The Lamb’s Bride, One Thing
Luke 10:38-42, “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Just days before the cross Jesus desired to be with his friends that he loved. John 11:5 states, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Mary and Martha were sisters. Their brother was Lazarus. Most scholars believe that the parents had previously passed away. Martha was left with the house, Mary was given an alabaster jar of costly perfume. It is not clear if Lazarus was given anything. Although he certainly received an all-expense paid 3 day trip to heaven and back.
Mary of Bethany was truly a remarkable woman of unparalleled devotion in her day. Mary longed to be at the feet of Jesus and desired to cultivate personal, secret history with Jesus.
I believe a question that is being asked today is this, “Who has really been with Jesus?” I believe Mary was one of these! Mary of Bethany was one of those who had cultivated intimacy with Jesus. She had learned to set her heart and focus on Jesus! She had memory and history with Jesus! The question for you and I is this:
When we finally see Jesus face to face, when the curtain moves, and we see his eyes for the first time, will there be a memory in that gaze? Will we be able to say, ‘I know you …we have been through so much…we have walked together…’ When we see the glory of the Lamb, will we remember weeping over his nail-scared hands during our days on the earth?
We see Mary doing 3 things. First she postured her heart at the feet of Jesus. All three times we see Mary of Bethany in Scripture the Holy Spirit highlights that she is sitting at the feet of Jesus and making the choice to hear his words! Two of the three occasions Mary is criticized by others and yet she is never described as defending herself. Her heart attitude is worship, and submission to the leadership of Jesus. We learn from Mary that worship must precede petition, and intimacy with Jesus must precede intercession. Mary had learned to position her heart before the bonfire of his outrageous love!
The second thing we see Mary doing is gazing on his beauty! Mary was single-hearted. She had developed the paradigm of living before an audience of one! Mary had vision to be an extravagant worshipper of Jesus, unmoved by the criticism of others! Like Mary we are made to enjoy the glory of Jesus, his dynamic personality throughout all eternity! Mary understood that God’s aim is to ravish the affections of the human race with irresistible displays of the glory of his Son! God commands us to know his glory with our minds and treasure his glory with our hearts! His call is to enjoy his glory as our highest and most superior treasure! As John Piper declares, “the glory of God is the supreme JOY of His People!” God created us to know and enjoy His glory, and in this way, display its supreme value! Do we truly value the blazing glory revealed in the Cross of Christ? I believe Mary certainly did!
The third thing we see Mary engaged in was listening to every word and teaching that Jesus was sharing. The Greek word for listening in this text meant to “listen on the edge of your seat.” She desired to hear the word in such a way that would cause her to receive his love, empowering her to love him in return!
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me. 4 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…”
How familiar is that statement? How many of us are worried, troubled, and anxious in our everyday lives? One of the primary barriers in our relationship with Jesus, is that we are anxious and worried, often distracted with much serving. Paul spoke to us in 2 Corinthians 11:3,
Luke 10:40 “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
The enemy’s strategy is to distract us, and cause us to worry and be anxious. Anxiety is a subtle form of pride. Anxiety is not trusting in the Lord, but trusting in self. We say things like, ‘I’ve got to do this,’ or ‘I’ve got to bring it to pass.’ Taking his yoke and entering into his rest simply means abandoning outcomes to God, accepting that we do not have it in ourselves. We give up our rights, and rest in God’s leadership, just as Jesus showed us, embracing the cross!
Jesus wraps us this story with a powerful promise,
“but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus the Son of God steps out of heaven and declares, “one thing” is necessary! He doesn’t say the only thing, but the one thing! Like Mary he calls us to sit at his feet, gaze on his glory and hang on every word that says to us. The wisest thing that we could do is develop this kind of secret personal history with Jesus. This one activity is most needed, most important in our lives. Jesus declares that it will not be taken away from her! Just like Mary, he will remember and reward every movement of our hearts toward him, not matter how weak it appears. He promises to remove and forget our sin, but will remember and reward every choice we make to pursue him.
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV), “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Just days before the cross we read about Mary of Bethany again in
John 12:1-3 (ESV), “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
Six days before the cross, Jesus enters the town of Bethany, to the home of Simon who had been healed of leprosy. It was probable that the town was hosting a customary banquet in honor of Jesus who had done miraculous signs in their town. Martha was cooking a meal again, probably to thank Jesus for all that he had done for them.
Many had come to marvel at the deeds of Jesus. Mary brings her alabaster jar of costly ointment. This pure nard was worth a year’s wages. This was most certainly Mary’s dowry, representing her only hope for marriage. In this culture if she wastes this or uses this on something other than her future spouse she would have only two options. Either take care of Lazarus her brother, or beg and prostitute herself to survive. When she looks at these two choices, she understands the worth of Jesus! It is as if she was saying, “You are the priceless Son of God, worthy of all I have! I can risk and throw myself into your hands”
When she looks at him she knows her choice. Those present at the meal wanted Jesus to minister to them, but Mary wanted to minister to Jesus! She pours out the ointment onto the head and feet of Jesus and then washes his feet, assuming the posture of servant. Only servants in this culture wash feet! Everyone thought this was crazy. She let her hair down to wipe his feet with her hair. In that day, only prostitutes did this in public. She was willing to suffer her reputation. She wasted her entire inheritance, her future, her livelihood, and her reputation on Him! It was her offering and gift of worship to the one she loved! The fragrance of Mary’s offering, Mary’s worship filled the whole house, and prepared him for his burial.
This pound of costly ointment was so pungent, and fragrant that it would stay on the body for up to week later. As Jesus hung on the cross, in the midst of terrible anguish, he could still breath in the glorious fragrance of worship of this woman, Mary of Bethany! I can imagine Jesus gasping, “it’s worth it Father!” Like Mary of Bethany let’s waste our lives on Him. He is all-deserving! He has the right to all of me! Let’s anoint him with the oil of our treasures, and pour out our lives like a drink offering upon the one that we love!
Prayer Focus: Place yourself before the cross and pray through Psalm 27:4 making it your own prayer. Ask yourself what do I need to pour out on Jesus, dreams, future, relationships, reputation, comforts, etc.? By name place the things that you value most at the feet of Jesus. Tell him he is worth it all!
Psalm 27:4 “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”