Alabaster Jars: The Beauty of Brokenness

I was struck by something I heard Pastor John Hagee say this week, something I’d never thought about before pertaining to the following passage:

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.’

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you,but you will not always have me.  When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her’” (Matthew 26:6-13, NIV).

Most commentators highlight Mary’s profound and unabashed respect for Jesus in this story and exhort us to follow her example, never restraining ourselves from lavishing upon our Lord all laud and glory, even if our actions may seem silly and illogical to those watching. Of course, this is a wonderful lesson to take away from this story, which, as promised, has been remembered for millennia. But Pastor Hagee offered yet another application. I forgot exactly how he worded it, but essentially, it went like this:

“No one would have smelled the sensational aroma flowing from that alabaster jar had it not been broken.”

1st Corinthians 4:7 refers to our bodies as “jars of clay,” painting a picture of our perishing state, our frail and feeble condition as a result of sin’s stronghold in the earth.

We are all unique alabaster jars. From jasmine, rose, pine and citrus to cinnamon, sage, and sandalwood, we each contain a God-made, Heaven-bottled fragrance unlike any other wafting through the winds of creation. But like Mary’s jar at Jesus’ feet, no one will smell the perfume we contain until we’ve been shattered to release it.

Just as new oil is formed using crushed olives, and new wine made by crushing grapes and breaking their skins, the ambrosial blessings within us emerge after we too have endured tribulation

While on the subject of “tribulation,” an interesting piece of trivia: The word comes from the Latin word tribulum, which is an ancient threshing instrument used in farming. The farmer would stand on it while being pulled by the animal, applying pressure to remove the wheat from the chaff.

a tribulum

Our modern definition of the word “tribulation,” according to “grievous trouble; severe trial or suffering.”

I admit, words like “crushing,” tribulation,” and “suffering” aren’t exactly rhetorical rays of sunshine, but I’m encouraged when I read what James, the brother of Jesus, had to say about it:

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (James 1:2-4, MSG, emphasis mine).

Whatever the tribulum is in your life that’s brought you to your knees, whatever the size of the  spirit-crushing weight that once rendered you emotionally immobile as you stared up helplessly at a starless sky, let it “do its work” with the Lord’s intervention; He yearns to anoint it with the supernatural scent of His perfect plan and purpose.

Don’t let depression, bitterness, and dejection stay bottled up inside your alabaster jar. It will soon turn rancid and inevitably spill out of you in a torrent of rampant hostility – and hostility has a Very. Bad. Stench.

We’ve all gone through a crushing. It’s up to us whether we’ll trust the experiences in the hands of God to create oil, wine, and perfume, or let them disintegrate within the chambers of a calloused heart.

  Heart-shattered lives ready for love 
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice
(Psalm 51:7, MSG).

Stay fit, stay faithful, stay fragrant! ~<3 Di