Posted by: pmarkrobb | April 1, 2015

she did what she could

It’s Wednesday, and the plates have been cleared from the table.  It’s dinner at the home of a former leper … is anyone surprised that Jesus is there?  This man who was well-known for hanging around with the rough crowd and breaking bread with all manner of social outcasts, is reclining after dinner at Simon the leper’s house.  Contrary to proper etiquette, a woman (who would normally only approach the table to serve the men who were eating) approaches Jesus.  In her hands, she holds “a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard.” (Mark 14:3 NLT)  Perfume of such quality and quantity would be the equivalent of a year’s salary and would likely have been a treasured family heirloom or inheritance.  I think it’s fair to say this would have been a prized possession and would have amounted to most, if not all, of what she had of value in this world.  The last sentence of Mark 14:3 describes what happens next …

She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. (NLT)

The immediate response in the room is shock and awe, and almost immediately the woman is in the cross-hairs of the indignant dinner crowd.  The Bible says “they rebuked her harshly.”  They are aghast and cannot fathom the depth of the wastefulness of this frivolous act.  There are multiple layers of hypocrisy and empty piety in the crowd’s reaction, and Jesus quickly sets things right.  He stands in her defense and returns their rebuke.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 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 14:6-9

There are five simple, yet powerful, words in the center of Jesus’ rebuke, which I believe are central to the sacrificial love this unnamed woman poured out that day.  “She did what she could.”

Just like the widow with two coins, this unnamed woman gave everything she had for the singular purpose of honoring (anointing) her King.  And in her giving, it was immeasurably important that she “broke open the jar.”  I believe there is deep significance in this very intentional act.  The unnamed woman did not simply uncap the jar and measure her pour.  She broke the jar making an irreversible commitment that its entire contents would be spent in the anointing of Jesus.  A whole and opaque vessel would allow for restraint and the possibility to keep a measure for herself.  It could give the appearance of pouring it all out, yet still allowing for some to be hidden and saved.  A broken vessel is an exposed vessel; there is no hiding with a broken vessel.  A broken vessel is a submitted vessel — one which can no longer be used for its prior purpose, and given fully to the purpose it was broken for.  These are the gifts of the unnamed woman … not only of the full measure of her earthly possession, but also of herself.

She broke open the jar and did what she could.  What perfect prose for our lives to speak.

If eternity has a gate, on the other side of it I wish to hear Jesus say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  On this side, I wish to hear, “He did what he could.”  If my life is indeed an alabaster jar, I wish for it to be completely broken with every ounce of the grace and life, which God has given me, poured out in service to Him.

Tomorrow’s sacred Seder and passionate declaration belong to tomorrow.  Stay present in the actions of the unnamed woman and what they speak into our lives today.



  1. Thanks for sharing this week. I am following along. 🙂

  2. “A broken vessel”. WOW!!! All in, no turning back! Make it so Lord….

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