Pastor Wade's Blog

The Box And The Bag

Mark 14:1-9; John 12:6

In the house of Simon, the leper, the Holy Spirit juxtaposes two radically different lifestyles. In Mary, we are shown the broken-box lifestyle. In Judas, we see the bound-bag lifestyle. In Mary we see true spirituality. In Judas we are shown true carnality. In Mary we smell the fragrance of love for the Messiah. In Judas we smell the odor of a love for money. In Mary, the brightness of her character shines forth from a life broken and spilled out and poured at His feet. In Judas, the baseness of his character is reflected off the stone-cold heart of a life bound up in his own self interest.

The Sweet-fragrance of the Broken-box Lifestyle


A. The Imperativeness of Brokenness

It was an “alabaster” box. Alabaster is a hard stone, sometimes called “onyx marble.” It was often used in those days to make decorating vases and storage boxes.

This entire story is another of the acted parables that are recorded so often in the Bible. To personalize it, let the box represent you or me.

Herb Hodges observes, “Normally, when the boxes remained unopened, a box-consciousness,” a “vase-mentality,” prevails among the people. One box is compared to another. The people may be more alert to clothes than they are to Christ, more aware of personalities than of the Person, more attentive to self than to the Savior. And listen to them talk! Their conversations are the dialect of “box-base.” “I love that ring you are wearing; what stone is that?” “Your tan looks great.” “Your dress is so pretty.” “You’re wearing a new suit, aren’t you?” “I like your hair,” or “I bet that is a hairpiece”. As a result, the spiritual potential is unknown and unrealized, the Savior is largely unnoticed, and the Spirit is ungratified.”

But Mary did the spontaneous, unconventional, unrehearsed, untaught, and the “absurd” thing. She “broke the box.”

God puts a high premium on brokenness. When He broke up the sunlight, a rainbow of promise was formed. When Gideon broke his pitchers, the light was released and the enemy was defeated. When the roof was broken up, a palsied man could be lowered into the Presence of Jesus for his (His) healing. When the ship was broken asunder, Heaven’s Captain ordered a miracle rescue operation. When the loaves were broken, Jesus fed 5,000 hungry people. When the grain of wheat is broken in the ground, a great crop of wheat is produced; but if it refuses to break and die, it abides alone. It was only when the Body of Jesus was broken that our salvation became a reality. And it is only when the alabaster boxes are broken that the House is filled with the fragrance of perfume (John 12:3).

So what is the purpose of Christians being left here on earth. One of the primary goals is to learn how to break our own boxes and pour the contents out on Jesus, and to help others learn how to do the same.

a. The Spontaneousness of Love
Seeing a healed leper, a resurrected brother, considering her own salvation, and sensing the approaching death of her Savior, she without hesitation, oblivious to public opinion, ministers out of the overwhelming, over-flowing love that she has for her dear Savior.

b. The Costliness of Her Act
Mark 14:3 says it was “very costly.” Judas assesses it value in Mark 14:5: “…it might have been sold for more than three denarii.” According to Matthew 20, the average laborer’s daily wage at that time was a penny a day. When the Jewish Sabbaths and Feasts are removed from the wage earner’s calendar, his annual income would be almost exactly “300 denarii.” In today’s terms, the gift would be worth several thousand US dollars. “Very, very costly,” indeed!

c. The Lavishness of Her Act
She “broke” the vase. She didn’t pour out a teaspoonful for His head, or merely open the box for Him to smell the perfume, or even pour out all the contents while leaving the box intact for her own future use. No! She said, in effect, “This is the final use of this box; this perfume will never be used again for any other purpose; the utility of this box and its contents ends here.” She judged Jesus to be worthy of it all.

Contrast the measure of our giving. We calculate a tithe, and cautiously give not one penny more. If we only pay our debt to God and discharge our obligation, we keep the box unbroken and most of the perfume is retained for our own use.

Charles Spurgeon, the great London preacher, took an annual offering “for his orphans.” After one such annual offering, Mr. Spurgeon was leaving the building at the end of the service when he was accosted by a sour-faced, cynical church member. “Why, Mr. Spurgeon,” he said, “I thought you preached for souls, not for money.” Mr. Spurgeon gently replied, “My brother, I ordinarily do preach for souls, and not for money. But the problem is that my orphans can’t eat souls! And even if they could, it would take four or five souls the size of yours to give one of my orphans a good solid meal!”

d. The Timeliness of Her Act
“She is come beforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” Nicodemus came with “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a seventy-five pounds in weight.” “Then they took the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices” (John 19:39-40). But they came too late! He was already dead. Luke 24:1 says, “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women came unto the tomb, bringing the spices and ointments which they had prepared” (to anoint the body of Jesus). But they came too late! He was already dead. Mary, on the other hand, came six days before His burial.

e. The Perceptiveness of Her Act
“She poured it on His head” (Mark 14:2), and the word “head” also bears major emphasis. Why does the Holy Spirit stress the word “head” in Mark 14:2? “She poured it on His head.” You see, the anointing of the head in Biblical times usually meant the recognition of royalty. Kings were anointed this way. Or, it meant the recognition of priestly character since priests were so anointed. So, this suggested something of the insight Mary had into Jesus. Mary perceived that He was Prophet, Priest, and King.

