31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Mary, the sister of Lazarus
One thing I notice when reading the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life is that He did not have many GOOD friends. He had many people who followed Him and He loved them. But there were not very many people who He could be close to. Out of the twelve men He chose to be His companions John was the only called “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 21:20,24). Jesus’ trusts John enough that He gives His mother Mary into John’s keeping (Jn. 19:26-27) instead of His physical family. Today and tomorrow we will look at two women who Jesus “loved” (Jn. 11:5) – Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus.
Today we will look at Mary. References to Mary can be found in Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; and John 12:1-8.
In Luke 10:38 it says, “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcome Him into her home.” This is the first time Jesus meets this family. Martha has a sister named Mary. When Jesus was teaching His word to those who were in the house, Mary was sitting at His feet listening (Lk. 10:39). During the visit Martha gets frustrated because Mary is sitting down while Martha is busy trying to care for everyone. Jesus commends Mary to Martha saying, “but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk. 10:42). Mary had recognized that listening to what this man had to say was important. Jesus said that His word is “necessary”.
This shows Mary had discernment. David asked that the Lord teach him “good discernment and knowledge” in Psalm 119:66. Sometimes we have to choose between two good things and determine which is the better thing in the moment. While caring for her guests would have been a good thing to do, Mary recognized that listening to Jesus was better – and Jesus agreed with her. This was a once in a lifetime type of opportunity! Mary redeemed the time (Eph. 5:15, 16; Col. 4:5).
During a time when Jesus was preaching beyond the Jordan (Jn. 10:40) Lazarus, the brother of Mary, became ill. Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus letting them know of Lazarus’ illness. Jesus did not go right away for there was a purpose in these things (Jn 11:4-16). By the time Jesus arrives Lazarus has already been buried for four days. Many people have come to comfort Mary and Martha. When they hear Jesus is coming, Martha runs out to meet Him, but Mary stays in the house (Jn. 11:20).
Martha speaks with Jesus and then comes back and tells Mary that Jesus wants to see her (Jn. 11:28). Mary quickly gets up and goes to where He is. When Mary sees Jesus, she falls at His feet and says “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus is moved to tears when He sees the depth of Mary’s grief and the many people who stand with her mourning Lazarus (Jn. 11:33-35). He asks to be taken to Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus proceeds to show those who were doubting Him (Jn. 11:37) that He is from God by bringing Lazarus alive out of the tomb (Jn. 11:41-44). Many of the people who had come with Mary now believed in Jesus.
There is one more story that tells us about Mary.
Six days before Passover (Jn. 12:1), Jesus came to Bethany and stayed at the house of Simon the leper (Mt. 26:6, Mk. 14:3). After He had been there for four days (Mk. 14:1) a supper was organized for Jesus and His companions (Jn. 12:2; Mk. 14:3). Mary brought out a pound of expensive perfume in an alabaster vial (Mt. 26:7; Mk. 14:3; Jn.12:3) and anointed Jesus’ head and feet, wiping the excess on her hair (Mt. 26:7; Mk. 14:3; Jn. 12:3). Judas feigns offense at the seeming waste (Jn. 12:4-6). Jesus commends Mary for her actions. He says that she has:
- done a good deed for Jesus (Mt. 26:10; Mk. 14:6)
- prepared His body for burial (Mt. 26:12)
Jesus then goes on to say that Mary will be remembered everywhere the gospel is preached “in the whole world” because of what she did for Him (Mt. 26:13; Mk. 14:9)! Here we also see Jesus pointing out that Mary recognizes that time with Jesus is short and those who have been with Him every day fail to understand it (Mt. 26:11; Mk. 14:7: Jn. 12:8). Martha and Lazarus are at this meal as well (Jn. 12:2), but it was Mary who was compelled to offer this act of service to her Lord.
The things that were chosen by God to be shown about Mary show her to be very spiritually minded. She loves Jesus, but she also wants to take in what He is giving to people (Jn. 4:13-14). Mary’s gifts were not the same as Martha’s – she shows her care for Jesus in different ways. That is how it is meant to be (Rom. 12:6-8)! We are not all going to stellar cooks or housekeepers. We are not all going to be the type who enjoys the gaining of knowledge in long stretches of time. One person’s strength is another person’s struggle. This is why the Lord describes the church as a body – many parts working together but each part doing what it does well (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12:12-28). The thing that each of us needs to bring to the table is LOVE (1 Cor. 12:29-13:13). Love is the final thing, the top of the cake you might say, of the “recipe” for a useful and fruitful life in service to the Lord (2 Pet. 1:3-11). Mary shows her love for the Lord, as Her God AND as her friend.
Mary shows us a deep faith and a spiritual focus. She had no doubt that if Jesus had been there while Lazarus was ill, Lazarus would not have died (Jn. 11:32). She recognized that Jesus was unique. Even in her anointing Him with oil – which was a custom that should have been observed with any guest – because she brought out expensive oil. The others noted the difference and commented upon it. She did MORE than just show Him hospitality, she showed her awareness of His being God. We are not told the process of Mary’s faith being built. We simply see it in action once it is established. Beautiful!
Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will look at Martha and sum up what this family did for our Lord while He was on earth.