A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. John 12:2-3 NLT
Mary of Bethany is perhaps my favorite to write about. Not that she is any more favored than the others, but she seems to be the least understood. Film directors have sometimes portrayed her as a prostitute or get her confused with Mary Magdalene (Our next lesson’s example). But Mary of Bethany was an entirely distinct person in the Bible. She was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. and though Martha does almost all the talking, it is possible that Mary was the oldest, since she is often mentioned first. It is interesting that in all her three of Mary’s meetings with Jesus, we find her at His feet.
When we first we see Mary, she is quietly listening at Jesus’ feet, while her sister is preparing food for the disciples. When Martha confronts Jesus about this and complains, Jesus surprises everyone by telling them that Mary has chosen the better part, and no one will be allowed to take it away. (Luke 10:42). The second time we encounter this special lady, she is weeping at the feet of Jesus after the death of her brother Lazarus. Though she says the same words that her sister Martha did, “If you would have been here my brother would not have died”, her posture shows us something more. She has not forgotten that even in sorrow, the best place to be is still at the feet of Jesus. Last of all at the celebration banquet that is held after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead we come to today’s verse. Again, Martha is busy serving everyone, Lazarus is holding the place of honor right next to Jesus, but in the middle of all the banging of plates and the table conversations, Mary silently slips away. When she returns, she is carrying a small alabaster flask containing an incredibly expensive perfumed oil. While everyone is talking, she quietly comes up behind Jesus, breaks open her flask and pours it on His head. Suddenly people grow silent, as the beautiful aroma fills the room. You might have thought someone would have exclaimed, “Wow! What a great thing to do for Jesus!”, but that was not the case. Instead, led by Judas Iscariot, all the disciples begin to protest that this should have been sold and the money given to the poor. We learn in Mathew’s gospel that; Mary also anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair. I picture this as coming right after the critical whispers begin. But the wonderful thing about Mary, is that she simply keeps on pouring out her gift till every drop is lavished on Jesus! Now if I had been in Mary’s place, I would have lost my temper. (Yes, I still have one!) I would have spun around shouting, “You Bozos! Haven’t you even been listening to what Jesus has been saying? He is going to Jerusalem and there he will be killed. You are all just a bunch of selfish jerks!!!!” But Mary didn’t do that. Instead, she simply trusted Jesus to answer, and his response still rings in the air today.
She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” Matthew 26:12-13 NLT
Mary, the mother of Jesus, by her faithful obedience and loving sacrifice brought Jesus into this world, Mary of Bethany now anoints His body for burial and prepares Him for the cross.
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