MARY OF BETHANY

Bible Reading: John 12:1-8; Luke 10:38; John 11:20

Jesus said that Mary of Bethany is a woman who will be honoured and spoken of wherever the gospel is preached [Matthew 26:13]. Such a statement is remarkable indeed, and deserves a closer scrutiny.

Each time that Mary of Bethany is mentioned in the Bible it is in connection with the feet of Jesus. We first read about her, after her sister Martha had invited Jesus into their home. Mary was sitting at His feet listening. To learn of Him requires that we take time to be quiet and listen. Paderewski, the great Polish concert pianist, once said, that if he didn’t practice the piano for a day he knew it. If he didn’t practice for three days, his critics knew it, and if he didn’t practice for a week, then everyone knew it. To learn from Jesus we need to be in His presence and listening to Him every day.

After her brother, Lazarus, had died Mary was hurting badly, and came to Jesus, falling at His feet complaining. After Lazarus’ death Martha went to meet Jesus and talk with Him, but Mary remained sitting in the house. She was deeply disappointed in Jesus, and felt let down by Him. Why didn’t He come when they had called Him in their time of crisis? When Martha returned she had a message from Jesus for Mary, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you” [John 11:20]. She immediately went to him, fell at His feet and complained, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died” [John 11:32]. She had faith in what Jesus could do, but was disappointment at what He hadn’t done! Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead but He wept. Why? Perhaps it was because of their unbelief!

After He had raised Lazarus from the dead a supper was made in Jesus’ honour [John 12:1-2]. This time Mary was kneeling at His feet worshipping. She is so full of gratitude and joy, that she brings expensive fragrant oil, anoints the feet of Jesus, and wipes His feet with her hair. The oil was spikenard, found only in the Himalayan Mountains. How this family, who were not overly wealthy, had such expensive perfume is a mystery. Perhaps it was a family heirloom. Whatever it was, it was still not the most valuable thing in that home at Bethany. The most valuable thing she possessed was herself!

Only a prostitute in the Jewish culture would let her hair down in public. A woman’s hair was her glory, and so as Mary untied the tresses of her hair and wiped the feet of Jesus she was making a statement. She was saying that the most valuable thing she possessed she was using to wipe His feet! All the glory she had, she placed at the Jesus’ feet. What a depth of love!

Questions:

What is the link between Mary being the only person who anointed Jesus for burial before He died, and sitting at His feet listening?

Have you personally experienced a disappointment when Jesus did not seem to answer your request? How did you handle this?

In what way did Mary show her love for Jesus? How do you show love for Him?