I think that the lesson that jumped out at me as I read the four different gospel accounts this week, was that the alabaster box of spikenard truly was very precious, but it became much more precious, and of benefit, when was poured out. You see, as long as it was inside the container, it didn't really benefit anyone. These containers were sealed as best they could in those days, and they would protect those seals to ensure that the perfume inside was just as wonderful when the box was opened, as when it was filled and sealed.
John's gospel notes that when the perfume was poured out upon Jesus that the aroma filled the house. What a powerful lesson here! The fragrance filled the house . . .
Jesus called Mary's act a "good work" and the notes in my margin say that the original would also have the meaning "a beautiful thing." Hasn't God blessed each of us a spiritual gift? It may be great faith, it may be knowledge or teaching, it may be the gift of natural and easy hospitality. But if we keep our gifts to ourselves, what is the benefit? It's our responsibility as Christians to figure out what our particular gift is (we've talked before about doing this) and then to use that gift for God's glory and the benefit of those around us.
The phrase "poured out" is one that is familiar to us, in our Bible. Many places in the Word tell us of offerings -- oil, wine, or water -- being poured out to God. They weren't put into a lovely container, and then placed on the altar to look pretty, nor were they handed back to the giver to use in their daily food preparation.
Does that seem wasteful to us? But we can see that the distinction is this: the offering is not a token act, or gesture. Pouring them out uses them up. How often have we prayed and offered ourselves to God, but then "taken ourselves back"? We need to begin looking at pouring ourselves out for God!
But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. (Philippians 2:17)The Spirit of God is also poured out:
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3)
The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. (Acts 10:45)The love of God is poured out daily in our hearts:
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:5)And we cannot forget the pouring out of Christ's blood:
for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.(Matthew 26:28)God, our Father, is so extravagant, so generous with pouring out His Spirit, His love, and Himself for us. Do we have the same heart as Mary, and offer ourselves in extravagant love to Him?