For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough



All four Gospels record Mary’s anointing of the Lord’s body with the precious ointment or spikenard just prior to His crucifixion; Mt 26:7 informing us that the precious perfume was in an alabaster box; and Mk 14:3 recording the fact that “she broke the box,” the word “broke” meaning that she crushed or shattered it.

There are two kinds of alabaster, both resembling marble, but much softer, one being translucent white and often having colored streaks; the other being usually snow white and of uniform fine grain.  The latter is the softer, but both lend themselves to delicate fine carving.

From John 12:3,5 we learn that it was “very costly,” worth about “three hundred pence,” the equivalent of approximately a year’s wages in that day.

Some have seen in this costly perfume a figure or type of “man’s best graces, efforts and talents” consecrated to the service of Christ; others, a type of worship, the presentation to God of the worshiper’s apprehension of the perfections and worth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Occupation with the perfume, however, has resulted in virtual disregard of the typological portrait presented in the alabaster container itself, yet closer scrutiny reveals that it is indeed such a picture.  First, its color, white, the color of purity, points to the spotless purity of Christ.  There was nothing in His holy nature that could ever be tempted by the sin which so easily tempts us.  Of Him alone could God declare, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Mt 3:17.

Its uniform fine grain declares the same truth as was presented in the Meal offering: every attribute of Christ was in perfect balance: no trait predominated; His abhorrence of sin was as great as His love for the Father and for sinners.

Its plasticity, the ease with which it could be carved or shaped, points to the submissiveness of Christ to the Father’s will, as displayed throughout His life, and declared in His prayer in Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done,” Lk 22:42.

The costly perfume within the container represents that inward perfection which was manifested in His words and deeds, and which man discerned in only the smallest measure, but which God alone understood and valued.  It was, however, only by the breaking, the crushing or shattering of the alabaster vessel, that the fragrance of the oil was perceived by everyone in the house.  And so was it with Christ.  It was by His death (the shattering of the human vessel, His body) that His inward perfections have been manifested, for love is the perfect expression of every other virtue, and no love, however great, can ever equal that of Christ for His Father, and for sinful men, as it is written, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” Ro 5:6-8.

Relative to the other symbolic picture presented here, that of worship, it is sadly apparent that what passes for worship in Christendom today falls very far short of the ideal set before us in this typological cameo, for the truth is that genuine worship can come only from a contrite heart, crushed and broken by awareness of its own sinfulness, and by a true apprehension of what the Lord endured at Calvary to redeem our souls.


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough