Life lessons from Mary of Bethany
We introduce the lesson by informing ourselves of the underlying –
Public identification with Jesus of Nazareth had been condemned by the Jewish leaders.
John 7:13 Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
John 9:22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
They had made threats and many of the people refused to admit that they believed Jesus is Lord –
John 12:42 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:
Notice the reaction of the citizens of Bethany when they heard that Jesus was approaching. They had a special relationship with Jesus which everyone in the area of Jerusalem was aware of. Jesus relationship with Lazarus and family was well known because of the raising of Lazarus from the dead –
John 11:18-19 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
(Note that the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem was only 3 kilometers)
The miracle from the Lord was well known –
John 11:45-46 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
And the anger of the Jewish leadership increased –
John 11:53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
It is an encouragement to us to know that while the people of Bethany understood the danger of friendship with Jesus, they overcame their fear by their –
II. Desire – to be in His presence.
John 12:1-2 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
God used them to encourage Jesus and the disciples as they would face the wrath of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Roman government in Jerusalem. I believe they would be reminded of David’s words as recorded in –
Psalm 23:4-5 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…
John wrote of the fellowship that the people enjoyed and displayed in the meal prepared for Jesus and the disciples, but he singled out Mary who revealed her love for the Lord through the personal gift she gave Him – “…. thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
We see through this her –
III Devotion – to give the best unto the Lord.
Matthew 26:7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
John 12:3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
A. The Precious gift. We note the worth
The value of the perfume was remarked upon by the writers:
“…having an alabaster box of very precious ointment…”
“…a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly…”
“…this ointment sold for three hundred pence…”
It seems that Mary believed the best use of her most prized possession was to give:
Rest and comfort to Him from His journey, but even more than this, to –
Reveal to Him publicly that there was nothing on earth that she loved more than Him.
B. The Presentation. We note the worship
The presentation of the gift displayed humility and tenderness. The Lord God, Jesus of Nazareth, received that of which He only is worthy – the worshipful act of a loving disciple.
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair…”
No act could have been more personal. Remember how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples –
John 13:4-5 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
He washed their feet and wiped them with a towel. Jesus taught the disciples a lesson on humility and servitude. Mary already had humility and a servant’s heart. We know that on a previous occasion when Jesus was in their house teaching, she sat as His feet, getting as close as she could to hear His words, to watch the expressions on His face as He spoke, to hear and heed the warnings, to feel the love and compassion brought forth in wisdom and truth. Here she was again, at His feet in love and devotion. She gave of her possessions and of her person – pure, holy, heartfelt worship. His is worthy.
Is He worthy in this way to you this evening? Is it in your heart and mind to be close to Him, to hear Him, to give of your person to Him, to give of your possessions to Him, to obey Him?
John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
God has given us this account of what took place in Bethany to help us be aware that not everyone will be thankful for your devotion to the Lord. Knowing this helps us to be prepared for those things we will face. Please do not be discouraged in your love for the Lord by the hateful accusations of some, saying that you are not sincere in your devotion.
IV. Displeasure – from those that should encourage this love.
John 12:4-6 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
How hurtful must the words of Judas Iscariot been to Mary at this moment of expressing the worthiness of the Lord Jesus Christ to be adored. How quickly was she cast down, from glorying in the Lord to groaning in our hearts due to the angry and hateful words spewed at her from the jealous and angry mind of this evil man, Judas.
We praise the Lord that He has shown us that He knows the accusations that will be made against us and He will stand with us and intercede for us. Look how He defended Mary –
V. Defense – of the devotion of one that loves Him.
John 12:7-8 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
A. The Lord commanded the disciples to stop their ungodly thoughts and accusations against Mary.
B. The Lord commended Mary for her love and told them how He understood her actions.
Mary was doing what she could, with what she had, when she could.
She would not wait to give worship to Jesus in a more glorious way.
She would not wait to save up to have a more magnificent gift.
She would not wait to have a more private moment.
Her love would not allow her to wait to glorify the Lord.
She knew how quickly things in life change.
Do we know as she did?
Why then do we wait?
Give Him yourself today.