Sunday, January 1, 2017

Symbolism in the Annointing of Jesus

Sometimes we see the obvious, but miss the abstract. When the reader reads about the woman of Bethany, there is much going on behind the scenes:
Matthew 26:7 (ESV) "There came unto him a woman (Mary) having an alabaster box of very precious ointment (nard), and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial."
It's obvious that the woman truly loved Jesus and was being a servant to him. She was sensitive to Jesus' nature; that he was indeed God, and would die for her. She sacrificed this costly ointment and prioritized reverence for Jesus over the needs of the poor. Jesus needed her love. She gave it! The others failed to understand. They valued the material over the spiritual.  The woman, Mary of Bethany, valued Jesus and sacrificed to him as a humble servant.

All this is easy to recognize, but scripture is always symbolic of things unseen!

Alabaster is a soft rock, easily scratched. It can be processed and it's dust becomes powder, or the stone can be used for carving. It's a variety of gypsum which in turn is familiar to many of us as the main ingredient in wall board. It's also the lime which is spread on the ground to adjust soil pH to enhance growth.

On the inside was ointment. These are mostly fat and water-based concoctions, highly perfumed and often with healing properties. Mary rubbed spikenard on Jesus' feet; the ingredient often used in making incense, the aroma which God loved so much back in patriarchal times. Spikenard was also used to season food to sweeten it up a bit.

Hence, it's possible that the alabaster was representative of Jesus' death. Rather than returning to dust as all men before him, it lived on in stone, as Jesus is often represented. In other words the alabaster may have represented the immortality of Jesus and that  he would never die.

The nard seasoned the food as well as made a pleasant aroma. Pre-incarnate Jesus always loved the smell of burning incense back in the time of tent worship. The nard was a way to please God with it's pleasant aroma. Mary knew what God liked and she brought the smell of incense to him! Therefore, Mary was testifying to his being God.

The "bread of life" was seasoned with the nard and that too is Jesus. This signifies that Jesus is the author of life and the alabaster, makes that life eternal.  Symbolically, Mary, was testifying to Jesus' divinity, his life, his death, his resurrection and his immortality be anointing him with nard from an alabaster box. Even the box represented the crypt which held the nard for a time, but from which it waxed in exuberance!

Of course it's my belief that all this was symbolic, but God always used symbolic things to demonstrate actual events. There is no doubt in my mind that Mary knew what she was doing specifically with the nard in the alabaster box and Jesus knew that she knew! The word specifically said "alabaster", "box" and "nard" for reasons. It only remains to determine those reasons!

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