Jesus said, “She has come beforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” Jesus, being within a few days of His death and burial, with the shadow of the cross hanging dark and heavy over His heart, in His sensitive humanity needed support and encouragement, and Mary’s deed fulfilled that ministry to Him.

How did Mary know about His death and burial when the others didn’t? For at least a year and a half, Jesus had been telling His disciples that He would violently die, be buried, and be raised from the dead. But a death for Him was as foreign to their thinking about a Person like Him as was resurrection foreign to their thinking for anyone! They couldn’t envision a resurrection for anyone, and they couldn’t imagine a death for Him. Mary, by being often in the most sacred spot on earth — at the feet of Jesus — she gained by association an intuitive awareness of His Person and His Purpose.

f. The Pervasiveness of Her Act
John 12:3 says, “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” When the box is broken, the sweet perfume within is released, and an atmosphere is created. A climate prevails. Every church has a “smell” to it — either a sweet fragrance or a foul odor.

Some churches are like that spiritually. There is “a fly in their ointment”! Why? They have omitted the breaking of the box – and the air is heavy with carnal pollution.

The Apostle Paul paid the Philippian church the ultimate human compliment when he said, “I have received the things which you sent, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). Their gift had been sent all the way from Philippi to Rome, but the “fragrance that filled the house” of God at Philippi was so strong that the smell lingered on the package when it arrived in Rome.

What atmosphere prevails around you? What “smell” exudes from you? What climate is created by your presence? What bad odors are displaced by your arrival? When Jesus is within and we are growing in Him — and the box is broken — the very house if filled with the sweet fragrance. Mary’s deed was beautiful in its manifestation.

g. The Extensiveness of Her Act
Mark 14:9, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” This deed made the name of Mary immortal. Jesus promises her historical remembrance “wherever the Gospel is preached,” and the promise has been fulfilled. The Gospel’s main feature of a Broken Body and a released life is central to the story. Furthermore, Jesus immortalized this deed because it is exemplary of what the Gospel should always produce, wherever it is proclaimed.

The Stinking Odor of the Bound-bag Life-style
a. A Fatal Coldness Toward Christ- Mark 14:4, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?”
Here is a woman who loves Jesus more than she loves her life, her wealth or her possessions. She sacrificed her pride and her precious ointment because she wanted to worship and honor the Lord Jesus. She worshiped Him publically, openly, sacrificially and extravagantly. She gave away all she had to worship Him. Her worship was expensive and extravagant! Yet, her extravagant love is misunderstood and misinterpreted by the Lord’s disciples, especially Judas. They ridiculed her and tried to make her feel bad for the thing she did for Jesus. Why did they treat her this way? Because they did not have the same heart of love for Jesus that she had. They were upset because they did not think He was worthy of the same kind of love that she deemed Him worthy of.

Persons like Judas know the price of everything and the true value of nothing!

b. A Fetid (smelly) Condition that Repulses People
John 12:6,”… he was a thief.” Judas is identified as a thief whose only interest lay in furthering his own cause and feathering his own nest. He lifestyle was aptly and accurately represented by the money bag he carried — tightly bound, and accessible to no one but himself. The bag of his spirit emitted the foul odor of a selfish, shriveled heart. A selfish life stinks!

c. A Feigned Concern for the Poor- John 12:26
John 12:5-6, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

His love was a pretense. In reality, he had no love for the poor but only for himself. His concern was not alleviating the misery of the poor but accumulating more money.

d. The False Confirmation of Love – Mark 14:43-45
“And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.’ And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ And he kissed him.'”

Mary, in a broken-box lifestyle, publicly confirmed her love and loyalty for Christ. Judas, in a bound-bag lifestyle, publicly denied his love for Christ using the symbol of friendship and affection, a kiss, as a means of putting more money in his bag.

Here is the test question for you and me: Is mine a broken-box or a bound-bag lifestyle? 2 Cors 2:14-15 “Now thanks be unto God, who always leads us around in Christ’s triumphal procession, and makes manifest the fragrance of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet fragrance of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the odor of death to death; and to the other the fragrance of life unto life.”

Is He King of every province (room) of your heart today? Is He Lord of every word, thought, and deed in your life today? Would you break the box and anoint His head right now? If so, your deed, like Mary’s, will be beautiful in its meaning. If you refuse to break the box of your life and poor out its selfishness, allowing the sweet perfume of Christ’s presence to fill it and pervade as an attractive fragrance from it, you will find yourself squeezing yourself tighter and tighter until you become a stink or a suicide!

“Lord, you were God’s precious treasure, His loved and His own perfect Son.
Sent here to show me the love of the Father, yes, just for love it was done.
And though you were perfect and holy, You gave up Yourself willingly.
You spared no expense for my pardon, You were used up and wasted just for me.
Broken and spilled out just for the love of you Jesus. My precious treasure lavished on Thee.
Broken and spilled out and poured at your feet, in sweet abandon, let me be spilled out and used up for Thee!”

Herb Hodges so articulately summarized the two lifestyles when he said: “Mary and Judas are given eternal profiles in this story. Mary’s entire history was “in the box”. Judas’ entire history was “in the bag”. When the story concluded, Mary had broken her box — and Judas was left holding the bag!”

A broken-box lifestyle that publicly confirms your love and loyalty for Christ or a bound-bag lifestyle like Judas — which?

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