There were several Marys’ who walked alongside Jesus during His journey on this earth. His earthly Mother, for one, began the line of Marys’ in His life. Today I would like to look at Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha. The one who wouldn’t help out at the dinner party...the one who stayed behind, crying at the death of her brother...the one who broke the jar of expensive perfume...the one whose favorite place was at the feet of Jesus. There is something about this Mary that intrigues me.
Is it her lack of common sense? Is it her impracticality? Is it her disregard for material things? Is it her disdain for the rigid rules and conventions of her society? Yes, yes, yes and yes. However, all of these could be combined into one, her heart. Mary’s heart is like a well-tended garden always in bloom! She is a vessel filled with the Holy Spirit. Through her actions, we learn fundamental lessons about how to have a heart after His own heart.
Today, I am looking at Mary’s anointing of the Lord. In John 12: 1-8, the Apostle gave his witness account of this event as follows:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
There is so much to talk about in this passage, but at this time I would like to focus my eyes on Mary’s actions. Apparently, she didn’t learn the lesson from the previous event when Martha complained to Jesus about her for not helping out with the dinner party (Luke 10: 38-42). Once again, while her sister was, one more time, busy taking care of the guests and Lazarus was launching with the boys, Mary was in her front row seat, at Jesus’ feet.
In this occasion, however, Mary was not just sitting there, basking in Jesus’ presence. That day, less than a week before Christ’s agony and death, Mary was tending to the Lord’s needs. She knew that Martha would manage serving the guests beautifully; after all, that’s what Marthas know how to do best! Mary also knew that her brother Lazarus would take care of the entertainment; after all, he’s gotta have some juicy tales from the crypt. Therefore, Mary’s focus was Jesus, and only Jesus. Her total disregard for what people may think of her (showing her hair alone was a huge no, no in the Jewish culture back then), plus her total disdain of material things (the pure nard she poured on Jesus was probably part of her dowry) show how her heart was clearly tuned into the Lord’s. Her actions demonstrate that her priority was to seek Him and serve Him in His hour of need.
Can you imagine knowing that soon you will be going through horrendous physical and spiritual agony to the point of the most gruesome death? Can you imagine the anguish of knowing that such a thing is coming to you in a few days? As a man, fully human, Jesus must have felt the sting of anxiety at those moments when this crucial part of God’s plan was about to be fulfilled in Him. Therefore, I can’t help but thinking that to Him, Mary’s selfless gesture of deep love and compassion was most welcome. That’s why Jesus so adamantly said: “leave her alone,” when the disciples suggested a big error in her ways. He needed that moment. He needed to feel the gentle oil covering his tired feet. He needed to breathe in that fragrance that filled the room; and so did the Father in Heaven. The aroma of such perfume ascended to His Heavenly throne to remind Him of the love that leads to enduring what’s to come.