THE ALABASTER BOX OF OINTMENT
Luke 7:36-39 And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner.
The verse following the lesson text tells us that the Pharisee, that invited Jesus to eat with him, was named Simon. We are not told the reason that Simon invited Jesus into his house on this occasion. It is doubtful that he did so out of hospitality, nor out of gratitude, because we have no record of any act of kindness or miraculous deed given by Jesus to benefit him. It seems that Simon desired to know more about Jesus, which was probably due to the public acclaim He received because of His teaching and the miracles He performed. Scriptures reveal many instances where Pharisees went to great lengths to entrap Jesus and find reasons to accuse Him of blasphemy. The true reason seems to be the latter in this instance.
As the Pharisee was entertaining Jesus with a meal, a woman in the city entered his house. Luke says that she was a sinner. The sinful and wicked life she lived was probably well known to this Pharisee, as well as to many others of this city. To the self-righteous Jews, the woman was an outcast to society and was to be, not only shunned, but also avoided at all times. Yet, having knowledge of His teaching and the miracles He performed, and knowing Jesus was there, she dared to enter the Pharisee's house and approach Him. She came bearing an alabaster box of ointment. Alabaster was a mineral found extensively in Israel. It was similar to gypsum, usually white, having a soft texture, and easily shaped and carved. Many vases, jars, and bowls were made of this mined ore, and, in this case, a carrying box was carved from it.
Within the box was an ointment, which was usually made of aromatic spices and other ingredients that were mixed with an olive oil base. Although it had many religious ceremonial uses, it also had practical uses, such as anointing the sick and preparing bodies for burial. Due to its costliness, it is often used to demonstrate honor and affection for another. This was the probable reason this sinful women used it - to show her humble and repentant love for the Son of God. Humbling herself at His feet, and realizing her sinful condition, the woman began to weep penitently, truly seeking mercy from Jesus. And with her tears of sorrow, she began to wash His feet, and ...wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet. And, after these acts of humility at Jesus feet, she, with adoring honor, anointed them with the ointment. .
Jewish leaders, especially Pharisees, religiously isolated themselves from known sinners. Therefore, when the woman demonstrated her humble affection for Jesus in this manner, Simon could not understand it. Observing her actions, and the fact that Jesus allowed her to do so, this Pharisee questioned it in his mind. He thought, This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner. Again, as it is often used, the word "prophet," here does not refer to one that is able to see into, and foretell events that are to occur in the future. Here, the word means a "man of God" that has various spiritual gifts. In this instance, it means one that has the ability to look into the heart of another and recognize their true character. This being the meaning, Simon could not understand why Jesus accepted her deeds of humility rather than openly refuse her actions and reject her presence among them. Truly this Pharisee doubted and rejected the spiritual godliness that Jesus possessed and demonstrated by His teaching and miracles.
Such sincere, humble repentance as shown by this sinful woman was rare within the Jewish nation. And it was especially rare among their spiritual leaders who, due to their own self-righteous ways, failed to read, understand, and accept Old Testament prophecies concerning the promised Savior.. What a wonderful example to men and women today, for this example of a sincerely repentant woman seeking forgiveness, which leads to the hope of eternal life in heaven.