The oldest olive press was found in Tel Hadar in Israel. It is a manual press consisting of a large round stone in a shallow stone base. The extraction of the oil was labor intensive. In simplicity, both the weight of the olives and the heavy stone moving in a circular motion, made the oil possible. Each olive was crushed until the oil seeped from its shell. A mesh like substance was then collected in a leaf and then filtered, separating the pure oil from the pulp.

Olive oil was used for four main things: Anointing, preparing food, burning for light, and skin lotion/soap application. Life did not exist without it. Eating, cleaning, lighting, and ceremony were all made possible by the olive oil.

Prophets and priests used it to make their decision known. Samuel poured it on the heads of kings in proclamation. The apostles commanded the church to anoint the sick with oil in prayer. The apothecary used olive oil as the first ingredient in making his unique fragrance. People of every age have relied on the olive. Tuscany, Italy boasts of its famed oil texture. The Greeks join a host of other cultures which use it for a variety of daily needs. The list is lengthy. To think that it all began with the pressing weight and the crushing of the olive.

The ancient sage once said that the olive is of no use if it remains intact. It must be crushed to find its usefulness. The oil itself, while prized, comes at the cost of the crushing. It is the image of Jesus, hanging on the cross. It was Paul’s description of his own body as he carried the marks borne for the sake of the Gospel.

All of this reminds me of Mary’s alabaster box. Her life’s savings were broken and poured out. While it was meant to anoint the body of Jesus for His burial, it represented the condition of existence. The broken box and the pouring out made her life worth living. It is an axiom of truth: Some things are useless when they are broken, but other things are useless until they are broken.

I’ve come to this juncture only a handful of times in my life. This is the place where things do not make sense and all I can do is trust the Lord. There is no “spin” that will suffice. It’s just the knowledge that God is in control. Our part is to call Him Lord of all. Lance Appleton wrote my favorite lyric: “All that I can do is thank Him. All that I can do is praise. All that I can do is lift my hands to Him in praise.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole