I’ve been thinking about the alabaster vial from which you were anointed (Matthew 26:7). Doubtless, the flask itself was ornately carved and had traveled from a great distance, as alabaster was native to Egypt not Israel.
A calcite formation, ancient alabaster was usually from caves of stalagmitic limestone. Easily carved with a knife, how amazing it must have been for a family of Bethany to have such a piece (Mark 14:3). Maybe it was on display in a prominent location in their home. I can imagine visitors admiring its beauty since it was not only costly, but also unique.
This expensive vial held an even more expensive perfume. Probably from the spikenard plant found only in the Himalayas of China, Tibet and India, this too made quite the journey into Mary’s possession. Hidden inside the flacon was a pound of pure nard valued at almost a year’s wages – about $50,000 U.S. in today’s standards (John 12:3). Mind-boggling, indeed.
Yet, the true value wasn’t the container of fine alabaster or its contents of pure essence. No, we remember the story today because both were in Your Presence.
Sometimes, I am ashamed to admit, I consider myself an alabaster flask. I think of myself made precious by whatever life hardships I have endured and see Your disciplines toward me as whittling away at my emotions. I view my renewed thoughts as something of value and enjoy being admired from the shelf.
True; contained within me is a new spirit, which You spilled out freely through Your crushed Life. When situations and circumstances break the seal of my tranquil emotions and well-ordered thoughts, I imagine all the purity and blessedness that will spill forth.
But, can my fragrance be pure if my valuation remains on self? No, anything of the flesh cannot please You (Romans 8:8). How putrid such selfishness must smell to Your nostrils.
Your work within me is amazing and Your renewal precious, but I’m not the important one. Neither my value as a vessel nor my ingredients within.
Certainly others in Palestine owned hand-carved bottles of precious perfume. But, only one was remembered – the one in Your Presence. May I live there, too, O Lord. Forgive me for taking my eyes off You. May Your Presence be my daily dwelling place.