In FBC Lowell Blog

The Woman With the Alabaster Box | Aaron W. Matthews

Some of the greatest worship may come from the most unlikely sources. Read Luke 7:36-50…

“One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and He went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that Jesus was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman Jesus said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” 

The Bible speaks of two different incidents of a woman with an alabaster box anointing Jesus. The most well-known was probably Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet just days before His crucifixion. This Mary was the sister of Martha. It is mentioned in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12. The other lady goes unnamed. Her story is told in our text. While there are multiple similarities in the two stories, they are different accounts occurring in different places at different times.

The woman with the alabaster box is at the home of Simon the Pharisee near Galilee. The time of the event was almost one year before Jesus would be crucified. What we know about her is that she was an outcast from society. She had been used and abused. But something about the words and actions of Jesus caused her to bring her most valuable possession and pour it out in an expression of love and worship.

I believe her name is intentionally not mentioned because she could be anyone – including us. She had been forgiven of many sins, and the only name that mattered was the One who forgave her. In response, she lovingly worshipped her Savior.

She carried with her an alabaster box. This marble-like stone was one of the precious stones used in building Solomon’s temple. Alabaster boxes like this were actually perfume vases or vials. Ointment, oils and perfumes used to be stored in them, which kept them pure and unspoiled until their time of use. The boxes were often sealed with wax to prevent the perfume from escaping.

This story teaches us a few things about worship. For one, worship can, and should, happen anywhere. It doesn’t just take place inside the church house. It better not, anyway! Second, the Pharisees were the “separated ones”. They looked down on those who were not as religious as they were. They enjoyed pointing their finger of judgment and accusation at everybody else and getting praise from men. So, the fact that Jesus and this woman were at a Pharisee’s house tells us that even people we don’t like – even people that may judge us and look down on us – should still be shown what true praise and worship looks like. We teach the world about worship. Furthermore, God often uses humble things and people to teach great lessons to the high and mighty.

Since Jesus was coming to town, there were very likely hundreds of people gathered around Simon’s home. And, this woman was one of them. In one moment she pressed through fear, prejudices, and shame and created one of the most intimate moments of worship in the Bible. This lady was very likely a known prostitute. I can’t imagine the horror and anger the Pharisees felt when they saw her come into the home uninvited. What boldness on her part, though! She knew people reviled her and she knew she was unwelcome and unwanted by the religious leaders, but thank God she knew Jesus wasn’t like them. She just wanted Him.

Verse 38 says she wept and, “she began to wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment.” What kind of weeping do you think it would take to wet someone’s feet enough to wipe them clean? It’s not just a small sob. This woman was broken over her sin and ugly-cried enough to cause many tears. This was an undignified cry. She didn’t care who saw her or what they thought of her. All she cared about was her Lord and Savior. She needed forgiveness and desired worship.

Being in the presence of God will cause us do to things we would not normally do. For instance, this woman let down her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet. Letting down one’s hair like this wasn’t socially accepted and was a private act – even an intimate one. What I love about her besides her boldness to get to Jesus at any cost is that she doesn’t care what people say or think. She just pushes through. Society had already rejected her, but she wanted nothing more than to be at the feet of Jesus. He was her only hope! Only His voice mattered.

What about you? A lot of people come to church to spectate rather than participate. They want to watch Jesus and listen to Him, but they’re not bold enough to do much with their faith. This woman was an exception. Do you believe the Lord is worthy of unashamed worship? Would you do anything and give everything to simply get to His feet? Do you have the faith to empty your alabaster box?

When man’s opinion has declared us “guilty”, there’s One who can be touched by our worship and forgive our sins! He is Jesus Christ – our Lord. Tonight, worship Him. If you break down, cry, confess, fall to your knees, lift your hands, push through the crowd, fall on your face, or whatever you do – don’t worry about the opinions of the religious elite. Focus your faith on Jesus. He alone is worthy of your worship and He alone will forgive you and restore you.

You can break your alabaster box for Jesus. He’s worthy of the most valuable things you possess. Hold nothing back. Seek Him at any cost!

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