I overheard the young virtual tour guide as she interacted with a school class in some other part of Canada. She held a phone on a gimbal and narrated as she walked through the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I was particularly interested when she started talking about these wonderful ramps that lead from one floor to the next. The ramps are covered by this translucent yellow stone that the guide said was alabaster.
The design is intentional, leading the eye as one looks up. As you can see in the above picture, the eye moves from darkness to light and is a metaphor for the entire purpose of the museum — to move people from darkness to light in the realm of human rights. As the website says, “Alabaster ramps carry visitors between galleries. Glowing with LED lights, they criss-cross upwards for 800 metres between chalkboard black concrete walls – a literal path of light through the darkness.”
The alabaster was significant for me because it reminds me of the woman with the alabaster jar in the Bible. You may recall the story that is recounted in all four gospels. Here is how Matthew tells it:
“Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon, a man who had suffered from a skin disease. While Jesus was sitting there, a woman went to him with a bottle of very expensive perfume and poured it on his head. The disciples were irritated when they saw this. They asked, “Why did she waste it like this? It could have been sold for a high price, and the money could have been given to the poor.” Since Jesus knew what was going on, he said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me with you. She poured this perfume on my body before it is placed in a tomb. I can guarantee this truth: Wherever this Good News is spoken in the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
The thing about alabaster jars was that you had to go all in to open them. There was no cap — you had to break the neck of the jar in order to get the perfume out. That means that it was saved for a very special occasion. The theme of all in is important.
This story is in the context of the Passover feast celebrated by Jesus and His disciples (also known as the Last Supper — also in Mt 26). Passover celebrates God’s salvation of His people from oppression and its associated punishment of the enemy. It’s when both parties went all in so that they can assure the salvation of God’s people.
The same could be said for the fight for human rights — we need to go all in. If we only wanted to go half way it would be called “human right.” But all humans have rights. Saving the world means looking at everyone’s rights, not just those of a few.
Jesus alabaster jar experience, meaning his decision to be the saviour of the world, was also all in. Jesus couldn’t go half way in His plan to save the world.
There is the other side of the story that makes alabaster all that more symbolic for a human right museum. The story also talks of those opposed to the woman’s actions — namely Simon, the host, and Judas.
Simon’s criticism merely sees the woman’s actions based on their monetary value and tries to redirect the investment somewhere else — not realising that the woman and Jesus are planning something priceless — the salvation of the world!
Judas decides to betray Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. I guess Judas’ decision was to go all in in the wrong direction.
What is your alabaster jar experience? What are you willing to go all in on?
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Image taken at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is mine.
Scripture is taken from GOD’S WORD®.
© 1995, 2003, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society.
Used by permission.