The Alabaster Box


“And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on His head” (Mark 14:3).

This unusual incident is reported also by Matthew and John, who says the woman was Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and Martha. John says that she also “anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment” (John 12:3).

This is a remarkable story of devotion and, as Jesus prophesied, “wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matthew 26:13). At present-day prices, the lovely container and its aromatic contents would be worth at least several hundred dollars. Yet Mary gladly broke her alabaster box (so it could never be used again) and poured its costly perfume over her Lord, from His head to His feet, thus anointing His whole body. Then, as the ointment ran down to His feet, she wiped them clean with her long hair.

The disciples were shocked at this seeming waste, but “Jesus said, Let her alone. . . . She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying” (Mark 14:6,8). Little did they know (still less did Mary know!) that in just one week His battered body would be laid in a grave, anointed with myrrh instead of spikenard, and wrapped in burial linens instead of Mary’s hair. But Jesus knew, and Mary had “done what she could” to show the reality of her love for her Lord. It had cost her dearly—not only in material possessions, but also in sacrifice of all pride and self-esteem, and the Lord was honored. “She hath wrought a good work upon me,” He said (Matthew 26:10), and that’s what counts. HMM