September 6, 2010
"I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart" (Psalm 9:1 NIV).
Friend to Friend
Mary of Bethany shares three scenes in the Bible with her sister Martha. In her final appearance, we find her once again at a dinner party for Jesus. As usual, the men are gathered around the table and the women are absent from the scene … that is until Mary enters the room …again. Only this time she is not there to learn. She is there to teach.
"Mary, don't forget to stir the lamb stew," Martha called from across the room. "Our guests will be here any minute."
Once again, Martha and Mary were hosting a dinner party for Jesus and His closest friends. The party was not at their home, but Simon had convinced Martha to be in charge of all the fixings. After all, there was no one better at hosting a party than Martha.
But this was a special celebration - no ordinary dinner party. Only months before, Martha and Mary had been mourning their brother, Lazarus' death. And now? And now, because of Jesus, Lazarus sat alive and well amongst his friends. He was laughing and telling jokes like he'd never seen the inside of a darkened tomb for four days. What a celebration!
How kind of Simon the leper to open his home to us, Mary mused. Oh, we must do something about his name. After all, he doesn't have leprosy any longer. Jesus healed him months ago. Just look at his skin-as smooth as a newborn babe's. After all, if he was still Simon the leper, none of us would be here.
As Mary continued to stir the stew, her mind began to stir with memories of Jesus' past three years: the helpless healed, the demon-possessed delivered, the rotting raised, the rejected restored, and the sinner saved. But Mary's soaring soul began a gradual descent as she remembered Jesus' words about His eminent death:
"The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!"
I know our time with him is short, she thought. I can't bear the thought of losing him, and yet, I know that is why he came. That is what He has taught us all along. My heart is so heavy. What can I do to honor Him?
Mary's mind traveled to another incident in Jesus' life. She had not witnessed it personally, but savored it as one of her most favorite moments in the recounting of Jesus' adventures: the day a sinful woman interrupted another dinner party Jesus attended. She walked right into the home of a Pharisee, brushed past all the men, knelt at Jesus' side, washed His feet with her tears and anointed them with costly nard.
Suddenly, she knew what she had to do.
"Martha, I'll be right back," Mary called.
Mary ran home and went to the secret place where her most valuable treasure was stored. She reached on the top shelf and lifted the priceless jar of pure nard - a costly perfume. Mary had been saving it for her own wedding, but now she wanted to use it for her one true love. I want to honor Jesus. He has welcomed me as a disciple, loved me like a sister, taught me as a student, and given my brother back to me from the grave. It is the least I can do. I know His time is short. I want to honor Him now.
Beaming with anticipation, Mary ran back to Simon's home with passion and purpose. This time, the disciples were not shocked at a woman's entrance into the room of men. After three years, they had grown accustomed to Jesus' welcoming ways.
Mary carefully moved through the room and hit her mark. She stopped where Jesus reclined at the table and knelt at his feet. With a snap, she broke the neck of the alabaster jar and poured its contents on Jesus' head and feet. Something stirred inside Mary as she anointed Jesus' body. A knowing.
Then Mary unbound her hair and wiped the excess from Jesus' calloused feet. The sweet fragrance filled the room and clung to those nearby. Once they realized where the scent was coming from, a buzz of comments swarmed like the hum of bees. Some looked on with understanding approval. Some turned up their noses in pious protest.
"What a waste," one of the disciples complained. "That perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."
Mary's heart sank at the unwelcome comment, but Jesus quickly buoyed her spirit with encouraging words. "Why are you bothering this woman?" he asked while placing his hand on her head. "She has done a beautiful thing to me. You'll always have the poor to take care of, but you will not always have Me here with you. Don't you get it? When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. I tell you the truth," Jesus announced loud enough for all to hear, "wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what Mary has done will also be told."
Mary lifted her eyes to meet his and her heart spilled over with love.
Dear Lord, I want to be like Mary. I want to worship You no matter what anyone thinks. I want to praise You with all I've got and not be concerned if anyone thinks I am being extravagant or over-the-top.
In Jesus' Name,
Now It's Your Turn
When Mary anointed Jesus with perfume, some of the on-lookers didn't approve. Some thought she was being extravagant and over-the-top. Has anyone ever ridiculed you because your worship was too demonstrative?
Have you ever looked down on someone else because you felt their worship was too demonstrative or emotional?
When it comes to worship, are you more concerned with what others think, or what God thinks? (I know I'm getting in your business now!)
What do you think God would say about a woman who praises Him with everything she has no matter what anyone else in the room thinks? We don't have to go any further than this story to get an idea.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's devotion and what worship means to you. Let's chat at www.facebook.com/sharonjaynes.
More from the Girlfriends
Today's devotion was taken from Sharon's new book, What God Really Thinks about Women: Finding Your Significance through the Women Jesus Encountered. We tend to read the gospels with our twenty-first century eyes. But when we understand how oppressive the culture Jesus stepped into was against women, we begin to understand just how radical Jesus' ministry, messages, and miracles were at setting women free. He risked His reputation to save theirs…and yours. Read this book and you'll fall in love with Jesus all over again.
Click here to learn more about hosting a Girlfriends in God conference in your area or having one of the GiGs speak at your next women's event.
Originally published Monday, 06 September 2010.