Today, we continue in the Feast for Your Soul Bible Study teachings with the last devotional of our three part series entitled “The Women of Bethany.” I encourage you to listen to the audio below of the drama written about Mary based on John 12:1-8. It is a live recording, so please pardon the background noise. Our hope is that listening to the drama will help you enter into the Scripture and better understand the hearts of the women who lived in Bethany. In the drama I give my interpretation of this amazing encounter that Mary had with Jesus when she anointed His body shortly before His death.
You may also want to read the Scripture from which the drama was adapted in John 12:1-11 NIV.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
We have seen in each part of this series the depth of love that these women of Bethany had for Jesus and how His love for them defined their lives and faith journeys. If you are just joining the series you may want listen to the dramas in parts one and two to gain a deeper understanding before moving into the last devotional blog in this series. You can find them by scrolling down to the blogs dated January 13 and February 4, 2019.
Remember in part one of this series, we learned that Bethany was...a place of love, feasting, welcome, service, listening and transformation. In part two we discovered that Bethany was also a place of waiting, hope, friendship, suffering, death, resurrection, and freedom. In this last part of the series, again we are at another feast with Jesus in Bethany and find more beautiful faith lessons for our own lives.
A place of friendship
Mary cherished her friendship with Jesus. She had taken time to hear His heart and her life was a beautiful display of her love, friendship and devotion to the Savior.
One of my favorite quotes is from Phillips Brooks. He writes…
“The great danger facing all of us...is not that we shall make an absolute failure of life, nor that we shall fall into outright viciousness, nor that we shall be terribly unhappy, nor that we shall feel that life has no meaning at all...The danger is that we may fail to perceive life’s greatest meaning, fall short of its highest good, miss its deepest and most abiding happiness, be unable to render the most needed service, be unconscious of life ablaze with the light of the Presence of God—and be content to have it so—that is the danger. That someday we may wake up and find that always we have been busy with the husks and trappings of life–and have really missed life itself. That is what one prays one’s friends may be spared—satisfaction with a life that falls short of the best, that has in it no tingle and thrill which comes from a friendship with the Father.”
Mary had befriended her Lord and taken the posture of listening at His feet as a disciple. She had the courage to take the radical position in that time of a woman sitting at His feet. She was not content to stand outside the door. She had found that place in her heart of authentic relationship with Jesus. Mary had an intimate, life changing friendship with the Savior. And because of that she received the incredible blessing of His words, “ I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
A place of listening and lavish worship
Each time we meet Mary in Scripture she is at the feet of Jesus. In this passage, once again, Mary is at His feet in worship and devotion, lavishing Him with her love and preparing Him for burial. She knows His need and her attention to His words have given her a glimpse into the future. And so she risks the scandal of unbinding her hair to wipe His feet and pours out all she has on the Savior as she anoints Him for burial. That is lavish worship.
Mary has a story that has touched and changed the hearts of millions.
More importantly, her devotion touched the heart of the Savior.
Her devotion is what defines her.
Her physical posture reflects her spiritual posture.
A place of transformation
Again we see that Bethany is a place of transformation in the lives of these women and their brother Lazarus. In part one of this series Martha is serving, but anxious and bothered by it.( See Luke 10:38-42) When we look at the account of Mary anointing Jesus for his burial, Martha is still serving, but we have no indication that she is worried and bothered by Mary’s rather scandalous, extravagant act. Something has changed in her. She has been with Jesus. She serves without complaint or the need to be noticed. Before she served in the flesh. Now, perhaps she understands that resurrection power enables her to serve with the strength of her character, which was to serve in her gifting, but with the heart of Christ.
A place of Anointing
Our chief priority is to sit at His feet, listen and respond, not counting the cost.
When Mary enters the room to anoint Jesus, she understands what the others seem to have missed, although He had clearly told them He was going to die and how. Spikenard is made from the root of the nard plant found in the northern Himalayan mountains of India. This alabaster jar was Mary’s security. We don’t know how she obtained it. Perhaps it was her dowry. They were obviously a fairly wealthy family since their home was large enough to lodge Jesus and his disciples. The perfume was worth approximately 300 denarii, a years wages. The equivalent today would be about forty to fifty thousand dollars!.
Her devotion to Christ transformed that home into a temple with the fragrance of her devotion and worship.
John 12:3 - Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Jesus’ defense of Mary in her extravagant offering transformed her anointing into an immortal act of worship and an example for us all. Two thousand years later we are still talking about it!
When Judas and the other disciples rebuked her “waste” as they called it, she brought no words of defense. Mary could have chosen to be offended by the disciples. Surely Mary loved her Lord deeply and was unfairly criticized for that display of love. But there is no indication in Scripture that she took offense.
