How to Worship Extravagantly: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar

The alabaster jar of spikenard. An unusual gift. Precious. Costly. This was no bottle of cheap perfume. The pink-blossomed spikenard plant grew in India. Its fragrant oil, collected from the plant’s spikes, was valued so highly that one bottle cost a year’s wages. 

Scripture records several accounts of women bringing their oil-filled alabaster jars to anoint Jesus. Alabaster was a white mineral, often gypsum. It was easy to carve and partially transparent. An alabastron was the best material for preserving costly ointments. A globular bottle with a thin neck, the alabastron contained enough oil for one application.

According to scholars, a girl was given such a jar when she became old enough to marry. It was her inheritance and would be presented to her husband as part of her dowry. It represented her total commitment. And in the gospel passages, that commitment was given to Jesus. 

The gifts of the spikenard perfume, sealed in the alabaster jars, are recorded in all four gospel accounts. These were unforgettable gifts Jesus made sure were remembered. 

On the surface, the gifts were expensive. Perfume in pretty flasks. 

For Mary and the sinful woman of Matthew’s gospel, those bottles represented everything they had. Their very best. And they broke them, lavishing the contents on Jesus. 

And were shamed for it. By the disciples! 

But not by Jesus. 

First, Jesus rose to their defense. 

“Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman?’” Matthew 26:10

Second, He received the gift. 

“As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” Luke 7:38

Third, He put the gift in perspective. Relationship trumps service. Personal worship is precious to Him. 

“She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Mark 14:6

Fourth, the gift prepared Jesus for burial. Think of the encouragement this gave Him as He faced the cross. 

“When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” Matthew 26:12

Fifth, Jesus memorialized their acts of worship. He pointed to these two as extravagant worshippers. 

“Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:98

What’s in your alabaster jar? What’s your most treasured possession?

For me, it’s time. 

Time is my most valued commodity. Yet culture looks at the time I give to Jesus and says, what a waste. 

But it’s not a waste to Jesus. He knows an extravagant gift when He sees one. 

Break your alabastron and pour it out. What will you give?


What’s in your jar? 

Why is that hard to give? 

What makes you give it anyway? 

How has Jesus responded to your gift? 

Click here for Devour the Bible study sheets for students and preschoolers. Let’s make extravagant worship a family legacy.

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