Mary of Bethany

 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 remarkable and loving and remembered throughout all time.


John 12:1-8 is the passage. We find Lazarus hosting a dinner for Jesus. His sisters are present. Martha is serving. Mary is near Jesus.

It is 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.”

As onlookers to this beautiful story, we admire Mary because of her outward evidence of inward devotion toward Jesus. She gave all she had to worship Jesus and show her love to Him. To Mary, Jesus was the only one in the room. She is compelled to worship Him in this precious and costly way.

Judas, the thief, 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. And he was guilty and trying to hide it. When he tried to deceitfully point out Mary’s love toward Jesus as being misguided, the selfishness and darkness in his character were exposed. 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 about the poor most of all. The fact that Judas tried this tactic with Jesus present exposes even more of his unfavorable and repulsive character.97e36477-fe33-4da0-a91f-00552724a6cf

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 welcomed Mary’s love and worship while penetrating the darkness of Judas with a direct command to leave Mary alone. 


 Jesus was willing to fellowship with friends and foes alike, ready to defend the pure in heart, available to receive an extravagant expression of love, and used the sacrifice to teach a lesson. In only a few words, He exposes the motives and forces of evil sitting near Him in Judas. He uses Mary’s display of worship to uncover the truth.

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. 

What qualities do we see in Mary of Bethany? A brave lady used an opportunity to worship Jesus in the face of evil. Mary understood Jesus was going to die. She cared for Him. Her act of worship pointed to his forthcoming death. She was devoted. She wanted to be with Jesus. She followed Him, and she worshipped Him. She hung on to His every word. She had a pure heart. 

And how does Jesus respond to Mary of Bethany? He receives her lavish love and worship. He stands up to evil and defends her pure love. He uses her example to show that a heart of worship and a heart of evil are choices. God, through the Holy Spirit, inspired John, the writer, to share it in Scripture to be read and told through the ages. 

Mary of Bethany did not know this encounter with Jesus would be historical and serve as an example to us all. Mary of Bethany wasn’t in a hurry. Because her heart was ready, she experienced the presence and love of Jesus. He calls each of His followers to be ready with a devoted heart because each day, we get to express our devotion to Him in the way we live too.

©Valerie Rumfelt

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This article shares Old Testament prophesies and their fulfillment. You can find it here:

10 thoughts on “Mary of Bethany”

  1. Thank you for such a sweet reminder of this New Testament lesson. Mary is most satisfied in the presence of her Lord. When we are most satisfied in the Lord of our lives; we are our most beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like how you brought out that Mary of Bethany was so enthralled with worship of Jesus that she was unaware of the evil Judas in the room. That is a good model for Christians to remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, “ To Mary, Jesus was the only one in the room. “
      Enthralled is a good word for Mary in those moments. The love Mary of Bethany had for Jesus shines in this story.
      Thank you for reading, Carol and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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