Years ago, a radiant young bride-to-be came over to our house to tell my family some of the exciting details of her upcoming wedding. Her eyes were flashing; her smile sparkling; her dark, glossy hair bouncing as her excitement spilled over every word and gesture. As she spoke, my 8-year-old daughter burst into tears and ran from the room. I could see my startled expression reflected in the face of my 10-year-old, who was as astonished as I was. We bolted after her and found her sobbing in the living room. Her hands were frantically tearing at her long braids as though she would pull them from her little head, and between choking breaths she said, “I hate myself! I hate my curly hair! My face is so ugly! I’m not pretty at all!” We stared at her, aghast. Then we burst into tears, threw our arms around her, and the three of us crumpled to the floor in a heap of despair. Over curls, instead of straight, glossy hair! Over braids, instead of a cute little bob.
What nonsense, you might say. But do you know something? When you love someone with all your heart, her pain is yours. Likewise, our Heavenly Father so closely identifies with His children that our tears are His. And in response to such loyalty and love, I, in turn, desire to so closely identify with Him—with His grief, His joy, His love, His pain, His blessing, His honor—that His tears are on my face.
Read John 12:1-8
I. TEARS OF GRIEF
- Read John 11:1-44 and explain why Mary wept. See verse 33.
- Knowing He would raise Lazarus from the dead within a few moments, why do you think Jesus wept in John 11:35?
- When was the last time you wept? Why were you weeping?
- Give phrases from the following verses that show how God feels your pain and your tears are on His face: Psalm 56:8; Isaiah 63:9; Hebrews 4:15.
II. TEARS OF JOY
- At the dinner in John 12:1-8, who were some of the guests, according to John 12:2-4 and Matthew 26:6-8?
- What was the reason for the dinner, according to John 12:1-2?
- Describe in your own words the emotions of Simon, Lazarus, Mary and Martha.
- When have you expressed gratitude in genuine celebration for what God has done for you?
- Describe the contrast between the atmosphere within Simon’s home and the turmoil that was brewing outside. See John 11:45-57; Mark 14:10-11; John 12:9-11.
- Relative to the way Jesus is acknowledged, talked about and generally treated, how much of a contrast is there between what takes place within your home and what take place outside its walls?
- When was the last time you wept with joy over what God has done for you?
III. TEARS OF LOVE
- In Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:28-32, how did Mary exemplify faith … and failure?
- Give examples from your own life that also indicate a mixture of faith and failure.
- Describe the scene in John 12:1-3.
- Assuming Mary’s jar of perfume was the equivalent of her life’s savings and her dowry, what did it represent? What do you think motivated her to pour it all out on Jesus?
- What did Jesus say was the underlying reason for Mary’s sacrifice? See John 12:7.
- What is your most precious possession—your alabaster jar? Would you be willing to give it all to Jesus with no hope of ever getting it back? If so, why?
IV. TEARS OF PAIN
- How did others at the dinner party react to Mary’s extravagant sacrifice? See John 11:4-5; Mark 14:4-5; and Matthew 26:8-9. Put their reaction into your own words.
- How do you think the reaction of others to her sacrifice made Mary feel?
- Who has made fun of your faith or criticised your commitment or faulted your service or sneered at your love for Jesus as you pour out the contents of your “alabaster jar,” saying, in essence, “You’re wasting your life, your time, your money on Him?”
- How did their comments make you feel?
V. TEARS OF BLESSING
- Give four phrases from Mark 14:6-9 that are meaningful from Jesus’ response to Mary’s critics. Put these phrases into your own words.
- If you, too, have been the object of criticism, what encouragement do you receive from the following verses? Psalm 51:16-17; Isaiah 57:15; Mark 10:29-30; Matthew 25:21; Hebrews 13:16.
Would you choose to love Jesus with His tears on your face? Then reflect on His love for you.
In the early light of creation’s dawn, the Father held His alabaster jar. It gleamed with the beauty of the morning star and was scented with the fragrance of the rose of Sharon. It was His most precious possession. As His omniscient eyes looked down the years that stretched out before Him into generations and centuries and ages and millenniums, He knew.
The Father slipped into the darkness of the world He had made and loved. The hands that held the Jar—His Son—with such tender, eternal love, relaxed and opened as He placed the Jar ever so gently on the small manger bed of hay. During the years that followed, the beauty and the glory of the Jar were shared and admired by those who had eyes to see.
And then the Father once again picked up His Alabaster Jar. And on a hill so far away from His celestial home—a hill that was cold, barren and bleak, swarming with an angry mob that was unruly and obscene—the Father smashed His Alabaster Jar on a rugged, wooden cross. As the contents of flesh and blood were all poured out and the fragrance of His love permeated human history forever, our tears were on His face. ©2020 Anne Graham Lotz
This article is adapted from a study originally published in February 2005.
Anne Graham Lotz has proclaimed God’s Word worldwide for more than 40 years. Her newest book, “The Light of His Presence,” contains 40 of Anne’s personal prayers and is available through major booksellers and online at AnneGrahamLotz.org.