The Woman With The Alabaster Flask

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The Woman With The Alabaster Flask

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Shortly before the death of Jesus, on an occasion when He was visiting Simon the Leper, “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” (Matthew 26:7 Matthew 26:7There came to him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
American King James Version×
).

In verse 8, Matthew states that his disciples (plural, not just Judas) “…were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste?’.”

The beginning of verse 10 surprises me: “But when Jesus was aware of it…” The verse seems to be saying that it was only some time later that Jesus became aware of something. However, if we check other translations we find one which renders this, “But Jesus was aware of it,” That translation leaves the when out. Was Jesus ever slow to be aware? Of course not! Jesus was aware of their thoughts before they had them. Jesus was probably properly a little concerned that His disciples seemed to care more about the value of the ointment than the reason that the woman had lavished it on Jesus.

Christ’s written words however, calm me down, as I am sure, His spoken words calmed all (except possibly Judas) who were present at that time. “She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but me you do not have always.” (Matthew 26:10-11 Matthew 26:10-11 [10] When Jesus understood it, he said to them, Why trouble you the woman? for she has worked a good work on me. [11] For you have the poor always with you; but me you have not always.
American King James Version×
).

God’s Word, the Holy Bible, counsels us to be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22 James 1:22But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
American King James Version×
); but in this situation, at that exact time, Jesus showed an important distinction: love for God (in this case, Christ) trumps love for mankind. Both are essential but true love, shown by humble obedience to God’s Word must come first. I don’t think we are told why the woman showed this outstanding love for Jesus but we do know that He applied it to His death and burial. .

To prove this point, look back in your Bibles a couple of pages to Matt 25 and read  Matthew 25:31-40 Matthew 25:31-40 [31] When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: [32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: [33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. [34] Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: [35] For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: [36] Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. [37] Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? [38] When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? [39] Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? [40] And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.
American King James Version×
. Jesus states that real, understanding, true love shown to the Brethren is in fact love shown to Him! (Matthew 25:40 Matthew 25:40And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.
American King James Version×
) From these verses we should be able to see that the opportunity to serve Christ is all around us. We don’t have to search for Christ.

But what if we spend our lives, our fortunes, our very strength doing good works for all those poor that we will have with us always? Is that good enough? “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name and done many wonders in Your name?” (Matthew 7:22 Matthew 7:22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
American King James Version×
) All of those are good works truly. Jesus never disputes their claims, but His retort reverberates in my head: “I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:23 Matthew 7:23And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
American King James Version×
)

If we don’t have love for God — real understanding, true love shown by humble obedience to God’s Word– then love for mankind will not be enough. Matthew 7:22 Matthew 7:22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
American King James Version×
seems to me to say that good preaching, relieving people’s suffering, and even doing other “wonders” is not enough. We must know and do God’s Law.

In Matthew’s gospel, supplemented by Mark’s, this symbiotic lesson is elegantly displayed. We should notice the two approaches. Matthew 19:16 Matthew 19:16And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
American King James Version×
states “Now behold, one came and said, ‘Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’” Good question – great question! Isn’t that what we all want to know? Was the questioner being pompous? We know from the parallel account in Mark 10:21 Mark 10:21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said to him, One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
American King James Version×
: that “Then Jesus beholding him, loved him…” Why did Jesus love him? Part of the reason may have been that just before this, at Mark 10:19 Mark 10:19You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor your father and mother.
American King James Version×
, Jesus listed significant parts of 5 of the final six commandments that we all must obey: “Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother.” The young man answered that he had always obeyed these! At this point Mark records, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Could it be that what the young man said was “good” in Jesus perspective? I think so.

Now let’s go to the other stone tablet that Moses carried down from the mountain. We have to leave Matthew; only Mark records this. Mark 12:28 Mark 12:28And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
American King James Version×
;34 is the more complete conversation. But notice three verses: Mark 12:29-31 Mark 12:29-31 [29] And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: [30] And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment. [31] And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
American King James Version×
and especially 29 “The first of all the commandments…” That word, first, means “foremost” or we might say “most important.” All of God’s commandments are important but Jesus clearly shows us what is most important: “The first of all the commandments is, Hear O Israel… thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength…”

If we do not love God first with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will not, we cannot, love our neighbor as ourselves, because we will not understand true love at all.

The woman with the alabaster flask – she may have come very close to true love of God. She may not have known Jesus was God, but she may have believed He was the Messiah. In a way she illustrates Matthew 25:31-46 Matthew 25:31-46 [31] When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: [32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: [33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. [34] Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: [35] For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: [36] Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. [37] Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? [38] When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? [39] Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? [40] And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me. [41] Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: [42] For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: [43] I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. [44] Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? [45] Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. [46] And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
American King James Version×
. As she did it to the Holy Man of God, she was doing it to God.

For more information on God’s commandments and eternal life, read the Bible study guides The Ten Commandments and The Road to Eternal Life

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