The Parable of the Woman with the Alabaster Box
Luke 7: 36-50
This story is contained in all four gospels. Each gospel presents the story slightly differently. By collating the details from all four, we can develop a composite picture as follows.
In Bethany, in the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus proclaimed the hallmark of his doctrine, by which HIS gospel would be distinguished from all other doctrines.
It was a doctrine so controversial and divisive that upon hearing it, Judas Iscariot went out IMMEDIATELY and conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray and murder Christ.
To understand the offensive nature of Jesus’ doctrine, we must remember that Jerusalem was ruled by the Pharisees (Farsi’s), who were the sons and disciples of Moses and the keepers of the Law of Moses, which in Hebrew is called Torah and in Arabic is called Sharia.
Under this law, which is Islam, women were required by law to keep their heads covered.
The apostle Paul describes the role of women in Jerusalem under Torah/Sharia law at the time of Jesus. Paul writes:
1. Women are to cover their heads.( I Corinthians 11:5)
2. Women are to walk with downcast eyes. (I Timothy 2:9) The word “shamefacedness” in Hebrew literally means “downcast eyes”. (Strong’s Concordance #127)
3. Women are to wear the “modest costume” i.e. hijab or burka. (I Timothy 2:9) The word “apparel” in Hebrew literally means “costume”. (Strong’s # 2689)
4. Women are to obey, or submit, to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22)
5. Women are to learn in silence. (I Timothy 2:12-13)
6. Women cannot teach. (II Timothy 2: 12-13)
7. Women cannot have any authority over men. (I Timothy 2: 12-13)
8. Women are born sinners, the offspring of Eve, who was deceived. Women are a curse whose only redemption is their ability to produce offspring.
This is the doctrine of the Pharisees regarding women and Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides and children of hell who could not escape damnation. He said the Pharisees had not understood the scriptures.
Mary of Bethany walked into a room full of Sharia/Torah believing Pharisees with her head UNCOVERED.
Beside the crime of having her head uncovered in public, Mary had in her possession contraband of the most inconceivable kind. She carried in her vessel genuine, holy anointing oil of the high priests. John calls it “spikenard” which means genuine or authentic.
It was the sacred and holy anointing oil of the priesthood, for use by the priests in the temple. It was a recipe given to the Levites by God himself and handed down from generation to generation. It was forbidden, under penalty of death, to be duplicated or used for any other purpose.
There must have been an audible gasp of disbelief and horror throughout the room when Mary opened the vessel and began to anoint the Christ. As the aroma filled the room, it would have been immediately evident to the Pharisees, who served in the temple, that Mary was in possession of the holy anointing oil of the priesthood.
Mary proceeded to perform two ordinances of the priesthood. She washed the feet of Jesus and anointed his head with holy anointing oil.
It was an outrage. Someone yelled “What is the purpose of this pernicious act?” The words “pernicious act” have been translated as the word “waste”. A pernicious act is one that will get you executed under the Law of Moses.
The priests had great indignation against Mary and murmured against her. They were greatly afflicted by her pernicious act and became enraged at her.
Judas Iscariot fanned the flames of indignation by proclaiming “It would have been better for this holy anointing oil to have been sold to beggars on the street than to be in the hands of a harlot!”
They charged her with crimes against the law, sins worthy of death. They cried for her execution. It was a scene of utter pandemonium.
Simon waited for Jesus to rebuke Mary’s pernicious acts, thinking that if Christ were a man of God, he would not allow such an outrage.
But Christ did not rebuke her. He called her a woman of faith and good works whose sins were forgiven.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying “A woman has come, who is advanced above you, and is preferred before you. She alone among men has done the good work of God and anointed me for my burial.”
And then Jesus made this extraordinary statement “Wheresoever, In ALL THE WORLD, that MY GOSPEL is proclaimed, this act, which Mary has done, will be taught and proclaimed in remembrance of it."
Jesus encouraged women to excel above the patriarchy and to free themselves from patriarchal rule and follow Christ.
“For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall LEAD a man.”
The Parable of the Canaanite Woman
This is one of the most misunderstood of Jesus' parables. I was once asked, "If Jesus was such a good guy, why did he refuse to help the Canaanite woman and make her beg and call her a dog?" He didn't. Here's why.
Jesus taught his disciples these words:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
And he also taught them these words:
"For EVERYONE that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." Matthew 7:8
Jesus clearly and plainly taught his disciples that the kingdom of heaven was available to WHOSOEVER believes and would be given to ALL who ask.
But the disciples did not understand the doctrine of Jesus. They were deeply indoctrinated in elitism and still firmly believed in a "chosen" people as written in Torah. Jesus explained to them that they were not "chosen" in the same manner that Israel, in the Old Testament, was chosen, but they were chosen from among men as EYEWITNESSES, to testify of him, and as servants, to take his message and doctrine to the world.
"And behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying Have mercy on me O LORD, thou son of David, my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. And he answered not a word." Matthew 15:22
Jesus had taught his disciples that whosoever believes and everyone who asks will receive. On this occasion, Jesus remained silent, allowing his disciples to handle this request. He was, in fact, testing them to see if they had internalized and understood his doctrine.
Jesus understood that the Canaanites were referred to by the Israelites as dogs. They were uncircumcised and viewed as an abomination to the Israelites. So Jesus remained silent, to see what they would do, and the first words out of their mouths were these:
"Lord, send this unclean dog away from us, for she crieth after us."
And then Jesus turned to his disciples and taught them, saying "I came for none other, but her, the lost sheep in Israel. She is the reason I am here. She has heard my voice and believed in me."
At this point, the woman comes and worships at the feet of Jesus and pleads for his help.
The woman had heard Jesus teaching that ALL who ask and WHOSOEVER believes shall receive, and she had believed him. The apostles had also heard Jesus' teachings, but they had not believed.
So in this parable, the apostles are the unbelievers. The Canaanite woman is the faithful believer.
Jesus turned to the woman and said "O Woman, great is your faith, be it unto you even as you desire."
And to this woman of GREAT FAITH, Jesus said "It is useless to give the believers bread to the dogs (unbelievers)".
Jesus shocked his apostles by referring to THEM as dogs and unbelievers, for they had not believed his doctrine. They had tried to exclude one who truly believed, the very ones the Christ had come to seek out and to find.
And the woman, being wise, replied "True Lord, but the dogs (apostles) eat only the crumbs that fall from the master's table".
The woman knew what Christ knew. The apostles were only gleaning crumbs from the table of Christ. They had not yet understood or partaken of the vast feast that Christ was delivering to them.