Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25

 

If Heaven has a “Hall of Fame,” I can tell you someone whose name is going to be close to the top of the list. How would you like that to be said about you? Well, God’s definition or idea of a “hero” is not the same as ours. Who am I talking about? It is Mary, the woman with the alabaster box. I pray everyone reading this truly sits and studies this, ruminates on it, and takes it to heart. It is critical to remember that this woman, a woman who is on “auto-dial” to Jesus, was called a sinful woman, a woman who repulsed and embarrassed all the disciples. The disciples wanted her thrown out of service. Keep that in mind as we learn why she was and remains so beloved by our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are a student and lover of the Word, you are going to recall so many other verses, parables, and teachings of Jesus that spill over into this story somehow. If we knew just how much the hand of man has polluted or mischaracterized the will, heart, and ways of God we would be shocked beyond words. Too many have become spiritually anemic by tossing aside the Living Word and trying to exist upon the dessert buffet of best sellers and TV evangelists. So often we quote the verse, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8) But I think we have yet to grasp the vastness of the difference.

God is saying to us now, “I know thy works; behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast little strength, and has kept thy word, and has not denied My Name.” Rev. 3:8. 

This is such an amazing hour to be alive, to be a Christian. God has set before each of us an open door, a door through which we can pass and move closer to the lover of our souls and a place of greater intimacy with Him and communion with Him. But in order to do this and step through that door, we have to stop worrying about what we look like, about what others might think, and about what others in the church could be whispering about us. That is what Mary did. When you are desperate enough, or hungry enough, you will push forward with no regards to what others might think, assume, or say.

“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.

“And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

“And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

“Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

“And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

“Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

“My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

“And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.”

Luke 7:36-48.

We have reached the hour in the dispensation of time when God has opened that door so that any person, any child of His, who wishes to stop approaching Him week after week seeking only His blessings but instead wants Him and only Him, will find Him. Seek the Blesser, not the blessing. Seek the Reviver, not just revival. Seek His face, not just His hands. You may be only a few spiritual inches away from the encounter of a lifetime. If you long to see the face of God, follow Mary to the feet of Jesus. Pull out your alabaster box of precious sacrificial praise and worship — the worship you have held back far too long. What may be difficult to understand is that in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Mary’s harshest critics were not the Pharisees or the Sadducees. It was the disciples of Jesus who wanted to throw her out on the street. What did Jesus do?

“And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on Me. She hath done what she could: she is come beforehand to anoint My body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Mark 14:6, 8-9.

Jesus said that this woman who had broken her alabaster box to anoint Him would never be forgotten, she would always be on God’s mind. Sometimes our most treasured attributes or possessions must be broken to release that special fragrance that catches God’s attention. That can be a painful process. Especially when you are trying to adapt to all the changes in every area of your life affected by this global pandemic.

People’s patience is lacking. Everything feels upside-down. Families struggle to help their children catch up on any ground lost when they were kept at home in front of a computer. Depression, hopelessness, and loss of joy are at an epidemic level right alongside Covid. Nothing feels safe or customary. It has caused great gaps within our lives. But God has never left us. We must face our issues and cry aloud for grace to help in this terrible time of need. That brokenness is a sweet-smelling savor to God. He collects every tear that drips from your cheek, and from the cheeks of your children and grandparents. The Bible says that He has a bottle to hold every tear that you have shed.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.” Psalm 56:8.

Now, make no mistake, it took humility for Mary to wipe all the dust and animal droppings from Jesus’s feet with her hair. Right in the presence of the leadership, His disciples, who were verbally berating her — embarrassed by her out-of-the-box behavior. Mary had to get to the point where her passion made her cry out something like this, “I don’t care any longer about who’s watching, or what they think. All I care about is that He knows how much I adore Him and how thankful I am.”

Have you ever felt like just falling at His feet, crying for mercy and forgiveness?

God wants you to openly and boldly declare your love for Him. Become a “box-breaker.” Forget about what others may think of you. Here is the truth. God has no use for our routine religious tradition and service — He longs for our worship and a relationship! And only the true worship that is birthed through pain and humility.

So often, we put people on a pedestal who carry great anointing. Who does God memorialize? The people of His face and feet. Oil-pourers, tear-washers, box-breakers, humble lovers of Him more than lovers of things! The breaking of your heart arrests the ears and eyes of God, and it begins when your love for Him supersedes your fear of what others may think. You can’t seek His face and save your face at the same time.

If you ever get so hungry for God that you are in pursuit of Him, He will do extraordinary things for you that He won’t do for anybody else. Oh Church, so many of us seem to thrive or exist on occasional revelations of God. He longs for us to press in toward His secret things. He loves to stop and honor the cries of those like Mary, or like the woman with the issue of blood, or like the Centurion. He refuses to honor monuments we try to build for Him, especially if they were never paid for with our tears, prayers, brokenness, and humility. We like things to come quickly, easily, and cheaply. God knows such things never produce any lasting character in us. 

We need to forget about the opinions and expectations of those around us. We need to lay aside every idea of what we deem normal religious protocol as we seek His face as Mary did. God is out to redefine the Church. He is sending fire to burn away all that is not like unto Him, as He searches for a people who long for Him with all their heart, mind, and soul. Salvation is a free gift, but God’s glory will cost us everything.

He wants us to press in and be so saturated with His glory that we carry it with us everywhere we go. Our flesh nature needs to be broken apart and crucified just as Mary’s alabaster box. As that happens the Word promises, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38.

Once God’s people lay down their toys and sacrifice those things they deem so valuable in this life, the Church will look totally different than it has for centuries. It will once again overflow with fresh bread and every good gift. But more importantly, like Mary, each of us will have those experiences that transcend anything we could have imagined or dreamed. Just as Moses’s very face was changed because of the glory of God shining through him, so will ours be changed. Nothing will be more important to us than Him. No more people-pleasing. No more putting on airs or appearances. We will not care. Our love and thankfulness for Him will gush forth. And like Paul, we will “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12.

This is a decision that everyone must make on their own. When Mary broke her alabaster box and poured it over Jesus, the disciples not only wanted her thrown out, but they said, “But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, “To what purpose is this waste?” Matthew 26:8.

Jesus said this was not waste, but Mary had wrought a good work upon Him. You may need to ignore the stares and comments of politically correct church members as your hunger drives you to break through some religious strongholds. He is worthy. You will never regret it.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30.

Ruminate on that.