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Mary Bethany


         T he idea of Jesus' death and resurrection was too difficult for the disciples to accept. Yet on several occasions, the Lord stepped aside from His daily ministry to talk of these very issues. Each time the reaction to His words was a mixture of doubt, fear, and disbelief. On one occasion, even Peter tried to stop Jesus from talking about what was inevitable, and in doing so, met the Lord's rebuke.

         However, there was one who listened and heard Christ's words concerning His future and held them close to her heart. Then, at the proper time, she openly confessed her love and devotion to the Savior. Most of us know Mary of Bethany as Martha and Lazarus' sister. While we read very little about her personal life in the Gospels, we find that her brief actions and sincere devotion to Christ go far beyond the space of recorded words.

         Each time we look through the spiritual window given us by the Gospel writers concerning the life of Mary, we find her at the feet of Jesus. It was this attitude of humble submission that captured Jesus' attention. In Mary, He discerned a heart of devotion and love for the things of God.

         Devotion tainted by earthly worries is fleeting and unsatisfying. When it is put to the test, it withers and dissolves in fear. However, devotion such as the kind that Mary demonstrated was from God and would never fade. Instead, it grew and was strengthened each time she was in Christ's presence. This is because the focus of Mary's life was not on what she could do or gain for herself; Mary's life was a reflection of God's tender compassion.

         She was not drawn aside by earthly worries, and Jesus was quick to take note of this by contrasting her sister's human efforts with the heart devotion Mary exhibited. Jesus cautioned: "Martha, Martha . . . you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10: 41-42).

         Later on at the death of her beloved brother, Mary waited to expose her feelings to the Lord. And even in her despondent state, she responded to Jesus in love and faith: "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died'" (John 11:32).

         She understood Jesus had the power to save and to heal. And He was ready to do just that—the impossible—so that God in heaven might be glorified through the resurrected life of her brother. Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead was a precursor to His own death and resurrection.

         Shortly after this, we witness Mary once again at the feet of Jesus. This time it is in preparation for His death and burial. Those present viewed Mary's display of love and devotion as something shameful and disgusting. They could not grasp the deeper truths of God.

         The apostle John sets the scene for us: "Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.

         "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."

         When some became enraged over the cost of the perfumed oil and how it could have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus responded: "Leave her alone . . . It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me" (John 12:1-8).

         The statement "You will not always have me" was not made to encourage neglect of the poor, but to underscore the urgency of the moment. Jesus was approaching His final days on earth, and Mary was aware of this.

         She accepted His message that spoke of His death and resurrection and applied it to her life by humbling herself before God and desiring only to serve the Lord. She was a woman who was mighty in spirit, and you, too, can have this same quality of devotion when you commit yourself to Christ.

         Ask Him to make you aware of anything that keeps you from sitting at His feet in heart devotion. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you a deep love for God's Word. This is what Mary cherished—the Word of God spoken to her. And it is your greatest source of comfort and hope!