Memorial of Mary of Bethany

Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she has done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.                              Mark 14:9; Matthew 26:13.

Ironically, in these two accounts, the words are spoken on behalf of an unnamed woman who came in during a dinner with Jesus at the table. “There came a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment and poured it on His head.” In this account, there was general indignation among His disciples who said; “to what purpose is this waste?”  They thought this could have been sold to provide for the poor. Jesus defended her saying that she has done a good work, in that she anticipated His burial. Then He adds; “for you have the poor always with you, but me you have not always”. The gospel of John fills in the missing pieces. Chapter 12 of his gospel identifies the woman as Mary, the sister of Martha, and Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead. Of course, Martha is serving the dinner. In this account, it is specifically Judas who questions the waste of expensive ointment, and John informs us of the hypocrisy, saying in verse 6; “this he said not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and carried the moneybag” for the group. This set the stage for Jesus to enter Jerusalem, for word of Lazarus having been raised from the dead had ignited the large crowds on hand for the Passover. The chief priests consulted to also see Lazarus put to death, because by reason of him many of the Jews believed in Jesus.

We are also informed by John 11:2 it was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. This account can be found in Luke chapter 7:37-50. The Lord uses this opportunity to make a very important point: “to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” This is not to say that some people are less of a sinner and need less forgiveness, but some fail to acknowledge their condition and need for reconciliation with God. The Pharisee saw himself as having a relationship with God, while looking down on Mary as a sinner. Thus she is told; “your sins are forgiven”, and “your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

In Luke 10:38-42, we find another narrative involving Mary and Martha, with Jesus a guest in their home. Martha was busy with much serving while her sister sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. Martha exclaimed, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her to come help me.” To which Jesus replied unto her, “Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things but one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” We cannot imagine wrong in someone with a heart to serve, but can see where there is a time for everyone to be still and know the Lord. However, Jesus is not just speaking to a willingness to serve. We can see a greater concern for someone who is careful and troubled and should fully consider what the Lord is addressing.

The word translated careful here is used by Jesus repeatedly in His sermons, but the more typical translation in the KJV is “take no thought”, and means to be anxious. Consider in Matthew 6: Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than clothing?  V. 25. Take therefore no thought for tomorrow, for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. V. 34.

Jesus also uses the same word to tell us not to worry about what we should say if our faith is put on trial, saying if we are delivered up, “take no thought how or what you shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same moment what you should speak.”           Matthew 10:19.

In His parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus describes the seed among thorns as someone who hears His word, but are choked with “cares” of riches and pleasures in life, and brings no fruit to maturity.    Luke 8:14.

Paul tells us: “be careful” for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6 & 7.

In the next post we well look closer at Mary’s brother Lazarus.

Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7.

 

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