Mary chose to leave her defense in the hands of Christ. Christ was her defense. We would do well to remember her choices when we are unfairly criticized.
Mary is consumed by her love for the Savior. Her love is bold, intimate, costly. Jesus is her life. She will give everything she has for Him. I believe that expression of her love went with Jesus to the cross because this event happened so close to his death.
In the beatings, the trials, when the crown of thorns was crushed on his head, when it seemed all had deserted him...
the scent of the perfume still must have lingered on Jesus body.
When he walked the Via Dolorosa and was stripped naked, beaten and nailed to a wooden cross...
Jesus could smell the perfume.
And when the chief priest and thieves and those present at the crucifixion mocked and taunted Jesus and His body writhed in agony as He gasped for his last breaths....
the scent of the perfume still must have lingered on Jesus body and perhaps Jesus thought of Mary,
and remembered the woman who gave all she had for the love of her Teacher and Savior.
Jesus is looking for disciples who will give everything they have for him. He is looking for extravagant love and extravagant worship. This is what we are called to and when we give this love, it will be our greatest joy.
The beauty and fragrance of her act of worship has had spiritual effect and blessing throughout the world through the centuries. Never underestimate what one adoring response in worship can do.
Centuries later you and I also have the privilege of pouring out our love on Jesus. One of the ways we do that is by spending time listening, studying, meditating on the Scriptures and spending time in devotion to Jesus.
There at His feet, in humility, in HIs presence, the Holy Spirit of God will form you into who He envisions you to be. Each of us has a unique precious fragrance that only we can give to be “wasted” on our Savior.
What is the fragrance that lingers in my home today? In yours?
Is it the fragrance of Christ? Is it the outpouring of love for Him?
A place of Ascension and Blessing
Jesus conquered death and the grave and rose on the third day. He spent forty days in his resurrected body appearing and teaching about the kingdom of God.
When the time came for Jesus to leave the earth and return to heaven, again He came to Bethany.
Luke 24:50-54 - When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
I find it so fascinating, and yet not surprising, that the last place the feet of Jesus touched earth until He descended as the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was Bethany. Bethany is located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, just a small village where He loved to be. Bethany was an oasis for Jesus, a sanctuary where He feasted, was loved, and worshipped. Bethany was a place of rest in a world that was hostile to the Savior.
Bethany - a place where cleansed lepers, resurrected humans, transformed servants, extravagant worshippers, brothers, sisters, and disciples all gather around the table where Christ is the head. They gather for feasting, fellowshipping, and rejoicing with Jesus, confident in the hope that one day Jesus will return to claim His own!
And so the question for you and me is this,
“Am I willing to make my heart a Bethany for the Lord... a place where He is welcomed and enthroned as Lord above all?"
Because Bethany is a place where Jesus is the feast.
When your heart is a Bethany you make different choices.We have seen these choices in the faith lessons throughout this series...welcome, listening, friendship, learning, serving, waiting, anointing.
When your heart is a Bethany you will also know transformation, suffering, hope, faith, resurrection power, freedom, and above all extravagant love.
Jesus’ love for you is bold, lavish
and it costs Him His life.
Will Jesus find a Bethany in your heart, in your home?
Will you choose to live your life utterly consumed with Jesus as Lord and choose to sit at His feet?
Jesus stir within our hearts an extravagant love for you.
May the fragrance of our lives be the fragrance of Christ and the pouring out of our love.
Lord may our hearts always be a Bethany, a home for You.
Father, I pray that you will use the faith lessons you are teaching us in the days ahead
as we welcome people into our homes. May we give you glory with the way we choose to live our lives.
Help us to do the work of a good host, but never let the duties overtake our priorities of loving and serving you.
I pray Father, that we will be known as people consumed with a deep passion for you,
that we will choose to sit at your feet and hear your words of life.
Thank you that you are committed to doing a transforming work in our lives.
Show us the things that are keeping us in bondage
and give us the courage to live set free in the resurrected life!
Jesus, by your power and love strengthen us to rise up like the women of Bethany
to live our lives displaying our lavish love for you - not counting the cost!.
In the powerful name of Jesus,
Consumed by His Love,
Below are two songs to encourage you in your worship response to this devotional blog.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOSrSVghKDY - My Heart Your Home, Watermark
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6amm1XoZN4E - All I Have is Christ, Getty, Kauflin
Resources: Sermons and writings by Charles Spurgeon, Ann Graham Lotz, Frank Viola, Ken Gire, Pinterest photo
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