Arts & Lifestyle

THE ALABASTER JAR (Concluding Part 3)

A Fictional  Adaptation of  Luke 7: 36–50; Mark14: 3-9

I marveled, as I stood above the short flight of stairs that led to Simon’s doorstep. Simon’s story was unbelievable.

Simon, whose skin had been covered in white leprous scales of flesh and whom everyone had shunned despite being a well respected tax collector and Pharisee, was now whole. Simon had once been untouchable. He had once lived in the leprous valley for years and he was now giving a party for his friends and family to celebrate his miraculous healing. Whoever this rabbi was, I knew he could help me.

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I began my descent down the stairs with my robes gathered together. The alabaster jar was hidden within its folds. My heart pounded in my ears as I approached the door. The sounds of merriment and laughter had risen as I drew near. I never stopped to consider if I would be allowed into the party as I was not an invited guest, but I was determined to see him. A cook in the home of Simon had mentioned that the teacher would be there. I knew it was my only chance. The door was unlocked when I opened it, and no one noticed when I walked inside.

The sight that met my eyes was unusual. The people in the room were gathered amidst the flickering light of lamps, around one particular reclining chair. Beside them was a table filled with wine, bread, fig cakes, meat and all manner of vegetables. No one was eating however, rather they were listening to the one who sat in the chair, immersed in the story he was telling. Occasional bursts of laughter and snorting filled the air as I watched for a while. The servants were standing mid way in service. Some were still holding unto their trays and jugs of wine while others were sitting on mats behind the guests, their service trays beside them. It was difficult to tell who was lowly and who was a dignitary. Everyone seemed equal in this party to which I had traced the teacher.

I inched forwards completely lost in the thrill of the moment. Lost in the reality of having found the one to whom I could confess my sin without guilt and condemnation. I was unknown to Simon the owner of the house and I was unafraid. My gaze was fixed on him with whom I had to do what I had to do, the young teacher who had miraculously saved the life of the adulterous woman with just one sentence.

People were starting to notice my presence. Their concentration was waning. The murmurings, laughter and questions were fading into shocked silence. All eyes were turned to me. How dare I, a woman, and especially one like me, walk into the home of a man like Simon? Uninvited? The silence was deafening but I stood before the young rabbi, prepared to ignore the gaping mouths and dazed facial expressions. He however, was expressionless. I unfolded my garments and revealed the little jar. His eyes were drawn to them for a moment, then he lifted them to look at me. The eyes, the same as those that had freed the woman at the synagogue street, had kindness in them.

My fingers trembled as I realized in that moment, that he understood. The tears crouching behind my eyes made it impossible to see his form sitting there and understanding me. I fell to my knees right in front of him, trembling all over and marginally missing his toes, as tears welled up inside me and burst forth at the amazing wonder of meeting someone who finally could see right into my soul and not hate me.

I bowed my face to his feet and wept openly, unashamed. The words I could not say, were heard by him and I knew it. He had seen through my life and felt the hurt and shame of what I had done and how I had lived and he had no condemnation. I felt like he knew the beginning of my life and he understood the reasons why I had become the person that I was. He accepted me. He loved me and had no desire to use me like all the other men had. That thought alone broke through the barriers of my heart and washed away the guilt and condemnation I had hidden inside for so long. He understood me.

My tears dripped down my face and wet his feet. Realizing what I’d done, I wiped them with the nearest, closest thing, my hair. I wiped them over and over again and kissed them.

“I’m sorry….I’m sorry.” I whispered.

My time was running out. I knew I would be seized and thrown out if I did not hurry. So I opened the alabaster jar and the sweet smelling fragrance from its depths filled the atmosphere. It hugged the air around us and stretched its enticing aroma into every corner of the room, the way it had done for my mother, and for my father. The same way it had done for all the men who had come to me.

“Seize this woman….how dare she come here uninvited!”

Simon’s voice cut into my thoughts.

“Who is she?”

“She is a harlot….”

“Get her out of here…what is she doing?”

With shaking hands, I lifted the round jar and ignored the voices around me. I poured it all. My life’s savings, my mother’s precious oil, the perfume that would guarantee me a future, the distinct aroma that had separated me from others and made my time with men special, I poured it all on the teacher’s feet.

“What a waste! That spikenard could have been sold for one hundred pence.”

I knew, but I didn’t need it any more. I was giving up the life my mother left me. I wiped it all on his legs and feet just before I was dragged brutally off the floor by two hefty men. My desperate eyes searched the teachers’ and I instantly knew. I knew that he knew that I had given it up.

“Wait!” His voice was quiet but firm as he lifted up a hand. “Please, let her go. What she has done, is good.”

“Let her go?” Simon, the man who had ordered the servants to drag me out stood up confused. “Teacher, don’t you know what manner of woman this is putting her hands all over you?”

The men let go off me and I crumbled into a heap on the floor, my head downcast as shame flooded my thoughts all over again.

“She is a sinner!” He insisted pointing at my forlorn form.

“Simon.” The teacher’s quiet voice countered. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes, master.”

“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they couldn’t pay him back, he forgave them both. Tell me then, which one of them do you think will love him more?”

“I suppose the one who owed him more.” Simon mumbled in reply.

The teacher nodded. “You answered right.”

I sat up and watched as he turned to me dispelling all the shame and fear all over again with a simple smile.

“When I came into your house Simon,” He began. “You didn’t offer me any water to wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair and oiled them with her precious ointment. You did not welcome me with a kiss, but she has kissed my feet. And that’s why I will say to you, her sins which are many, have been forgiven for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves only a little.”

I watched the teacher get up and reach for me. I leaned on the strength of his arms as he lifted me up. “Woman,” He said. “Your sins are forgiven.”

His smile was like sunshine piercing through the darkness of my heart. I bent down to kiss his feet several more times.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you….”

“It’s over, your story will be told.” It was a promise made with shinny honest eyes and I believed him. “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Instantly, peace and confidence flooded my being and overwhelmed me as I wiped my tears and turned to leave the home of Simon, the former leper. The teacher had spoken the words and commanded peace to replace my daily torment and anguish. He had spoken as if he owned it. I had believed he could help me and that belief had changed my life in a moment. The strength I needed to start a new life was now mine and the fear and shame that had characterized my every waking moment had vanished.

The men parted ways and let me walk out of the home. I did not look back. My head rose higher as I ascended the steps of Simon’s house into a new life where anything was possible. My story was forever rewritten as that of the sinner who the teacher had validated.

As for the alabaster jar, it lay broken on the floor of Simon’s house. Its contents spilled completely forever. This jar, a symbol of the shame of my heritage, had been converted into a symbol of hope. Its contents, a gift to the one who had chosen to love and accept me in spite of who I was. It no longer held any value for me. The price of what it had bought could not be determined and just as its fragrance had escaped and drifted into the air, so had the memories that had held me captive for many years and haunted me.

Never again would it serve to entice men. All of it had been given to the one who really deserved all my love and adoration. The gentle, humble teacher who died a few weeks later, crucified on a cross to pay the debts for my sins and the sins of my mother before me.

(c) Funmilola Adeniran (Concluded)

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