Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Alabaster Box

This past Sunday, Pastor Mark Minichiello gave an interesting illustration for the offering.  He described a situation where he was out to dinner with some business people, in a very fancy restaurant.  A homeless woman kept tapping on the window.  Finally, someone waved her in, got her a table and made sure she had something to eat.  Pastor Mark commented on how uncomfortable many were with having a street person being served in this fine restaurant.  And he compared it to the woman with the alabaster box, in the passage starting in Luke 7:36.  The Pharisees had to be uncomfortable with this woman being in the house.  And uncomfortable with her gift.  But it was what she had.  Here are some thoughts.

First, the woman was described as a sinner.  Nice way of saying tramp, hooker, slut, etc.  On the social scale, that put her at or close to the bottom.  Especially since women were already close to that, anyway.  But, either way, she was considered low class in comparison to the Pharisees.  That’s an important phrase, “in comparison”.  The Pharisees, just like the people in Pastor Mark’s restaurant scene, considered themselves at a level above much of the rest of society.  And they created that status by false standards and rules.  So the woman was a known sinner.  Which made the Pharisees uncomfortable.  She didn’t fit.  My immediate reaction, when I thought about this was that I’d want to holler at them something like, “So, when did you stop sinning?”.  I’m not always as gentle and loving as I ought to be.  But that thought was stopped by Jesus own irony.

In Luke 7:34, Jesus says, “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!”  Immediately after, He goes to eat with the Pharisees.  By invitation.  But, if you fully read into the chapter, they’re not comfortable with Him, either.  They know that He hangs out with “sinners”, which should make Him less than they are.  But they sense that He’s on a different spiritual plane than they are.  And don’t know how to handle that.  Because they can’t handle that we all fit into that category called “sinners”.

That inability to understand the truth makes me want to holler “So, when did you stop sinning?” even more.  But for a different reason.  The spiritual leaders were the ones who needed spiritual guidance the most.  When the Pharisees complained about the woman, Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees didn’t do any of the required things for a guest, yet the woman went above and beyond.  And, if you remember our post on the wisemen’s gifts, the frankincense and myrrh that went into the ointment were expensive.  So, her gift and her actions were beyond any requirements.

The thing I don’t ever want to become is someone who is uncomfortable with someone who doesn’t meet my standards.  I don’t want to miss what Jesus can do through the kid with the green spiked hair and the sneakers.  Or the kid who can out rap Jay-Z.  Or the girl who’s been put down so much that her self respect is gone and she’ll sleep with anybody just to feel a little love and approval.  Because, if we look in the spiritual mirror, we all have much the same needs and spiritual flaws.  Only the variety changes.

So how do we deal with that person, today, that God put in our path for us to show them Jesus?  And to show us a new aspect of Jesus?  Because the alabaster box isn’t about an expensive ointment in an expensive container.  It’s about the heart behind all that.  Are we ready to both give it and receive it?

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