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).

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).

God's Word, the Holy Bible, counsels us to be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22); 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. Jesus states that real, understanding, true love shown to the Brethren is in fact love shown to Him! (Matthew 25:40) 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) 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)

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 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. Matt 19:16 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: 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, 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 12:28–34 is the more complete conversation. But notice three verses: Mark 12:29-31 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. 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