In John, Chapter 12 we see a transition from Jesus’ public ministry into the event that encompassed the last few days of His life. In Chapter 11, we see Jesus resurrect Lazarus, and in Chapter 12 Jesus returns to Bethany and attends a meal with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. At this point the reputation if Jesus proceeds Him and even Lazarus has become a celebrity given that he was once dead and is now alive. In last week’s Bible study I noted that Mary of Bethany provides an example that all Christians should follow and in this study I want to take a deeper dive into what I mean by that.
JOHN 12:1-3 1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had
raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there; Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
In this passage we see Mary pour out an exorbitant amount of perfume on Jesus’ feet. In verse 5 of Chapter 12 we see Judas claim they could have sealed the perfume for 300 Denarii which was equivalent to a years worth of wages for the average Jewish male at the time and we also know from the other Gospels that Mary anointed Jesus’ head along with His feet. I want you to notice the emotion that must have been present as this anointing took place.
There must have been so many emotions coursing through Mary as she poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. Her brother had been dead for four days and Jesus brought him back to life. Any one who has lost a loved should be able to imagine the emotional lows Mary experienced when she thought Lazarus was gone forever followed by the unbelievable emotions she must have experienced when Lazarus walked out of the tomb. And all those emotions were spilling out as she anoints Jesus’ feet. Love, gratitude, worship … emotions so intense that she disregards the cultural standards of the day and takes her down in the presence of Jewish men to wipe Jesus’ feet. Mary is emotional that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her as she does this.
In our culture, we may have a hard time envisioning why Mary is doing this. In verse 7, Jesus gives us a hint as He tells Judas to leave Mary alone because she has saved this perfume for the day of His burial. What we see here is that Jesus connects this anointing with His impending death and burial. It’s unclear that even Mary understood exactly why she was anointing Jesus as she was, but it appears that intuitively she knew that her time with Jesus was running out and that He would soon be dead. And Jesus connects her actions with His death. In verse 8 as He corrects Judas, He says “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have Me.”
Mary is worshiping Jesus in a radical way in the amount of time she has left to do it. And my question isn’t why is Mary worshiping in this manner, but rather, I wonder why everyone else isn’t joining in. Maybe its pride, maybe it’s doubt, maybe they they didn’t fully believe what Jesus had been telling them all along in that He is going to die. But, Mary is making the most of the time she has left.
And I would as you, are you doing the same?
We live in a unique period in the history of the world. That is, the time between Jesus work on the cross and the Rapture. We call this the Church age. It’s an age that is governed by the marching orders Jesus Himself gave is in the Great Commission, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
I fear, however, that many of us hold back in our obedience and in our worship of Christ. And like Mary, we need to understand that our time in this age is running short. Listen, one of two things is going to happen in the lives of everyone listening to this. Either we’re going to pass away or there is going to come a time when this Church Age comes to an end and Jesus will rapture the Church, the Holy Spirit will be removed and the Tribulation will begin. And when the Church Age ends, it’s going to happen suddenly:
2 Peter 3:8-10, “8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and it’s works will be burned up.
We need to understand that when the Church Age comes to an end, our relationship with Christ will also change. Now, I’m not suggesting at all that this will be a bad thing, but it will be a transition. And the unique opportunity we have in the here and now to witness for Christ and to worship Him within the context of the Church Age will come to an end. And yet many of us are living like don’t believe it’s going to happen. We hold back in our worship, we hold back in our witness, and we hold back in our obedience, and time and time again we choose the culture of the world over the Church.
Understand that your life is particular to you and no one else will have same opportunities to serve Christ in the way you have right now. No one else is going to step into your life and make the choices for you that you should be making right now.
As Mary of Bethany worshiped Jesus with reckless abandon, none of the Apostles joined in. Judas accused her of being crazy and wasteful. He was too busy being judgmental to join her in her worship. But what we learn is that because Mary threw caution to the wind, Jesus was anointed properly before His burial. She fulfilled a role that no one else could fill.
In John, Chapter 19 we see that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped Christ’s body in linen strips and spices before placing it in the tomb, but they were rushed due to the Day of Preparation. The Sabbath was coming and they only had so much time so they hastily applied the spices and placed the body in a nearby tomb. John 19:42 says, “42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” this verse implies they were in a bit of a hurry due to the Day of Preparation. And as a result, though they applied spices to the body, we don’t read that they anointed Jesus head and feet with perfume as would be customary.
This explains what we read in Mark 16 verses 1-3, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
Mary Magdalen, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome after the Sabbath was over went to the tomb to complete the anointing process that Joseph and Nicodemus had to rush through. Why? Because they thought it was important to show Jesus that honor. But the Gospels tell us they never got the opportunity to honor Jesus in this way because He had already risen by the time they got there. But here’s what I find incredible … Jesus was honored and buried properly because Mary of Bethany chose to honor Him and anoint while He was still alive! She made the most out of the time she had with Jesus and served Him in a way that others either chose not to, or didn’t have the opportunity for.
And that’s my question of you right now … are you making the most out of time you have to serve and worship Jesus in the here and now? As I ask you this question, I’m also asking it of myself. Remember, Jesus said He came so we may have an abundant life (John 10:10) and I would argue that Mary of Bethany had an abundant life. My fear is that we would allow fear, doubt, and unbelief to rob us of abundance.