But Have You Broken The Box? – Part 1
TEXT: MARK 14:1-9
ILLUSTRATION: When the American evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman was in London, he had an opportunity to meet the founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth, who at that time was past 80 years of age. Dr. Chapman listened reverently as the old general spoke of the trials and the conflicts and the victories he had experienced. Chapman then asked the general if he would disclose his secret for success. “He hesitated a second,” Dr. Chapman said, “and I saw the tears come into his eyes and steal down his cheeks,” and then he said, “I will tell you the secret. God has had all there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, men with greater opportunities; but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with the poor of London, I made up my mind that He would have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.” Dr. Chapman said he went away from that meeting with General Booth knowing “that the greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”
There are several great words that begin with the letter “s” when we consider Christianity. I think about words like “Saviour,” “Security,” “Sealed,” “Spirit,” “Sanctified,” “Supplication,” “Scripture,” “Servant,” “Supply,” “So loved,” and many others, but I am convinced that a couple of keywords to a profitable Christian life are the words surrender, or we could use the word submission.
Fanny Crosby penned the line in her hymn, Blessed Assurance that says, “Perfect submission, perfect delight!” -And truly the joyful life is the surrendered or the submitted Christian life.
What is submission? It is totally placing your all upon the altar of God’s will. It is yielding to God’s authority. It is conforming to God’s purpose. It is the cleaning out of all the clutter of our own desires and allowing God to fill our hearts with His desires. Submission, or surrender, to the Christian is not done like a prisoner of war would who is forced to bow to his captor and does so with a deviant heart. Rather, it is a willing laying down of self at the feet of the Saviour out of a heart of pure devotion to Him.
In Romans 12:1, the Apostle gave us the command to present our bodies a living sacrifice. He is saying that we ought to daily offer ourselves in complete surrender and submission to God for godly service and godly living!
Submission is more than serving. Submission is more than worship. Submission is more than faithfulness. Submission is more than simply pouring ointment out upon the Saviour. Submission goes further than emptying the box. Submission is the willingness to pour out the spikenard and break the alabaster box!
I want us to ask our own hearts the question, “So you’ve poured out the ointment, but have you broken the box?”
Mark 14 brings us to the closing days of Christ’s ministry prior to Calvary. Not long after our the story in our text, Jesus will sit with His disciples in the upper room; He’ll explain to them the New Covenant that He would fulfill, Judas will betray the Saviour, the soldiers will take Him captive, Pilate will give Him up to be crucified; and Jesus will suffer, bleed, and die for the sins of humanity.
As we read our Bible, we must never forget to read the Scriptures with the understanding that every line, every verse, every chapter leads us to the culminating point of Calvary, where God literally dies for man.
In the beginning of this chapter, the Bible says that the Jewish leadership is already plotting to put Jesus to death. Passover is approaching, so the chief priests and scribes determine to wait until after the feast to fulfill their sinful desire.
Notice that here is classic “Pharisee-ism”: straining at gnats and swallowing camels. They saw nothing wrong with lying and taking Jesus by craft and murdering an innocent man, but they dare not violate the feast day. Here we see the psychotic tendencies of Pharisees.
Verse 3 tells us that Jesus is in Bethany. Bethany was a town that lay along the route from Jerusalem to Jericho. Throughout Jesus’ ministry in Judea, He made Bethany his home base. Bethany is where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Bethany is located on the eastern slope of the Mt. of Olives where Jesus prayed. Bethany is where Jesus ascended after His resurrection. And in our text, Bethany is the spot where Jesus was hosted at the house of a leper by the name of Simon.
The Bible says that this woman who came to Christ came with something precious, and she came with a purpose.
This unnamed woman desired to bless the One who had blessed so many others. Her heart was that of a humble servant. She wanted to take what she had and give it to Jesus. The ointment that she poured upon the Saviour was a costly ointment. She didn’t give Jesus something that was off the proverbial goodwill shelf. She made a sacrifice to bless the Lord.
Spikenard was an imported spice that would be liquified and used as perfume. It was brought in from Arabia and places further east. The cost of this amount of Spikenard would be equivalent to a years’ pay. In fact, when you consider the shock of some in verse 4, don’t be too critical of them; you would probably say something similar if your spouse or someone you knew took their whole year’s salary and donated it to the church!
Can I say that this new age, Americanized, lukewarm Christianity that doesn’t cost us anything and looks for angles to serve Christ as cheaply as possible is totally foreign to the Bible! In the Bible, we find disciples who would spend and be spent for Christ. Today we have hit and miss followers who do church when church doesn’t interfere with their schedule. We serve with convenience while the generation of Christians that turned cities upside down served with conviction.
The old quote is right that says a Christianity that doesn’t cost much probably isn’t worth much! I don’t want to give Jesus leftovers or secondhand service or a scratch and dent devotion!
We ought to learn from this woman that Jesus is worthy and worth our all! He is precious; and the service, devotion, and worship we pour upon Him ought to be alike precious!
This humble woman poured her precious offering upon Jesus. The entire room would be filled with the fragrance. Everyone would be drawn to Jesus because of the aroma that was put upon Him by this woman. She didn’t do this so they would look at her, but she did what she could do to cause others to look unto Jesus. Our desire ought to be that we are so devoted to our Saviour that our service and love for Him causes others to draw their attention to Jesus.
Picture the scene. See the crowd. The table is set. Conversation is happening. Jesus is sitting there. Simon is nearby. This woman approaches with her alabaster box. She begins to pour spikenard upon Jesus. See the ointment as it falls upon the head that will soon rest under a mocking sign, “Behold, King of the Jews.” Watch as it streams down the forehead that will soon be pierced with a thorny crown. It runs over the eyes that search the hearts of men: the hands, the feet, the heart.
My prayer for my life and for the life of those who read this article is that we will be actively pouring out precious ointment upon Jesus—pour it out in our praise, in our prayer, in our soul winning, in our giving, in our loving, in our caring, etc.
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Since 2006, Pastor Cooper has served as an evangelist and as a pastor, traveling across the nation holding revival meetings and preaching in Bible conferences. Pastor Cooper moved to join our staff in 2019 and is building the Tabernacle Bible Class. He and his wife, Desarae, are an incredible blessing to both the college and church families. Pastor and Mrs. Cooper have one son, Lincoln.