift up the downtrodden, bring comfort and hope to the powerless, and usher in the acceptable year of the Lord. But more than that, we must honor our King. We should seek Him out daily to worship and praise His name, to exalt Him through our time and effort in seeking Him where He may be found. Let us bring the fragrant offering of our broken and contrite hearts to Jesus. Let us sing of His great works not only in the great assembly but also in our daily lives. Let us relive the moment if Jesus' anointing among men, and let us remember a woman who gave something of great value to simply honor the Anointed One of God who was to be slain for the sins of all mankind. Jesus died for all of us, and He LIVES for all of us. Therefore let us honor Jesus Christ every day of our lives--not just through living as He lived but also through honoring and anointing Him as our Savior and King.
Lord Jesus, I wonder if there would be many among Your flock today who would honor You as this woman did. I wonder if they would realize what a precious gift they had in Your presence, and if they would exalt You as You deserve. O my Precious Savior, be exalted today! As the old song says, "Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me save that Thou art." I honor You today, my Lord, and I exalt You as my King. Reign in my life, and may Your Spirit always remind me to honor You not just in my service but also in taking time to sing Your praises every day. Amen.
© 2010 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel
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