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Breaking Jars


Sandwiched between stories of malice and betrayal we find the account of Mary of Bethany who was noted in the Gospel of Mark by her extravagant gift to Jesus Christ. The first 9 verses of chapter 14 describe the episode this way:   1 It was now two days before the Passover celebration and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law were still looking for an opportunity to capture Jesus secretly and put him to death. 2 “But not during the Passover,” they agreed, “or there will be a riot.” 3 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had leprosy. During supper, a woman came in with a beautiful jar of expensive perfume. She broke the seal and poured the perfume over his head. 4 Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why was this expensive perfume wasted?” they asked. 5 “She could have sold it for a small fortune and given the money to the poor!” And they scolded her harshly. 6 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why berate her for doing such a good thing to me? 7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But I will not be here with you much longer. 8 She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. 9 I assure you, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be talked about in her memory.”

Here are five observations from the story about sacrificial giving that I have found to be helpful.
1.  Sacrificial giving is our response to the grace of God that we have received (14:1-3).
When someone makes a sacrificial gift, our first question is “how much?”
Nard came from the root of a Hymilean plant that was imported from India. Only the wealthy possessed it. The story states that it was valued at the equivalent of a year’s income.
But the question the Bible makes much of is “why?” What motivated her extravagance? No one prompted her to do it. Jesus himself didn’t request it. It was 100% self initiated because of her thankful spirit for what Jesus had done for her and her family.
2. Sacrificial giving is without measure (14:3b).
In Bible times the customary practice of anointing was measured. Just a few drops. Or, as the old commercial used to say, “a little dab will do ya.” But Mary broke the jar and emptied its contents on Jesus. Her gesture was limitless and boundless. When you break a jar, there’s no turning back.
3. When you make sacrificial commitments to Christ you can expect critics (14:4-5).
When you start breaking jars containing expensive stuff, someone is going to become critical and even judgmental. Do you find it interesting that it was the disciples who were the most outspoken against this act? Instead of celebrating her deed, they called it a “waste.”
4.  Jesus calls our sacrificial gifts “beautiful” (14:6-7).
What the disciples called waste, Jesus called beautiful (NIV). Don’t worry about what the crowd says about your sacrifices. Jesus is pleased and calls your sacrifices beautiful things!
5. Your beautiful sacrifices will make a difference in ways you may not expect or realize (14:8-9).
Jesus told Mary that her act would prepare his body for burial. Furthermore, he said her gift would be memorialized throughout human history. I can’t imagine that Mary could forsee the fact that after 2,000 years she would be studied and discussed. With that in mind, consider these questions:
* What will be your lasting legacy in the Kingdom of God?
* How will you be remembered?
* What will people say about your contributions after you’re gone from this life?
There are many who aspire to change the world and make it a more beautiful place. But that doesn’t happen without risk and sacrifice. It doesn’t come clinging to comfort zones and measure our commitments. It happens when you start breaking jars.

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