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My Broken Alabaster Jar


posted by Susan Dominikovich

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On Sunday I shared communion with our church.  This is what I wrote and spoke about, based on the story of the woman who poured out the contents of her alabaster jar on Jesus' feet.

I have put something in this jar.  But more on that later.


Luke 7:36-50 paints us a beautiful picture of a woman’s love for Jesus.  It is about the woman, Mary Magdalene coming in to Simon the Pharisee's house uninvited, so she could be with Jesus.  She could not contain her love for him and so bathed his feet in her tears, kissed him and poured expensive perfume—her treasure—all over him. 

Yet, she was a sinner.  A harlot.  A woman.  The lowest of the low.  Simon, the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to share at his table, was disgusted.  “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is –she is a sinner.”  And we read in other gospel tellings of the same story that to all those present, she was wasting a precious resource that could have been sold and given to the poor.  Imagine how many could have been served!  Think of the waste!

But Jesus points out two things.

First he points out in a parable that the one with the bigger debt will love more when that debt is cancelled.  Simon acknowledged this logic.  Clearly, the woman loved Jesus immensely.  She was overcome with devotion for Him.  She realised He would not be with them much longer and was lovingly and symbolically preparing him for his death and burial.  She gave her most precious possession to Jesus out of love for him and service to Him alone.  Jesus valued her and did not consider her actions to be waste.

Second, Jesus points out that Simon the Pharisee may have invited him to his table, but he did not show him any love.  His invitation only went a certain distance.  He did not give him anything.  Simon did not follow the usual customs which is to provide water for his feet and to give him a kiss, possibly even to anoint Him with oil.  He had invited Jesus into his home, but no further.  He was merely watching Jesus and testing Him.

But the woman, she loved Jesus greatly and deeply.  The perfume and in fact the alabaster jar itself would have been tremendously expensive and probably her greatest treasure.  She gave it to Jesus.  Not wasted but a gift.  She gave him herself completely.

An alabaster jar would not look like the one pictured above.  Historically, an alabaster jar would have been a carved jar made of precious stone and would have been sealed.  The most precious perfume or oil would be kept inside, intended only to be used once.  It may have been an heirloom in the woman’s family and some historians say it may even have been kept as a dowry for the her to be poured out at her husband’s feet before their consummation.  In that sense, it would be a symbol of complete love, devotion, submission and obedience. 

So you might guess and you would be right, that everything precious to me is in this sealed jar.  My love and my family.  My hopes and dreams.  All my plans.  My house and possessions.  My gifts and talents of music and writing.  My ambitions.  My concerns.  My fears.  My needs. 

You would probably expect me to pour out these things—my treasures—at the foot of the cross, and give them all to Jesus, just as the woman gave her oil to Him.  Jesus doesn’t want my treasures.  He wants me.  All of me.

So I break the jar...



He wants me broken at his feet, like the jar.  Only when I am fully broken, fully prepared to release all my treasures, hopes and fears, will God be able to say, “good, now I can begin a good work in you.”   When we are willing to be fully broken and accept Jesus into our lives, He begins to transform us through His Holy Spirit.  It is a process of transformation, not a once and for all event but it happens when we centre our lives, daily and continuously on Jesus Christ.  Reading His word.  Abiding in Him.  Understanding His character.  More of him and less of me.  

We’re not supposed to understand it, just embrace it.  It is a mystery as Paul says in Colossians 1:26  “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.  To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  And when we embrace the life of Jesus in us, as we lay ourselves at his feet and say “Jesus, have all of me,” we begin to see some of that glory.  That is, we become more Christ-like.  We do not have to strive for it, work harder at it, serve more for it.  We have to focus on Jesus.  Mature in Jesus.  Out of that transformation, He will use us everywhere we go and with everyone we meet and we will serve…not because He needs to use us, but because He is working in and through us.  Jesus Christ working in and through you.  Christ in you, the hope of glory.


I invite you to think of yourself as the alabaster jar.  Please know, I am not making any assumptions about where any of you are at but I ask the question:  When you take the bread and wine, are you willing to break first?  Are you willing to lay your broken pieces fully at the cross of Jesus?  Are you willing to take the bread and the wine remembering that Jesus Christ wants all of you so that He can carry on a good work in and through you?  Or are you like Simon the Pharisee…you’ve invited him in, but not really willing to give Him anything.  Are you going to continue to live your life your way, striving, working, serving and doing good things because that’s the way you’ve always understood it was meant to be?  Some of you might be content with where you are at in  your relationship with Jesus.  I am not.  And I can tell you now, Jesus is never content with us.  He wants more and more.  He wants all of us and He wants to work in and through us.  It’s a personal reflection and a personal challenge.  Between you and Jesus.  But one thing I can promise you and it’s not just me but God’s Word that promises this, if you do lay down the broken pieces of your self at the foot of His cross and give yourself to Jesus entirely, He will make you whole and you will find rest—true and complete rest.   Then, you will have life to the full.  




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