About 2 miles from Jerusalem there was a town named Bethany, a woman called Mary lived there with her brother, Lazarus and her sister, Martha. Jesus loved, the three of them, dearly. They were close to Jesus, that is why, when He saw Mary weeping for her brother, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit, was troubled and wept. We can see that, Martha & Mary were different in nature, Mary was more of a meditative and silent lady. On the contrary, Martha was very active; she liked to get things done according to her plans and schedule. She was an efficient planner.
One day Jesus entered Bethany and Martha welcomed Him into her house. Both sisters were very happy because their Lord and Teacher came to their house. Martha wanted to do her best to serve the Lord. She took this wonderful opportunity to serve Jesus and she must have purposed that nothing should be left out. Most probably, she must have planned out a delicious menu. She was expecting the same zeal & spirit from her sister to serve Jesus but she was disappointed when she saw Mary was just sitting at the feet of Jesus and was hearing His Word, even though still so much had to be done! All the more, Martha saw that, she was not even bothered about helping her sister. Maybe, the house was not clean as it should be or the table was not ready or there was not enough water for washing & drinking or some cooking was remaining and all these thoughts distracted Martha. Look at Mary, she was sitting with ease, comfort & relaxing herself. According to Martha, she was not doing any creative or profitable work. Was it not fair for Mary to help Martha in her plans to serve the Lord, after all she (Martha) invited Him!!?? It’s a reasonable thought. How can she just sit and enjoy the teaching of the Lord??!! It seems, even Lord was also not caring about her being anxious in serving Him but she thought, the Lord would understand her and He will surely correct Mary.
Martha approached Jesus with a complaint and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Obviously, she was expecting a reply in her favour. But she was disappointed, when she heard an opposite reply from the Lord. He said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things but one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Unexpectedly, a gentle rebuke to her and approval to her sister’s choice. The Lord did not mention even a word of acknowledgement about her much serving. Infact, the Lord’s thoughts are higher than hers. Probably, she must have understood later that, Lord does not delight in serving Him at the cost of having fellowship with Him.
Some days before the Passover, after Lazarus was resurrected from the dead, Jesus went to Bethany again. This time also with same zeal Martha was serving Jesus and Lazarus got the privilege and honour to sit at the table with Jesus. Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The cost of the oil was nearly 300 denarii (almost a yearly wage). The house was filled with fragrance of the oil but some of them felt that her act was unreasonable. They felt the oil could be sold for 300 denarii and that money could have been given to the poor. Logically and practically their concern and thinking was right but the Lord who weighs the motives of our heart, commended her act and said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of my burial, for the poor you have with you always, but Me, you do not have always.”
Why did Mary do that? Was it needed? Was it to show off in front of the people? No! It was her humble expression of gratitude and love towards her Lord. She knew who her Lord was! He gave back her brother Lazarus, who was laid 4 days in the tomb. At that time, she saw the life giving miracle of the One who said that, “I am the resurrection and the life”. He gave not only life to her brother but gave the eternal life to all 3 of them. She has tasted the sweetness of sitting at His feet, where the river of life was flowing, to satisfy her spiritual thirst & hunger richly. She knew the pure delight of fellowship with Him. Once, the Lord himself had appreciated her in front of her worried sister.
For Mary the precious oil which was equal to a yearly wage of a person was far too small to offer at Jesus’ feet, where she got revelations of the priceless things of the kingdom of God. In the eyes of the world, her acts were foolishness and that is why they criticized her sharply. The Lord highly appreciated her and favored her in front of them.
When the Lord commends, then it is worth more than any great certificate. So those complaints against her did not matter to her because, “It’s not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends is approved…”
(References- Luke 10:38 to 42, John 12:1 to 8, Revelation 22:1, 2 Corinthians 10:18)
Anjali J. Benjamin
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