Just a few days before Jesus would die on the cross for the sins of the world, there is an account of a woman who took an opportunity to worship Him. Her display was lavish and loving, and remembered throughout all time.
John 12:1-8 is the passage. We find Lazarus hosting a dinner for Jesus. Martha is serving. Mary is near Jesus.
It was six days before the Passover Feast. Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived. Lazarus was the one Jesus had raised from the dead.
2 A dinner was given at Bethany to honor Jesus. Martha served the food. Lazarus was among the people at the table with Jesus. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard. It was an expensive perfume. She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the sweet smell of the perfume.
4 But Judas Iscariot didn’t like what Mary did. He was one of Jesus’ disciples. Later he was going to hand Jesus over to his enemies. Judas said, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold? Why wasn’t the money given to poor people? It was worth a year’s pay.” 6 He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor. He said it because he was a thief. Judas was in charge of the money bag. He used to help himself to what was in it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “The perfume was meant for the day I am buried. 8 You will always have the poor among you. But you won’t always have me.”
What splendid love Mary displays.
Mary is esteemed because of her outward display of devotion toward Jesus. She gave all she had to worship Jesus and show her love to Him.
To her, Jesus was the only one in the room. She was compelled to worship Jesus in this precious and costly way.
Judas, the one who would later betray Jesus was in the room and opposed this act of love. Judas’ weakness was he cared only for himself. When he tried to deceitfully make a point about Mary’s love toward Jesus being misguided, this selfishness and darkness in his character was exposed.
The difference between Judas and Mary is stark. Judas tried to garner favor for his position by pulling in the poor as his cover. He not only revealed his true colors, but tried to deceive those around him into thinking he was concerned for the poor.
Jesus, of course, was the one present concerned for the poor most of all. The fact Judas tried this tactic with Jesus present exposes even more about Judas…unfavorable and repulsive, to say the least.
Mary on the other hand is generous in her expression of love. To be clear, it was a display. Unabashed, Mary seems oblivious to the dark character sitting near her in Judas and still displays a lavish love for Jesus using a lavish product. She is one to admire and esteem.
Jesus knew both hearts of course, and welcomed Mary’s love and worship while penetrating the darkness of Judas with a direct command to leave Mary alone.
This story thrills me. Jesus, a man willing to fellowship with friends and foes alike, ready to defend the pure in heart, able to receive an extravagant love, and appreciate the sacrifice. Yet, in a few words, He exposes the motives and forces of evil sitting near Him in Judas.
The people in Jesus’ day didn’t understand they would soon lose Him to a brutal and sacrificial death on their behalf. Even in this passage, Jesus tells those present that He will not always be with them. They couldn’t grasp that He’d soon be gone. No matter how many times Jesus spoke of His coming death, they could not understand.
As we enter the next few days, each day leading to the Resurrection holds different meaning. Let’s ponder Mary. This brave lady used her opportunity to worship Jesus in the face of evil. In a few days she would be at the foot of the cross with other women who loved Him. Let’s be like Mary, unashamed to worship the One who saved us, and faithful enough to live for Him until the end of our days.
Perhaps the most striking lesson to be learned from Mary of Bethany is her unwavering devotion to Jesus. She not only followed Him, she worshipped Him. She hung on His every word. No matter what was happening around her she never lost sight of Him. Her pure love was defended by Jesus and He made sure she was remembered through the ages.
She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. Luke 10:39