I looked up from my reading and stared at the wall, suddenly lost in thought. The ceiling fan eagerly flipped my pages away from the scene of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus. My mind busily recreated the scene.
Why Was Not…?
A dissenting, judgmental voice icily penetrates Mary of Bethany’s sacred moment. “Why are you doing that?” He says with all its implications—she’s silly, wasteful, and disregarding the Master’s teachings, and interrupting their time together.
There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
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.
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?
Mark recorded the encounter showed Judas wasn’t alone in murmuring against her.
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.
And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?
For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
A pence represented a daily wage. So, 300 pence, perhaps, represented a yearly income. The disciples, contentious about their places in the kingdom, felt indignant at Mary’s covenant.
I sense a great internal peace in Mary as she anoints her Savior’s feet. The following day, He would wash the apostles’ feet.
Mary of Bethany doesn’t respond to the rebuke. She proceeded to anoint Jesus.
She Hath Wrought a Good Work on Me
However, not everyone stayed silent. Who responded in a validating, protecting defense? Jesus did.
And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.
For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
After this encounter, Judas sought the Pharisees and covenanted to betray Jesus, the Balm of Gilead, to the rulers for 30 pieces of silver.
Bid Her that She Help Me
This was not the only time Mary of Bethany held her tongue while Jesus defended her choice.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
I can’t imagine Jesus condoning unfairness or laziness. As I’ve pondered this story over the years, I wonder if Mary got up early to do her tasks to give her time at the Savior’s feet. Did she opt for simplicity and get overruled?
Since I relate well to Martha’s circumstance, I recognize times when I haven’t been as organized and then stressed at the moment or times I spent doing other things and then hurried to finish the tasks at hand or so many other scenarios. I’ve looked on at people having “fun” and envied their moment.
Maybe the story is without any extenuating details and Mary chose Jesus above every other task.
Regardless, He saw her heart and honored her choice.
She Fell Down at His Feet
After Lazarus died, Jesus slowly made His way to Bethany. Martha ran to Him and shared that she knew He could have saved Lazarus. Jesus questioned her belief. Martha and Jesus had this beautiful conversation where Jesus attested that He is the resurrection and the life and Martha testified that Jesus is the Christ.
Martha secretly told Mary the Master asked for her and she hurriedly went to meet Him.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
No question of her belief. No beautiful reassuring conversation. No other words to her at all.
Martha did not fall at His feet. Mary fell at His feet and her emotion moved Him. Jesus wept!!
Mary of Bethany—Grace, Peace, Faith, with an Eye Single to the Glory of God
Jesus promises to be the defender of those who trust Him with full purpose of heart. Through Mary of Bethany’s stories, Jesus shows us ways He’ll do that.
I’ve sought for a deeper understanding of Mary of Bethany in the midst of my own defensiveness, indignation, prioritizations, and sorrow. Her three Biblical stories portray her as a woman of grace, peace, and faith unshaken by circumstance. With an eye single to His glory, she saw the Savior. With an eye single to His glory, she knew the Savior.
And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.