Her story is in Matthew 26 and Mark 14 — and similar stories in John 12 and Luke 7. In Matthew and Mark, a woman pours perfume from an alabaster box on Jesus’ head — in John, His friend Mary pours costly oil on His feet.
In each case these 2 things happen: 1) Someone condemns the offering because it is expensive, and the money should rather have been spent on the poor, and 2) Jesus defends the offering by saying it has anointed Him for burial. In Matthew and Mark, He promises this story will be told to honor the woman, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed.
The incomparable Robert Farrar Capon teaches us that the parables of the Bible aren’t meant as examples for us to follow, but as illustrations of the nature of God. He calls some things, like Jesus’ cursing the fig tree, “acted parables.” It seems to me this tale of the woman with the alabaster box is an acted parable.
I’ve been discussing it with Jesus, and I want to tell you what I believe He is telling me …
First, if this “acted parable” reveals something about the nature of God, then the “actor” is the woman with the alabaster box of perfume … She is our “God” character in this parable. And what is the first thing we notice about her?
She’s shameless in her desperation to demonstrate her love for Jesus. She wants to make a grand gesture that will capture His attention and show Him her devotion — and she doesn’t care who knows it. She procures this most precious gift and breaks the beautiful alabaster box to pour the costly perfume on Jesus. What does this reveal about God?
He is shameless in His desire to show His love for us … He is desperate to make a grand gesture that will capture our attention and show His devotion to us. So he offers His most precious and costly thing, a very part of Himself, His own Son, to be broken and poured out for us.
Let this revelation of God’s nature settle in for a while: He’s the one with the costly vial of perfume, completely beggared by His love for YOU, and ready to pour it out on you, just so you will notice and receive it.
And hang on — there’s more. Next time.